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Tolstoy and the Purple Chair: My Year of…
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Tolstoy and the Purple Chair: My Year of Magical Reading (original 2011; edition 2011)

by Nina Sankovitch

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401None26,470 (3.61)39
Member:almigwin
Title:Tolstoy and the Purple Chair: My Year of Magical Reading
Authors:Nina Sankovitch
Info:Harper (2011), Hardcover, 256 pages
Collections:Your library (inactive)
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Tags:reading, memoir

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

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» See also 39 mentions

English (32)  Dutch (1)  All languages (33)
Showing 1-5 of 32 (next | show all)
I believe I'll start this one next.
  blkhart13 | Apr 6, 2014 |
Inspiration for the healing powers of reading. Wish my job could be reading. ( )
  sar96 | Jan 2, 2014 |
Inspiration for the healing powers of reading. Wish my job could be reading. ( )
  sar96 | Jan 2, 2014 |
Tolstoy and the Purple Chair is a wonderful memoir. Sankovitch reflects on her relationship with her sister - three years after her death - through a year of reading. I think this was an excellent tribute to her sister, and an excellent journey as we get to watch how Sankovitch navigated the grief from losing someone so close to her.

Sankovitch ran from her grief for several years by focusing on caring for others and being involved in many activities. She finally slows down enough to go through the process of grieving and learns a lot about herself, her family, life, and her sister in the process. I highly recommend this book to anyone. The narrative provides different lines of thought that almost anyone could connect to.

The book recommendations and discussions provided in the book are fabulous as well. I find myself wondering how many other readers found this as a motivation to pick up a book a day and just read and escape. ( )
  Drmeghollis | Dec 1, 2013 |
"Sitting in my chair, cats nearby, I was reading a great book. That was my job this year, and it was a good one. The salary was nonexistent, but the satisfaction was daily and deep."

I'm very late to the game with this one - particularly given the fact that my copy is an ARC! - but every book has its moment, and I think that perhaps if I'd read it too soon I'd have been disappointed. Fortunately, other reviews warned me to shift my expectations about the book's focus, so I actually really enjoyed it, if not for the reasons I thought I would.

Basically, the premise is that Nina Sankovitch read a book a day for a year in a kind of mission to recover from the death of her beloved sister Anne-Marie. Previous to this 'year of magical reading', she had spent several years running round like a maniac trying to live a double life, not only to make up for her sister's tragically shortened existence, but also as an attempt to buoy up her grieving family. At length she realised that this approach wasn't helping anybody, and instead opted to sit down and read - a favourite pastime that she shared with her late sister - and use the lessons in her books to gradually grieve, heal, and find happiness in her memories instead of pain.

My big issue with the book was the fact that all the publicity I'd seen beforehand - the same publicity that led me to acquire this ARC in the first place - was very much focussed on the 'reading a book a day for 365 days' element, complete with photos of Sankovitch reading in the park, on the porch, on the titular purple chair... In short, it was being marketed as a kind of stunt memoir (love) about reading and books (LOVE!). In actual fact, it could have been a book a week, or a book a month, and the memoir wouldn't have suffered much for it. There is an awful lot about the content of some of the books Sankovitch chose, and what she learned from them, and how she applied these things specifically to the experience of losing her sister. There is NOT an awful lot about the actual experience of reading a book, where and how she managed to read a book every single day, and what she enjoyed about the luxury of just reading.

That said, I really did enjoy it, even if I don't remember many specifics now, a few weeks on. I underlined lots of quotes about reading, and took away a few book recommendations (though not many - Sankovitch and I don't really have very similar reading tastes and I'd never heard of most of her choices) - but the overriding impression I have is of a book about family, grief, and learning to live again after the loss of a loved one. If I had a friend, say, who loved to read and had lost someone, I'd definitely buy them a copy because despite not having experienced it myself yet (touch wood), I think in that situation I'd have found the book reassuring and heartwarming and quite comforting in a lot of ways. As an avid reader, there's a certain poetry to finding solace in a book about finding solace in books!

Conclusions? Well, it wasn't the book I thought it would be, and I did think it was a bit misleading that it was being marketed heavily on the book-memoir side, but I still really enjoyed it. It was a great reminder of how much books can influence us, our moods and the way we think; it was a lovely tribute to a sister with whom Sankovitch had shared her love of books right up until her death, and there WERE a few nice readerly moments that made me feel like I was in the company of a fellow book addict. Cautiously recommended. ( )
  elliepotten | Sep 21, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 32 (next | show all)
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Epigraph
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
Dedication
In memory of Anne-Marie Sankovitch and for our family
First words
In September 2008 my husband, Jack, and I went away for a weekend, leaving our four kids in the care of my parents.
Quotations
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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Book description
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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