The Polysyllabic Spree - Nick Hornby I had never read anything by Nick Hornby before picking up his slim volume of collected articles from Believer magazine, enticingly titled The Polysyllabic Spree. I’ve never even seen the movies based on his work, and I was employed by a video rental store for five years. After reading this, I’m a little sad that I haven’t given him a chance before this; Hornby is a highly accessible and entertaining writer, even when doing something as simple as keeping a monthly record of his reading habits.

It’s fortunate for Hornby that he is so accessible, as this is a complaint he touches on with some frequency in regards to other writers and critics. He is a “reader of the masses,” the kind of guy that would like to eliminate all of the pretentious nonsense that turns the average person away from reading. I like him for this, since most professional critics and reviewers try so hard to present themselves as the arbiters of good taste, who read in a vacuum and pass their judgment from on high.

Basically, this book was an entertaining little compilation of reviews tinged with autobiography and social commentary. There were some reviews that were rather pointless, as they didn’t receive enough space to convey much, but there were others that made me throw the book aside and scramble for a bit of paper to scrawl titles for future reference. His identification of himself by the books he has read/bought has to hit home with anyone that loves to read, and the fact that he is able to integrate his reading life into his real life makes his writing very enjoyable, even when his "Polysyllabic Spree*" joke starts to wear a little thin.

I think I knew that Hornby was going to be my kind of guy after the first few articles. You see, each entry is preceded by a list of the books he has purchased and the books read each month, and these lists almost never sync up. It is obvious very early on that he has been accumulating a decently sized collection of books that will probably never be read, and I’m not ashamed to admit that I am in the process of doing the same thing.

(*The Polysyllabic Spree is the name Hornby has given the folks that run Believer magazine, in reference to that weird band Polyphonic Spree that had way too many members that all looked like rejects from Jonestown. You'll have to read the book to understand why this is both funny and a bit irritating).