The Blurb

High Fidelity is Nick Hornby’s hilarious and heart-breaking first novel bestseller

Do you know your desert-island, all-time, top five most memorable split-ups?

Rob does. He keeps a list, in fact. But Laura isn’t on it – even though she’s just become his latest ex. He’s got his life back, you see. He can just do what he wants when he wants: like listen to whatever music he likes, look up the girls that are on his list, and generally behave as if Laura never mattered. But Rob finds he can’t move on. He’s stuck in a really deep groove – and it’s called Laura. Soon, he’s asking himself some big questions: about love, about life – and about why we choose to share ours with the people we do.

A million-copy bestseller, and adapted into a 2000 film starring John Cusack, High Fidelity explores the world of break-ups, make-ups and what it is to be in love. This astutely observed and wickedly funny book will be enjoyed by readers of David Nicholls and William Boyd, and by generations of readers to come.

The Review

It has been 15 years since the movie High Fidelity was released into cinemas. It was 15 years ago that I sat in a movie theatre thinking to myself “well there is two of my life that I am never getting back.”

I hated it. Not even my weird crush on John Cusack could save this film for me. I have watched it again as an adult (I was fifteen when I saw it in the cinema) and even then I just could not find a redeeming factor in the movie much to the chagrin of some of my male friends.

Fifteen years later, I read the book version. Fifteen years later, I found the redeeming factor.

You are probably wondering why I decided to read High Fidelity considering I hate the film so much. Well, last year I read a few Nick Hornby novels: Juliet, Naked, A Long Way Down, Stuff I’ve been Reading to name a few and I fell in love with his writing style. In one week I managed to inadvertently acquire two copies of High Fidelity (both from independent book stores – I think protagonist Rob would approve of this fact) and I decided to add it to my ever growing to be read pile. Once again, Nick Hornby’s writing made me smile.

High Fidelity is brilliant. I mean, it makes me utterly thankful that I was born female because the male psyche is just bizarre but the book itself was excellent. All these misnomers I have believed about the male species – gone or at least explained away. I feel enlightened, lighter by the knowledge that I have gained. Hazzah.

Nick Hornby is one of my favourite authors. He is an author who has yet to let me down which is why I am thankful that I have many more of his novels to read. Next up, Funny Girl!

In keeping with the High Fidelity theme – here are my top five Dessert Island Discs…or rather top five songs.

1)            Town Called Malice – The Jam

2)            Born to Run – Adam Green

3)            La Vie en Rose – Edith Piaf

4)            Son of a Preacher Man – Dusty Springfield

5)            That Boy – The Beatles

High Fidelity by Nick Hornby is available now.

High Fidelity

31 Songs 2The Blurb

‘I decided that I wanted to write a little book of essays about songs I loved … Songs are what I listen to, almost to the exclusion of everything else.’

In his first non-fiction work since Fever Pitch, Nick Hornby writes about 31 songs that either have some great significance in his life – or are just songs that he loves. He discusses, among other things, guitar solos and losing your virginity to a Rod Stewart song and singers whose teeth whistle and the sort of music you hear in Body Shop.

‘The soundtrack to his life … a revealing insight into one of Britain’s most popular writers’ Evening Standard

The Review

Anyone who has read ay of Hornby’s fictional books before will know that music plays a huge part of his narrative voice; High Fidelity is set in an independent music shop and Juliet, Naked is a story about the impact of music on people’s lives and how fandom can come across as a bit creepy at times. So it is no surprise with 31 Songs (Penguin, 2003) that Hornby’s passion for music is fervent from the very first line.

The book is essentially a list of 31 songs, enough to fill a double album that have resonated with Hornby throughout his life. Some of these songs have held the same power and punch whereas others have faded away and where there was once love is now a mild acceptance. What makes it stand out from other books of this ilk is that Hornby almost uses these stories, or his memories of these songs, as a measure of culture. How they shaped the world around him and everyone else. How the music’s relevance is intrinsically linked to the time and place that it was released. It could be argued that it becomes almost a cultural study.

What is refreshing though is that Hornby holds no punches. If he likes something he says it. The same can be said if he doesn’t. This is a no apologies account of why he thinks a song is great and in turn why he things other songs are not.

My advice would be to read 31 Songs, however, if you are a pre-existing fan of Hornby’s works of fiction then please do not expect the same sort of narrative ease and flow. It is not that kind of book. If you want to be introduced to some obscure music which will melt your mind then pick it up, give it a flick through and maybe en come up with a list of your own life soundtrack.

31 Songs by Nick Hornby is available now.

35 Stars

As you may have seen (if you have read my previous post A Month in the Life of a Book Addict) I am addicted to books. I am not ashamed of this addiction…although I am slightly worried about my inability to stop buying books and also the structural integrity of my home under all the weight of the paper. I love books of all kinds and from most genres. If there are words on something I will give it a read – there is no prejudice here. An often told anecdote in my family is how I used to take forever with my breakfast because I would be reading the cereal packet.

