Book of the Month – December 2018

Hay Festival December Book of the Month

Something of his Art: Walking to Lubeck with J. S. Bach by Horatio Clare

Something of his Art is Horatio Clare’s recreation of the walk that J. S. Bach took in the depths of winter in 1705 – his long walk to Lübeck across northern Germany.

In the depths of the winter of 1705, the Johann Sebastian Bach, then unknown as a composer and earning a modest living as a teacher and organist, set off on a long journey by foot to visit the composer Dieterich Buxtehude, a distance of more than 250 miles. This journey and its destination were a pivotal point in his life. Lübeck was Bach’s moment, when a young teacher with a reputation for intolerance of his pupils’ failings began his journey towards becoming the master of the Baroque.

More than three hundred years later, Horatio Clare sets off to recreate this walk. The result of this journey is an imaginative evocation of what the twenty-year-old composer would have seen and felt on his long journey, a sustained visualisation of the landscape, light and wildlife of early eighteenth century Germany. Bach becomes Clare’s walking companion, a vestigial, but real presence as he acutely observes the season and places he passes through.

Buy a signed copy of the book

Listen to Horatio Clare speaking at Hay Festival Winter Weekend 2018

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Further reading...

BBC Radio 3's Bach Walks (2017)

With Bach to the Baltic – A hike through German history: The Guardian (2017)

The 280-mile walk that made Bach who he was: The Spectator (2017)

10 Questions with Horatio Clare: Vanity Fair (2018)

About the author

Travel writer, memoirist and children’s author Horatio Clare was born in London in 1973. He read English at the University of York and later worked as a BBC radio producer on cultural programmes ‘Front Row’, ‘Nightwaves’ and ‘The Verb’. As a freelance journalist he has contributed numerous travel pieces to newspapers and magazines, as well as to ‘From Our Own Correspondent’ on BBC Radio Four.

His books include A Single Swallow, Down to the Sea in Ships, Running for the Hills (which won the Somerset Maughan Award), Orison for a Curlew, Icebreaker and his latest: The Light in the Dark and Something of his Art, both out now.

Author Horatio Clare

About Hay Festival's Book of the Month

Hay Festival's Book of the Month is our monthly recommendation of a title we've loved and think holds added resonance today. While many recommendations celebrate the new, this is a chance to celebrate great works of fiction, non-fiction and poetry – new and old – that reaches through time to touch the present.

Throughout the month, we'll share interesting links and articles relating to our selection on social media using #HayBookOfTheMonth and invite you all to get involved with your questions and comments.

Over on Hay Player, a special playlist of talks to view online offer additional perspectives on the books from some of the greatest writers and thinkers around the world.

If you'd like to recommend a book for consideration, please email

Happy reading!