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review 2017-05-15 00:25
Ten Years in the Tub: A Decade Soaking in Great Books - Nick Hornby 
Ten Years in the Tub: A Decade Soaking in Great Books - Nick Hornby

It took me forever to read because I had to stop at least once per page to add something to The List, or to move something else higher, or to request something from the library. Hornby is a much bigger fan of literary fiction than I and he isn't a fan of genre (I know, right?) But I love his reviews like no one else's. It's ten years in the life of someone who loves to read, so it's all familiar, but written by a humorous pro. It's funny that I've read all of these three books before at least once and there were still so many I not only hadn't read, but also so many I hadn't already put on The List.

Library copy

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text 2017-03-31 10:10
March Reading Review
More Baths, Less Talking - Nick Hornby
My Holiday in North Korea: The Funniest/Worst Place on Earth - Wendy E. Simmons
Silence Fallen - Patricia Briggs
Atlas Obscura: An Explorer's Guide to the World's Hidden Wonders - Dylan Thuras,Ella Morton,Joshua Foer
The Phantom Atlas: The Greatest Myths, Lies and Blunders on Maps - Edward Brooke-Hitching

Well, this month was an average killer.  I went on an atlas reading spree this month and it too so much longer than I thought it would.  Then there was the whole grudge match between myself and The Name of the Rose, when it wasn't just the lord for whom a day was like a thousand years.

 

Still I had a good reading month by anyone's standards, with 16 books read and a total of 4879 pages.  Contrarily, I smashed by Fastest Read of 2017, with Etched in Bone, devouring it in one day.

 

3 5-star reads this month:

Silence Fallen - Patricia Briggs 

Atlas Obscura: An Explorer's Guide to the World's Hidden Wonders - Dylan Thuras,Ella Morton,Joshua Foer 

My Holiday in North Korea: The Funniest/Worst Place on Earth - Wendy E. Simmons 

 

2 4.5-star reads:

More Baths, Less Talking - Nick Hornby 

The Phantom Atlas: The Greatest Myths, Lies and Blunders on Maps - Edward Brooke-Hitching 

 

No 1-star reads this month, thankfully.  Lots of non-fiction, although I counter-balanced them with the most fictional stories possible.

 

How was your March reading?

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review 2017-03-11 08:40
More Baths, Less Talking
More Baths, Less Talking - Nick Hornby

The final (so far) collection of Nick Hornby's columns from The Believer magazine and another excellent collection of commentary on books he's read.  I think this is the first of the four collections where he's read a book I have (Yay!), and there are only a few of the books he's read that I'll ultimately track down myself, but it doesn't matter; I love his writing style.  He's witty, irreverent, and often thought-provoking and insightful.

 

I'd highly recommend any of these collections to anyone who likes hearing about what somebody is reading, even if it's not something you'd read yourself.  If you do share reading interests, look out: these books will devastate your TBR piles.

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review 2017-02-08 05:08
A LONDONER'S VIEW ON LIFE, LOVE, RELATIONSHIPS & MUSIC IN THE 1990s
High Fidelity - Nick Hornby

So far, "HIGH FIDELITY" is one of the most entertaining, laugh out loud funny, and insightful novels I've read this year. Though it must be admitted that the main character, Rob Fleming - a quirky and rather self-centered man in his mid-30s, who is the owner of a record shop in the heart of 1990s London - can come across as whiny and egotistical. Yet, he is not without his endearing qualities.

The reader is given entree into Rob's life at a time when his girlfriend Laura (with whom he has shared a flat for a few years) has left him. He is at a loss and begins to reflect on what he regards as his "all-time, top five most memorable split-ups", which began with Alison Ashworth in 1972 when Rob was barely into his teens and culminated with Sarah Kendrew, a relationship that lasted between 1984 and 1986. It was a treat to be given a retrospective tour of Rob's love life with these 5 women. His personal observations I found very revealing, though he could be a bit insufferable. Here are some of his musings that gave me much food for thought:

"... what was the significance of the snog? The truth is that there was no significance; we were just lost in the dark. One part imitation (people I had seen kissing by 1972: James Bond, Simon Templar, Napoleon Solo, Barbara Windsor and Sid James or ..., Omar Sharif and Julie Christie ...) to one part hormonal slavery to one part peer group pressure ... to one part blind panic ... "

"Nobody worries about kids listening to thousands - literally thousands - of songs about broken hearts and rejection and pain and misery and loss. The unhappiest people I know, romantically speaking, are the ones who like pop music the most; and I don't know whether pop music has caused this unhappiness, but I do know that they've been listening to the sad songs longer than they've been living the unhappy lives." - p.19.

