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Extended Audio Sample Tolstoy and the Purple Chair: My Year of Magical Reading Audiobook, by Nina Sankovitch Click for printable size audiobook cover
3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (2,071 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Nina Sankovitch Narrator: Coleen Marlo Publisher: HarperCollins Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: February 2013 ISBN: 9780062270474
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Nina Sankovitch has always been a reader. As a child, she discovered that a trip to the local bookmobile with her sisters was more exhilarating than a ride at the carnival. Books were the glue that held her immigrant family together. When Nina's eldest sister died at the age of forty-six, Nina turned to books for comfort, escape, and introspection. In her beloved purple chair, she rediscovered the magic of such writers as Toni Morrison, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Ian McEwan, Edith Wharton, and, of course, Leo Tolstoy. Through the connections Nina made with books and authors (and even other readers), her life changed profoundly, and in unexpected ways. Reading, it turns out, can be the ultimate therapy.

Tolstoy and the Purple Chair also tells the story of the Sankovitch family: Nina's father, who barely escaped death in Belarus during World War II; her four rambunctious children, who offer up their own book recommendations while helping out with the cooking and cleaning; and Anne-Marie, her oldest sister and idol, with whom Nina shared the pleasure of books, even in her last moments of life. In our lightning-paced culture that encourages us to seek more, bigger, and better things, Nina's daring journey shows how we can deepen the quality of our everyday lives—if we only find the time.

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Quotes & Awards

  • Tolstoy and the Purple Chair will transport you to a time before texts and tweets. Through the stories of her own family, Nina Sankovitch shows how books have the power to refresh, renew, and even heal us. I loved this memoir.”

    Julie Klam, New York Times bestselling author of You Had Me at Woof

  • “The beauty of her project lies in seeing how books intertwine with daily life, how very much they affect our moods, interactions, and, especially important for Sankovitch, how we recover and process our memories…She makes reading seem accessible, relaxing, inspiring, fun.”

    Los Angeles Times

  • Tolstoy and the Purple Chair is original, uplifting, and very moving: a unique celebration of life, love and literature.”

    S. J. Bolton, Mary Higgins Clark Award–winning author of Now You See Me

  • Tolstoy and the Purple Chair masterfully weaves beloved and sometimes surprising books into central events in the writer’s life. There is much to learn from this moving book. Sankovitch writes with intelligence and honesty, leading us to respond in a similar manner.”

    Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, American Book Award–winning author

  • “Anyone who has ever sought refuge in literature will identify with Tolstoy and the Purple Chair.”

    O, The Oprah Magazine

  • “This graceful memoir describes a true love affair with books.”

    Boston Globe

  • “Sankovitch’s memoir stands as a tribute to the power of books to enrich our daily lives.”

    Christian Science Monitor

  • “[An] entertaining bibliophile’s dream…Sankovitch’s memoir speaks to the power that books can have over our daily lives. Sankovitch champions the act of reading not as an indulgence but as a necessity, and will make the perfect gift from one bookworm to another.”

    Publishers Weekly

  • “[Tolstoy and the Purple Chair] digs deep into that near-mystical connection between a reader and an author—that startling feeling that you are channeling someone you have never met…A gripping and inspiring book.”

    Connecticut Post

  • “What Sankovitch has accomplished in her first book is not only to celebrate the transformational, even healing, powers of reading but to give the reader a feeling of reading those books as well, through the eyes of an astute reader.”

    Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

  • “A beautifully fluid, reflective, and astute memoir that gracefully combines affecting family history with expert testimony about how books open our minds to ‘the complexity and entirety of the human experience.’ Sankovitch’s reading list in all its dazzling variety is top-notch.”


  • “A beautifully paced look at how mindfulness can affect the psyche.”

    Shelf Awareness (starred review)

  • “Her deeply moving memoir artfully intertwines her immigrant family’s history with the universal themes of hope, resilience, and memory. Tolstoy and the Purple Chair celebrates not only the healing power of literature but its ability to connect us to the best of ourselves—and each other.”

    American Way

  • “[A] brilliant and heartwarming book.”

    Ventura County Star

  • “In Tolstoy and the Purple Chair, her affectionate and inspiring paean to the power of books and reading, Sankovitch gracefully acknowledges that her year of reading was an escape into the healing sanctuary of books, where she learned how to move beyond recuperation to living.”


  • “What is best in Tolstoy and the Purple Chair, however, is not the author’s literary criticism but the way in which she blends her accounts of her reading with the story of her family and with broader human concerns.”

    Smoky Mountain News

  • “Sankovitch’s account works well because she uses her reading list to jump off into topics that are tangential, yet intriguing and often important.”

