July 18, 2011

A Must Read for Readers

Tolstoy and the Purple Chair: My Year of Magical ReadingTolstoy and the Purple Chair: My Year of Magical Reading by Nina Sankovitch
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

If, as Mark Twain once said, a person who won’t read has no advantage over one who can’t, then surely a person who remains unchanged by what they read is just as disadvantaged. In her memoir, Tolstoy and the Purple Chair, author Nina Sankovitch proves how much a thoughtful reader can milk out of a good book, sharing her experience of reading one book a day for a whole year.

After the devastating loss of her oldest sister, Sankovitch reads her way out of grief, fear and depression back to hope and promise. I know it sounds like a heavy theme, but her shared experience is must reading that will delight all bibliophiles. For reluctant readers who say they don’t have time to read, Sankovitch’s memoir is like a well-baited hook, demonstrating that a well-read life is a well-lived life, especially when we think about what we read.

This isn’t a work of literary snobbery; Sankovitch finds wisdom in popular mysteries and contemporary authors as well as classics. As you follow her year of reading, you’ll experience her steady recovery, not in psychobabble, but in earnest and profound descriptions of how stories and characters connect with real life.

If you’ve ever felt the loss of a loved one, don’t be surprised to find the pangs of your own heartbreak mingled with the author’s as you read. Her words are a sweet balm for one of life’s most universal experiences. By the end of the book, Sankovitch feels like an intimate friend, having shared in glittering detail what all readers love about books—their ability to transport, comfort, elevate, encourage, befriend, and finally, to chasten us into better people who can deal with all that life has to throw at us.

This one is worth reading again and again, especially as a motivating kick-start for anyone who isn’t setting aside enough time to read. In our achievement-driven world, no one is going to reward us for making time to read and think. But we’ll pay a price for not having done so.

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