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How to read 'World War Z' before the movie opens Friday

By Carolyn Kellogg

4:23 PM EDT, June 19, 2013

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Before the end arrives, everything is normal for Gerry Lane (Brad Pitt), wife Karin Lane (Mireille Enos) and their two daughters, who are stuck in New York traffic playing a game. And then -- well, you can see what happens.

That thrilling clip is from "World War Z," which opens Friday. The movie is based on the 2006 book by Max Brooks. It was one of the earliest contemporary zombie stories and has remained one of the most enduring -- it's been on our bestseller list for the last seven weeks.

Before the movie version hits screens, you might just be able to read the book. In paperback, it's 342 pages long. Can you do it?

If you're reading this Wednesday, here's the plan:

Wednesday night: Read through page 104. This includes the introduction and the first three chapters: "Warnings," "Blame," and "The Great Panic." It's a zombie story, so this sets up the worst of it. You'll have noticed that the book is set up as an oral history, so it moves rather quickly -- not to mention that a zombie apocalypse is kind of a page turner. My entirely unofficial estimate is that an average reader will get through 30 pages an hour, if not more -- so that's 3.5 hours. You've got time for dinner and family before cracking the book.

Thursday lunch: Read pages 105-136. Lunch hour, 29 pages -- see how I did that? Actually, this is exactly the length of the next section, "Turning the Tide."

Thursday evening: Read pages 137-269. Yes, this is almost five hours of reading. If you get home at 7 p.m. and ignore everything and everyone, you can be in bed with your teeth brushed by midnight. Sounds tough, but this is only two chapters, "Home Front USA" and "Around the World, and Above." The latter is almost 100 pages long, and you're not going to want to stop in the middle. Besides, opening night is tomorrow.

Friday lunch: Can you devote another lunch hour to reading "World War Z"? If so, you're halfway to the finish.

Friday after work: Read those last 40-some pages and go get yourself some popcorn. The movie's about to start!

If you're reading this on Thursday or Friday, let's be honest: You're going to have to call in sick to have the time to finish "World War Z" before the movie opens. That, or wait a few days before seeing the film.

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