nick hornby

Taking stock of my reading pile

Of late, I have been very, very lucky, to have been given the chance to read a whole bunch of new novels, some of them even a bit earlier than the general public (I love a pre-release). It’s a bit of dream come true for me, I’ll admit, and I often find myself looking wistfully at my varied and growing reading pile.

I thought you might be interested in a little sneak peak at what I’m reading at the moment…


Firstly, there’s Makeda, by Prue Sobers. This is technically on my ‘have read’ pile now as I’ve actually just finished this luscious novel and its story of the beautiful and spirited Makeda, the Queen of Sheba. I was also lucky enough to have a chance to chat to Prue herself, to find out a little more about this meticulously constructed adventure. I’m looking forward to posting my review and author-interview this coming week. You can pick up your own copy of Makeda here…

Next, is my re-read of Nick Hornby’s High Fidelity. I stayed up far too late the other night reading this moving, humorous, and nostalgic novel.

As you know, from my review last week, it’s one my absolute favourites, and this read-through has been nothing less the fantastic.

We’re about to start our chat about this book over at the TBYL Book Club, this coming Monday.

The book I’ve been reading this weekend is a saucy little book called Putting Alice Back Together, by Carol Marinelli. It’s just been released this month by Mira and it’s quite compelling. Alice is a challenging character, not always likeable, but always identifiable.  This is a story of coping, of romance, and about what it is to ask the Universe to just cut you a break. I’m really enjoying it, and am looking forward to chatting with Carol next week. If this book sounds like your cup of tea, you might like to enter this great competition being run now by Harlequin.

Next on the list is Jodi Picoult’s newest novel, Lone Wolf (Allen and Unwin). Believe it or not, this will be my first Picoult read, and I’m looking forward to it. This novel sounds intriguing, and pretty dark: “Edward Warren, twenty-four, has been living in Thailand for five years, a prodigal son who left his family after an irreparable fight with his father, Luke. But he gets a frantic phone call: his dad lies comatose, gravely injured in the same accident that has also injured his younger sister Cara.” From what I know of Picoult, this novel sounds like it will be to her usual form, and I can’t wait to take a look.

A book that I started to read last month, but had to put down to skip to a couple of other titles, is The Forgotten Land, by Keith Mcardle.

I really must get back to this, because I was having a ball. It’s all kinds of action, military, sci-fi and time-travel to boot.

I can’t wait to get back to find out what happens to Sergeant Steve Golburn and his patrol in this other worldly adventure.

One of the most recent books that I’ve received is Mary Bennet, by Jennifer Paynter (Penguin). I don’t know a lot about this book yet, except to say that it’s a retelling of the classic Pride and Prejudice: “Mary Bennet has been long overshadowed by the beauty and charm of her older sisters, Jane and Elizabeth, and by the forwardness and cheek of her younger sisters, Kitty and Lydia. From her post in the wings of the Bennet family, Mary now watches as Mr Bingley and Mr Darcy – and Mr Wickham – glide into her sisters’ lives. While she can view these three gentlemen quite dispassionately (and, as it turns out, accurately), can she be equally clear-sighted when she finally falls in love herself?” I’m thinking this might make a good book club book…

Lastly, is a brand new book for the reading pile, one that I picked up from the post office this morning. It’s Kyo Maclear’s A Thousand Tiny Truths (Pan Macmillan) and I’m bracing myself for a troubling but ultimately hopeful tale.

It would seem that this story has a bit of everything, adultery, questions of race and heritage, and an investigation into what it is to be cared for, and to care for others.  Due to be released in April, I’ll be reviewing this shortly.


As you can see, it’s a big reading pile, and a stunning one. Is it any wonder that I take a little look at it each time I walk by? Maybe this’ll give you a few reading ideas? And if all else fails, don’t forget next month’s TBYL Book Club book, Mateship with Birds by Carrie Tiffany – I’d love for you to join us. You can pick up a copy here if you want to join in (I hope you do!)

What are you reading at the moment? Any of these tickle your fancy?

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My Monday: Gotta love a Top 5!

As I get older, I find myself getting more and more nostalgic, particularly for the delightfully grungy 1990s – the music, the films, the company.

My teen years, although not incredibly extreme, were appropriately melancholy and a little bit rock ‘n’ roll, complete with band rehearsals, favourite record stores and many mixed tapes.

