Sunday, January 23, 2011

The Polysyllabic Spree by Nick Hornby

The Polysyllabic SpreeTitle: The Polysyllabic Spree
Author: Nick Hornby
Pages: 143
Published: 2004 McSweeney's
My Rating: 3.5 stars

Subtitled: A Hilarious and True Account of One Man's Struggle with the Monthly Tide of the Books He's Bought and the Books He's Been Meaning to Read

If you've ever read Nick Hornby, you know that he keeps you smiling.  This is the second book of his I've read, but I know it won't be the last.  I've noticed that his books grow on me over time.  Usually my feelings about a book are solidified within a day or two after reading it, but this has not been the case with Hornby.  The smiles and laughs stick in my head, and the fatalistic perspective evaporates.  Unlike High Fidelity (the first book of his I read) The Polysyllabic Spree is Nonfiction.  It is a collection of essays originally published in the Believer magazine in which Hornby talks about the reading life.

Each chapter begins with two lists: the books that he bought in that month, and the books that he read in that month.  Then he proceeds to chat about his months in books.  I love his attitude about buying books:
I don't want anyone writing to point out that I spend too much money on books, many of which I will never read.  I know that already.  I certainly intend to read all of them, more or less.  My intentions are good.  Anyway, it's my money.  And I'll bet you do it too.
This is a book about  books.  And it's funny.  And it's quick to read.  That's about all you need to know to decide whether you should read it or not.  The reason I ended up only giving it 3.5 stars is because I was frustrated that I hadn't heard of more of the books/authors he mentioned, which I attributed to the fact that he's in England and I'm way over here in California.  But, like I said, the longer it has been since closing the covers, the more it is growing on me.


  1. Oh, I completely agree! I like Hornby's fiction very well, but I'm completely drawn in to his essays written for the Believer. Very bookish!

  2. This sounds terrific! I've read High Fidelity (loved it) and About a Boy (really liked it--just not quite as good as HF). Were the books he read old classics or contemporary British lit? I'd be frustrated too if I'd never heard of any of them :/

  3. I've read some of his books and loved every one I read. It's been a yr and a half since I've got my hands on him, and I think this will be my next read, since I know exactly how he feels! Too many books, so little time!

  4. I love Nick Hornby and can't wait to read this book. I'm British so hopefully I'll be able to keep up with most of the references.

  5. This was my first Hornby (it's on the Rory list) and I really liked it, although I think I would have enjoyed in more in the original form rather than read consecutively, it made my wishlist a fair bit longer though, I had to carry around a notebook when I was reading it!

    My review is here

  6. As the Crowe Flies and Reads, it was very bookish indeed! Fun reading, almost like book blogs.

    Teacher/Learner, The books he read were really a wide range, old stuff and current stuff, fiction and nonfiction, which was really nice. It was the current releases that I hadn't heard of. I loved seeing all the books he bought--I've been trying to restrain myself lately, so it had me drooling.

    Jenny, It isn't a matter of if I'll read him again, but when and what. This was a nice little peak into an author's reading life, seems we don't get to hear about that very often.

    Sam, get your hands on a copy! I'd think that you probably would be familiar with more of the authors/books mentioned than I was. Either way it makes for fun reading.

    lucybird, thanks for linking your review! I agree that the amount of information he gave was sometimes just. not. enough! I didn't add a lot of books to my wishlist, only because I was feeling that it was already overburdened, although I'm definitely keeping it around for future reference.

  7. It sounds good!
    I know I have one of his novels on my shelves, but I can't remember which one... Shame!

  8. Sounds excellent! I like Nick Hornby and I love books about books. What a combination!

  9. I really liked that I ENJOYED the book without having actually read all of the books he discussed. Shows what a fantastic writer he truly is!


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