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Howards End is on the Landing: A year of reading from home [Hardcover]

Susan Hill
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (66 customer reviews)

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Book Description

8 Oct 2009

Early one autumn afternoon in pursuit of an elusive book on her shelves, Susan Hill encountered dozens of others that she had never read, or forgotten she owned, or wanted to read for a second time. The discovery inspired her to embark on a year-long voyage through her books, forsaking new purchases in order to get to know her own collection again.

A book which is left on a shelf for a decade is a dead thing, but it is also a chrysalis, packed with the potential to burst into new life. Wandering through her house that day, Hill's eyes were opened to how much of that life was stored in her home, neglected for years. Howard's End is on the Landing charts the journey of one of the nation's most accomplished authors as she revisits the conversations, libraries and bookshelves of the past that have informed a lifetime of reading and writing.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 236 pages
  • Publisher: Profile Books; 1st edition (8 Oct 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1846682657
  • ISBN-13: 978-1846682650
  • Product Dimensions: 20 x 13.6 x 2.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (66 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 299,119 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Susan Hill is a prize-winning novelist, having been awarded the Whitbread, Somerset Maugham and John Llewelyn Rhys awards, as well as having been shortlisted for the Booker Prize. She wrote Mrs de Winter, the bestselling sequel to Rebecca, and the ghost story The Woman in Black, which was adapted for the stage and became a great success in the West End. Her books include a collection of exquisite short stories, The Boy Who Taught the Beekeeper to Read, and the highly successful crime novel series about the detective Simon Serrailler. Susan Hill lives in Gloucestershire, where she runs her own small publishing firm, Long Barn Books.

Product Description


A totally beguiling, utterly persuasive, argument for reimmersing yourself in literature's past... it reminds you of the overlooked treasures we miss in the chase for novelty. Hill's work is part memoir, part outpouring of affection for these she has loved and, en route, she provides us with a reading list the equal of any degree course (Michael Gove The Times 2009-10-12)

An impressionistic autobiography... offers fascinating sketches of literary and artistic figures she has known... an eloquent advocate [for] the virtues of wide-ranging, deeply felt and considered reading... to be cherished (Michael Arditti Daily Telegraph 2009-10-10)

Evoked with precision and grace... She is nicely opinionated throughout... She is whimsical and intimate, scattering rhetorical questions and colloquial half-sentences... beguiling (Victoria Glendinning Spectator 2009-10-03)

[A] vividly experienced journey... viewing books and their authors with a learned, gossipy warmth. She understands that the best books make great companions, and this one is no exception (Metro)

The blend of book chat and personal memoir, though apparently serendipitous, is associative and intimate (Iain Finlayson The Times 2009-10-17)

A light-hearted memoir using books as anchors on which to fasten life experiences. Funny, educational and occasionally surprising (Catholic Herald 2009-10-09)

What a delightful book this is - and so old-fashioned in approach almost to be trendy... a timeless creation, a vademecum which will give endless pleasure not only to Hill's many admirers but also to anyone who values books... An engaging and buoyant book (Herald 2009-10-10)

Hill's style is vivid and measured and the book is both a passionate reminder of the importance of reading and a revealing glimpse of a writer's life (Jessica Holland Observer 2009-10-25)

Delightful... an idiosyncratic commingling of fiction, non-fiction and poetry...Hill has a voracious and varied appetite and her taste, with a few exceptions, is impeccable (Leo Robson New Statesman 2009-10-26)

A patchwork of literary musing, quotation and anecdote, the memoir's texture is wholesome and cosy; an indulgent quilt in which to nestle before the blazing hearth of literary tradition drawn by its author (Caroline Howitt Times Literary Supplement 2009-10-23)

Strikes a chord with my own eclectic dithering through a literary Monument Valley, and one of the charms of this volume is how Hill's opinions, always honest and courteously proffered, set up resonances with one's own reading... an enjoyable meander, a genial pillow book of light wit and broad reading (including an astonishing amount of re-reading) whose tone remains on the pleasantly whimsical side of erudition (James Urquhart Independent 2009-11-06)

