Friday, November 25, 2011

Tolstoy and the Purple Chair by Nina Sankovitch

Summary(from Goodreads): 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.

For some reason, one of my favorite things to read about are other readers. I like to learn about their favorite authors, their reading habits, how they organize their books, etc. It may seem boring to some people, but I am addicted to it. I think that's why I enjoyed Tolstoy and the Purple Chair so much.

While the book is about reading a book a day for a year(which I would totally attempt if I had the time and energy), it also incorporates the author's life. Her family, friends, and feelings help move the book forward.

One of the things that the author talks about most is the death of her sister. She finds comfort in books, and I can definitely relate to that. Books at their core are a comfort. You can open a book and get lost in a world completely different from your own. I really appreciate the emphasis on that point in Tolstoy and the Purple Chair.

That being said, I wish the author would have focused on the reading more. I know that she picked certain books from her year of reading to help her explain her own personal stories rather than trying to talk about every book she read. My problem is that the book lacked structure. It didn't follow any sort of chronological order. Books that she read at the beginning of the year would be discussed while she was explaining the end of the year, and vice versa.

Bottom Line: Emotionally poignant and inspirational, Tolstoy and the Purple Chair is a fantastic read and a must for book lovers.

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