It has been said (although not over my aforementioned breakfast table) that when you see someone reading a book you like it is the book recommending the person…or something to that effect. What I have noticed about myself recently is that a new reading habit has emerged. I like reading books about books. I am drawn to knowing what authors are recommending, why they liked the book, what was going on in their lives during this time. Frequently, the books that they mention make it to my book wish list even though I have far too many to read as it is. My Kindle books are in the thousands, my NetGalley downloads are becoming silly and my actual physical copies already manifest two small shelves, one large double layered shelf and I have had to purchase a further six tier double layer shelf for the overspill.

Quite frankly, this amount of literature is daunting. When you think about it and you do the maths I will probably never read all the books that I own. This will not be through lack of trying. At thirty years old, let us say that I am (optimistically) a third of the way through my life. Let us also imagine that I average one book a week (this is a very conservative estimate) that means I only have approximately 3,120 books left to read. This is terrible. In those optimistic sixty years that I have left there are bound to be more books that are released that I want to read. I am mathematically screwed.

However, that does not stop me reading books about books which kind of negate the whole point of reading books; books which deserve to be read.

That being said, here are three of the best ones that I have read recently.

 

The Novel Cure: From Abandonment to Zestlessness: 751 Books to Cure What Ails You by Ella Berthoud and Susan Elderkin

As some of you may or may not know, I almost died this year. If you didn’t know then you can read all about it here – My IBD Story. However, I didn’t die but recuperation has taken (and is still taking) a long time. Since being out of hospital I have spent my days reading; consuming books with a vociferous appetite. A book that I happened to stumble across was this delightful little gem – The Novel Cure: From Abandonment to Zestlessness: 751 Books to Cure What Ails.

Broken down into its simplest form it is a book that looks at what illness or condition that you have and directs you to the best literature to make you feel better. So say you are fatigued or you suffer from insomnia or you are an alcoholic or you have period pain this book has the answer for you. It is great because you can dip in and out of it or you can do what I did and read it from A to Z. A lot of the joy comes from seeing the writers mention a book that you have read.

This is definitely the quirkiest book that I have read this year and one that I will probably be giving out to my friends at Christmas time.

 

The Year of Reading Dangerously: How Fifty Great Books Saved My Life by Andy Miller

Ok. I admit it. I was seduced by the title. Escaping near death made me hungry for adventure; safe adventure mind, nothing more daring than perhaps a paper cut from a new book purchase. Also, having nearly died this year (have I mentioned that I nearly died?) I wanted to see if literature could save my life too. Heck it had already cured my ails; and it had also cured my boredom – seriously sitting in bed getting better for a few months takes its toll on the levels of boredom. So with eagerness I picked up this tome from Andy Miller and you know what, I am awfully glad that I did.

Why you may ask. Well let me tell you. This book was special. The premise being that we all fib a little bit about literature. We have said we love a book when never having really read it just so we can stay in the conversation or even just to make ourselves look smarter.

I myself have never lied about this…well that is technically not true. I have a mini confession. Well two really. The first is that I have never made it all the way through Anna Karenina. I got to the book about the fields and I just kind of gave up. Yet on my Goodreads account I still have this Tolstoy classic listed as a book that I am currently reading. I have technically been currently reading it for near on fourteen years. I will finish this book one day. No. I will start it afresh. I will not be beaten by a man and his love for his fields.

My second confession is that I can’t actually remember if I have read Little Women or not. I know what you are thinking. How could someone not remember reading a classic like Little Women? The thing is that I know the story so well. I just can’t remember if that has come from watching the movie or reading the book. Therefore I have added this to my ‘to-be-read’ list. At least then I will know that I am not a literature fraudster.

What I liked about this book was that Miller allowed you to see how and why books mean so much to him and how they shape aspects of his life. I both respect and relate to that. Again, the titillation came from knowing that I had read certain books. Miller did have a lot on his list that I had never even heard of and so I am now keen to read some of them too.

My book wish list had increased by at least 20 at the end of reading it. This does not bode well for me.

 

Stuff I’ve Been Reading by Nick Hornby

I have recently found myself on a Nick Hornby kick. I read Juliet, Naked and A Long Way Down among others. I even did a crazy eBay order which mean accidentally purchased two copies of High Fidelity. I loathed the film even with my bizarre crush on John Cusack but I wanted to give the book a whirl.

Anyway, when I was in my local library I saw this book and I thought to myself “Hey, I like Nick Hornby’s writing. I wonder if we have any books in common.” Out of the plethora of books featured in this book (which happens to be a collection of his articles from Believer magazine – which is, to my knowledge, not affiliated with Justin Bieber or his fan base) I had read three of them. Three. Now I consider myself well read so this low number is shocking but I guess this is what happens when you read books about books rather than reading book books.