I found Tolstoy and the Purple Chair: My Year of Magical Reading by Nina Sankovitch quite by accident as I walked inside my favorite book shop. I usually walk through the book shop in a straight line from the front doors to the international section where I buy most of my books (it’s the only place in the shop that sells books in other languages and the English section is really big compared to other bookshops), but not that day. For the first time in a long time I ventured into the section where people buy books translated to Portuguese, and right there, standing in a circular shelf there was this book. I even remember the first thing I thought when I looked at it “magical reading? That’s definitively for me.”
I’ve always found it endlessly fascinating to know what other people like to read and why, every time I see a person carrying a book I try to get a good look on the cover. So what could be better than a book about a woman who spends a whole year reading a book a day? Basically: nothing. Nina Sankovitch is a real person who actually had those experiences for real, which I only realized when I opened the book again to read, but at first I thought it was fictional.
After the death of her sister Nina Sankovitch decides to do a year of reading one book per day, then writing about it on a blog she created. The book is filled with quotes from the books she read and what she learned with them, but it’s also full of family memories which are one of the main, I guess I can say, “themes” of the book. The books she read helped her understand how she could keep living after such a sad loss and I think that’s one of the things that drew me to this book, because I do believe that books can help us heal and grow as human beings.
I had a lot of fun reading this book, even thought it was a little repetitive at times, but still different from every other book I’ve read.
Another funny coincidence this book had was that the first book she read in her year of reading is The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery and a couple of weeks before finding this book my grandmother told me a book she was reading. I thought it was a fascinating book, and with my grandma’s gift for storytelling, she told me the whole story translating from her French version. Of course it was The Elegance of the Hedgehog and I can’t wait to see her again and show her this book. I think I’ll even let her borrow it.