Favorite Authors: Nick Hornby

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Who is your favorite author? Why?

I haven’t read enough recently. I love reading. I need to read. But reading requires more than just escape. There is escape reading, of course. But that’s not what I need, any more than I need a straight diet of escape eating (read: junk food).

So a goal this year, a resolution, is that I read more and read better (I also have a goal to eat better, though not more). Along with this goal, I want to write more about literature in my blog.

I just finished reading my first book of the year, Housekeeping vs. The Dirt, a Christmas present from my son Rowan, which is about neither housekeeping nor dirt. Nick Hornby wrote it, or actually wrote the columns which he then collected to make this book. So to be clear, I’m writing about a book about books, so you’re reading about reading about reading…I think.

I love Nick Hornby’s work. I didn’t know most of the books he wrote about in this collection, but I learned a lot and now I want to read four or five of them. I read Nick Hornby because he makes me laugh and somewhere between his sarcasm and self-deprecation, he sneaks in these brilliant insights about life.

One thing about great art: it made you love people more, forgive them their petty transgressions. It worked in the way that religion was supposed to, if you thought about it.

Nick Hornby, Juliet, Naked

Here’s a funny thing: I thoroughly enjoyed reading Housekeeping vs. the Dirt, but I don’t know that I would recommend it. But it’s wonderful. Hornby published it in 2006 and it’s about books he was reading each month. Mostly it’s about that. Usually. He’s British, but he wrote the “Stuff I’ve Been Reading” column for The Believer (published by McSweeny’s), so it’s aimed at US audience (in 2006), and this is a follow-up book to The Polysyllabic Spree, an earlier collection of columns. In fact, there are two more subsequent collections, as well. Clearly, I’m not the only one who finds Hornby entertaining.

My hesitation to recommend this book is that I didn’t like it for its content as much as I liked it for how Hornby writes. If I recommended it to you, you easily might read it and think, “Okay, I’m not really interested in reading any of those books and he went off on tangents half the time and what was he even talking about?” And I would want to say, “Right, isn’t it hilarious?” But maybe that isn’t, to you.

I, though, cannot wait to read The Polysyllabic Spree,* and then Shakespeare Wrote for Money and More Baths Less Talking. If you haven’t read any Nick Hornby, I’d start with About a Boy or Juliet, Naked. I’d start with About a Boy if you are under forty and Juliet, Naked if you are over forty. You might already have seen film adaptations of About a Boy, High Fidelity, or Fever Pitch–either the US or British version. The book Fever Pitch--an autobiographical reflection on the author’s fandom of and fanaticism for the football club Arsenal–is by far the best thing I’ve ever read on being a sports fan. The British version of the movie stars Colin Firth and is wonderful, and the U.S. version…do you like the Red Sox? Or Drew Barrymore? Jimmy Fallon? It’s a bit weak tea, a reflection of a reflection. But if you’re a fan of one of those three, you might enjoy it.

To complete my Nick Hornby recommendations, his 31 Songs (also published as Songbook in the US) is an autobiographical exploration of music which I found delightful. If you enjoy reading any of the above, I’d also suggest Funny Girl, How To Be Good, A Long Way Down, and Slam, probably in that order. I’m trying to tell you I’ve never read a bad Nick Hornby book and I’m down to reading the column compilations, but I do have an order of favorites. Oh, and if you prefer short stories, Speaking with the Angel is a collection he edited which is also great, though he wrote only one of the stories.

Do you have any books you plan to read this year? I’m comparing reading lists with a friend and we’re going to pick a few to read together. I’m going to try to review or discuss or just go off on the books I read. If you have any recommendations, I’d like to hear them.

*In case you were wondering, yes, you are correct, the title is playing off The Polyphonic Spree. If you weren’t wondering that, you probably haven’t heard of them.

6 thoughts on “Favorite Authors: Nick Hornby

  1. Loren Meloy

    David Sedaris. Picked up a copy of “Dress Your Family In Corduroy and Denim” at Goodwill and I can’t put it down. I tried to get into “Me Talk Pretty One Day” in my early 20’s and I couldn’t. I wonder how many books and authors would resonate with me now that I’ve… you know… live more than a quarter of a lifetime.

    • Well, you were probably funnier than he was back then and you knew it. But now…he’s gotten funnier, too.

      I’ve wondered about that, too, as well as rethinking books that connected for me before. I hope I’m not losing my enjoyment of those. It’s like when you recommend a movie you loved when you were much younger, then watch it again and realize “Ooh, that’s embarrassing!”

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