Over the last couple of years, I've read all of Nick Hornby's old column from The Believer, which were collected into three volumes--The Polysyllabic Spree, Housekeeping Vs. The Dirt, and Shakespeare Wrote for Money--and published by McSweeney's Press. The premise of the column, "Stuff I've Been Reading," was pretty simple. Each month, Hornby would start with two lists: Books Bought, and Books Read. Sometimes he read books he didn't buy. (He was often given advance copies by publishers.) Sometimes he bought books he didn't read. (Because, in the end, he's human like the rest of us.) Sometimes he read books he'd bought in previous months. (You get the point.) He'd follow his lists with a brief column, which generally would summarize how he came to know and/or possess the books he read and wax editorial about the ones he liked. There was usually some mention of other things going on in his life each month.
Sounds pretty boring, but I don't do it justice. Hornby is funny and entertaining. Easy to read. In fact, since reading his columns, I've also now read almost all of his other books. Here's why these columns are a great read:
- Hornby reads a wide variety of genres, authors, etc., just like everyone else.
- He often overestimates how many books he can consume in a month, just like everyone else.
- He sometimes abandons a book, just like everyone else.
- He sometimes goes for a month without reading anything at all, just like everyone else.
- Most importantly, he turned me on to some books I never would have come across or given a chance otherwise. Sometimes I've been really impressed by books he's endorsed. Sometimes not.
- Every month, I will create a post with 3 lists:
- Books Wanted, i.e., I've read a review, had recommended to me, etc.
- Books Bought, i.e., I paid money for and took possession.
- Books Read, i.e., I read enough of this book to bear mentioning.
- Beyond that, I commit to nothing. But I hope for more.
- If I decide that I have something to say about a book or books I read, I'll post that.
- If I find something that seems related to the book or books I've been reading, I'll post that.
- If this gets me on some sort of other writing kick, I might post some of that, too.
- Also, I'm including links to all magazines I subscribe to, any blogs I read regularly, and the websites I frequent for news (in no particular order).