Saturday, January 18, 2014

A Review of Nick Hornby's "Ten Years in the Tub: A Decade Soaking in Good Books"

In his collection of ten years of columns about reading, Nick Hornby says that we are often reminded that books can be badly written but we need to remember they can also be badly read. It would be difficult though, to read this book wrong. It is not exactly a collection of book reviews but rather a collection of monthly reading journals written for the publication Believer. So one can read the thing straight view or just drop in on March of 2003 or December of 2010 and will find Hornby’s wit and humility and perhaps a recommendation for a book you would love.

I read it straight through (well, actually I skipped May 2010 through December 2011 because I had read them in a shorter collection “More Baths, Less Talking”.) Hornby notes that one of the benefits of reading is one has interesting conversational bits. Sometimes, he’ll only make it a chapter in a book about science or sociology, but it might give him that factoid that will make his speech sparkle in a pub discussion. We’ll I found myself quoting Hornby often while I was reading the book and after on such varied matters as Dickens’ glorious lack of brevity to blessing of Muriel Spark’s novels being so short.

I very much enjoyed what he had to say about sports (which his imaginary editors despise.) He has the nasty habit of calling ‘soccer’ ‘football’ but one can overlook that because he loved Michael Lewis’ “Moneyball”, a book about Oakland A’s manager, Billy Beane. (My love of the A’s helps me understand Hornby’s love of Arsenal, a ‘football’ team.) He says as a Brit he only understood one out of four words about the game of baseball, but it was still one of the best books on sports he had ever read.

It was also interesting to read his take on religion. Early on he speaks disparagingly about faith and approvingly about the brilliance of Richard Dawkins. But then he reads Marilyn Robinson’s brilliant novel, “Gilead” and admits that perhaps he was too quick to dismiss Christianity (he jokes about becoming a monk.) What makes me very much appreciate Hornby as a reader (and writer) is that he admits he still has much to learn from books.

I certainly learned from his.

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