Andres's Reviews > Tolstoy and the Purple Chair: My Year of Magical Reading

Tolstoy and the Purple Chair by Nina Sankovitch
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's review
Apr 23, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: arcs
Read from April 20 to 23, 2011

What I really liked about this book is its ability to convey how reading can be an asset in your life, rather than something that takes away time (from what---watching TV?) or is a waste of invested effort.

In this case the author sets forth a goal of reading one book a day for a year in an effort to come to terms with her sister's death. While she doesn't talk about every book she reads (that would be impossible, not to mention cumbersome to the narrative) she does manage to find a narrative balance between her life and her books, thinking critically about both and showing us how one informs the other in this or that situation.

Also, it hints at but doesn't quite state that while books are a helpful additive to life, they can only be an asset if you have a life to live (meaning a book a day for a year is quite an artificial construct that only has meaning to the author because she has an entire lived life in which to place her reading into context---reading is a complement to life, not a substitution).

I read an advanced reader copy of this book so I don't know how the final copy will read. I understand that this is what the book is about but unfortunately the further you get into the book the more repetitive the chapters become (in format, not content) because in each chapter she finds some moment in her life that connects to whatever the current book is and wraps up with a sometimes too long summary about it all. Her descriptions are sometimes a bit too purple, and she has a Walt Whitman-esque ability to list many synonyms for the one thing she wants to convey, making some passages feel padded out.

Still, this is a worthwhile read about how books can help augment, but not take the place of, your life.
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