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Howards End Is on the Landing: A Year of Reading from Home Paperback – October 12, 2010

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

*Starred Review* One day British novelist Susan Hill went to the bookshelves in her home looking for a copy of Howards End. She didn’t find it (at least not at first), but she did come upon several other books she had never read. That started her thinking: Why not devote a year’s reading time just to the books on her own shelves? The project launched, she began a systematic browse through all the books in her house (it’s an old house with lots of floors and shelves on every floor, not to mention the landings between floors). This delightful bibliophile’s memoir records her experience, both the browsing and the reading. Along the way, she developed a kind of second project: If she could only keep 40 books, which ones would they be? The list of 40 appears at the end, and it’s a charmingly eccentric batch of books, but the real fascination in reading Hill’s ruminations isn’t about the list but, rather, about how she reads and how living with books enriches her life. Those who collect books in any fashion will be lost in their own memories as Hill muses on “things that fall out of books,” or defends writing in books, or, best of all, argues against overorganizing the books on her shelves (no more wonderful surprises). Just try to read this book without nosing around your own shelves. --Bill Ott


"…So skilled is Ms. Hill at bringing her books, and their authors, vividly before us that by the end of her year of reading we come to feel that her book-brimmed house is itself a lively presence, not so much haunted as animated by these familiar spirits…"—Wall Street Journal

"…Delightful bibliophile’s memoir…Just try to read this book without nosing around your own shelves"—Booklist

"Hill provides us with a reading list the equal of any degree course."—The Times (London)

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Profile Books (October 12, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1846682665
  • ISBN-13: 978-1846682667
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 5.2 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (38 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #183,262 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

68 of 71 people found the following review helpful By Richard L. Pangburn VINE VOICE on December 1, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Last night I read Susan Hill's HOWARDS END IS ON THE LANDING, which I first heard of in one of the recent 2009 Best Books About Books lists. It has a lovely bookish dustjacket and its spine is strikingly beautiful on the shelf. Susan Hill has written 37 books and her novels have been shortlisted for the Booker Prize and have won the Whitbread Award and the Somerset Maugham Award. Her husband is the Shakespeare scholar, Professor Stanley Wells. This is my first book by her.

The subtitle of the book is A YEAR OF READING FROM HOME, and in it the author travels through her large personal library, selecting forty books to read in a year devoted to capturing literature that she has passed over or meant to read and for some reason didn't.

Her book discussions are peppered with personal recollections of encounters with famous authors. She admits a blind spot for certain classic authors, including Proust. She says "I have read THE YEAR OF READING PROUST by Phyllis Rose, and Alain de Botton's marvellously enlightening, engaging, thought-provoking HOW PROUST CAN CHANGE YOUR LIFE but cannot make it through a Proust volume itself.

Mostly though, it is authors she already likes that she is now determined to visit. You may have read part of an author's works, but what of those others you meant to read and didn't. And so she takes a year off from reading new books and devotes herself to reading the old ones in her personal library.

It is a nicely bookish book.
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64 of 69 people found the following review helpful By Ellis Bell VINE VOICE on August 2, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Howards End is on the Landing is a short collection of essays in which Susan Hill, author of The Woman in Black, went on a search through her house to find a book--and found hundreds that she hadn't read, and dozens more that she had forgotten she owned but wanted to return to. She then resolved to read more books from her ever-growing collection, making a vow to not buy any more books (more power to her!) There were a couple of caveats: she would still accept books from publishers, for example.

The essays in this book aren't organized in any particular way, so Hill's discourses tend to be a bit random at times; but her writing style is superb, and she writes well about the books she loves and doesn't love. Be warned, however, that there's a fair amount of literary name-dropping (everything from "EM Forster once dropped a book on my foot when I was a student at King's College" to various authors she's been acquainted with over hr literary career), which sort of put me off after a while.

There are also a number of inconsistencies (her husband is a Shakespearean scholar, yet Hill dismisses other Elizabethan poets as not worthy of her time because people have never heard of them; she claims she'll never read a Richard and Judy selection, so why does she keep buying them?). Hill tends to dismiss certain types of books (fantasy, historical fiction) and Australian and Candian authors as not worthy of her time, and her tastes tend to run towards 20th century fiction for the most part.
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40 of 43 people found the following review helpful By S. McGee TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on December 23, 2009
Format: Hardcover
This slim volume turned out to be one of the best books I've read in 2009 -- by a very wide margin indeed.

Susan Hill, best known to me for her excellent series of mysteries featuring her detective, Simon Serrailler, doesn't just read. She has a reading life, and in this gently rambling rumination on her books, their place in her house, her life and her heart, she shares that life with her readers. It all begins with Hill's quest for a single book -- Howards End. When she can't locate it, but can locate dozens of other books in her vast collection that seems to occupy every spare inch of wallspace in her Gloucestershire home that she either has never read or wants to re-read, she resolves to spend a year without buying any new books. Instead, she'll read what she already has.

Unlike Phyllis Rose in The Year of Reading Proust: A Memoir in Real Time and other books about reading by authors, this quasi-memoir doesn't require us to accompany Hill as she reads her way through the books and combines her reflections on them with a chronicle of her year of reading and how it changed her life (as the convention would dictate...) Instead, we are given an insight into the process by which she chooses books to read, and ultimately, forces herself to narrow her selection to a mere 40 that she could enjoy reading and re-reading for the rest of her life without ever reading a new book, if required to do so. (Just the thought of being forced to narrow my own reading down that dramatically causes me to shudder in horror.) She reflects on the authors she has encountered -- Iris Murdoch, Ian Fleming -- and those she loves.
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21 of 24 people found the following review helpful By goatgirlnyc on August 19, 2011
Format: Paperback
I sort of have mixed feelings about this book. I really wanted to like this book. I guess the book should be sub-titled "A year of RE-reading from home...ONLY books by authors I have meet, already read, and ONLY authors from Great Britain..."

My first impression was that this is a book for book lovers. A book for people who love to read. The author, Susan Hill, decides she will read nothing but the books she already owns for a whole year. During this time she revisits her favorite comfort books and forgotten books. Pop-up books to poetry. Memoirs and mysteries. On her shelves she encounters books she'll never read and stories she intends to read over and over visiting them again and again like an old friend. I really enjoyed the meditative tone of the book and am excited at the prospects of trying a similar experiment of my own.

The downside of the book is she comes off as a bit of a snob and an incessant name-dropper. It seems 99% of the books she reads are books by British authors. She admittedly has a hard time enjoying books penned by Canadians and can't even bring herself to read a book by an Australian author. Her words, not mine. American authors are okay she says. If she read something by an American during that year, I think she may have read an Arthur Miller play or maybe she simply noted that she owned it. I guess I don't understand how can a person be a well-rounded reader if they refuse to read books from specific countries?
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