Slowing down from a book-a-day pace

Nina Sankovitch said that as a young lawyer she used to sneak in books to read at the office. Nina Sankovitch said that as a young lawyer she used to sneak in books to read at the office. (Douglas Healey Photo)
By Amy Sutherland
Globe Correspondent / July 17, 2011

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For one year Nina Sankovitch devoured a book a day and blogged about it for what she called “The 365 Project.’’ Her book “Tolstoy and the Purple Chair’’ recounts her experience. Sankovitch, who lives in Westport with her husband and four sons, attended Tufts University and Harvard Law School. She’ll read at Harvard Book Store in Cambridge this Wednesday at 7 p.m.

BOOKS: Have you always been a serious reader, even in law school?

SANKOVITCH: I didn’t do that well in law school because I really preferred to be reading. I started on this Stendhal kick and I would read “The Red and the Black’’ instead of going to tax class. My first years as a lawyer, I would bring a book to the office and keep it in my desk. Whenever my officemate left the room, I would take the book out and read. And just before he came back I would put it away and get back to work.

BOOKS: What are some of your all-time favorite books?

SANKOVITCH: I love Wilkie Collins’s “The Moonstone.’’ It’s like the first mystery ever written. It’s a beautifully written book. I even wanted to name one of my kids Wilkie. My husband said,“No way.’’

BOOKS: What’s your reading pace been like since your project?

SANKOVITCH: Now I’m reading two to three books a week, but one of the books I picked up for the summer is just huge. I know that’s going to take me like a month. “The Rise and Fall of Ancient Egypt’’ by Toby Wilkinson.

BOOKS: Was that your typical pace before your project?

SANKOVITCH: Before it was more like one a week, except in the summer when I could read five mysteries a night because you can stay up all night. I definitely read more now.

BOOKS: Is that because you learned how to better work reading into your life?

SANKOVITCH: That’s exactly right. I had not realized how many minutes of the day there are for reading. During my year of reading I always had a book with me. You can get so much reading done that way. And, not only did I come to rely more on my family for taking care of some things around the house, but I came to see that some of those things really weren’t that important. The dishes could stay in the sink all day.

BOOKS: What are you reading currently?

SANKOVITCH: I’m reading Orhan Pamuk’s “Istanbul,’’ his memoir of growing up there, and at the same time I’m reading Jason Goodwin’s “An Evil Eye,’’ a mystery set in Istanbul in the mid-1800s. It’s a really interesting juxtaposition. The Pamuk is a little bit of a struggle because it’s so melancholic, but he is a beautiful writer. The mystery is much more fun.

BOOKS: Did your project affect your taste?

SANKOVITCH: Before I tended to stick to mysteries and novels. Since I had to read a new author every day, I started visiting stacks in my library I’d never seen before. Now I am reading more short stories, biographies, and history. Now I realize a well-written history can be like a novel. I just read “The Hare with Amber Eyes’’ by Edmund de Waal. I thought it was a novel for the first 30 pages.

BOOKS: Was it hard to adjust to not reading as much as you were?

SANKOVITCH: What was hard was my family and friends had given me a pass for the year. When the year was over, the pass was over. I have to rely on myself to make time again. Now I couldn’t say to my husband that I can’t go for a walk because I need to finish my book. During my year of reading he’d say, “Yes, of course.’’ Now he says, “No, we’re going for a walk.’’

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