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Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Nick - That Mate You're Looking For Is In NJ

Forced to guess, I'd estimate roughly 15-20% of my almost 700 posts have either mentioned or featured books. But my % of posts mentioning or featuring books about books is much lower - definitely under 3%. Hence, I'm totally justified devoting these paragraphs to "Ten Years In The Tub: A Decade Spent Soaking in Great Books" (2013) by Nick Hornby.

Hornby is an unapologetic populist. Literary fiction with a capital "L" is not for him. And though this collection of columns he wrote for "The Believer" is ostensibly about books purchased/books read, Hornby uses his other passions - music, film and soccer - to cover a lot more territory. Reading him reminds me of listening to a great improviser; the riffs bounce all over the place, you're never sure where he's going to land, but it's likely to be new ground, satisfying even when dissonant.

Of the two dozen or so books Hornby writes about that we both finished, my take differed from his significantly on just two. If we were friends on Goodreads, he'd score higher for compatibility with me than either my sister or my niece, two of my most trusted readers. A few he and I both loved? "Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter" (Tom Franklin), "Digging To America" (Anne Tyler),  "Out Stealing Horses" (Per Peterson).

To top it all off, Hornby is a hoot. I don 't think I got through many more than ten of his pieces without laughing out loud. Much as I enjoy and learn from trenchant critics like James Wood, my sides usually don't hurt when reading his work. Finally, Hornby is unafraid to change his opinion. Over the course of the ten years of columns collected in this book, he does so several times. I love that.          

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