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Songbook [Paperback]

Nick Hornby
1.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Product details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Riverhead Books (Oct 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1573223565
  • ISBN-13: 978-1573223560
  • Product Dimensions: 20.3 x 13.4 x 1.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 1.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,153,307 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Nick Hornby was born in 1957, and is the author of six novels, High Fidelity, About a Boy, How To Be Good, A Long Way Down (shortlisted for the Whitbread Award)Slam and Juliet, Naked. He is also the author of Fever Pitch, a book on his life as a devoted supporter of Arsenal Football Club, and has edited the collection of short stories Speaking with the Angel. He has written a book about his favourite songs, 31 Songs, and his reading habits,The Complete Polysyllabic Spree. In 2009 he wrote the screenplay for the film An Education. Nick Hornby lives and works in Highbury, north London.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
So we were doing this thing, this launch party, for Speaking with the Angel, a book of short stories I put together to raise money for my son's school, and we-the school, the publishers of the book, me, and my partner-were nervous about it. Read the first page
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Frustrating! 4 Aug 2014
Frustrating! I bought this as it sounded similar to "31 Songs". It IS "31 Songs"........ Same book, re-packaged. Waste of money.
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Amazon.com: 4.2 out of 5 stars  53 reviews
46 of 46 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars my awesome mix tape #38 28 Jan 2003
By Clare Quilty - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I bought this book, sight unseen, simply because of the description, which was: Nick Hornby, one of my favorite writers, had written a book about a bunch of his favorite songs. That's all I needed to know, that sounded great to me, I was sold.
I've been a Hornby fan since Fever Pitch. When High Fidelity (the book) came out, I was amazed: it felt like Hornby had been eavesdropping on my mind, because I tend to agree with a lot of his opinions about music and music lovers. Similarly, I'm a big fan of the reviews he wrote for The New Yorker a few years ago.
So I ordered the book and it showed up in my box and I immediately turned to the table of contents to see: which songs did he write about??? And I was surprised, and a bit disappointed, to see that I only recognized about a dozen of the titles. And there wasn't one song in the bunch that I considered a personal favorite. And when I listened to the songs I didn't know (included on a handy-dandy CD)... they didn't blow me away. But that's the beauty of a mix tape and, despite the fact that it's printed on paper, this is a mix tape.
And this one comes with great liner notes. Hornby's a smart, entertaining, intuitive writer. I may sound like a disappointed fan trying to make the best of a book that didn't satisfy me 100%, but even when Hornby's writing about music I haven't heard, it's still enjoyable, it's still worthwhile, it's still exposing me to things I previously didn't know about.
Even when he's confessing to not being a huge Dylan fan and confesses to preferring a Rod Stewart cover of one of my favorite Dylan songs to the original (which is, of course, the true road to enternal damnation), he does so in a way that's completely relatable even to a Dylan fanatic.
Even when he's extolling the virtues of a song I find to be "sad bastard" music (like he does in his essay about Mark Mulcahy's "Hey Self Defeater") he manages to include a great, conversational subtext about the virtues of small, privately owned, slowly-becomming-extinct record stores with a personal touch.
This is also a beautifully designed McSweeny book, with a beautiful "Maxell XL-II" mix-tape cover and with clever illustrations by Marcel Dzama. The book also benefits Treehouse Trust and 826 Valencia, organizations that are extremely worthy of the extra money.
Hornby should do one of these a year, I think. And next time, it'd be nice if he'd touch on his favorite Stones songs, his favorite Stax songs, his favorite Steve Earle songs, his favorite blues, his favorite jazz, his favorite Clash songs, etc, etc. If he'll write it, I'll read it.
31 of 32 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Lovely Book + CD + Great Writing! 15 Jan 2003
By A. Ross - Published on Amazon.com
I suppose I should admit up front that I'm one of those people who would buy the phone book if Hornby wrote it. That cavaet aside, this lovely little volume with accompanying CD is the best written explanation of why people who love "pop" music do so. Hornby uses the word "pop" not only to refer to garbage of the Britney Spears/'NSYNC ilk, but as a broad distinguisher from classical, jazz, and sofroth. The 26 brief essays aren't about his favorite pop songs, nor are they about what the songs remind him of, rather these are songs that he loves (as of the time of writing) and has something to say about.
As readers of his football memoir, Fever Pitch, know, Hornby writes exceedingly well about being a fan. And more than anything, the book is about being a fan of the 3-4 minute pop tune. Of course, this neccesitates a spirited defence of pop as a genre, so throughout the book, Hornby is on the attack, railing against small-minded snobs (including his younger self) who dismiss pop music out of hand. People who've spent a good portion of their lives paying attention to pop music will find a lot of themselves in the book, and may be struck with a newfound openmindedness. And by this measure, any book that can get me to track down an old J. Geils Band album has got be considered noteworthy! (Although I remain unmoved by his essay on reconsidering Jackson Browne.)
As always, Hornby's writing is funny, poignant, telling, and dead on. His skewering of church music is priceless, as is his explanation of why "Let's Get It On" is a terrible song to have sex to, why Led Zepplin rocked his 14-year-old world, how Rod Stewart led him to Motown music, the tedium of being a music reviewer for The New Yorker, and much more. Other parts are more introspective, dwelling on how his music tastes have changed as he's gotten older, fatter, and divorced, his autistic son's love of music, and how certain musical moments have influenced his writing.
It's a brief book, but one that ranges far and wide. Although I'm not really fan of much of any of the artists he writes about, he still manages to use their work to make larger points that are relevent to any music fan. Somewhat annoyingly, he mentions my favorite band (The Clash) more often (in eight different essays) than any other throughout the book, but didn't pick one of their songs to write about! That aside, the one thing that holds the book back a little is that the CD doesn't contain all the songs in the book (no doubt due to liscensing and money issues) and so leaves the reader hunting for MP3s online. But as the book's proceeds go to charity, this is easily overlooked and forgiven. Some of the best music writing I've come across.
