From Publishers Weekly
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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.
"Outstanding Debuts of 2011... Intelligent, insightful and eloquent, Sankovitch takes the reader on the literary journey."
--Kirkus Review, Starred Review
“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 )
“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 )
“[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 )
“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) )
“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 original, uplifting and very moving: a unique celebration of life, love and literature.” (S. J. Bolton, author of Now You See Me )
A grieving woman decides to read one book a day for a year. Anyone who has ever sought refuge in literature will identify.
(listed as one of "Ten Titles to Pick Up Now"), June 2011.
"...a beautifully fluid, reflective, and astute memoir that gracefully combines affecting family history-her parents immigrated to America after surviving WWII in Belgium and Poland-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, and every ardent reader will find her perceptive thoughts about stories, remembrance, resilience, and ‘book bliss' incisive and affirming."
"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."