Given this, I’m sure it’s no mystery to any one why Nick Hornby’s High Fidelity is one of my favourite novels. Shelfishly, I’ve set it as this month’s TBYL Book Club book, firstly because it’ll give me an excuse to re-read it; but mainly because I want to hear what other people think about it.

“…the brilliant story of one man’s journey of self-discovery. When Rob – a thirty-five year old record shop owner and music obsessive – is dumped by Laura he indulges in some casual sex, a little light stalking and some extreme soul-searching in the form of contacting every ex-girlfriend who ever broke his heart.”

The novel starts with a recollective top 5 most memorable split-ups and through this list of five names and subsequent anecdotes we are introduced to Rob, to his current predicament, to his somewhat reluctant soul-searching and his valiant attempt at romantic resilience and disconnectedness.

“These were the ones that really hurt. Can you see your name in that lot, Laura? I reckon you’d sneak into the top ten, but there’s no place for you in the top five; those places are reserved for the kind of humiliations and heartbreaks that you’re just not capable of delivering. That probably sounds crueller than it is meant to, but the fact is that we’re too old to make each other miserable, and that’s a good thing, not a bad thing, so don’t take your failutre to make the list personally. Those days are gone, and good fucking riddance to them; unhappiness really meant something back them. Now it’s just a drag, like a cold or having no money. If you really wanted to mess me up, you should have got to me earlier.”

Interestingly, to me, it’s this typical Gen-X ambivalence that makes Rob so intriguing, appealing and ultimately very likeable. He may be a bit hopeless, but hey, hopelessness kind of goes with the territory when you’re a guy like Rob, in a time like this.

I love the story of High Fidelity, the romance, the break-ups, the crazy, cartoonish characters. I love that we get to see Rob work through a process, a transformative period of time where he learns about his heart, his ambitions (once thought dead and gone) and about the people around him. For anyone who’s ever made hard choices, surprising discoveries and difficult changes, you’ll identify with this story.

But, more than just for the story, I love this book for it’s time and place. I find its setting and context completely transportative:

“The shop smells of stale smoke, damp, and plastic dust-covers, and it’s narrow and dingy and dirty and overcrowded, partly because that’s what I wanted…”

The constant references to albums, artists and songs will keep me very busy, as I plan on setting up a playlist as I re-read the book this time.

At the risk of courting controversy, I’m also going to do one other thing while I read. I’m going to re-watch the movie…


Whilst it’s not exactly true to the novel, and being set in the US instead of the UK was a strange choice, it is a film that I enjoyed in it’s own right. Although it is differnet to the book in many ways, I still think it captures the ‘spirit’ of the story, and is quite true to the time, if not necessarily to place. Plus, I’ll admit that I very much like John Cusack…

I’m so looking forward to finding out what everyone else thinks about this funny, touching and irreverent novel at the Book Club this month. Feel free to join us!

Buy your own copy of High Fidelity, for just $9.95 at the TBYL Store!
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Time flies…

It’s just occurred to me that it’s Friday…

Not only that, but on looking back on the week, I realise now that I’ve had no time to post. Oh dear. Gladly though, this has largely been because I’ve been very busy attending Galas, reading into the wee hours and meeting authors (and making plans to meet more). As a result of all of these activities, it’s my intention to bring you a whole stack of interesting articles over the next couple of weeks…

So you better clean your reading glasses, I’m comin’ your way!

In the meantime, I’m really excited to be able to announce the novel for March’s TBYL Book Club. It’s something a little lighter this month, and should be good for both laughs and discussions. It’s Nick Hornby’s High Fidelity:

It’s a brilliant story of one man’s journey of self-discovery. When Rob – a thirty-five-year old record shop owner and music obessive – is dumpted by Laura he indiulges in some casual sex, a little light stalking and some extreme soul-searching in the form of contacting every ex-girlfriend who ever broke his heart. An instant classic, High Fidelity is a hilarious exploration of love, life, music and the modern male.

Remember, it’s free to join the club, and if you’d like to buy a copy of the book, I’ve got them in The Store for just $9.95.

