Sunday, March 01, 2009

Nick Hornby's 40 of the Best

If we are lucky, we read the right books at the right times, and both the books and the times should be left alone. Have you read Moby-Dick yet? No? Well, don't go back to The Catcher in the Rye, then. It was great once and maybe you're asking too much of it if you want it to be great all over again. This is not to diminish the books that we read at earlier stages in our lives, not to make the claim that, as we get older, our critical faculties get sharper - the sad truth is that we lose as much as we gain.
Nick Hornby's absolutely right about the impossibility of rereading certain books we loved when we were younger and feeling the same way about them. And I find myself saying increasingly about books "My much younger self would have loved this, but the me I am now is unimpressed." One of the perils, I think of growing older and having read so many other books.

Hornby has now finished his tenure at The Believer where he wrote an engaging monthly column about the books he'd bought and the books he'd read, which were then collected The Complete Polysyllabic Spree. Now he has been asked to choose 40-odd books for a writer's table at Waterstone's bookshops across the UK. His highly browsable, completely unsnobbish list is here . And although he recognises how hard it is to make reading suggestions for other people, I think he makes a pretty good job of it!


Anonymous said...

Very Euro-Americo-centric, his list. A bit boring to be honest!

- Poppadumdum

Yusuf Martin said...

Can't comment about NH's list as I haven't read it yet.

But I believe he is absolutely right regarding not going back to books you once loved.

I had a greater capacity to devour books whole when I was younger, and would struggle through books that I knew I should read to eventually gain that insight.

Many years on and I no longer have the patience and will drop a book I am not happy with, even if it is suppose to be edifying.

Yusuf Martin said...

Ok read the list, all I can say is Hmmmmmm!!

Anonymous said...

To be fair, there are some excellent books on that list. I completely see Poppadumdum's point, and I had the same initial reaction, but then I thought, should Nick Hornby have tailored his list to be more multi-culti-PC-diverse, like everyone and everything these days? In a way it's refreshing that he just put down 40 books he liked without thinking about Diversity. Of course it's quite telling that NOT ONE of the books he likes is from Africa or Asia, but that's more of a comment on Western society, I feel, than on Hornby's good intentions.

-- Preeta

Chet said...

I love reading his hand written notes!