After I fell ill in early 2010 I surprised myself by getting the urge to read more books than ever. But I didn't have a reading programme. I just wanted to read all the good books I had never read before, and also read again some of the books that I knew were good but had forgotten why. This plan, or non-plan, was much aided by the existence of Hugh Hardinge's famous bookstall in the Market Square of Cambridge. From my house to the stall wasn't even a mile by but in my condition it was a slow walk, and the walk back was even slower because I was carrying bags full of books. Even paperbacks weigh something: a full twelve-volume set of Anthony Powell's A Dance to the Music of Time, for example, proved to weigh as much as the beautiful 1936 buckram-bound edition of Boswell's Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides. Being a critic by nature as well as by profession, I had a hankering to write about what I was reading, so when Ben Schwarz of Yale University Press got in touch to ask what I had been reading lately and whether I could care to write a short book about it, I knew just how to answer. Ben had been literary editor at the Atlantic Monthly, where he had published some of my longer pieces in the days when I still had strength. I trusted him completely, so I wrote the book, not expecting so slight a thing to do great business. In blessed fact, it has done quite well: perhaps because it gets back to the original thrill of reading. It's been more than 70 years now, but I still feel the rush. I have appended some of the reviews the book received in the UK, Ireland, the US, Australia and New Zealand. The only point I would add to what the critics have said is that I wasn't really trying to cover the waterfront, but it was kind of people to assume, from its style, that my book might have a greater scope of intention than it actually has.