Caught up in grief after the death of her sister, Nina Sankovich 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, Sankovich 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.
I had been eyeing Nina Sankovich's memoir for a while, for a few reasons - it's a book that focuses on bibliotherapy, and mainly - it's a book about books. Book about books is pretty much a magic formula that makes me act like a bee acts towards a tasty pot of honey (and I'm positive I'm not the only one). I found this one a few weeks back from a book sale, with 50% off (though I have to say that it was still quite pricey - why is non-fiction so expensive?), and couldn't pass it up.
After the death of her sister, Sankovich decided to dedicate herself to reading a book a day for one year. Without knowing any more details, this struck me as a bit of an absurd idea. What kind of books will she be reading? Does she intend to finish War and Peace in a day? Moreover, not only was she to read a book a day, she also decided to write a review on the book the next morning. Sankovich has the web site http://www.readallday.org, which she used to monitor her progress and publish reviews (she still posts there, although the project has ended).
From the book I learned that she actually had quite strict rules when it came to reading - the book had to be 200-300 pages long (I hope I remember that correctly - couldn't find that place in the book just now) and if she didn't get into it within the first ten pages, she would drop it and pick another one. There were no restrictions on genre but she was not to pick a book from the same author more than once. The whole list of 365 books that Sankovich read is also published in the end of the book. She has (or had, at that point) a husband and three boys. Obviously she did not have a day job during this year, but still, I cannot imagine taking on such a huge reading project. She had about four hours per book each day, and the time of writing a review varied, depending on the book. Four hours was based on her estimation to read 70 pages in an hour - I am not sure how about you guys, but this made me feel like I'm the world's slowest reader. (Actually I haven't taken time but I'm 99% sure I can't read and understand more than a page in a minute.)
I could schedule reading, writing, cooking, and cleaning. But how to schedule caring and loving?
The year of magical reading is weaved with the memories and snippets from Sankovich's life, mainly family related, and her thoughts about books and reading. For example, the chapter on lending out books and recommending them to others was very interesting - how will the other person receive the book that is so important for you?
In general, I liked the writing in this memoir, it's simple and not pretentious and the way Sankovich explains her reading experience and the characters in the books is easily understandable. She's honest and direct in her take on some more delicate subjects like sex, exes and "what ifs". She doesn't glorify or decorate the family life overly, admitting that there were, of course, problems between her and her sister, but even so, the love and closeness between them was bigger than that, and it was very difficult for her to find the answer to the question "why do I deserve to live?"
I did enjoy Tolstoy and the Purple Chair and it gave me this kind of comforting feeling and strengthened my faith in the healing abilities of stories. I would definitely recommend it to anyone who wants to read a good, short-ish memoir, who loves books about books, or who is interested in bibliotherapy.
A book doesn't have to be part of the canon of great literature to make a difference in the reader's life.
Edit: if I had a euro for each time I use the word "book" in this review... I could buy a few new books :p
Edit: if I had a euro for each time I use the word "book" in this review... I could buy a few new books :p
No, you're definitely not the only one who gets drawn in to books about books. I LOVE them and had not heard of this one previously, so I am officially intrigued. You are also not the slowest reader on the planet, though I might be! If I manage a page a minute, that's fast for me -- though it really does depend on the page/type layout, the complexity of the book, and how *into* it I am. My husband and best friend fly through books and I'm just moseying along because I essentially read as if there is a movie playing in my head. They, on the the other hand, tell me they just skip over the "unimportant" words like "the" or "and" which I simply cannot understand at all -- I need to read all the words!ReplyDelete
I think this project the author did was interesting and I see the need to have rules in order to actually be able to accomplish it, but I myself would not want to put myself in a box that only allowed me to read books that grab me immediately and have a certain number of pages -- though I definitely would have plenty to choose from, I don't think I have enough that qualify to last me a whole year! Mixing things up is an essential for me.
You are right, the reading speed depends so much on the size of fond and the page layout, plus there is a difference if you read an easier YA novel than a big classic book full of social commentary. I am not sure what type of books your husband reads, but I also need to read all the words! If I don't I might as well not finish the book, it becomes pointless. (Jan saw this comment and also asked about how is it possible that you don't read all the words :D)Delete
Nina Sankovich didn't choose books from her own shelves only, I think she had weekly trips to library, where she picked up a bunch of books to choose from. Later when her web site started gathering popularity, readers started sending her lots of book recommendations as well.
I find her project very interesting too, but I'm afraid that if through some miracle I managed to go through with something similar, it would kill my desire for reading for many years.
