Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Book Review: Tolstoy and the Purple Chair

'Tolstoy and the Purple Chair: My Year of Magical Reading'
Author: Nina Sankovitch 

Format: ARC
Published: Harper; June 2011
Pages: 256
Genre: Memoir
Grade: B
Source: Publisher

Synopsis: 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.

My Take: When I saw this book I thought I would find my reading soulmate. A year of magical reading. Who doesn't want that?! That sounds fabulous! I figured this slim little memoir would give me the new vigor I needed to read even more than I already do. Well that didn't happen but it didn't stop me from enjoying this slim memoir!

Sankovitch has lost her beloved sister to cancer and felt that in order to make up for the guilt she feels at still being alive while her beloved sister is not she will live life like she never has before. As a mother to four young boys, wife, daughter, and sister after a few years she has worn herself out but find that she is no more over the grief of losing her sister. She decides instead to do the complete opposite. To go back to her roots. She was raised in a family of readers, where you would spend your free time reading and sharing books. So maybe she could find some comfort in books and learn how to slow down and therefore deal with the grief of losing her sister in the process. 

As a stay at home mom Sankovitch decides this will become her new job. She will read one book a day for a full year and review each book at her site Read All Day. This is a noble task if I ever heard of it. I can't say that I wasn't a little taken aback by it. I mean I can't find the time to read more than a couple hours max on a good day, how does someone with four kids find the time to read a book a day. It was hard for me at first not to think she was being a little selfish or for me to maybe be a little jealous of this plush life she was getting the chance to lead but as I got over it I enjoyed the story more.

As sometimes happens with books that tell a story through other books, if I haven't read the books that they reference then I find myself not connecting as deeply to the book. For the most part while we may have somewhat similar taste in books, and I don't think I am a slacker in the reading department, I can honestly say that of the 365 books she read, I have read four. Four! Makes me feel like I hardly read at all!

However, as one lover of books to another this book did ring true to me on the parts when she was talking about connections and family which was actually the vast majority of the book so for that I kept reading and because I kept reading I cheered her on until the full end of her year.

Cover Lust: That is one cool looking chair!


  1. I can't imagine finding the time to read a book a day, either! I'd have to find some short books. Having said that, I really want to read this book!

  2. I would think a friend of mine would like this book cos she keeps talking about a book she read with Tolstoy in it

  3. I can't even conceive of reading a books a day and I have only my 16 year old left at home. I've wanted to read this book to get an idea how she did it. I'm guessing none of the books were super long. (You can't read War and Peace in a day, right?). I think I am looking forward to reading this one mostly to see what books she read.

  4. I can't imagine how a person could read a book a day and still be a mom and have a life. It does make me curious to read this book so I can see how she pulled it off.

  5. No way did she read Anna Karenina, did she?!

    1. Yes she did. On a Sat I think but still!

  6. Well I am a speed reader and I am sure she must be to. We are few and far between but we read faster then anyone else and we devour books. We absorb them as anyone else does although people never believe that. I can read a book of 800-900 pages in 2 hours or less. I learned from my Mom who was a speed reader and both my Brothers are to. We go through many books in a week. Its a blessing and a curse. I long for days where I can bury myself in a book but like most of us only have time at night. I hope I win this book because I am fascinated to find out what she reads and how she finds time with 4 kids. I follow you on email and you can reach me at oceanspirit.be.1@hotmail.com. Thanks for the opportunity to win this interesting book.

  7. My solution was to commit to a book a week, and I've done that for going on three years now. I record each book in a notebook so I can look back over all I've accomplished. You can do a book a week!


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