Friday 20 January 2023

Sankovitch, Nina "Tolstoy and the Purple Chair"

Sankovitch, Nina "Tolstoy and the Purple Chair: My Year of Magical Reading" - 2010

I've had this book on my TBR pile for quite a while. I love books about books, I love lists, especially of books but somehow, this never made it to the top of my pile.

Until now.

What did I like about the book? The fact, that books are there for us, that they can help us in difficult circumstances. I knew that already and I have lived through it myself. Books have helped me a lot.

Mind you, I didn't buy the book for that, I bought it because it was about reading.

Nina Sankovitch read 365 books in one year. I wouldn't have liked to have to finish any book in a given day and not read any of my beloved chunksters but she didn't seem to mind that.

I did like that she mentioned other books, books she didn't read in that year but which meant something to her.

I would recommend reading to anyone who is in a ditch and can't get out by themselves. Those authors help you a lot. And I'm not talking those self-help books, they often make me even more depressive, I'm talking about books you enjoy, whether they are non-fiction or fiction, a romance book, science fiction, fantasy (the last ones all genres that I don't enjoy), historical novels or anything you feel like at the time. They do help, believe me.

There are quite a few passages that made me think. The author tells us about a ghost in a Dickens story that will take away your memory and the answer "Memory is my curse, and if I could forget my sorrow and my wrong, I would." I doubt I would take that offer because with all the bad memories, also many of the good ones will be gone. Like in Nina's case, the loss of her sister is terrible but the memories she shares with her are wonderful, and would she want to lose them, as well? Probably not.

And this one, an old Arab proverb: "He who lends a book is an idiot. He who returns the book is more of an idiot." Okay, call me an idiot, I have lent books to others all my life, I think we should share our richness. I agree more with Henry Miller's advice (also mentioned in the book): "Like money, books must be kept in constant circulation, Lend and borrow to the maximum - of both books and money! But especially books, for books represent infinitely more than money. A book is not only a friend, it makes friends for you. When you have possessed a book with mind and spirit, you are enriched. But when you pass it on you are enriched threefold". Definitely.

From Cornelia Funke's "Inkheart" (GE: Tintenherz): "Books loved anyone who opened them, they gave you security and friendship and didn't ask anything in return; they never went away, never, not even when you treated them badly. Love, truth, beauty, wisdom and consolation against death. Who had said that? Someone else who loved books." Yes, books always love us, they will send us on a new path, they will entertain us, they will teach us something, they are there for us.

Elizabeth Maguire asks, "Have you ever been heartbroken to finish a book? Has a writer kept whispering in your ear long after the last page has turned?" How can anyone say no to those questions?

Something that has nothing to do with reading but needs to be said again and again, a quote from Kurt Vonnegut: "War is Murder". There is nothing that anyone can say against that.

"Read a book to find out why we go to war, to experience what it is that drives us to violence", is a good answer, that the author only thought about after a discussion, as happens so often to all of us, I guess. But it's the best way to learn about it and to try to convince others that it is stupid to kill someone, no matter for what reason.

"Books are the weapon against someone's lament that 'everything is forgotten in the end'." Yes, books, make us remember, books teach us everything,w e don't have to experience it first ourselves, we can truly feel for someone through a book.

And finally, a quote by one of the greates authors that ever lived, Leonid Tolstoy: "The sole meaning of life is to serve humanity." There is nothing to be added.

Nina Sankovitch has a website.
And here she has some recommendations on how to read all day.

I will not repeat all the books she read in this review, you can find that list here.

I will, however, list all the books I read from her list so you can go and check out what I have to say to them.

The same with the books she mentions, there is a list at the end of the books I read.

From the back cover:

"Caught up in grief after the death of her sister, Nina Sankovitch decided to stop running and start reading. For once in her life she would put all other obligations on hold and devote herself to reading a book a day: one year of magical reading in which she found joy, healing, and wisdom.

With grace and deep insight, Sankovitch weaves together poignant family memories with the unforgettable lives of the characters she reads about. She finds a lesson in each book, ultimately realizing the ability of a good story to console, inspire, and open our lives to new places and experiences. A moving story of recovery,
Tolstoy and the Purple Chair is also a resonant reminder of the all-encompassing power and delight of reading."

Books read:
Achebe, Chinua "Things Fall Apart" (The African Trilogy #1) - 1958
Adams, Richard "Watership Down" - 1972
Adiga, Aravind "The White Tiger" - 2008
Barbery, Muriel "The Elegance of the Hedgehog" (F: L’Elégance du hérisson) - 2006
Berry, Wendell "Hannah Coulter" - 2004
Butler, Octavia E. "Kindred" - 1979
Chevalier, Tracy "Falling Angels" - 2001
Cleave, Chris "The Other Hand" (US: Little Bee) - 2008
Coetzee, J.M. "The Master of Petersburg" - 1994
Danticat, Edwidge "Breath, Eyes, Memory" - 1994
Douglass, Frederick "Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave" - 1845
Ephron, Nora "I Feel Bad About My Neck And Other Thoughts on Being a Woman" - 2006
Funke, Cornelia "Inkheart" - (GE: Tintenherz) - 2003
Morrison, Toni "A Mercy" - 2008
Shaffer, Mary Ann & Barrows, Annie "The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Society" - 2008
Tóibín, Colm "Brooklyn" - 2009
Walls, Jeannette "The Glass Castle" - 2005

Not many from the 365 books she read but then again, she hasn't mentioned many of my books, either. ;)

Books mentioned:
Christie, Agatha "And then there were none"  - 1939 (called "Ten Little Indians" in this book)
Dickens, Charles "A Christmas Carol" - 1843
- "A Tale of Two Cities" - 1859
Fitzgerald, F. Scott "The Great Gatsby" - 1925
Gilbreth, Frank + Gilbreth Carey, Elizabeth "Cheaper by the Dozen" - 1948
Gordimer, Nadine "Burger's Daughter" - 1979
Greene, Graham "The End of the Affair" - 1951
Kingsolver, Barbara
McEwan, Ian "Atonement" - 2001
Schlink, Bernhard "The Reader" (GE: Der Vorleser) - 1994
Trollope, Anthony "Barchester Chronicles" - 1855-67


  1. I loved it too. I can't believe I read 12 years ago already!

    1. Well, it is that old and has been on my TBR pile for a while, so I'm not surprised others have read it so long before me.

  2. It looks interesting and our library has it in the system. I will place a hold on it (although I do not think I will have much time to read in it). Thanks for the tip!

    1. It's a book you can read slowly, Eva. You might enjoy it. Otherwise, just go by the books she read and see whether there are any you would like.

  3. I read this some years ago, and followed her on her website. Quite interesting. I have only read 14 of the books on her list, and must admit I have never heard of most of the books. I think books can be a help in times of need, and I found it very rewarding that it helped her in her sorrow. I was also very much impressed that she could read the very thick books that also are on her list.

    1. So, I haven't read many more than you, Lisbeth. I wonder whether anyone has read more.
      And I can see how books help you, they got me through twenty years in a sad place.

  4. I read this book back in December 2019. You were kind enough to comment on the blog post about this book. I'm glad you read and enjoyed it.

    1. I think I saw this on several pages but I also found the book in a shop, so I don't know whether you were the first one to recommend it but I certainly appreciate it when I can read about books that might be interesting to me. Thanks for that, Lisa.