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The Polysyllabic Spree by Nick Hornby

The Polysyllabic Spree (original 2006; edition 2004)

by Nick Hornby

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1,961665,420 (3.73)121
- Selections from the monthly Believer Magazine column by this best selling author - Hornby's "diary of an avid reader"In his monthly column "Stuff I've Been Reading," Hornby lists the books he's purchased that month, and briefly discusses the books he's actually read.NIck Hornby's Polysyllabic Spree Includes selected passages from the novels, biographies, collections of poetry, and comics discussed in the column.… (more)
Title:The Polysyllabic Spree
Authors:Nick Hornby
Info:McSweeney's, Believer Books (2004), Edition: First Edition, Paperback, 143 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:books, non-fiction, biography

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The Polysyllabic Spree by Nick Hornby (2006)

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» See also 121 mentions

English (64)  Italian (1)  Piratical (1)  All languages (66)
Showing 1-5 of 64 (next | show all)
This month's Believer announced the end of Hornby's column, and I welcome it with open arms. Every piece of Hornby I've ever read felt like a waste of time. ( )
  Adammmmm | Sep 10, 2019 |
Bought 4 books. 'Nuff said? ( )
  Fiddleback_ | Dec 17, 2018 |
The best reason to buy Believer magazine has long been Nick Hornby's column. Each month he lists the books he has bought and the books he has read (a good exercise for all of us who tend to buy more books than we can possibly read) and then writes about those read.

To most people literary criticism is not a comic art form, but it is to this British novelist, who dissects books of all kinds briefly with both wit and insight. The first fourteen columns he wrote for Believer, dating from September 2003 to November 2004, were collected in the slim book “The Polysyllabic Spree,” printed by the magazine.

The challenge for those of us who write about books is to write about them in such a way that people who might never have an interest in a book will nevertheless read and enjoy a review of that book. Hornby actually accomplishes it, at least most of the time. An example is the column in which he writes about “On and Off the Field,” a book about cricket by Ed Smith. Hornby acknowledges that most readers of his column are Americans who care nothing about cricket, but since he loves the game and the book, he writes about it first one month saying, "you have to wade through the cricket to get to the Chekhov and the Roddy Doyle." You still may not have an urge to either read Smith's book or sit through a cricket match, but you will love what Hornby has to say about both.

Hornby has diverse reading tastes, as his inclusion of both a book about cricket and Anton Chekhov's “A Life in Letters” might suggest. He reads older books by the likes of Charles Dickens, Leo Tolstoy, Wilkie Collins and John Buchan, as well as contemporary ones. Sometimes he goes on a binge, such as a month devoted to J.D. Salinger or another to Dennis Lehane. Mostly he seems to just pick up books at random, some recent purchases and some he has had on his shelves for awhile.

What confuses me is that as a writer of a popular book review column, publishers must send him loads of books they would like for him to comment on, yet there is little mention of this. Each month he just lists those books he has purchased. sometimes even explaining where and how he purchased them. So what happens to all those unsolicited books that come in the mail? ( )
  hardlyhardy | Jul 18, 2018 |
Simultaneously hilarious, smart, & outdated, this collection of reviews, musings, discursions & misguided love of the Arsenal (football club) kept me laughing, marking passages & reading aloud to entertain/annoy my grateful household. ( )
  msmilton | Jul 18, 2018 |
Simultaneously hilarious, smart, & outdated, this collection of reviews, musings, discursions & misguided love of the Arsenal (football club) kept me laughing, marking passages & reading aloud to entertain/annoy my grateful household. ( )
  msmilton | Jul 18, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 64 (next | show all)
Taken in their intended periodic doses, these essays would be simultaneously entertaining and enriching – no small feat, that. Collected, they're still breezy and thought-provoking, but read at once they show Hornby struggling with great seriousness between an Arsenal match, The Fortress of Solitude, and going down to the pub: a dilemma welcomed by, say, Kentucky coal miners or single mothers working retail.
Hornby is just humble enough that you cannot hate or resent him, yet authoritative enough that you still retain some reason to respect and be interested in his opinion on books. That in itself is not a feat many writers could pull off so elegantly, if at all.
added by stephmo | editPopMatters, Nicholas Taylor (Feb 1, 2005)
This is not a collection of book reviews, but a reading diary of sharp and thoughtful musings on literature that ultimately asks: Why do we read, anyway?
added by stephmo | editBoston Globe, Carol Iaciofano (Jan 19, 2005)
Edible poems. The liabilities of blurbs. Books that haunt us and taunt us and keep us up half the night. "The Polysyllabic Spree" is a journey as rich and varied as the world of literature itself, with Hornby perfectly cast as both tour guide and host.
What's most valuable about this collection, though, is that Hornby, by dint of his sensibility and the variety of his choices, shows that the distinction still made between reading for the sake of "enrichment" (as that gasbag Harold Bloom insists upon) and reading for pleasure is a phony divide.
added by stephmo | editSalon.com, Charles Taylor (Dec 9, 2004)
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To Dave and Vendela
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So this is supposed to be about the how, and when, and why, and what of reading -- about the way that, when reading is going well, one book leads to another and to another, a paper trail of theme and meaning and how, when it's going badly, when books don't stick or take, when your mood and the mood of the book are fighting like cats, you'd rather do anything but attempt the next paragraph, or reread the last one for the tenth time.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Do not combine this work with ‘The Complete Polysyllabic Spree’, which is a British edition that also contains ‘Housekeeping vs The Dirt’.
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