We’re gearing up for this month’s catch-up to discuss Emma Donoghue’s Room. Discussions kick off on the 27.2.12 and will run for the week – I hope you’ll join us. Read the review || Buy the Book

Finally, you might have noticed me carrying on our Facebook page this week about an amazing opportunity that has presented itself. I’m extremely excited at having been invited to meet-and-greet with Alain de Botton this weekend. This special event, arranged by Penguin Australia, will be an incredible chance to hear from the author of titles such as The Consolations of Philosophy and The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work. I’ll be getting a copy of his new book Religion for Atheists this weekend, and I’ll be sure to review it post-haste.

Plenty of fun to be had in TBYL-world…I hope you’ll join in!

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A little bit of luck, with a dash of guilt

I’ve got to admit…I feel a little bit dirty, at the very least, a little bit cheap.

I gave in to temptation today and went and had a look at one of those book clearance places, not really expecting to find myself anything of much interest. To my surprise, I walked out with a large armful of novels.

Most of these titles are a few years old now but I’ve not read any of them, so I’m happy to add them to the collection pretty cheaply.  I’m especially excited about Laura Esquivel’s novel (kisses and hugs in store I’m sure)  and the preface to Alex Garland’s Coma is pretty frightening. Overall, I think this is a pretty eclectic mix of titles, but I’m looking forward to each one.

Anyone want to pick which one I should read first?

The beat of my heart

Romance stories can be about love, about imagination, and about washed-up rock stars.

I had an echocardiogram a couple of days ago, just to make sure that my heart was still beating…rest assured it is, a relief to be sure.

The scan, along with the fact that Valentines Day is being flogged a bit at the moment, got me thinking about the more romantic titles I’ve read over the years.

It’s actually been a while since I’ve read anything very concerned with matters of the heart, but here are a couple of favourites that found their way off my bookshelf most recently.

Juliet, Naked, by Nick Hornby

Hornby is really good at this kind of story.  He’s stories are essentially about relationships, but the contexts that he sets them in are unique and engaging, making his novels about much more than just romance.  I’m thinking particularly of High Fidelity and About a Boy…it’s really easy to engage with the characters and identify with the situations (particularly for us X-Gens) and the search for romance is only part of the appeal.  Hunting for love tends to link closely to hunting for a better understanding of themselves. Juliet Naked is no exception, and I found it even easier to get hooked into this story, thanks to its female protagonist – Annie.  It’s a story of a romance, but it’s so very innocent and conservative, very much like Annie herself.

This novel seems to me to be more about imagined relationships than actual ones. Duncan’s obsession with Tucker, Tuckers’ fabled love-triangle with Julie Beatty, and finally Annie’s crush on Tucker.  It’s when these relationships become real that they loose some of their appeal.  A very nice ditty, this one.

Lady Chatterley’s Lover, by D.H. Lawrence
Oo-ah, bit naughty!  A little snobby I know, but I really have to admit to this being one of my favourites.  It’s an absolute classic, and a blueprint for so many romances hereafter.  And it’s more than a little bit naughty as far as classic literature goes.

The most obvious observations would be around the themes of discontent, passion, so on and so forth.  I think though the element that I like the most is the fact that Connie is so inclined to throw caution to the wind.

It is perhaps a little bit of a shame that the tale itself has been a little over simplified in screen adaptations (just Google-search images for Lady Chatterley’s Lover and you’ll see what I mean).  Nonetheless, it’s a beautifully written novel, and a compelling tale from start to end.

Nice Work
, by David Lodge
Now,  some might argue that it’s not really a romance, but at the end of the day that’s the part of the story that stood out for me so I’m going to list it.

At first I didn’t want to read this book.  I had to read it for Uni and I found the description not at all tempting.  So, I was pleasantly surprised to find that the story of academic Robyn Penrose, and engineer Vic Wilcox was quite fascinating.  Even now, I’m surprised by how often this book comes to mind.  Perhaps it’s because the unlikely affair between Robyn and Vic is somewhat synonymous with the unlikely balance we all have to find day-to-day…often we work outside our interests, we do chores well outside our passions, and we have to get along with people who are well and truly of a different ilk to us.  As unfamiliar as Robyn and Vic’s worlds are to each other, I’d think that this type of scenario is familiar to many readers.  At the end of the day this unsettled, unsettling and short-lived union between two different worlds works very nicely as a romance story.  Lovely.

If you’re interested, David Lodge spoke to BBC World Service about his novel – quite interesting actually.  Check it out here if you’re keen… David Lodge Podcast

Read any lovely love stories?