Music is the metaphor that infuses and enlivens "High Fidelity." Rob lives and breathes it. Indeed, his music store (with his two employees, mild-mannered, steady, and self-effacing Dick and know-it-all, sardonic Barry) is an extension of himself. There is an instance where, one night after closing shop, Rob, Barry, and Dick go to a pub for a few beers and entertainment. The entertainment comes in the form of Marie LaSalle, an American singer/songwriter whose look reminds Rob of the actress Susan Dey as she was when she starred in the late '80s TV drama "LA Law". He is enthralled with her singing. What I found both funny and poignant was his admission of the effect Marie LaSalle's version of Peter Frampton's 'Baby, I Love Your Way' had on him. Let me cite in full what he had to say about that. (When I was reading this section of the novel on the subway, I had to restrain myself from laughing out loud and uproariously.)

"Imagine standing with Barry, and Dick, in his Lemonheads T-shirt, and listening to a cover version of a Peter Frampton song, and blubbing! Peter Frampton! 'Show Me the Way'! That perm! That stupid bag thing he used to blow into, which made his guitar sound like Donald Duck! Frampton Comes Alive, top of the American rock charts for something like seven hundred and twenty years, and bought, presumably, by every brain-dead, coke-addled airhead in LA! I understand that I was in dire need of symptoms to help me understand that I have been deeply traumatized by recent events, but did they have to be this extreme? Couldn't God have settled for something just mildly awful - an old Diana Ross hit, say, or an Elton John original?

"And it doesn't stop there. As a result of Marie LaSalle's cover version of 'Baby, I Love Your Way' ('I know I'm not supposed to like that song, but I do,' she says with a cheeky smile when she's finished), I find myself in two apparently contradictory states: a) I suddenly miss Laura with a passion that has been entirely absent for the last four days, and b) I fall in love with Marie LaSalle."

There's more - more entertaining, funny, and observational "bits" (as the British would say) - to "High Fidelity", which I leave to the readers of this review to discover for themselves. I invite all of you who are uninitiated to Nick Hornby's writing style and to "High Fidelity", in particular, to buy or borrow this novel. You'll be in for a fun and rewarding journey.

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text 2017-02-01 12:34
January Wrap-up
Ten Years in the Tub: A Decade Soaking in Great Books - Nick Hornby
Shadows Linger - Glen Cook
Dark Visions - Conversations With The Masters of the Horror Film - Stanley Wiater
Dark Entries - Robert Aickman
Indemnity Only - Sara Paretsky
The Fifth Profession - David Morrell

Okay, I read six books in January, half of them re-reads. Not my best month, but oh well.

 

A quick note on my ratings:  *****,  great; ****, quite good; ***, decent; **, mediocre; *, dreck.  You won't  see many * or ** ratings because I usually DNF them. If I don't finish, I don't review, partly because it wouldn't be fair, but mostly because they aren't worth my time.

 

1. Ten Years in the Tub: A Decade Soaking in Great Books - Nick Hornby  Ten Years in the Tub: A Decade Soaking in Great Books - Nick Hornby   *****

 

    My only five-star this month, and a rerun. I love Hornby's non-fiction, so a collection of his book criticism for Believer magazine is perfect for me, and seeing him struggle with the magazine's "acid-free" policy is hilarious (I couldn't do it, myself, as you'll see shortly). Plus, a loot of great recommendations, albeit in a more mainstream vein than my usual tastes. Still, any book that got me into reading Sarah Vowell is aces.

 

2. The Fifth Profession - David Morrell  The Fifth Profession - David Morrell  ***

 

    Another re-read, this from one of my favorite thriller writers. Alas, not one of his best. This is a silly book, but a lot of fun. It involves bodyguards, espionage, psychosurgery/brainwashing, the return of Japanese imperialism, insta-love... Like I said, silly, stupid fun. Would have made a good camp movies tarring Michael Biehn.

 

3. Dark Entries - Robert Aickman  Dark Entries - Robert Aickman  ****

 

    My first short-story collection of the year, and a damn good one. Most of the stories are oblique, many to the point where I'm not quite sure what, if anything, happened. Still the atmosphere was great, and "Ringing the Changes" is an all-time classic for a reason.

 

4. Dark Visions - Conversations With The Masters of the Horror Film - Stanley Wiater  Dark Visions - Conversations With The Masters of the Horror Film - Stanley Wiater  ***

 

    Really, 2.5 rounded up. It is a series of interviews with actors. writers, directors, etc. Many of the people are interesting, but Wiater is a bland interviewer. There are few, if any, tough questions, the creative and technical sides of film are left unexplored, no personal insights... Well=written, with the occasional fun nugget, but often dull.

 

5. Shadows Linger - Glen Cook  Shadows Linger - Glen Cook  ***

 

    Second in the fabled Black Company series, and just as uneven as the first. Glum, grim, and yet still engaging. I will read book three, as I own it, but am in no rush.

 

6. Indemnity Only - Sara Paretsky  Indemnity Only - Sara Paretsky  

 

    First in the V.I. Warshawski series of P.I. novels. First published in 1982. it hasn't aged well. Also, the lead is difficult, though understandably so. Still, it's well-written and often funny, and deals with white-collar crime, a rarity for the sub-genre.

 

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All in all, not a great month, but not terrible. Hopefully, it was better for you folks.

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