One day, author Susan Hill finds a dozens of books on her shelves that she realises she has never read or had forgotten she even owned, and she decides that for the next year, she will not buy any new books and only read those she already owns. In this book, she talks about different authors, genres and styles of books, recounting tales of authors, teachers and friends associated with them, and makes one of those lists we all love; if you could only have forty books to read for the rest of your life, what would they be?
This was a wonderfully satisfying book! Reading it felt like reading the best book blog ever written, by a friend whose stories and anecdotes you’ve never heard before. It is not a “Forty books everyone should read” or a sycophantic trawl through “All the amazing famous writers I’ve ever met”, it really is just about someone thinking aloud about all their favourite books and authors, and how they came to love them. It never talks down to the reader, but talks about the time and place for different genres and styles, from children’s picture books to poetry anthologies, and from spy thrillers to classics, and from Shakespeare to Roald Dahl. I loved being able to exclaim, “Yes, I agree!” or, “No. Are you mad, woman?”
But what I really got out of it, was an insight into the mind of another reader, and it made me contemplate the books I’ve read, those waiting patiently on my shelves to be read, and the books and authors I will buy or borrow in the future. As soon as I’d read the last page, I turned back to the first and started flicking back through again.
My copy is borrowed from the library, and I will definitely be buying my own hardback copy to treasure and to refer back to, as there are some great suggestions in there too! I can’t recommend this highly enough for any one who loves books and reading them.