Published: 2010 by Profile Books
When browsing the site of the Major Online Bookseller in search of items to purchase with a gift certificate I received for my birthday, this book was given as a recommendation. After reading the description, I couldn’t not buy it, though the irony of purchasing a book about not purchasing books is not lost on me.
Susan Hill is an author (who up until now I had not heard of) and her husband is a professor of Shakespeare, so their home is full of books. One day, while looking for a specific book on her shelves, she came across many others that she forgot she owned and hadn’t read; and others that she wanted to re-read. This discovery led her to imposing a year-long ban of bringing any new books into the house (some exceptions were allowed, such as books she had committed to review for publications).
Now I admit to being a bookaholic, but oh man, to read Susan Hill’s descriptions of all of her bookshelves (“This bookcase contains 743 books of which 445 are by men. Up a flight of stairs. This bookcase contains 66 books of which 51 are by women.” Oh.my.god) as well as the multiple editions of the same beloved and not-so-loved books was astounding I can only imagine what her house looks like, and if I saw it I’d probably wish I could live there.
This memoir of Hill’s year of reading from home isn’t a detailed list of what she has read – books are mentioned but I do not think that it is an exhaustive account – but rather a reflection of what books in general have meant to her and how specific books have had an impact on her as a woman and as a writer both now and at different stages of her life.
Ultimately, this memoir is about a lifelong love of reading and how books can shape one’s life. I love the way she expresses this:
But if the books I have read have helped to form me, then probably nobody else who ever lived has read exactly the same books, all the same books and only the same books. as me. So just as my genes and the soul within me make me uniquely me, so I am the unique sume of the books I have read. I am my literary DNA.
Bottom line: If you are a reader, then you should definitely read this book. Go on your buying ban after you’ve purchased this one