Tolstoy and the Purple Chair: My Year of Magical Reading

Tolstoy and the Purple Chair: My Year of Magical Reading

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by Nina Sankovitch
     
 

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“NinaSankovitch has crafted a dazzling memoir that remindsus of the most primal function of literature-to heal, to nurture and to connectus to our truest selves." —Thrity Umrigar, author of The Space Between Us

Catalyzedby the loss of her sister, a mother of four spends one year savoring a greatbook every day, from Thomas Pynchon to Nora Ephron

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Overview

“NinaSankovitch has crafted a dazzling memoir that remindsus of the most primal function of literature-to heal, to nurture and to connectus to our truest selves." —Thrity Umrigar, author of The Space Between Us

Catalyzedby the loss of her sister, a mother of four spends one year savoring a greatbook every day, from Thomas Pynchon to Nora Ephron and beyond. In the tradition ofGretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project and Joan Dideon’sA Year of Magical Thinking, Nina Sankovitch’ssoul-baring and literary-minded memoir is a chronicle of loss,hope, and redemption. Nina ultimately turns to reading as therapy andthrough her journey illuminates the power of books to help us reclaim ourlives.

Editorial Reviews

Thrity Umrigar
“Nina Sankovitch has crafted a dazzling memoir that reminds us of the most primal function of literature—to heal, to nurture and to connect us to our truest selves.”
Julie Klam
“Tolstoy and the Purple Chair will transport you to a time before texts and tweets. Through the stories of her own family, Nina Sankovitch shows how books have the power to refresh, renew, and even heal us. I loved this memoir.”
S. J. Bolton
“Tolstoy and the Purple Chair is original, uplifting and very moving: a unique celebration of life, love and literature.”
Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni
“Tolstoy and the Purple Chair masterfully weaves beloved and sometimes surprising books into central events in the writer’s life. There is much to learn from this moving book. Sankovitch writes with intelligence and honesty, leading us to respond in a similar manner.”
BookPage
“In Tolstoy and the Purple Chair, her affectionate and inspiring paean to the power of books and reading, Sankovitch gracefully acknowledges that her year of reading was an escape into the healing sanctuary of books, where she learned how to move beyond recuperation to living.”
Shelf Awareness
"A beautifully paced look at how mindfulness can affect the psyche."
The Christian Century
“She is adept at stitching together musings about the books she is reading with memory and narrative from her own life.”
Smoky Mountain News
“What is best in Tolstoy and the Purple Chair, however, is not the author’s literary criticism, but the way in which she blends her accounts of her reading with the story of her family and with broader human concerns.”
The Oprah Magazine O
“Anyone who has ever sought refuge in literature will identify with Tolstoy and the Purple Chair.”
Booklist
“A beautifully fluid, reflective, and astute memoir that gracefully combines affecting family history with expert testimony about how books open our minds to ‘the complexity and entirety of the human experience.’ Sankovitch’s reading list in all its dazzling variety is top-notch.”
Devourer of Books
“Tolstoy and the Purple Chair is an absolutely lovely account of the healing power of literature.”
Ventura County Star
“[A] brilliant and heartwarming book.”
Boston Globe
“This graceful memoir describes a true love affair with books.”
Buffalo News
“Sankovitch’s account works well because she uses her reading list to jump off into topics that are tangential, yet intriguing and often important.”
PsychCentral.com
“[Tolstoy and the Purple Chair] offers timeless wisdom, is uplifting and has a powerful message.”
The Dartmouth
“An original and touching…account of one woman’s lifelong affinity for books and her attempt to channel that affinity to deal with her grief after her sister dies. Tolstoy and the Purple Chair is an understated but moving story about the effects of a ‘year of magical reading.’”
Connecticut Post
“[Tolstoy and the Purple Chair] digs deep into that near-mystical connection between a reader and an author—that startling feeling that you are channeling someone you have never met...A gripping and inspiring book.”
American Way
“Her deeply moving memoir artfully intertwines her immigrant family’s history with the universal themes of hope, resilience, and memory. Tolstoy and the Purple Chair celebrates not only the healing power of literature but its ability to connect us to the best of ourselves — and each other.”
Christian Science Monitor
