Wednesday, February 15, 2023

The Books That Made Me, by Penelope Lively

I enjoyed this essay, "The Books That Made me" by Penelope Lively. It has some nice insights.  It appeared at Unherd--the link is here.  I post a few quotations from it below.  

Books beget books. Intertextuality, the critics like to call it. I am at the end of a writing life; I just read now. So, the process whereby reading so often became writing is over, for me. It has been an almost unconscious process, from childhood on: I have read for enjoyment, for instruction, for education — but most of all in the serendipitous way that has supplied the essential prompts for 50 years of writing fiction.

About 3,000 books line the walls of my house. Most of them I shall never read again, but they must stay there. They define me; they remind me that I thought this, was interested in that; they reassure me, as I hurtle towards 90. Occasionally I shed a few books, but to get rid of many of them would be like discarding part of my mind.


  1. Those are passages, especially the last, that reflect much of why I and many others,keep books around us even as we age and should be "downsizing." Picking up a book we read in the past is a Proustian experience, conveying a momentary feeling of bliss,at a time when, in real life, such moments have grown increasingly rare.

  2. Exactly. I felt great sympathy with these comments. I used to say, the furniture of the room reflects the furniture of the mind. Meaning, of course, the book shelves.

  3. And as well as the books that one will "never read again", there are are those which we haven't read at all. What is our relationship with them? We all have them... don't we?