Friday Favorites: The Polysyllabic Spree

Friday, December 10, 2010


The Polysyllabic Spree
by Nick Hornby
★★★★★

This collection of Hornby’s essays from the magazine The Believer, was beyond delightful. He writes about what books he bought each month and which ones he read. In anyone else’s hands that concept could be as dull as dirt, but Hornby makes you feel like you’ve just asked your friend, “So what have you been reading lately?”

He read a wide range of subjects in fiction, nonfiction, classics, etc. so there’s something for everyone. The funny thing was, it really wasn’t about the books themselves, it’s more about his personal reading experience. You can love his columns without ever picking up one of the books he mentions (though I evitably will).

It’s his humor and cheek that made this book so great. The way he describes reading is spot on and I couldn’t help laughing as I recognized myself in so many of his observations. Here are a few great ones…

“I don't reread books often; I'm too conscious of both my ignorance and my mortality.”

“When reading is going well, one book leads to another and to another, a paper trail of theme and meaning; and how, when it's going badly, when books don't stick or take, when your mood and the mood of the book are fighting like cats, you'd rather do anything but attempt the next paragraph or to reread the last one for the tenth time.”

“What you must do is work unceasingly, day and night, read constantly, study, exercise willpower... Every hour is precious.”

10 comments:

Kristi said...

I've only read Hornby's fiction books. I'd love to try some of his essays. This sounds like a good place to start. I love the second quote. I can relate to the rereading of a paragraph for the tenth time (ahem...Turn of the Screw). I've too noticed that my mood affects my perception of books.

Avid Reader said...

Kristi - I definitely agree that my mood has a huge impact on what I'm reading. Turn of the Screw is a remarkably dense book for its size. It's not long so you kinda expect an easy read... nope.

Emily said...

I love everything he's written. Also good: Shakespeare Wrote For Money. Some of my favorite books came from Hornby's contributions to the Believer!

Laura Keller said...

I didn't know Hornby had a collection of essays so this is quite a treat to discover! I love all three of the quotes you included - those really do epitomize they way I feel about reading most days. Thanks for this review, I can't wait to pick this one up!

Jenners said...

This sounds great ... and even better if I had read a few of the books he wrote about.

Amanda said...

I'm not a big nonfiction reader, but this book sounds really fun and I loved the first book by Hornby I read earlier this year!

Vaishnavi said...

I have never read Hornby but I have alays wanted to! What an interesting sounding book. It is so true isn't it?? You want to read and read and read and yet you are scared you will never finish reading all that you want to!

LifetimeReader said...

Yep--you've just a book the the top of my TBR pile. I've already added to my library hold queue.

Avid Reader said...

Emily - Shakespeare Wrote For Money has been on my list for so long. That will be up next.

Amanda - It doesn't feel like nonfiction, definitely pick it up.

Hornby is one of those authors that you just wish you could grab a pint with and talk about books.

mee said...

I have this book on my shelf waiting to be read! I've never read Hornby before, because his fictions don't seem to appeal to me. But this I so look forward to read!