Tolstoy and the Purple Chair

My Year of Magical Reading

By Nina Sankovitch
(Harper, Hardcover, 9780061999840, 256pp.)

Publication Date: June 2011

Other Editions of This Title: Paperback

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Selected by Indie Booksellers for the Fall '12 Reading Group List
“This graceful memoir describes a true love affair with books. After losing her 46-year-old sister to cancer, Sankovitch embarks on a year of reading: one book every day for a full year. Her project, complete with daily book reviews, becomes an ongoing conversation with her sister and provides insight into her own past and contact with bibliophiles across the world. This is the best description of the power of books that I have ever encountered!”
-- Caitlin Doggart, Where the Sidewalk Ends, Chatham, MA
Selected by Indie Booksellers for the June 2011 Indie Next List


Description

Nina Sankovitch has always been a reader. As a child, she discovered that a trip to the local bookmobile with her sisters was more exhilarating than a ride at the carnival. Books were the glue that held her immigrant family together. When Nina's eldest sister died at the age of forty-six, Nina turned to books for comfort, escape, and introspection. In her beloved purple chair, she rediscovered the magic of such writers as Toni Morrison, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Ian McEwan, Edith Wharton, and, of course, Leo Tolstoy. Through the connections Nina made with books and authors (and even other readers), her life changed profoundly, and in unexpected ways. Reading, it turns out, can be the ultimate therapy.

Tolstoy and the Purple Chair also tells the story of the Sankovitch family: Nina's father, who barely escaped death in Belarus during World War II; her four rambunctious children, who offer up their own book recommendations while helping out with the cooking and cleaning; and Anne-Marie, her oldest sister and idol, with whom Nina shared the pleasure of books, even in her last moments of life. In our lightning-paced culture that encourages us to seek more, bigger, and better things, Nina's daring journey shows how we can deepen the quality of our everyday lives—if we only find the time.




About the Author

Nina Sankovitch launched ReadAllDay.org in 2008, and at the end of her year of reading, she was profiled in the New York Times. She continues to review books on ReadAllDay.org and for the Huffington Post. She lives in Connecticut with her husband and four sons.




Conversation Starters from ReadingGroupChoices.com

  1. One of Nina’s favorite books from childhood, The Most Beautiful Woman in the World, can still bring tears to her eyes when she reads it today. What books did you love as a child that can still elicit strong emotions in you today?




Praise For Tolstoy and the Purple Chair

“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.”
-Los Angeles Times

“Anyone who has ever sought refuge in literature will identify with Tolstoy and the Purple Chair.”
-O, The Oprah Magazine

“Sankovitch’s memoir stands as a tribute to the power of books to enrich our daily lives.”
-Christian Science Monitor

“This graceful memoir describes a true love affair with books.”
-Boston Globe

“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.”
-Booklist

“[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.”
-Connecticut Post

“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.”
-Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“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.”
-American Way

“[An] entertaining bibliophile’s dream…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.”
-Publishers Weekly

“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.”
-Thrity Umrigar, author of The Space Between us

“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.”
-BookPage

“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.”
-Julie Klam, author of You Had Me at Woof

“Tolstoy and the Purple Chair is original, uplifting and very moving: a unique celebration of life, love and literature.”
-S. J. Bolton, author of Now You See Me

“[A] brilliant and heartwarming book.”
-Ventura County Star

“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.’”
-The Dartmouth

“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.”
-Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, author of One Amazing Thing

“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.”
-The Book Bully

“Tolstoy and the Purple Chair is an absolutely lovely account of the healing power of literature.”
-Devourer of Books

“Sankovitch’s account works well because she uses her reading list to jump off into topics that are tangential, yet intriguing and often important.”
-Buffalo News

“A beautifully paced look at how mindfulness can affect the psyche.”
-Shelf Awareness (starred review)

“[Tolstoy and the Purple Chair] offers timeless wisdom, is uplifting and has a powerful message.”
-PsychCentral.com

“She is adept at stitching together musings about the books she is reading with memory and narrative from her own life.”
-The Christian Century

“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.”
-Smoky Mountain News

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