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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars More reading, less talking, 19 Aug. 2012
By 
Sam Quixote - See all my reviews
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This review is from: More Baths Less Talking: Notes from the Reading Life of a Celebrated Author Locked in Battle with Football, Family, and Time Itself (Paperback)
I was surprised to hear Nick Hornby had another book of "Stuff I've Been Reading" columns as he said the previous one, "Shakespeare Wrote for Money", would be the last of them (not a bad decision as I felt it was tired and unenthusiastic). More surprising was that when I decided to buy it, I really enjoyed reading it. It's like running into an old friend after a few years apart and it turns out you both have a lot to talk about - or in this case, one person has a lot to say and the other wants to read it.

After a nearly 1 and a half year break, the book picks up the first column in May 2010 to the last in December 2011. Hornby's humour is as sharp and effervescent as ever but more importantly his enthusiasm for reading and the books he's read is infectious. I think what made me like the book more was that this time around he picked books that weren't necessarily well known in the mainstream and consequently I wound up picking up some excellent titles from the columns, one of which I'm two thirds of the way through and enjoying the heck out of - "The Driver's Seat" by Muriel Spark.

Recommendations like "Book of Days" by Emily Fox Gordon, "Whoops!" by John Lanchester, and "Charles Dickens" by Claire Tomalin, are all books I wouldn't have heard of without him (maybe not the Tomalin) nor would I have felt the urgent need to read them. It's also enjoyable to read Hornby's reviews of books I've already read. Books like "The Anthologist" by Nicholson Baker, "The Psychopath Test" by Jon Ronson, and "Huckleberry Finn" are all reviewed well (except "Finn" which is just one word - "meh". The Believer, which publishes these columns, doesn't believe in negative reviews so Hornby has to keep the pages bile-free).

One of my favourite things to do after reading a book I liked/disliked is to go online and read what others felt about it. Sometimes it's cathartic if I hated it and sometimes I learn something about it I missed when reading it; but reading others' reviews is always enjoyable and when it's someone famous for their writing doing it, so much the better.

Hornby's ingenious format of putting two lists at the start of the column "Books I've Bought" and "Books I've Read" is still fascinating to look at from the perspective of someone who loves books as much as Hornby and buys far more than he reads.

Well, I'm glad he's back doing it. This is a fantastic read which I flew through in two sittings writing down titles to pick up and laughing at Hornby's assessments of some books as well as digs at his publishers, and I really had a great time with this book. For bibliophiles everywhere, this is a must-have.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars More Lucy Less Huck, 9 Aug. 2012
By 
takingadayoff "takingadayoff" (Las Vegas, Nevada) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: More Baths Less Talking: Notes from the Reading Life of a Celebrated Author Locked in Battle with Football, Family, and Time Itself (Paperback)
Despite the promise that the previous volume of Stuff I've Been Reading columns would be the last (Shakespeare Wrote for Money), Nick Hornby's back with another.

The format is simple and irresistible. He lists the books he's bought (including books given to him or that he borrowed) and the books he's read in the past month. Then he writes about them and anything else that's on his mind for a couple of pages. It's less a column really, and more of a blog that has a casual and sometimes first draft feel. It's fun to compare what you've been reading to his choices and if you've any books in common, to see what he thinks about them.

In the past few years, he's made some changes in his reading patterns. He used to read a lot of contemporary fiction, and now he reads backlist items as well and more non-fiction. And since he's now an Academy Award nominated screenwriter, some of the books he reads are Hollywood-oriented.

Right off the bat, Hornby mentions a book I had started to read but gave up as potentially too depressing - David Kynaston's Austerity Britain, 1945-1951 (Tales of a New Jerusalem). Hornby talked me into giving it another shot. It sounds like the kind of social and political history that Dominic Sandbrook and David McCullough do so well.

He reads biography, history, children's books, even a self-help title. He reaches back in time to catch up with Muriel Sparks' fiction and several Charles Dickens novels. Many 'books bought' never make it to the 'books read' column, including Babbitt and Peter Pan. He has a weakness for gossipy and well-written biography such as Steven Kanfer's Ball of Fire (Lucille Ball) and Richard Schickel's Elia Kazan, the latter title not being quite gossipy enough.

In keeping with the spirit of the magazine he is writing for, Hornby stays away from saying negative things about the books, which is too bad since you get the feeling he is holding back. But occasionally he drops his guard and lets a criticism slip past. Impressed by Ernest Hemingway's claim that it was the book from which all American literature derives, Hornby reads The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. He dismisses it with a single "meh," which I completely agree with.
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