Delightful... Charming... Her legion of fans will love it (Ian Pindar Guardian 2009-10-31)

The narrative unreels in what Dr Johnson would call 'loose sallies of the mind'... A distinguished woman of letters (John Sutherland Literary Review 2009-11-01)

Fans of Hill's work will be delighted by this leisurely ramble through the author's mind and reading pleasures. Hill writes eloquently about her literary influences and preferences, as well as her thoughts about the process of writing (Mslexia 2009-11-01)

Pure pleasure... Her voice on the page is younger than the date of birth on her passport, so one reads with disbelief her memories of writers she has known during her long writing life... I simply want to emulate Susan Hill's year... To take books from my shelves, to sit, to read. To feast on the books of my life (Country Living 2009-10-28)

A delightful memoir (John Saumarez Smith Country Life 2009-12-30)

Delightful (Irish Examiner 2010-02-20)

Book Description

A year of reading from home, by one of Britain's most distinguished authors

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
76 of 76 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Reading Journey Around Susan Hill's House 18 Nov 2009
I read a review of this book and it captured my imagination. Susan Hill had been looking for her copy of Howard's End and as she struggled to locate it she realised that amongst the books on the landing there were at least a dozen that she had never read; this made her re-evaluate how she read and she decided to spend a year reading only books that were on her shelves. Like Susan I purchase many books each year, both new and second-hand, and I also borrow books from the library. I am growing increasingly aware that I am very unlikely to read all of the books that I own in my lifetime, and I was very attracted by the notion of finding out how someone else had attempted to tackle this problem.

Hill decided that she would forsake new purchases and just concentrate on her own personal library. The process of selecting the books that she would read is the main thrust of the narrative. She considers different genres of fiction and also different types of non-fiction including diaries and journals. She focuses on particular authors such as Dickens and Hardy and outlines what they meant to her. She also gives us anecdotes of her meetings with famous writers that she has personally encountered. I found the consideration of individual writers to be slightly disappointing; there weren't the insights into these writers that I was hoping for. She is nowhere near as insightful as Orwell can be or for that matter, John Cowper Powys, whose books `One Hundred Best Books' and the `Enjoyment of Literature' I find to be almost inexhaustible.

I enjoyed the atmosphere that Susan created. You get a sense of what her house in the countryside is like and there was a sense of adventure about the whole literary journey.
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119 of 123 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A must for anyone who loves books and reading 14 Oct 2009
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I found myself rationing my reading of this book because I didn't want to reach the end. It is far more than a list of books Susan Hill read during the year when she decided not to buy any new ones. It is a memoir which includes fascinating insights into other authors she has met during her life in the literary sphere.

The author's love of books and reading shines out from every page and provides new authors to explore for anyone reading it. After reading Hill's thoughts on Dickens I may well give him another try as I don't think I've given his books a fair chance. There are excursions into lesser known 19th and 20th century authors as well as the classics. There are chapters on short stories and essays as well as novels and children's picture books and there is one on spiritual reading which I found truly inspiring. At the end there is a list of 40 books the author decided she could not live without - a sort of Desert Island Discs for books. But there are far more than these 40 mentioned and discussed in the text.

I did not agree with all the author's conclusions but I do agree that both Anthony Trollope and Anita Brookner are underrated as authors. The book is written in a subtle unobtrusive style which is something of a trade mark for Susan Hill. George Orwell wrote that a good writer's prose should be transparent so that the reader is unaware of reading it only aware of the message conveyed. In this book Hill achieves just that. I loved it and would recommend it to anyone who loves books and reading.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A treasure trove of anecdote 8 Nov 2009
Highly readable - my first read was in one sitting, quickly. Then - as the author exhorts - a slow read. It's honest, funny, beautifully written, and so attractively presented that it ought to appear in Christmas stockings everywhere. Above all, it will make you want to read, or re-read, the many authors and titles described.
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54 of 57 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An irresistible book about books for booklovers 30 Oct 2009
By Annabel Gaskell VINE VOICE
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Susan Hill's latest is a memoir about reading the books in her house and the stories they are associated with. At the heart of HEIOTL, as I shall abbreviate it to, is Hill's decision not to add to her house full of books for a year (except for books she is to review); to explore her collection and find new books to read in it, to re-discover lost gems and re-read favourites, and then to compile a list of the forty books she couldn't live without.

