By the age of 70, he who doesn’t read will have lived only one life. He who reads will have lived 5,000 years. Reading is immortality working backwards.

Source: Umberto Eco (1932-2016), El Pais, 23 Feb. 2016, p. 48

Seeking immortality?

Bringing you reviews of books that have delighted, edified or enchanted me, including lavish spreads of choice quotations and rich metaphors, quote-mosaics for the mind.

Cover - Christopher Logue - Homer War Music - Faber & Faber 2001

Christopher Logue, War Music: An account of Books 1-4 and 16-19 of Homer’s Iliad (London: Faber and Faber, 2001)

Virginia Woolf, Orlando: A Biography, ed. with an introduction by Rachel Bowlby (Oxford: World’s Classics, 1992)


In praise of books which have ‘gone through and through me, like wine through water, and altered the colour of my mind’ (Emily Bronte).

‘Bestellar’ unhitches the quality of a book from the quantity sold, since the correlation isn’t always obvious.

Readers create writers who in turn create readers.

Source: Alberto Manguel, The City of Words, CBC Massey Lecture Series (Toronto: Anansi Press, 2007), p. 68

‘Do you prefer reading to cards?’ said he; ‘that is rather singular’.

Source: Jane Austen, Pride & Prejudice (Oxford, World’s Classics, 2008; 1813), p. 27

Cover - Couto Tuner of Silences (Jesusalém)

Mia Couto, The Tuner of Silences, trans. David Brookshaw, Biblioasis, 2012 (2009)

The Lost Carving: A journey to the heart of making, David Esterly - cover

David Esterly, The Lost Carving: A journey to the heart of making (New York: Penguin, 2013)

Cover - Harry Eyres - Horace and Me

Elizabeth Goudge, The Little White Horse, illus. C. Walter Hodges (Oxford: Lion Hudson, 2011 (1946))

Book cover - Vasily Grossman - Life and Fate - New York Review Books 2006

Vasily Grossman, Life and Fate, trans. Robert Chandler (New York Review Books, 2006)

Cover - Grossman - Armenian Sketchbook

Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden, illus. Inga Moore (London: Walker Books, 2009)

Carson McCullers, The Heart is a Lonely Hunter (London: Penguin Modern Classics, 2008 (1940)

Adam Nicolson, The Mighty Dead: Why Homer matters - cover

Adam Nicolson, The Mighty Dead: Why Homer matters (London: William Collins, 2015)

Molly Peacock, The Paper Garden: Mrs Delany begins her life’s work at 72 (London: Bloomsbury, 2012)

Review for you

Reviewing a few of the marvellous books that have enlightened or enchanted me.

Your chosen literary family can extend over thousands of years and beyond the borders of empires, poet connecting to poet, sharing the mitochondria of imagination.

Source: Molly Peacock, The Paper Garden (London: Bloomsbury, 2012 (2010)), p. 315

They read, they choose, they love: they read forever, and what they read never passes away.  In reading, they choose, and, in choosing, they love. 

Source:  St. Augustine, Confessions

Beowulf in versions by both Kevin Crossley-Holland and Seamus Heaney, for children and adults, though no reason not to read both.

Kevin Crossley-Holland, The Breaking Hour - cover

Kevin Crossley-Holland, The Breaking Hour (London: Enitharmon Press, 2015)

Edmund de Waal, The White Road

Edmund de Waal, The White Road: A pilgrimage of sorts (London: Chatto & Windus, 2015)

Harry Eyres, Horace and Me: Life Lessons from an Ancient Poet (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2013)

Cover - Grossman - Armenian Sketchbook

Vasily Grossman, An Armenian Sketchbook (New York Review Books, 2013). Reviewed with Osip Mandelstam, Journey to Armenia (London: Notting Hill Editions, 2011).

book cover - Adam Nicolson - Sea Room: An Island Life

Adam Nicolson, Sea Room: An Island Life (London: Harper Collins, 2013)

Cover - Arthur Ransome, Swallows & Amazons, illustrated by Pietari Posti for Vintage Classics

A review of three wonderful children’s books by Arthur Ransome: Swallows and AmazonsCoot Club and Secret Water.    

James Rebanks - The Shepherd's Life: A Tale of the Lake District - cover

James Rebanks, The Shepherd’s Life: A Tale of the Lake District (London: Allen Lane, 2015)

Simon Winder - Germania - book cover

Simon Winder, Germania: A Personal History of Germans Ancient and Modern (London: Picador, 2011)

Book cover - Dorothy Wordsworth Grasmere & Alfoxden Journals edited Pamela Woof

Dorothy Wordsworth – dew-fresh delightful – The Grasmere and Alfoxden Journals, ed. Pamela Woof (Oxford World’s Classics, 2008)


  1. Liisa

    Dear Beatrice, I believe I have read most of the books soon that you recommend. Reading these books has given me great joy.

    I hope you continue to suggest books for us to read as I am getting to the end of the list!

    Thank you.

    Best wishes, Liisa

    • beatriceotto

      Many thanks Liisa – good to know. I will try to keep at least one or two book reviews ahead of your reading, so you don’t run out of suggestions. All best, Beatrice

  2. Liisa

    Thank you for the wonderful reading recommendations. Just finished reading Vasily Grossman’s ‘An Armenian Sketchbook’. It was like making the journey to Yerevan and beyond myself.

    A warm thanks for great reading suggestions.

    • beatriceotto

      Great to hear Liisa, thank you. It’s deeply gratifying than to know that someone has been inspired by one of the reviews to read a book, and has found the book rewarding.

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