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Tolstoy and the Purple Chair: My Year of…

Tolstoy and the Purple Chair: My Year of Magical Reading (2011)

by Nina Sankovitch

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Showing 1-5 of 48 (next | show all)
Every so often, a reader can't help but form an instant connection with an author. Especially when they share a passion for the same things.
That's just what has happened with me and the author Nina Sankovitch. These two books delve into two of my favorite things -- a love of reading and a fascination with old letters.

Imagine the chats we could have over a cup of tea...

Ms. Sankovitch lost her beloved sister, Ann-Marie, to cancer at age 46. Reading was a lifelong passion for them both. During Ann-Maire's final months in the hospital, Ms. Sankovitch read aloud to her -- spending as much time together as possible during her last days.

After her sister's death and overcome with grief, Nina decides that the same passion that bonded her with her sister and carried her through her life will be her therapy. She will read a book a day for a year.

A book a day, I wondered? Even I, a voracious reader, can't compete with a book a day. These were her rules:

• She would read only one book per author,
• She would not re-read any books she had already read,
• She would limit her choices to books that were no more than one inch thick, ensuring that they would, for the most part, be in the range of 250-300 pages each,
• And she would only read the kind of books she and her sister, Anne-Marie would have enjoyed together.

For those of us who want to read about what someone else is reading, Tolstoy and the Purple Chair takes us on her journey, as she reads from her favorite purple chair.

She shares her epiphanies and discoveries -- all from the pages of her carefully chosen books. She intersperses her bookish insights with memories of her sister and of growing up in a bookish immigrant family who instilled in her the belief that books are not a luxury, but a necessity.

Never fear, this is not a grim tale of a painful year, nor is it an instruction manual for grieving. Ms. Sankovitch gives us a book straight from her heart, full of hope and wisdom. It's about stopping the merry-go-round of a busy life to read, think and learn.

This book will appeal to any bibliophile, but especially for those of us who turn to books for answers, comfort and wisdom. ( )
  BookBarmy | Jul 8, 2017 |
And another half a star. I really did enjoy it but it wasn't what I was expecting which may be why it's not a four. ( )
  mamashepp | Mar 29, 2016 |
And another half a star. I really did enjoy it but it wasn't what I was expecting which may be why it's not a four. ( )
  mamashepp | Mar 29, 2016 |
I could not get into this one at all. I found it a very odd book, with not enough focus for me on either the books she read or her personal life / grieving process. Felt very superficial on both sides as a result. Just not my thing. And I admit I gave up about 60% of the way through, so it might be that the last third is amazing. The old me would have slogged through the rest; new me is moving on.
( )
  AmyCahillane | Feb 24, 2016 |
Not as exciting as I expected it to be, I think because I had a hard time connecting with the author. I know this is obnoxious of me—and not that this was the only reason I didn't connect with her—but I get kind of impatient with women who talk a lot about how stressed they are because they're so busy making snacks for their teenagers. Look, just don't do it. They can do it themselves. Seriously, every time Sankovitch mentioned her kids wanting food (and it was a lot of times) she also mentioned personally handing it to them (even at the beach, out of a cooler). Just... Oy. I also didn't find myself as intrigued as I thought I'd be by the books she was reading, possibly because she summarized them (including occasional spoilers) and included lots of quotes but didn't really draw the connections that I would have drawn from them. They just felt sort of thrown out there, to be taken at face value, as though the fact that a character in a book said them made them fact. Still enjoyed it just for the premise, which really appeals to me in theory even though I would never want to make reading such a project.
  mirikayla | Feb 8, 2016 |
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We need the books that affect us like a disaster, that grieve us deeply, like the death of someone we loved more than ourselves, like being banished into forests far from everyone, like a suicide. A book must be the ax for the frozen sea inside us. -- Frank Kafka, letter to Oskar Pollak, January 27, 1904
A book is a garden, an orchard, a storehouse, a party, a company by the way, a counselor, a multitude of counselors. -- Henry Ward Beecher, Proverbs from Plymouth Pulpit
In memory of Anne-Marie Sankovitch and for our family
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In September 2008 my husband, Jack, and I went away for a weekend, leaving our four kids in the care of my parents.
It is that search for order that drives my hunger for reading mysteries. Sure, I find sparks of wisdom in a good mystery, but what I am really looking for are solutions. I'm searching for an order in the universe. In a world where, sometimes, very little makes sense, a mystery can take the twists and turns of life and run them through a plot that eventually does make sense. A solution to a question is found. The sense of satisfaction is huge.
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This celebration of the richness of reading will reward anyone who loves to read. Editor Review (reviewed on April 1, 2011)
This celebration of the richness of reading will reward anyone who loves to read.

This is a far better book than one might expect from the categories into which it seems to fall. It initially seems like a book in which the author commits to reading the encyclopedia, the Bible or some other exhaustive work, only in this case the challenge is to read, and review, a book per day for a full year. Yet the impetus fits this into a separate category of mourning memoirs, for it was the death of the author's sister that inspired her regimen. Ultimately, the results transcend categories, comparisons and matters of marketing, because what Sankovitch has accomplished in her first book is not only to celebrate the transformational, even healing, powers of reading, but to give the reader a feeling of reading those books as well, through the eyes of an astute reader. Her choices are eclectic, international, unpredictable (even by her), the main mandate being that each is manageable enough to be read in a day. Avoiding the tedium of a diary, the author deals with the books thematically in chapters that focus on love, death, family, even the joys of reading, as she skillfully interweaves a memoir of growing up in a bookish immigrant family and developing a complicated, loving relationship with her oldest sister. After cancer claimed her sister at the age of 46, Sankovitch plunged into relentless activity—"I was scared of living a life not worth the living." But hyperactivity failed to ease her mourning, so on her own 46th birthday, she dedicated herself to reading, not as a simple escape, but "as an escape back to life." Intelligent, insightful and eloquent, Sankovitch takes the leader on the literary journey, demonstrating how after "trying to anaesthetize myself from what I'd lost…I'd finally stopped running away."

As a bonus, even the well-read reader will be inspired to explore some of the books from this magical year.

Agent: Esther Newberg/ICM Kirkus Review http://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-rev...
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Torn apart by grief after losing her sister, the author, a mother of four, turned to literature for comfort, devoting herself to reading one book a day for a year, which brought much needed joy, healing, and wisdom into her life.

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