An Open Letter to Nick Hornby

Dear Nick,

I'm sure I'm not the first to behave as though I know you personally just because I've spent the last few weeks reading all the "Stuff I've Been Reading" columns from The Believer magazine, so I'm not going to apologize for addressing you as Nick. It's your name, after all.

Here's the thing, Nick. I added The Polysyllabic Spree and More Baths Less Talking to my Amazon.com wishlist December 5, 2012. I know because Amazon keeps track of such things for me. On February 3, 2015, I ordered these two - plus Housekeeping vs The Dirt and Shakespeare Wrote for Money and (because I couldn't bear to not own all the words) Ten Years in the Tub. If these books hadn't been so ridiculously entertaining, you would have owed me an apology. Instead, I need to ask your forgiveness.

Forgive me, please, for waiting so long to read your work. Forgive me, too, for not yet reading any of your fiction. Or watching any of your movies. I do have Lonely Avenue, but that might have more to do with Ben Folds than you. Sorry.

Forgive me for ripping off your monthly reflection idea for my blog. I promise it won't compete for your Believer readers. Or any other readers, really.

I have a list, Nick. It's called Books Nick Hornby Thinks I Should Read. Really. Here it is:
The Fortress of Solitude by Jonathan Lethem
Moneyball by Michael Lewis
George and Sam: Autism in the Family by Charlotte Moore
Clockers by Richard Price
True Notebooks: A Writer's Year at Juvenile Hall by Mark Salzman
Random Family: Love, Drugs, Trouble, and Coming of Age in the Bronx by Adrian Nicole LeBlanc
David Copperfield by Charles Dickens
Mystic River by Dennis Lehane
We're in Trouble by Chris Coake
Tony Hoagland's poetry
How to Live: Or, a Life of Montaigne in One Question and 20 Attempts at an Answer: Sarah Bakewell
The Broken Word by Adam Foulds
Book of Days by Emily Fox Gordon
The Conversations: Walter Murch and the Art of Editing Film by Michael Ondaatje
Skellig by David Almond
Imagine: How Creativity Works by Jonah Lehrer
Unapologetic: Why, Despite Everything, Christianity Can Still Make Surprising Emotional Sense by Francis Spufford
The Interrogative Mood by Padgett Powell
I have chosen to exclude from The List those titles or authors I already wanted to read. You don't get to take credit just for increasing my interest in something. That wouldn't be fair.

I've ordered Moneyball (it arrived today) and asked the library to buy The Conversations. The rest are going to take some time, Nick. I can't afford you. But I can thank you.

Thanks for articulating such an understated evangelism for the books you've read. Thanks for agreeing with me on almost all the books we've both read (we depart on Junot Diaz) and for challenging me with books I probably won't ever read and for getting me to read books I really should read. About film reviewer Pauline Kael, you write, "But I loved her energy, her enthusiasm, her informality and her colloquialisms, her distrust of phoniness, even before I realized that these were qualities I wanted to steal from her." Would you accept a ditto?

One last thing, Nick. You write glowingly about Mohsin Hamid's How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia and conclude with this beautiful sentence:
If you can boil an entire life down to its essence, without losing any of the detail, shape, pain, or joy of that life, then it seems to me that you've done pretty much everything a novel is capable of doing. (Ten Years in the Tub 462)
It might also be true of a magazine column on the reading life. Here's to 10 more years.



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