    Buffalo News

  • “An original and touching…account of one woman’s lifelong affinity for books and her attempt to channel that affinity to deal with her grief after her sister dies. Tolstoy and the Purple Chair is an understated but moving story about the effects of a ‘year of magical reading.’”

    The Dartmouth

  • “Nina Sankovitch has crafted a dazzling memoir that reminds us of the most primal function of literature—to heal, to nurture, and to connect us to our truest selves.”

    Thrity Umrigar, author of The Space between Us

  • Selected for the June 2011 Indie Next List

Listener Opinions

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Mirjam | 2/9/2014

    " Voorlopig 3 sterren. Sommige passages uit het boek raken me, maar had soms moeite om me te concentreren op dit boek vanwege de zeer uitgebreide omschrijvingen. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Sharon Kerr | 2/9/2014

    " Can't believe she could actually read a book a day for an entire year.... "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Tori | 1/27/2014

    " Interesting, but too depressing. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Nicole | 1/16/2014

    " I feel badly that I didn't like this book. The author decided to read a book a day for a year to help her deal her sister's death from cancer. The problem is the book is just boring. I slogged through 50 pages and just couldn't keep reading. (The author has 4 children---where did she find the time to read a whole book a day? While that sounds wonderful, I wonder what her kids thought of Mom's year with her nose in a book.) "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Maree-alana | 12/31/2013

    " self indulgent "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Denise | 12/26/2013

    " I enjoyed this, but thought there was a little too much of her own life and not enough of the books. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Kristen | 12/26/2013

    " Would be a 3.5 star book for me if I could choose that. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Bryony | 11/22/2013

    " Sending all my love to Nina. Thanks for putting words to my heartbreak and healing. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Helen L. | 11/20/2013

    " A book about books and reading. A woman reads a book a day for a year which helps her come to terms with the death of her sister. A book for readers. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Lynne | 11/17/2013

    " Understanding Sankovitch's feelings of losing someone you love, her insights about working through all those emotions by absorbing herself in books and realizing "our only answer to sorrow is to live" was like balm to my soul. I loved it! "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Paige Bennett | 11/13/2013

    " I rare read for me a non fiction book- It was very good but than it was a book about books- my favorite subject. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Mimi Attleson | 11/3/2013

    " Quite possibly one of the saddest books I have ever read, and the author goes on and on and on. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Janet | 10/26/2013

    " A friend reccommended this book to me.It's what I call a whiner-winge, I never finished it. Reading her way thru grief, thought she might have at least read something worthwhile. A quick look at her reading list was how it ended for me! "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Bibi Rose | 10/18/2013

    " There is something very homespun and charming about this book. I started following Sankovitch's blog at some point. As with most blog-to-book projects I find there are some problems and in some ways I still like the blog better, but page by page this is very enjoyable reading. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Anna- Lesa | 9/27/2013

    " it was a good book, but was a little heavy. It made me want to read a lot of the books, but also had the feel of reading a book by someone who is more well read than me! :) "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Gioconda | 7/1/2013

    " Loved it!!...It was very emotional but at the same time she shows you her love of books!. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 DeniseF (dmlk413) | 3/5/2013

    " I loved this book and would recommend it to anyone who loves to read. The author read a book every day for a year (so jealous!) as a way to deal with the grief over losing her sister to cancer and the insight she gained from those books was so inspiring. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Anne Donohoe | 2/19/2013

    " Loved this book! Ive been on Nina's ReadAllDay emails and we've corresponded - so I was thrilled when this book landed on my doorstep. I've always felt books have the power to heal - and this proves it! Can't wait to sift through some of her selections and read them myself! "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Djdee | 2/6/2013

    " Really enjoyed this book. I love books about reading. She seamlessly works in her way of dealing with pain of sisters' death. A very good read! "

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About the Author

Nina Sankovitch launched ReadAllDay.org in 2008, and at the end of her year of reading, she was profiled in the New York Times. She continues to review books on ReadAllDay.org and for the Huffington Post. She lives in Connecticut with her husband and four sons.

About the Narrator

Coleen Marlo is an AudioFile Earphones Award–winning narrator who has been nominated for an Audie Award twice, winning in 2011. She has been awarded three Listen-Up Awards from Publishers Weekly, an AudioFile Audiobook of the Year Award in 2011, and was named Audiobook Narrator of the Year for 2010 by Publishers Weekly. She is a member of the prestigious Actors Studio and taught acting for ten years at the Lee Strasberg Theatre & Film Institute. Marlo is a proud founding member of Deyan Institute of Voice Artistry and Technology.