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2.0 out of 5 stars Hornby is resting on his laurels, 12 Jan 2014
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This review is from: Stuff I've Been Reading (Paperback)
This book left me annoyed and disappointed: annoyed because the person who gave it as a recent gift thought they were on the money for me with "the latest Nick Hornby book", and disappointed because ever since I apparently forgot that I gave Hornby permission to write my biography in 'High Fidelity', I have had a soft spot for his writing. Even went to a book signing when he was in town.

'Stuff I've been reading' is a collection of his columns over the 5 years 2006-2011. To call it an anthology is too grand, and it really is more simply a book catalogue - without the cover pics - interspersed with the Opinions of Nick. These opinions are undeveloped - more a sort of 'oh, so that's just what you think?' aftertaste, and while one is occasionally excited that he seems to be getting up a head of steam for some proper writing, it usually peters out into 'not much to see here'.

If you know the titles that he mentions, then the warmth of recognition will wash over you, as will also occur with Hornby's stock-in-trade, Tarantino-without-the-gore pop cultural references. If you have never heard of a book title that he mentions, then you will come away not much the wiser, with no true synopsis most often provided. The best that can be hoped for is that your interest might be piqued by his shallow discussion around the work, which is perhaps all that one can expect given the origin of this book as an occasional column rather that a fully developed tome. One could surf the Amazon book site to achieve the same more efficiently.

Aggregated columns re-packaged in a book format often seem a cynical exercise, trying to wring a bit more cash out of old material, and this one is no exception. The problem is these exercises by-and-large don't work (except for extracting the aforesaid cash). Take anything by Jeremy Clarkson, the recent radio transcripts of Clive James ('A Point of View'), or even Christopher Hitchens' 'Arguably'. For a start, by the time the book is published, the content is all dated and heading for irrelevancy. (Hitchens suffers less in this regard because his material often has a gravitas and ongoing relevance because so many of the issues he covers remain unresolved, but 'Arguably' is vastly less satisfying than his more coherent work). But the sort of evanescent, faux stream-of-consciousness writing that characterises the more light-hearted stuff only works when it pops up in a newspaper or on radio because it is a solitary bright spot of light relief in the sea of Sturm and Drang that makes up daily news and current affairs. Lifted out of that context, it becomes relatively less amusing, and, in a continuous form such as a book, really just unsustainable.

Hornby urges two really useful bits of advice (so he gets some stars), neither of which, he admits, are originally his: firstly, to read randomly, and yes, I will be picking up at least two of the books he mentions; secondly, that it is OK not to finish a book you have started. That assuaged my guilt, because honestly, I couldn't finish this.

As Hornby himself would attest, there are too many good books out there to waste time reading catalogues.
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Stuff I've Been Reading
Stuff I've Been Reading by Nick Hornby (Paperback - 7 Nov 2013)
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