My husband reads a good variety of books (though nothing as heavy as classic lit) and I am still trying to wrap my head around his explanation for how/why he does this -- he tells me it's hard to explain, but "my brain just processes when certain words are coming up in a sentence, so then I can just skip them" which I still cannot even start to comprehend! And the craziest thing of all was the one time he was trying to explain better how exactly he reads so fast and my best friend was sitting there agreeing with him, saying she does the same thing! They both claim it's almost sub-conscious and they don't even realize they are doing it at the time unless they really think about it. And irony of ironies, they are BOTH better at remembering details of a story later on than I am, go figure!Delete
And I took a look at Nina's site -- I think my favorite part of it is the list on her sidebar for "how to read all day" -- I don't think I could read while vacuuming (too loud!), but some of them are excellent tips. Always having a book with me is one of those things I know I should do, but sometimes forget. Inevitably I end up waiting somewhere, completely bored and wishing I could read a few pages to pass the time -- time to clean the junk out of my purse, so I have room to tuck my latest read into it :)
It is so interesting to learn about reading techniques that other people use! I guess it makes sense that you can skip words if you think of the speed reading and diagonal reading, but when reading for pleasure, I would never want to hurry like that. It does seem a bit bizarre though that they can remember things better - I wonder what's up with that...Delete
I have learned that while cooking it's quite convenient to have Kindle around. Regular books are not as good because they don't stay open that well and also I don't really want to use a physical book while cooking, but Kindle is excellent for those times when you have to wait for something to do something for 5 minutes or something similar. Also I don't think I have left home without a single book in *years* - I think it's already a phobia (leaving home without a book - what could it be called?). I am so horrified to think I'd have to idle somewhere and not be able to read my book :D
I really like that Kindle idea! I've finally given in and ordered one of the more basic Kindle tablets, so will have to remember that tip once it arrives. And that sounds like a phobia I would like to develop so I can stop forgetting my book when I go places, LOLDelete
Ooooh, looking forward to your thoughts on Kindle :)Delete
Great review! I'm so glad you enjoyed this book too :) You can't beat a good book about books!ReplyDelete
I've been tempted to reread this book... perhaps if I have time in the summer I'll schedule it!
Hope you're well :)
I can totally see this as a very re-readable book! You are right - books about books are the best (except that they seem to have disastrous effects on one's TBR pile/mountain...)Delete
That is a crazy reading goal, a book a day! I'm a bit surprised she didn't hate reading at the end of the year...ReplyDelete
I'm keen to read this one, because reading can be very therapeutic, and because like you I love books about books.
I was thinking the same thing, if I had to read that much, it'll all eventually become some kind of a blur and I'd probably find it hard to enjoy a book again for a long time.Delete
Oh, thank you for writing your review of this book!! I was excited to read your review because I recently purchased a hardback copy of Tolstoy and the Purple Chair by Nina Sankovich (as in last December) through the Barnes and Noble website at a pretty deep discount... I'm looking forward to reading... When exactly, is anyone's guess.I have so many books to read in my ginormous TBR Pile and not enough time to devote to reading!! Lol, the story of my life!ReplyDelete
Hehe yes, the story of my life as well. I think the only reason I picked this book up now was that it's quite a small volume and I was travelling at the time, so I read most of it while on ferry boat :)Delete
This one sounds interesting. I don't read much non-fiction, but, like you, I enjoy books about books so I'll have to keep this one in mind.ReplyDelete
It's also quite a small book, so it didn't take a lot of time to get through! :)Delete
A book about books is my dream. Have you read Howard's End is on the Landing by Susan Hill? That is one of the best bookish memoirs I have read. I saw this one reviewed a while ago and have fancied it ever since. A book and a review a day sounds like quite a task but I can imagine that the therapeutic benefits would be huge. Even reading a book for a few minutes a day does amazing things for my mood! Off to check out her website now...ReplyDelete
Thanks for reminding me about this one - I will be keeping an eye out for it in every bookshop I pass :D
I *want* to read Howard's End is on the Landing so much! But I always thought it would make sense to actually read Howard's End first (another book I can't wait to read, just have to buy an English copy first because the translated version is puny and doesn't live up to the beauty of the writing).Delete
I think depending on a person a book and a review a day can either be hugely rewarding or just pure torture :))
I have this! And still need to read it.ReplyDelete
70 pages an hour is INSANE. I'm around 55-60 pages her hour, unless it's heavy or non-fiction, which then slows it down of course.
Yeah, technically I think I can do 70 pages an hours but that doesn't mean I'll remember anything afterwards. :)Delete