A year of reading old books
September 20, 2010
Someday, I want to do what Susan Hill did. She relied on the riches of her own library for a year and didn’t read any new books.
This wasn’t a whim. When searching for a specific book on her bookshelves one day, she discovered many books in her library she hadn’t read, or that she had read but forgot she owned. She also discovered books she wanted to re-read. And so Susan Hill, a distinguished British author, embarked on a reading journey and then wrote a book about it: Howards End Is on the Landing: A Year of Reading from Home, a paperback edition, hits bookstores November 1, 2010.
That’s the date of the U.S. publication. Howards End Is on the Landing was published a year ago in the U.K. The Telegraph praised the book and said: “[Hill] is unrepentant about her prejudice against Australian and Canadian writing and will surprise many by her dismissal of Jane Austen. Her final list of 40 indispensable books [‘I think I could manage with alone, for the rest of my life’] should provoke debate and, hopefully, attract new readers for F. M. Mayor’s long-neglected The Rector’s Daughter, for which she is an eloquent advocate.”
You can read the introduction of Hill’s new book on the website of The Guardian, which describes the book as “charming.” It also says, “Trollope and Wodehouse have two titles each on the list, which tells us something about Hill’s tastes, as does the absence of any European authors. What we are left with is a mind-map of a novelist in her late 60s who has spent her life reading and writing books.”
Books about books don’t tend to hit my reading table, but the exceptions — my favorite, Michael Dirda’s Classics for Pleasure — become rich resources for undiscovered authors and books. An example in point is F. M. Mayor’s The Rector’s Daughter, mentioned above, published by Virago Modern Classics. Hill’s list of 40 now has my interest.
Note to book collectors: You’ll want to get your hands on the first printing of the first U.K. edition of this book. It was printed with a serious error that was caught before publication. The book went into a second printing immediately, without the error.