Lettered Ladies Book Club: Tolstoy and the Purple Chair

tolstoyA few months ago – tanned and relaxed from our respective summers and giddy from the fun of our new blog – the Lettered Ladies decided to embark on an adventure together.  Though the six of us now live in five different states and see each other only rarely, we knew that we could be together in spirit by sharing in the same reading experience.  The Lettered Ladies Book Club was born (or, at least that’s what I’m calling it — and I’m pretty sure I get to make the decisions since I moved away first).

Book #1, we decided, would be a book about reading books: Nina Sankovitch’s Tolstoy and the Purple Chair: My Year of Magical Reading (2011).  I had wanted to read this book for a while – Lettered Lady Kate recommended it to me back when it first came out about 2 ½ years ago.  Like the author, who delves into her own reading adventure to help process her grief over the loss of her sister, I very much needed the comfort of books at that point.  I worked through the end of my relationship that summer by rereading some of my own personal “must reads” – Joan Didion and Shakespeare and Toni Morrison and Anne Lamott – and by taking comfort in words and story.

Immediately, then, I felt like Nina Sankovitch was an old friend; I, too, am blessed with a wonderful sister/fellow reader in my life, and I, too, rely on the words of others when I’m at a loss for my own.  Admittedly, Sankovitch’s “book a day for a year” project at times made me feel a kind of empathetic stress/panic (especially given that I’ve been reading her book on and off in ten minute “between grading and cooking and races and trips to 2nd grade karate class and cheering at flag football games” spurts for, oh, two months now).  Mostly, though, it reminded me of not only the personal joy and individual comfort that comes with reading, but also the wonderful feeling that comes with sharing books with others.  It’s no wonder, then, that the Lettered Ladies and I jumped into our own book club despite our disparate and busy lives.  And, it’s no wonder that I get some of my greatest joys when I get to sit in a circle of desks with fifteen college students talking about books.

So, I think I’m very much a kindred spirit with Sankovitch and her Purple Chair.  I rarely dog-ear pages in books, but I had to make sure I could find this quote from the end of the book at a moment’s notice: “My whole life, I have read books.  And when I needed to read the most, books gave me everything I asked for and more.”   Yes.  Just, yes.

Stay tuned for more musings by the Lettered Ladies on Tolstoy and the Purple Chair….

Follow Nina Sankovitch’s reading adventures (past and present) on her blog, too.