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61 of 64 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A delight
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...
Published on December 1, 2009 by Richard L. Pangburn

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54 of 57 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting, but somewhat limiting
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...
Published on August 2, 2010 by Ellis Bell


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61 of 64 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A delight, December 1, 2009
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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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54 of 57 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting, but somewhat limiting, August 2, 2010
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. She claims that Jane Austen isn't her cup of tea (different strokes for different folks, I guess) and tends to promote authors that you might not have heard of--which is good in a way, as she's given me a number of new-to-me authors to track down; and she's also inspired me to read more from my TBR pile (she mentions FM Mayor's the Rector's Daughter, which has been on my TBR list for a while, and I've had Dorothy Sayers's The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club on my bookshelves for a long time as well).

I also wish that Hill had given us a full list of the books she read during her year--and that she'd read more from her unread pile (it's fine to revisit the books you've always loved, I do that sometimes, but surely there should also be an effort to broaden your horizons, so to speak?). Hill does give a list of the forty books she'd take with her to a desert island--the Bible, for example, or Wuthering Heights. I also wish there had been an index of the books mentioned in this one, as she mentions perhaps hundreds, either in depth or in passing. Despite my reservations about this book, I did enjoy parts of it. It's perhaps just not the best book about books there is to be had.
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38 of 41 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A bibliophile's delight..., December 23, 2009
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. I don't always share her tastes (she'd take Macbeth to her imaginary desert island; I'd take The Tempest) but that isn't the point of the book. It's the experience of reading, and the way in which reading a book can transform your life that Hill manages to convey in crisp, elegant and downright beautiful prose that make this volume so wonderful.

This was a six-star book for me; I'd highly recommend to anyone who is even remotely in love with their books and with reading.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Mixed Feelings, August 19, 2011
This review is from: Howards End Is on the Landing: A Year of Reading from Home (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? Though I can't begrudge her a trip down memory lane; since most of the books she read that year are ones she's enjoyed already and uses them as a way to reminisce about her life in the upper echelons of British literary circles or a way to talk about a brief encounter with Ian Fleming at a cocktail party (but who really took Ian Fleming seriously in those days anyway). I just wish she would take more chances with the material she chooses and not simply promote the books of her acquaintances and the Anglo-centric literary canon she adheres to.

On a side note, I do share her obsession with Virginia Woolf and her view that Jane Austen is a bit of a bore. I've tried and tried like Austen...Virginia Woolf by contrast is one of the most amazing writers I have ever encountered. There was my life before I read Virginia Woolf and my life after.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The pleasure of curling up with a good book about the pleasures of curling up with a good book, July 23, 2013
This review is from: Howards End Is on the Landing: A Year of Reading from Home (Paperback)
Susan Hill's book about her books and the profound nature of the reading experience is unalloyed JOY. The premise is simple, she searches for a book from her shelves which she can't find, gets lured by the contents of those shelves, and decides to explore her bookshelves more deeply; this sparks her to write a book about the experience.

This is much, much more than one of those dreary 'list' books - books you should read before you die, top classics etc etc. She spins off into a relationship with reading itself, and also some of her favourite books take her into accounts of writers she has met.

She did attract some reviews which commented negatively that the book is just 'name dropping' It doesn't come across like that to THIS reader. Hill is a writer who had her first book published aged 18. She's been fortunate to have mingled with literary life, and, personally, accounts of her brief meetings with, for example, such a wide range of 'different greats' as Edith Sitwell, Ian Fleming and even Benjamin Britten are utterly fascinating.

She's an eclectic, unsnobby quirky reader - and I guess that's why I find her appealing - someone who is as at home with Ian Fleming as they are with the book of Common Prayer, Tove Jansson's Moomintroll and Trollope (Anthony) as well as Victorian diarists but NOT Jane Austen is an interesting mind.

Though I don't share her discomfort with Jane I found her Austen immunity interesting.

There are also chapters extolling favourite reading places, the physical experience of reading, the pleasure of fonts, dustjackets and bindings, and, constantly poking through, a sense of books as mysterious, totemic objects with perhaps a secret life of their own.......she muses about which books might be happy or unhappy to be sitting next to its booky neighbour. Magic realism!

