…no this isn’t a post about books having sex with other books. Well, I hope it’s not going to be like that. That could get awkward with all the high risk for papercuts. Let’s not let my mind wander further into that land of weirdness right now.
Books on books. What’s this all about? Well, I just finished reading Susan Hill’s Howards End is on the Landing and loved it. I’ve never read any of her novels before, but this one was mentioned on the Books on the Nightstand podcast and like many books Ann and Michael mention, I felt the need to buy it. As you might remember, I found it at a garage sale last month and it became book number 2000 for my collection. So anyway, I finished reading this book today after stretching it out for a month. I didn’t want to finish it to be honest. It’s a shortish book (236 pages), so that was a task. I seem to enjoy when an author dedicates a book to talking about books.
It might seem dull, even to people who enjoy books, to talk about books passed the extent of a book review or blog post, but what I find happens more often than not, a writer brings in so much about life, a book’s author, history, and more. They turn into explorations of those topics, almost leaving the book behind. That’s why Hill’s book was enjoyable to me. Through her discussing the books she read from her home’s shelves for a year (without buying any new books, as her challenge to herself dictated), I got to know her. I got to learn about authors she’s known in her life and others that influenced her. I also learned that I’m not alone in they way I might impulse buy books or feel guilt about not reading a book I bought until years later.
Another notable “book on books” author is Nick Hornby. I love his books, but what I also enjoy his column, for The Believer, Stuff I’ve Been Reading, which has been compiled into a few collections so far. I think this was my first taste for someone writing about books. Hornby’s style really makes the column what it is, but it’s also the sharing of his reading life and lack of regret for certain habits (which many of us book lovers share) that keeps me coming back for more.
I’ve read a few more books in the past that fall under this category, and a few that barely do. I’d say memoirs in which an author talks about his/her writing life have a similar spot in my heart. I remember reading Annie Dillard’s The Writing Life and ending with the feeling that she was human like the rest of us. The same goes for other writing memoirs. Whether it’s a book loving author or an author writing about life and writing together, it grips me and makes me feel like I’m not so alone in some of my feelings about things. These people aren’t always extraordinary, but are just as interesting as if they did lead extraordinary lives.
Next time you pick up a book, or just look at one of your shelf, think about all that’s attached to it. The events that lead to you bringing it home or how you felt the last time you read a book by the same author. Books aren’t just objects and aren’t just the words types on the pages. They have a life of their own, and we’re lucky to be able to share the journey and add to those lives.
Do you enjoy reading about books? What are some of the books on books that you’ve enjoyed in the past? I’m always looking for more suggestion because my collection, though vast and diverse, doesn’t have many more to satisfy my craving of this type of book.
P.S. – One of the most dangerous things to come from reading books like this is that a TBR pile is almost guaranteed to double or triple. It’s unavoidable as books sound amazing as you read and have to write them down to check out later. You’ve been warned.