Hornby, Nick. The polysyllabic spree. San Francisco: Believer, 2004. 143pp.
First the annoying thing. Twenty bucks (Canadian) for 143 pages. I know the profits are going to a worthwhile cause, but they could probably sell more books (and give more profits) if the book was a better value for the dollar.
But never mind that.
Shortly after the birth of a son, I panic that I will never be able to visit a bookshop again, and that therefore any opportunity I have to buy printed matter should be exploited immediately. Jesse ... was born shortly before 7 a.m.; three or four hours later I was in a newsagent's, and I say a small selection of best-sellling paperbacks. There wasn't an awful lot there thta I wanted, to be honest; but because of the consumer fear, something had to be bought, right there and then, just in case, and I vaguely remembered reading something good about Dennis Lehane's Mystic River. Well, the shop didn't have a copy of Mystic River, but they did have another Dennis Lehane book, Prayers for Rain: that would have to do. Never mind that, as regular readers of this column know, I have over the last few months bought server hundred books I haven't yet read. And never mind that, as it turned out, I found myself passing a bookshop the very next day, and the day after that (because what else is there to do with a new baby, other than mooch around bookshops with him?), and was thus able to buy Mystic River. I didn't know for sure I'd ever go to a bookshop again; and if I never went to a bookshop agian, how long were those several hundred books going to last me? Nine or ten years at the most. No, I needed that copy of Prayers for Rain, just to be on the safe side.
If that quote resonates with you, then this is a book you are really going to enjoy, 'cause this is one serious book addict writing for other serious book addicts. These essays are reprints of Hornby's column in Believer magazine, each featuring the books his bought in the last month and the books he's actually gotten around to reading. Let's just say I understand which list is longer on a very deep level. A short perusal of my own attempt to chronicle the same pattern (inspired by Hornby, natch) will reveal a similar predicament. I must admit, Hornby connects with me on another level. He constantly champions the accessible over the obscure, the deserving over the famous and narrative over style. He likes good books that are about something, that tell a compelling story in a clear style. My kinda guy.
A few items he recommends that I will try to acquire myself (just in case, you know, I run out of books by accident one day):
- Moneyball by Michael Lewis
- How mumbo-jumbo conquered the world by Francis Wheen
- Prayers for Rain and Mystic River by Dennis Lehane
- Blockbuster by Tom Shone