365. That’s how many books Nina Sankovitch read in one year. That’s right. 365. A book a day. Sounds like some kind of crazy New Year’s Resolution, doesn’t it? And it was, sort of, although Nina’s year started in October, not January. Since we began a new year yesterday, we’ve probably all experienced that feeling of having reached a point of crisis in our lives. A point where we resolve to end one behavior and replace it with another. For Sankovitch, the crisis was the grief she’d been running away from for three years following the death of her sister, and the realization that she couldn’t run away from it anymore. Her solution? To sit down — in a purple, wingback chair — and read. A book a day for 365 days.
Full disclosure: I was a fan of Nina’s blog Read All Day long before I came around to reading Tolstoy and the Purple Chair. I’m a fan of Nina, actually. We both like endangered things: books, independent bookstores, libraries and, as I discovered on my last visit to her site, handwritten letters. What’s more, I’m convinced Nina’s just an all ’round lovely person. I make that judgement based solely on the fact that she responds promptly and thoughtfully to readers’ comments and emails, and I’m not just talking peremptory, courteous responses. No. We’re talking paragraphs of carefully considered, elegantly crafted feedback.
I’m also convinced she’s superwoman. Consider the facts. Here is a woman who raised four sons, maintained a healthy marriage and several healthy relationships, had a strong legal career before she set out on this project, put dinner on the table most nights, kept her house functionally clean, read a book a day AND wrote a review of that book on her site each day AND took the time to respond to needy commenters like me. And then she wrote a book about that year that’s overflowing with wisdom, humour, kindness and inspiration. She is the Deepak Chopra for
busy moms every Western person everywhere who feels like there aren’t enough hours in the day. This is someone who needs to be a guest on Oprah.
I don’t think I’ll ever understand her methods, but I understand her motivations. In Tolstoy and the Purple Chair, Nina spends a good deal of time exploring the question of what motivates us as readers. Why do we read? Escape, she decides is definitely one reason. But another is to learn how to be human; to learn how to relate to other humans.
Often Nina relates the books she discussing back to memories of family, past lovers, life-lesson’s learned. Not surprising, her prose shines brightest at these times of storytelling. With two immigrant parents who lived through WWII Europe, Nina has plenty of astonishing stories to tell, and she does, generously, aware as she obviously is that stories, whether they feature fictional characters we’ll never meet or the lives of people closest to us, stories are what knit us together in the tapestry of life. Stories are how we come to understand one another.
Stories are also what help Nina heal, which is as good an endorsement for reading as any I’ve ever heard.
Nina sounds like an extraordinary reader, but I’m curious, could you read a book a day for a year? Have you? Would you? I honestly just don’t think I’m a fast enough reader. I’d love to try sometime, though!
Speaking of resolutions, what are yours this year? One of mine is to read a book a week all year, but I’m afraid even that will be too hard for me! Undoubtedly, It will depend on another one of my resolutions: to take the train to work more often. What about you?