A charm (literally!) and an utter delight.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A guide book through memories and rediscoveries: travelling through one's library., August 21, 2011
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This review is from: Howards End Is on the Landing: A Year of Reading from Home (Paperback)
Have you ever thought of your library as a repository of memories and a world ready to be (re)discovered? Susan Hill's book " Howard's End is On the Landing" is the enchanting, haphasard voyage through her own library of a delightful writer who has encoutered the most fascinating intellectuals of today all over the world and has had the greatest adventures. You read and not only you follow her as a perfect intellectual guide, but you learn to look at your own books in a way quite different from before: no more like heavy object, getting covered with dust, waiting for you to take to the nearest garbage pan, but like valuable jewel-cases filled with episodes of your life.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A book for book lovers, February 23, 2010
Hill, author of The Woman in Black, has fashioned a book of essays about book love and re-reading, or rather re-acquainting herself with, books she already owns and loves: "A book which is left on a shelf is a dead thing but it is also a chrysalis, an inanimate object packed with the potential to burst into new life." As I'm a huge fan of books about books (e.g. 84, Charing Cross Road and The Uncommon Reader), I was fascinated by the idea of this volume.

The author pays loving tribute to a number of writers and artists, some very well known like Woolf, James, Auden, Forster and Benjamin Britten, and some lesser known such as William Plomer and Bruce Chatwin.

Through her many essays she explores such topics as book collecting (and the many eccentricities of the those collecting them), e-readers (she loathes them: "No one will sign an electronic book, no one can annotate in the margin, no one can leave a love letter casually between the leaves."), poetry, children's literature, and the pleasures of reading slowly. Hill also ponders the idea of being left with forty books to read and re-read for the remainder of her life, and what would they be. She agonizes and deliberates among her favorite books and authors, dissecting their merits and detailing the pros-and-cons of each selection.

Though our tastes may vary on which forty books would populate this imaginary shelf, what doesn't vary or waver is the pleasure this slim volume will provide book lovers of all stripes and orientations.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I own MORE books now, not fewer, June 16, 2013
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This review is from: Howards End Is on the Landing: A Year of Reading from Home (Paperback)
Susan Hill's Howard's End is on the Landing is filled with wonderful sentences like this: " There is no reason why most of the books I own but have never actually read should be more or less in one place. They just are. Maybe they quietly gravitate into the sitting room one by one, to sob and huddle together for warmth."
Ms Hill, the author of the Simon Serrialler mystery series, has written a wonderful bookish memoir about her resolve to read those things that are already on her shelves.
As she goes through the books she selects 40 that could last her for the rest of her life.
My own collection didn't get any smaller as a result of reading her: I now own Journeying Boy: The Diaries of the Young Benjamin Britten, The Rings of Saturn by W.G. Sebald, The Smoking Diaries, Volume I by Simon Gray, The Journal of Sir Walter Scott, and several more volumes by Ms. Hill. Maybe NOW I'll stick to the books I already own. I just have to avoid reading other books like this.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A literary memoir, May 4, 2011
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Kim Maddalozzo (Kennett Square, PA United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Howards End Is on the Landing: A Year of Reading from Home (Paperback)
I have been seeing reviews of this book on blogs and recommendations from friends for a while now and I have been very excited to read this book because of the idea behind the book. Imagine reading only books that are on your bookshelves for a whole year, what might you discover? I have to admit that when I started to read this book I found it be a lot different than I had expected. I thought it would be a journey though the books Hill decides to read during this year and her thoughts and feelings. I discovered this book to be much different, and I would describe it as a writer's memoir of her reading career. Hill describes books she discovered as she canvassed her shelves to find something to read and how these books affected her in her life, writing and personal. If you can get used to the name dropping she does, in my opinion she has had an interesting and exciting literary life from her college days bumping into E.M. Forrester from her adult years interviewing some of the most fascinating authors of the time. While I might not agree with some of her opinions on books and authors for example, Jane Austen, I found all of her thoughts interesting and vibrant, she infuses them with such depth and humor it is easy to see why she has become such a popular and favorite writer herself. The only thing I think would have made this book better would be a list of all the books she read during her year of reading from home because she mentions so many it is hard to keep track of what she really read and what she just discovered in her search for a book to read. Though different from what I expected I enjoyed reading this book and I can agree with everyone who suggested reading it, because it provided funny and interesting reading.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Where is my book?, February 16, 2013
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This review is from: Howards End Is on the Landing: A Year of Reading from Home (Paperback)
Delightful search for a favourite book covering many other significant books. Even dealt with the "I SHOULD" read it problem - don't bother - read something you really want to! Excellent. Recommend highly. Everyone I know who has read it has gone on to buy their own copy.
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Howards End Is on the Landing: A Year of Reading from Home
Howards End Is on the Landing: A Year of Reading from Home by Susan Hill (Paperback - October 12, 2010)
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