I spent a year reading a book a day and writing about it on this website, Readallday.org. Why a year of such intense reading and writing? I lost my oldest sister to cancer and I needed the therapy of books to find my way in the world.
Every day I read a new book, after posting about the book I’d read the day before here on my blog.
For years afterwards I continued to review books – you can find those reviews at 1,001 books – but now I just read them and write them. My year of reading was profiled in The New York Times, first in October 2009 and then again in August 2011.
My book Tolstoy and the Purple Chair, about the joys and therapeutic benefits of reading, was published in 2011 by HarperCollins. Tolstoy and the Purple Chair was hailed as “an outstanding debut” by Kirkus Reviews and designated a “book to read now” by Oprah.
IN 1999, I found a treasure of letters in the backyard of a decrepit brownstone on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. The letters had been written one hundred years ago from a son to his mother, and included the daily notes he sent to her during his four years at Princeton.
My discovery of the letters of James Seligman, along with my lifelong love of letters and the fact that my oldest son was leaving for college – would he ever write to me? – sent me off on a quest to define the qualities of letters that make them so special.
The story of that quest, and of what I discovered, can be found in Signed, Sealed, Delivered: Celebrating the Joys of Letterwriting, a book exploring the the unique qualities of letter writing and celebrating all its joys, published by Simon & Schuster in 2014.
Long fascinated by the poets Amy Lowell, James Russell Lowell, and Robert Lowell, I searched for Lowell family letters while researching Signed, Sealed, Delivered, and was horrified to discover the family had a tradition of burning correspondence posthumously. But with diligence and determination, I was able to discover troves of Lowell family letters scattered throughout archives and collections. Thus began my quest to tell the story of the Lowell family, from Percival Lowle’s arrival in the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1639 through the blazing of Amy Lowell’s poetic glory in the early twentieth century. In April of 2017, St. Martin’s Press will publish my biography of the family, titled The Lowells of Massachusetts: An American Family.