Each shelf examined brings reminiscences. There are stories about encounters with great writers and celebrated personages, who all seemed to be very supportive of the young novelist, and indeed many of them became friends. I loved all this name-dropping, and particularly enjoyed the chapter about Benjamin Britten whose 'Sea Interludes' provided an epiphany for Hill (I love them too - they were marvellous to play many years ago in Croydon Youth Philharmonic Orchestra); the story about Alan Clark was good also.

There are many discussions of writers and their books. Hill is refreshingly honest about what she doesn't enjoy reading as well as her literary loves - she's no Austenite, but reveres much of Thomas Hardy, she can't be doing with Terry Pratchett and Sci-Fi in general but did concede to liking John Wyndham but puts him in the horror pile. I was delighted that she loves Ian Fleming, John Le Carré and Michael Connelly too.

Although I haven't read him, her chapter about W.G.Sebald does make me want to read The Rings of Saturn. She writes "But so many places on a Sebald journey are eerie, deserted, out of date, and lie under a pall of dismal weather. In The Rings of Saturn he walks through East Anglia and manages to make places I know well, and have found sparkling and lively, suicidally depressing.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars boring and self adulating !
love Susan Hill and bits of this exciting because they invoked memories and prompted re reading ideas but oh dear, how pompous and old fashioned can you get ! Read more
Published 1 month ago by lizell
5.0 out of 5 stars Imaginative read
Susan Hill's book is warm, discursive, friendly, direct and highly personal. Criticisms of its subjective nature are borne out of the reader's sense of frustration, but are... Read more
Published 2 months ago by D. Ashdown
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent for book lovers everywhere
I loved this book. So many fascinating insights. I identified with so many of the authors views. I will keep this by my bed to dip into on sleepless nights. Read more
Published 2 months ago by bizzybee
5.0 out of 5 stars Susan Hill Shares Her Reading Life Story
I have been a fan of Susan Hill's work since I read 'Strange Meeting' about forty years ago. It is a mark of my devotion that I bought this Kindle book with no previous knowledge... Read more
Published 5 months ago by Susan Clarkson
4.0 out of 5 stars Happy landing
I bought this little book as a Christmas present for my daughter, and was so taken by her noises of appreciation whilst she read it that I picked it up immediately afterwards. Read more
Published 6 months ago by Jeremy Walton
5.0 out of 5 stars Areally good read
I chose this rating because I thought it was worth it. I was lead to some good books I would otherwise not have come across and I will eventually obtain them, some for keeps and... Read more
Published 6 months ago by S. M. Pettit
4.0 out of 5 stars quirky
Something different. I learned quite a lot from reading it. Well written if a bit old fashioned and middle class.
Published 7 months ago by YCM
4.0 out of 5 stars A Book for Book Lovers
A Book for Book Lovers but perhaps not one for occasional readers as it is helpful if you have heard off, never mind read,
the authors described.
Published 9 months ago by Margaret Patterson
5.0 out of 5 stars Great holiday read!
Took this on my Summer hols and found it thoroughly absorbing and engaging. For anyone who has ever thought about their reading habits and how the books they have read have shaped... Read more
Published 10 months ago by Freethinker
5.0 out of 5 stars Boon companions
This is my kind of thinking experience - a book about the joys of reading and an insight through the collector's eyes into a personal library. Read more
Published 11 months ago by RE
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