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.
Gerald Murnane has published eight previous works of fiction, Tamarisk Row, A Lifetime on Clouds, The Plains, Landscape with Landscape, Inland, Velvet Waters, Emerald 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.