Friday, January 29, 2016

The Pleasure of Reading edited by Antonia Fraser

Image result for the pleasure of reading

Although I have become a convert to the joys of my library's ebook collection, there is still something to be said for actually visiting the library. 

It was on such a day - the salt truck and snow plow crews had done an excellent job of removing evidence of our recent two snowfalls - and I was on a mission to pick up a book I had reserved from the main library.

Because I can't just walk up to the circulation desk, retrieve my book and leave, I spent some time wandering about the spacious lobby that holds shelves of new fiction and nonfiction books, displays of Recommended by Our Librarians, and seasonal or subject-specific exhibits.

And so I stumbled upon The Pleasure of Reading: 43 Writers on the Discovery of Reading and the Books that Inspired Them

Edited by Antonia Fraser this book about books was originally published in 1992 in commemoration of bookseller WHSmith's bicentenary and reissued in 2015 by Bloomsbury in aid of the Give a Book charity. 

It has been on one of my many Books to Be Read lists. The library has never had available the 1992 edition and only put this copy into circulation on October 21, 2015. (I find it so useful that some scribe at the library stamps the date that a book goes on the shelf on its top edge.)

The writers were asked to describe their early reading, what books or authors influenced them, and what they enjoyed reading today. At the end of every entry, the writer lists ten or so of his or her favorite books. 

There is a section with biographical information about the authors at the back of the book. These are listed in the order that the essays appear and the essays are in chronological order by author's year of birth. There is a wonderful range from Stephen Spender (1909) to Tom Wells (1985). In between we have Patrick Leigh Fermor, Jan Morris, Ruth Rendell, Edna O'Brien, Tom Stoppard, Sue Townsend, and, oh, so many others.

I get a warm feeling of familiarity when an author mentions a book I know and love. Oh, yes, I have read and also hold dear that book! It is the same feeling I get when I watch a movie and I recognize a street or a cafe or building in a city that I have visited. Oh, yes, I have been there!

On the other hand, books are mentioned that I used to own and have given away and now wish that they were still on my shelves so that I could revisit them. The dilemma of a book lover with limited space. 


In other breaking news, I have added a gadget to the top right of Belle, Book, and Candle that lets you enter your email address and then somehow you will be notified when a new post is published. I now feel very tech savvy! I hope this works. You will have to let me know.


  1. Sounds like another winning book to be put on my TBR list--I'll look for it as soon as I finish reading the collection of essays (Reading in Bed) on reading that I've got right now!

    1. I love this book because so many of the writers are 'of a certain age' and most of them were born in England so their childhood reading is a bit different. I am picking up some book titles other than the usual ones in this sort of collection.

  2. I too love this book and while I have read it cover to cover I regularly just dip in to remind myself what great writers consider their favourite reads.

    1. Hi, Tullik. It is a great look into the reading influences of these mostly British writers. Much different I think than what would show up on American writers' lists.

    2. .Yes very true Belle and there are a few interesting surprises!

    3. Yes. Do you think J.G. Ballard really loves the Los Angeles Yellow Pages?!

      It was just as interesting to read how each writer approached the task. I like that Jan Morris sees her life in six books. And that some of the writers didn't even bother to list their favorite ten. Rebels, all!