One thing most bibliophiles love is books about books and Howards End Is On The Landing is one of the best I've read. British author Susan Hill decides to spend a year rediscovering and rereading the books she already owns, and Howards End documents her thoughts during this period. Loosely organised into short chapters, it is a manifesto for reading for total pleasure and for reading without any guilt or pressure. Susan Hill believes you should read what you want to, when you want to.
This book will only appeal to certain kinds of readers. If you are a very organised reader who always has a list of what is going to be read when and perfectly alphabetised shelves, this probably isn't the book for you. In fact, the rambling style will almost certainly put you off. But if you are more of a spur of the moment reader, you'll find yourself nodding your head to many of the points Susan raises.
A lot of themes of the book seemed to coincide with things that we as book bloggers think and worry about. Hill cautions against getting caught up by new releases, against not taking the time to reread favourites and worries about the rise of e-readers. My favourite part was when she writes about people who want to read as many books as they can in the shortest possible amount of time;
"A strange competitiveness has emerged among some readers in the last few years. I have known book-bloggers boast of getting through twenty books plus a week, as if they were trying for a place in the Guinness Book of World Records. Why has reading turned into a form of speed dating?"
I think most of us (myself included) are guilty of that a little bit, the urge and pressure to read as much as you can so as to always have new content up on our blogs. Howards End is a gentle reminder of why we like reading in the first place and to not change our reading habits too much. It was a timely reminder for me, as I can get so caught up in review deadlines and new releases that I forget to both read the books I want to read, and reread the ones I loved. I used to do that all the time before I started blogging.
Much like the arguments it is making, the book is written in an unorganised, quite rambling style. It comes across as Hill writing down her thoughts about reading as and when they strike her. This took me quite a while to get used to, but I definitely appreciated the laid back approach by the end. But this may not work for anyone - if you like clear structure, this isn't the book for you. The only other thing that was hard for me was that many of the books Hill refers to are not popular now, meaning I couldn't always relate to the stories of her reading. But this didn't bother me too much, as the arguments of the book were so clear.
Verdict: A well written, persuasive manifesto for reading without restriction.
First published: 2009
Score: 4 out of 5
This is a book on my shelf that has to be read. I can already see from your review that I will enjoy it and the points it raises,ReplyDelete
I get caught up sometimes in reading the 'right' sort of book and forget all the ones I love!
I think you definitely would enjoy it Jo. Happy reading!Delete
I love books like this! I am a spontaneous reader at heart. I try to be more organized just because I think I should, but it usually doesn't last very long.ReplyDelete
I am a spontaneous reader at heart too, and tend to rebel if I set myself too many deadlines or decide that I must read certain books next. Spontaneous is the best way to be :)Delete
I loved this book too, it was one of my favourites that I read last year. I have got really caught up in goal-orientated reading so far this year, and I'm already starting to feel the pressure a little bit... I sort of feel like I need to find some time to just read whatever takes my fancy for a while.ReplyDelete
I hadn't heard of some of the books she talked about either, but to be honest it just inspired me to add lots of them to my TBR. Because it's not already bit enough, of course!!
I think a lot of book bloggers have got caught up in that, it's hard to resist all of the challenges and review copies! I'm trying to read only what I want to read this year and so far it's working out well :)Delete
Despite the rambling style you mention, it sounds like this one is worth a read! Books about books are the best :)ReplyDelete
The rambling style is charming after a while, reading the book is like having a chat with an old friend :)Delete
I'm glad you enjoyed this one! I've wanted to get my hands on it for awhile, but I often read mixed reviews. Still, I'm not deterred! Can't wait to read it :)ReplyDelete
I think the mixed reviews are because it's not a clearly defined, structured book. If that's OK with you, I'm sure you will love it.Delete
I am definitely more of a list reader, but I think I'll still give this book a try. I am such a sucker for any book about reading books. :)ReplyDelete
I hope you enjoy it, just put aside the list making part of your brain whilst you read this one :PDelete
I doubt the style of writing would work for me though I would certainly like to try the book out!ReplyDelete
You never know. I don't usually like rambling books but I very much liked this one.Delete
I have been interested in this book since it came out but I think I let other people put me off reading it and after reading your review I think that was a mistake. I am a somewhat chaotic reader who prefers to read according to mood and current interest rather than obligation and like you I like the observation about the competitive need to read vast numbers of books. Reading is meant to pleasurable not competitive. Great review.ReplyDelete
It sounds like this book would be a good fit for you. I've often let people put me off books in the past, only to find that I've loved them when I've actually tried them myself. I suppose we should learn to trust our own gut instincts?Delete
I love the title of this one, and love the idea of books about books too. It's a great point to make about reading out of obligation or out of choice and enjoyment. I find myself reading just about only review books this year so far, and there are so many others I want to read too. I feel a bit under pressure to keep my blog up to date but I hope if I can get through a few more reviews then I'll start on the other books I want to read. Glad you enjoyed this book.ReplyDelete
It is a great title, isn't it?Delete
I'm trying to balance review books with other books too. I love getting review books but I'm a lot stricter with myself on the ones In accept now - there's just so many other books I want to read. Good luck finding the right balance for you.
This sounds right up my street. The only way I have organising my books is read vs. non-read and often like to re-arrange the order.ReplyDelete
You should give it a go. My bookshelves are organised by genre and there is some attempt at alphabetisation, but I can never keep it up!Delete
I must look for this one today. The whole notion of reading for pleasure rather than for some self-imposed deadline or meeting some challenge or list resonates with me big time right now.ReplyDelete
Let me know what you think of it when you've read it :)Delete
I was put off reading this book after seeing some negative opinions, but your review has given me a better idea of what to expect from it and it does sound like something I would enjoy. I do sometimes find it stressful trying to keep up with review copies/new releases etc, and I miss the days when I used to reread my favourite books over and over again, so I think I'd probably agree with a lot of the points Susan Hill makes!ReplyDelete
There are definitely elements you could criticise this book on, but overall it did work for me. Give it a go, it might work for you too :)Delete
This sounds promising. And, strangely (or not so strangely) enough, I'm doing something similar - reading books on my shelves rather than chasing around all the sparkly new releases.ReplyDelete
This sounds fantastic! The cover is gorgeous.ReplyDelete
I do sometimes get caught up in new releases, and am trying to get through at least one classic a month!