Review: Nick Hornby's Believer book reviews


  • The Polysyllabic Spree by Nick Hornby
  • More Baths Less Talking by Nick Hornby
  • Housekeeping vs. The Dirt by Nick Hornby
  • Shakespeare Wrote For Money by Nick Hornby

I read anywhere between 50-200 books a year, and while that might seem a lot, I still purchase and borrow books at a rate greater than my consumption. Part of the problem is that the Calgary Public Library (and the wonderful TAL program that lets me borrow from most public libraries in Alberta) has such a superb collection, that a great deal of the books on my ever-expanding want list rest on their shelves. I have a disposable income and few expensive hobbies/vices that allow me to spend as much as I want on books. I have a wonderful wife who doesn’t judge, as she is also an avid reader. And due to years of playing Tetris and hoarding books I’ve gotten very skilled at storing large quantities of books (though, to be sure, the next move will be quite the pain). My reading habits have even led me to write a program to keep track of all of my books. I’m so glad that there are folks like Nick Hornby who, on top of having great taste in books, also feel the struggle of keeping up with the deluge of books to read.

I suppose it’s odd to review a bunch of books about a bunch of books filled with reviews. But these are so darn good, the writing style is the same sort of conversational writing that has made Hornby’s books (such as High Fidelity) so popular to read.

Hornby’s reviews are like hanging out with a bookish friend. He lets you peer into his life and understand his book choices based off his background, and know when his reading choices are simple serendipity (a la a book arriving in the mail). He doesn’t dwell on the duff reads, due to the editorial direction of the Believer staff (whom Hornby describes as cultish youth dressed in robes who worship literary figures and are known as the Polysyllabic Spree), and this turns out to be a good thing. Sort of in the way a good cooking magazine makes you hungry, Hornby’s reviews can’t help but make you want to read more. I started making a reading list on the back of an envelope on the first book, and then halfway through had to switch to an 8x11 sheet of paper as I ran out of space.

I’ve only scratched the list of books I’ve pulled from his reviews, but so far, every single one has been a winner. Terrible for the extra weight on my shelves, but wonderful for the mind.