There are not many of us left, I am sad to say. Not many who could spend a lifetime or two just reading and collecting books. Not “best sellers”, but books that take us down an individual path. Worst sellers? Perhaps. More importantly, books that help one develop a unique perspective on the world as it was, is, or may become.
But not all hope is lost! Consider the ongoing success of “Heywood Hill“, an establishment located on Mayfair’s Curzon Street that thrives on delivering precisely these kinds of books to its clients.
BTW, did you know that Curzon Street was the fictional home to Lord Goring of Wilde’s “An ideal Husband”? Roald Dahl’s Henry Sugar caused quite a disturbance there by throwing large amounts of money onto the street from his balcony! In the recent past, it was home to Benjamin Disraeli, who dabbled in novel writing as well as politics.
Vanity Fair offers a peek inside Heywood Hill. And I found this idea to be particularly attractive
A Year in Books,” (is the) the Heywood Hill scheme wherein subscribers are sent a surprise parcel every month. “No two people get the same,” says Karin Scherer, the fizzy enthusiast who helps run it. Every month she and two other booksellers personally choose titles for more than 700 customers, based on “reading consultations” in which they name books and authors they have most loved, or genres they can’t abide.
To be honest, I am not sure what a “fizzy enthusiast” is, but I am willing to set that question aside in light of the fizz I might get from the deliveries. Indeed, whole libraries are being developed.
The other bespoke service that has taken off lately is the creation—or, if you must, curation—of private libraries. Years ago, the shop assembled a library on the history of Ireland for Stoker Devonshire’s father, the 11th Duke. “It struck me,” Dunne says, “that we could do it for others.”
Heywood Hill is now assembling libraries at the rate of one or two a month. It could be for a school (“300 books that every intelligent teenager should read”), or for the VistaJet founder Thomas Flohr and his daughter, Nina, who commissioned a 4,000-volume library devoted to 20th-century art and design for their Swiss chalet.
Sadly, my own library was demolished to enable renovation of the second floor of my humble abode. But it shall be resurrected! And when it is, I wonder if I might ask for assistance in developing a collection of historical drama of the type that JG Farrell produced?
Now that is something to look forward to!