Nina Sankovitch’s Tolstoy and the Purple Chair first intrigued me because of its subject: a year of reading. What a luxury! I wanted to know how Sankovitch arranged this and what kinds of books she read during her year. It turns out that she met the ambitious goal of reading a book a day, while also following the requirement that each book had to be one she hadn’t read before. These guidelines seem like a great way to approach such a project; there are so many books out there that so many of us will never get the chance to read. While a year might sound like a lot at first, it’s only 365 days, and that allows only 365 books. (Of course, there are some books you just can’t do justice to in a day, which limits the scope of her project, too.) Even after Sankovitch’s year, there’s so much more out there to keep reading, and her book shows what an exciting feeling that is.
While she spends her year reading, Sankovitch mourns for the loss of her sister. As she reads, her books become like therapy, and she employs the concepts in them as a means of working through her grief, coming to terms with the idea of moving on while leaving her sister behind. As a result, we learn almost as much about Sankovitch’s relationship with her sister as we do about Sankovitch herself.
I share the desire to read new books as much as the next person, but I love rereading old favorites, too. While reading Tolstoy and the Purple Chair, I found myself wishing that we could witness Sankovitch returning to more of her old favorites as well. She makes a good case for going on and reading previously unknown works, but I missed hearing about that sense of pleasure that comes from actively rereading books one loved in the past.
Rachel, who has a Ph.D. in English, is a freelance writer/editor and a voracious reader. You can talk to her about books at http://twitter.com/writehandmann.
Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Harper. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.