I spent a year reading a book a day and writing about it on my website, ReadAllDay. 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 — and I continue to write about books and reading on my blog.
I’v also written books. My first book, Tolstoy and the Purple Chair: My Year of Magical Reading, is 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. It was widely hailed as an ode to the joys and comforts of reading, by The Christian Science Monitor, The Los Angeles Times, Publishers’s Weekly, Booklist, Bookpage, and others.
My second book is about the treasure of letters I found 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.
Signed, Sealed, Delivered: Celebrating the Joys of Letterwriting, tells the story of my backyard discovery and my quest to define why letters matter, and offers a an all-out celebration of letter writing. It was 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.
The Lowells of Massachusetts: An American Family tells 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. The family boasted some of the most astonishing individuals in America’s history: Percival Lowle, the patriarch who arrived in America in the seventeenth to plant the roots of the family tree; Reverend John Lowell, the big-hearted preacher; Judge John Lowell, lawyer extraordinaire and a member of the Continental Congress; Francis Cabot Lowell, manufacturer and founder of the Industrial Revolution in the US; James Russell Lowell, American Romantic poet and abolitionist; Lawrence Lowell, one of Harvard’s longest-serving and most controversial presidents; and Amy Lowell, the twentieth century Pulitzer Prize-winning poet who lived openly in a Boston Marriage with the actress Ada Dwyer Russell. The Lowells of Massachusetts will be published in April of 2017 by St. Martin’s Press.