In my always expensive meanderings through the bookstore not so long ago, I was delighted to find a fourth book of Nick Hornby's "Stuff I've Been Reading" columns from the Believer magazine. His previous book of columns announced his retirement from writing these and I was sad to let these appealing delights go. It turns out I don't have to. Like many a professional athlete who has announced his retirement only to stage a return to the game, Hornby is back writing his column. And unlike many of the athletes, Hornby remains wonderful. His columns collected here are from May 2010 to November/December 2011 and they retain the casual, accessible, personal feel that characterized his earlier columns as well.
Starting with his list of books bought versus books read each month, Hornby gives the reader an inside glimpse at his reading life, the connections he makes between books and his outside interests, and the vagaries of a reading mind which starts confidently down one path only to happily divert to another. Regardless of whether his readers tend to gravitate to the same sorts of books he does, every dedicated bibliophile the world over should be able to relate to the ways in which one book leads to another and another and another, no matter how tangential the connection might seem to the outsider.
As is policy at the Believer, Hornby only discusses those books that he can positively endorse, leaving the snarky reviews to others. But like any reader who reads extensively, this leaves him no dearth of subject matter. His choices seems slightly different than in the past books as he's discussing far more back list books and on the whole fewer recent releases. He does discuss topical non-fiction though and includes the impact of the non-bookish life going on around him as he reads any of his books, fiction or not, recently published or not. Reading his essays is a delight and feels just like listening to one of my book-loving friends discuss her recent reading, roaming far and wide, recommending and relating. And just like when I have these types of discussions in real life, Hornby has once again left me with a list of books to investigate. Whether I acquire them or not and if once acquired, I neglect to read them, as Hornby's essays reinforce, I'll be in good company. I do know, though that if Hornby writes another of these wonderful paeans to reading and books, I will most certainly acquire it as I have the previous four.