I wanted more of this book. I wanted it to just keep on going because it was such a joy to read. I wanted to stop Susan Hill every now and then and say, "no, don't leave Benjamin Britten there, tell me more about him; explain how you came to know C.P. Snow and at whose house you met T.S. Eliot, and give us extra Iris Murdoch and Penelope Fitzgerald and Roy Strong", but on reflection, these brief glimpses of the people she has known and the associations they have had with her wonderfully rich reading and writing life are fitting and a wider view might have intruded on the story.
Howards End is on the landing is Susan Hill's account of her journey through her own library, a year in which she read from what she already owned - some old favourites, some new discoveries, some books which she found she had outgrown, others (most notably Jane Austen) she is yet to grow into! It's a series of essays, digressions, personal views and observations, touching recollections, and its effect - on this reader, at least - is twofold: firstly, to open up new authors and new books (and the wishlist lengthened considerably as I read this), but secondly, to make me see my own books with fresh eyes, to re-appraise them and want to become reacquainted with many of them.
It is thus a liberating book and a stimulating one, but as counter-balance to any tendency towards the greedy devouring of books, Susan Hill also mentions Slow Reading (like Slow Food), and even lectio divina, the savouring and digesting of passages, the pausing to understand their construction and effect, and that's a point well made. This book itself can be read quickly, but it is also one for the bedside table, for dipping into for a short chapter, a snatch of bookish chat with its author, and it has made me think hard about what I am going to read next, because every book, every minute of reading time is an opportunity not to be wasted.
As she takes in the contents of her many bookshelves, Susan compiles a list of the forty books that would sustain her were she never to have any others, and this is printed at the end of the book. But, there are only thirty nine listed because one title appears twice, so what is the fortieth? I hope she will tell us!