31 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars CD Playlist 14 April 2003
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
1 Paul Westerberg - Born For Me
2 Teenage Fanclub - Your Love is the Place Where I Come From
3 The Bible - Glorybound
4 Aimee Mann - I've Had It
5 Rufus Wainwright - One Man Guy
6 Rod Stewart - Mama You Been On My Mind
7 Badly Drawn Boy - A Minor Incident
8 Teenage Fanclub - Ain't That Enough
9 Ben Folds Five - Smoke
10 Mark Mulcahy - Hey Self Defeater
11 Ani DiFranco - You Had Time
The book is genuinely more engaging than his pop music criticism for The New Yorker as he is obviously writing with his heart as opposed to his head.
15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Better Than I Expected! 14 Jun 2005
By William Heston - Published on Amazon.com
Hornby covers a wide range of topics here. He discusses how our favorite songs eventually blend in as part of our personalities, and we'll never be able to really remember the first time we heard them. There are discussions about how it's okay to claim that certain songs from revered artists just plan suck, and how there is no such as the perfect song for making love. He talks about how the next Lennon/McCartney team is probably already out there, but fragmented nature of the music industry will keep them from ever reaching the heights they deserve. There is some exploration of how songs with "edge" and "grit" will often leap to the forefront, but will never last for the ages. There's even some analysis of genuine musicianship, such as his investigation about how too many guitar solos are mean simply to take up space rather than capturing the soul of the song.
So before going much further, let's see what songs Hornby discusses in the book:
1. Your Love Is the Place I Come From by Teenage Fanclub
2. Thunder Road by Brice Springsteen
3. I'm Like a Bird by Nelly Furtato
4. Heartbreaker by Led Zeppelin
5. One Man Guy by Rufus Wainwright
6. Samba pa Ti by Santana
7. Mama You Been on My Mind by Rod Stewart
8. Can You Please Crawl out Your Window? by Bob Dylan and Rain by The Beatles
9. You've Had Time by Ani DiFranco and I've Had It by Aimee Mann
10. Born for Me by Paul Westerberg
11. Franie Teardrop by Suicide and Ain't That Enough by Teenage Fanclub
12. First I Look at the Purse by J. Geils Band
13. Smoke by Ben Folds Five
14. A Minor Incident by Badly Drawn Boy
15. Glorybound by The Bible
16. Caravan by Van Morrison
17. So I'll Run by Butch Hancock Marce LaCouture
18. Puff the Magic Dragon by Gregory Isaacs
19. Reasons to Be Cheerful Part 3 by Ian Dury & the Blockheads and The Calvary Cross by Richard and Linda Thomson
20. Late for the Sky by Jackson Browne
21. Hey Self Defeater by Mark Mulcahy
22. Needle in a Haystack by the Velvettes
23. Let's Straighten It Out by O.V. Wright
24. Röyksopp's Nigh Out by Röyksopp
25. Frontier Psychiatrist by The Avalanches and No Fun/Push It by Soulwax
26. Pissing in a River by The Patti Smith Group
Now, I like to consider myself pretty well versed in music, but even if you're like me, you probably look at that list and say, "geez, I know about a third of these songs well, I've heard of a few of the rest, but I'm clueless about the rest." The list might seem daunting for all but the strongest music mavens, but there's nothing to fear. Even though Hornby find his inspiration in some rather little known songs, he simply uses those songs as springboards from which to launch his discussions on music in general. He never writes in a manner that assumes the reader already knows the music by heart. In fact most of the essays devote no more than seven or eight paragraphs directly to the song being discussed, reserving the rest of the text for philosophical discussions of music and for tangents that leap about among more well-known songs.
Hornby's writing glimmers with an endearingly obsessive fandom of someone who's surrendered himself completely to the love of music, and therein lies the only real flaw in the book. Hornby often lapses into the vernacular of the devoted stereophile, and readers who aren't so particular about their own musical taste may feel a bit excluded, as if Hornby is talking down to them. Songbook probably won't turn anyone into a deep music lover, since those who really "get" the book will already be at such a level. Those readers who already love music (especially those who see a piece of themselves in the record store clerks fro High Fidelity) will get a warm, fuzzy feeling from the book. Another thing I need to mention is that the writing is very fluid and clear - a real pleasure to read. So pick up a copy of Songbook! And while I'm at it I need to also recommend another recent Amazon quick pick: The Losers' Club (Complete Restored Edition) by Richard Perez, a gritty, funny, urban novel that made me think of High Fidelity more than once.
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Reawaken your love of music 21 Feb 2003
By Jonny Kim - Published on Amazon.com
Nick Hornby's gift as a writer is how he manages to express his love and appreciation of music through words. One of greatest pleasures in life that we so easily take for granted is discovering new music that yesterday was missing from our life and today seemingly becomes integral to our existence as we repeatedly play and sing along to the song. Hornby manages to capture and describe this unique feeling that we all feel but have difficulty expressing coherently.
"I love the relationship that anyone has with music: because there's something in us that is beyond the reach of words, something that eludes and defies our best attempts to spit it out. It's the best part of us, probably, the richest and strongest part..."
Although I'm fairly sure the majority of readers, will not be familiar with many of the songs that Hornby writes about, the point of the songbook is more personal. It will help you reawaken your own love of music as you shuffle through your music collection and go through a similar period of self reflection.
Personally, the book was worth it once I listened to Aimee Mann's "I've Had It", a beautiful soulful song that I've lived without for as long as I can remember, and now I can't go without listening to repeatedly along with the Soundtrack to About a Boy by Badly Drawn Boy.
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