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


Nina Sankovitch lost her older sister Anne-Marie to cancer in 2005. She spent the next few years just trying to live as much as humanly possible to make up for the life, Anne-Marie was no longer able to live. But this didn’t help with her grief so she decided to try another approach – to read a book a day for a year and to write about it. She began writing the blog Read All Day and posted a review a day as well, talking about what the books meant to her and how her way of looking at life changed throughout the year.

Out of this blog came this book, Tolstoy and the Purple Chair: My Year of Magical Reading. I was in the mood to kick up my enthusiasm for reading so I decided that this would be the right book for me to pick up.

The book reads like a reading diary, like an amateur reader sharing her love of books. This is not a bad thing in any way. Despite the sad reason for Sankovitch’s decision to spend an entire year reading, the book is not sad in any way. Rather, Sankovitch succeeds in sharing her love of reading, the life lessons she learns from the book and how her reading helped her cope with her sorrow and sadness.

But this book is not just about reading and dealing with the loss of a sister. It’s also the story of a a family, of three sisters growing up together and of raising a family. A story which begins during WWII. It’s about reading at meal times, sharing books, talking about books. But most prominently of course of loss. Not only the loss of Anne/Marie but also the father of the three sisters who lost three siblings in one night during the war. And it’s about a very unique way of handling such losses.

I came late to this party. Really late. Which is to say that I didn’t know about Nina Sankovitch’s blog until I had heard of the book. So I added the book to my wish list and the blog to my reader at the same time. And I fully expected that this book would make my wish list go even more crazy but I didn’t add that many books. Not because she didn’t read god books but because a lot of the books she read, were books I had read or which already were on my wish list. She has good taste!

Overall, when reading this book, one can’t help be a bit jealous of her. To spend a year reading a book a day. That sounds incredible! I know the reason behind her year is tragic but it must have been amazing to spend a year just reading, writing and thinking about books. And after that year, she has gotten a much better handle on how to continue living even though she has lost her big sister. Books can help you deal with anything and everything and this book is one example thereof.

The only balm to sorrow is memory; the only salve for the pain of losing someone to death is acknowledging the life that existed before.’ (1064-70)

  • Title: Tolstoy and the Purple Chair: My Year of Magical Reading
  • Author: Nina Sankovitch
  • Publisher: HarperCollins
  • Year: 2011
  • Pages: 241 pages
  • Source: Own collection (Kindle)
  • Stars: 3 stars out of 5

3 thoughts on “Nina Sankovitch: Tolstoy and the Purple Chair: My Year of Magical Reading (review)

  1. I’m late to this party, too. I’ve owned a copy of this since it came out, and keep passing it over when it’s time to choose a book to read. I really need to get to it soon, though.

  2. I’m late to this party too. I haven’t heard of this book or her blog. I just went through her blog and I like the way she writes.

    I’m not so sure her book is for me, but her blog definitely is 🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s