A History of Books



The major work of fiction in this collection, ‘A History of Books’, explores the relationship between reading and writing in twenty nine sections, each of which begins with the memory of a book that has left an image in the writer’s mind. The memory of the books themselves might have faded, but the images remain in their clarity and import – scenes of discord and madness, a stern-faced man, a young woman on a swing, a glass of beer and rays of sunlight, mountain and woodland and horizon – images which together embody the anxieties and aspirations of a writing life, and its indebtedness to what has been written and read. ‘A History of Books’ is accompanied by three shorter works, ‘As It Were a Letter’, ‘The Boy’s Name was David’ and ‘Last Letter to a Niece’, in which a writer searches for an ideal world, an ideal sentence, and an ideal reader.

‘If you have not read him, you should do so. He is a staggering original…’ Peter Craven, The Age


Print ISBN : 978-1-920882-85-3
pp : 208
May 2012

Gerald Murnane was born in Melbourne in 1939. He has published eight previous works of fiction, Tamarisk Row (reprinted by Giramondo in 2008), A Lifetime on CloudsThe PlainsLandscape with LandscapeInlandVelvet WatersEmerald Blue and Barley Patch; and a collection of essays, Invisible Yet Enduring Lilacs. Murnane is a recipient of the Patrick White Literary Award, the Melbourne Prize for Literature and an Emeritus Fellowship from the Literature Board of the Australia Council.


Visit the Gerald Murnane: Online Archive


A History of Books was shortlisted for the Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards in the fiction category. You can read the judges’ comments here.


Sydney Morning Herald – review my Andrew Riemer
Sydney Morning Herald – review by Peter Craven
ANZ LitLovers