“Sankovitch’s memoir stands as a tribute to the power of books to enrich our daily lives.”
Shelf Awareness (starred review)
“A beautifully paced look at how mindfulness can affect the psyche.”
Los Angeles Times
“The beauty of her project lies in seeing how books intertwine with daily life, how very much they affect our moods, interactions, and, especially important for Sankovitch, how we recover and process our memories….She makes reading seem accessible, relaxing, inspiring, fun.”
The Book Bully
“Tolstoy and the Purple Chair is a must-read for anyone who adores books. It is also a primer on the healing power of taking time off to grieve by immersing oneself in a revered activity.”
Publishers Weekly
When Sankovitch lost her older sister to cancer, she was determined to "live her life double" in order to make up for her family's painful loss. But after three years spent at a frenetic pace, Sankovitch decided to slow down and rediscover the pleasure of books in order to reconnect with the memory of her sister. Despite the day-to-day responsibilities of raising four sons—and the holidays, vacations, and sudden illnesses that accompany a large family—Sankovitch vowed to read one book a day for an entire year and blog about it. In this entertaining bibliophile's dream, Sankovitch (who launched ReadAllDay.org and was profiled in the New York Times) found that her "year of magical reading" was "not a way to rid myself of sorrow but a way to absorb it." As well as being an homage to her sister and their family of readers, Sankovitch's memoir speaks to the power that books can have over our daily lives. Sankovitch champions the act of reading not as an indulgence but as a necessity, and will make the perfect gift from one bookworm to another. (June)
The Christian Century
“She is adept at stitching together musings about the books she is reading with memory and narrative from her own life.”
Smoky Mountain News
“What is best in Tolstoy and the Purple Chair, however, is not the author’s literary criticism, but the way in which she blends her accounts of her reading with the story of her family and with broader human concerns.”
Library Journal
"Pleasure on a schedule" is how Sankovitch describes the plan detailed in her memoir. A married, stay-at-home mom with four sons, she decided to create calm in her life by sitting down, sitting still, and reading an entire book each day and completing a journal with her reaction to each book. Sankovitch knew she could read 70 pages an hour; she selected books no more than one inch thick. Other self-imposed rules dictated that she not read more than one book by any author. Nor could she read any book she had previously read. The book's title refers to Sankovitch's favorite author and the old chair she sat in to read each day. Beginning the project on her 46th birthday, Sankovitch entwines her comments about her reading selections with family stories including her parents surviving World War II in Europe, her upbringing in a tight-knit family of five who loved books and reading, and finally, her sister's death from bile-duct cancer. Sankovitch continues to write about her reading on her web site ReadAllDay.org as a way to encourage adults to read each day. VERDICT Sankovitch's frequent comments about unwashed laundry and the repetitive stories of baking Christmas cookies with her step-daughter may try the reader, but these are minor when considering her accomplishment and the appeal of her memoir.—Joyce Sparrow, Kenneth City, FL
Kirkus Reviews

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.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780061999857
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
06/19/2012
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
256
Sales rank:
319,330
Product dimensions:
5.38(w) x 7.80(h) x 0.64(d)

What People are saying about this

Julie Klam
“Tolstoy and the Purple Chair will transport you to a time before texts and tweets. Through the stories of her own family, Nina Sankovitch shows how books have the power to refresh, renew, and even heal us. I loved this memoir.”
Thrity Umrigar
“Nina Sankovitch has crafted a dazzling memoir that reminds us of the most primal function of literature—to heal, to nurture and to connect us to our truest selves.”
Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni
“Tolstoy and the Purple Chair masterfully weaves beloved and sometimes surprising books into central events in the writer’s life. There is much to learn from this moving book. Sankovitch writes with intelligence and honesty, leading us to respond in a similar manner.”
S.J. Bolton
“Tolstoy and the Purple Chair is original, uplifting and very moving: a unique celebration of life, love and literature.”

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