Sickness, Nick Hornby, and Ignorance

I’ve been sick with a rotten cold since Friday; hence no posting lately.  I’ve been reading though!  Oh yes, illness will not deter me.  (Except when I had mono at the age of 22 – couldn’t read for two weeks and that only added to the level of hell that is mononucleosis.)  I’m currently reading Nick Hornby’s Ten Years in the Tub: A Decade of Soaking in Great Books, and just started Ruth Rendell’s A Sleeping Life, an Inspector Wexford series mystery.

If there’s been a theme to my 2015 reading so far, it’s been my own ignorance.  The Marlon James book highlighted my total ignorance of Jamaica and Bob Marley.  The Hornby book is a collection of essays about books and reading from his monthly column in a magazine called The Believer, which I didn’t even know existed, much less that Hornby had a monthly column.  Under which  rock have I been living, exactly?

Anyway, it’s simply delightful.  If there’s one type of book that is utter catnip to this reader, it is books about books.  This is one of the best I’ve come across.  There are so many quotable and hilarious sections that I’ve had to give up marking passages.  Each column begins with a list of Books Bought and Books Read.  Any serious reader knows that the books bought are most likely not the books read in that same month, and this holds true for Hornby.  He then goes on to talk about the books in such a personable, funny manner that I instantly wanted to re-read High Fidelity, perhaps his most famous novel, and go on and read every other thing he’s ever written.

He’s honest about the reading life, acknowledging his own shortcomings and the ways in which real life intrudes upon and enhances our reading life.   I’ve laughed out loud more times than I can count.  The essay in which he decides that he needs to veer out of his reading comfort zone and attempts a “hard sci-fi” novel that a friend recommends is comedic gold. Of the book, he writes,

“Nothing in the twenty-odd pages of Excession was in any way bad; it’s just that I didn’t understand a word. I didn’t even understand the blurb on the back of the book.” (He quotes the blurb, which sounds like gobbledy-gook to me as well.) “By the time I got to the first chapter, which is entitled ‘Outside Conext Problem’ and begins ‘(CGU Grey Area signal sequence file #n428857/119,)’ I was crying so had that I could no longer see the page in front of my face, at which point I abandoned the entire ill-conceieved experiment altogether.”  I had to stifle my laughter reading this section, lest I wake my napping son.

I’m about a third of the way through, and I’m enjoying it so much that I decided to slow down the pace and start the Rendell mystery.  I don’t often read two books at once, but if I do, I prefer a non-fiction and a fiction.  I like the balance between the two.

Some of  my other favorite books about books include 84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff and So Many Books, So Little Time: A Year of Passionate Reading by Sara Nelson.  Any other books about books you particularly love?  I’d love to hear some of your favorites.


3 thoughts on “Sickness, Nick Hornby, and Ignorance

  1. I loved Hornby’s books about books too. The interesting thing to me, though, was that I didn’t find myself adding many books to my TBR list after reading him. We don’t share a taste in books, really, but I loved reading him anyway. Surely it’s a testament to what a good writer he is that I liked reading him even if I often didn’t agree with his ideas about books! Have you read The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction? You might like that one. Oh, J.C. Hallman’s anthology The Story About the Story is really great too.


    1. I’ve not read either of those books, so thank you for the suggestions! I agree, I’m not putting much of Hornby’s books on my TBR. We share probably only about 25% similar taste, it seems. He reads much more cultural/sociological non-fiction than I do, and lots of sports books too. But I am still very much enjoying reading the collection.


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