Written by: Nick Hornby
Paperback: 207 pages
Publisher: Riverhead Trade
October 2003, $14.99
Genre: Non Fiction/Essays
"All I have to say about these songs is that I love them, and want to sing along to them, and force other people to listen to them, and get cross when these other people don't like them as much as I do"
What interests Nick Hornby? Songs, songwriters, everything, compulsively, passionately. Here is his ultimate list of 31 all-time favorite songs. And here are his smart, funny, and very personal essays about them, written with all the love and care of a perfectly mastered mixed tape...
“A couple of times a year I make myself a tape to play in the car, a tape full of all the new songs I’ve loved over the previous few months, and every time I finish one I can’t believe that there’ll be another. Yet there always is, and I can’t wait for the next one; you only need a few hundred more things like that, and you’ve got a life worth living.” — Nick Hornby
As a pop-culture geektress I am a big fan of music. FOr a very long time I have been of the firm belief that there is a song for every moment and every occasion. I am fairly eclectic in my tastes and my musical library consists of everything from Bowie to the Beatles, Aimee Mann to Patsy Cline and Muse to Puscifer. Always heavy in rotation are soundtracks because I love scores and also because there us usually a nice variety of tunage within a soundtrack. I also rely heavily on other people’s mixes that are given to me as most radio stations just play the same music over and over again and here in Bozeman even the college station doesn't play my usual tunage.
I always find it interesting discovering another person’s musical tastes, what songs move them, and what musical genres they abhor. i am one of those people that look on itunes for the celebrity playlists as I am always curious to see what they love. And often I have found at least one or two artists or songs that I cannot live without. I know in my own life there were and still are songs that make me think, songs that take me straight back to a particular time and place, and songs that have helped me through a certain stage in my life. Music like my books have been a constant companion and I think that I would be a little lost without it. Even now as I write this post I have itunes dj playing in the background (I’ll post the soundtrack at the end)
Now Nick Hornby wrote a book that has music at its forefront: High Fidelity. Its one of my favorite books and despite the differences one of my fave films as well. Songbook is a collection of essays on 31 songs and 15 albums. The topics range from Nelly Furtado and pop music, to Los Lobos, Aimee Mann and the Boss himself. Now these aren’t reviews of albums, though admittedly sometimes that happens, it’s Hornby’s celebration of music and how each song and each album has affected his life.
Things I loved: As I have said before I am a huge Nick Hornby fan from his books to his collaborations with Ben Folds in the music industry (love ‘From Above’). McSweeney’s commissioned Hornby to write about his favorite songs and that is exactly what he did. It isn't about music criticism and he is hardly the elitist snobs that are in High Fidelity when it comes to music. Its personal and he talks about his career and even his autistic son (the reason why Gregory Isaacs’ reggae cover of Puff the Magic Dragon is so important is one of the best in here). He also talks about inspiration for High Fidelity, why pop songs aren’t the devil and how music has changed over the years. While I wasn't familiar with all the artists when I was done, I went and looked them up and am glad I did. Whether he meant to or not, it was a bit like Nick Hornby’s mixtape to me.
I also understand how music can spur you. How one song can make you want to run or create or just sit down for some much needed me time. I understand how you want music to change the world and how newer bands with fabricated everything are a bit annoying. And I also understand how sometimes a song fits you so perfectly you wonder if the artist wrote it just for you. “…mostly all I have to say about these songs is that I love them, and want to sing along with them, and force other people to listen to them, and get cross when these other people don’t like them as much as I do.” Isn't this what we all do?
Things I didn't love so much: There wasn't much I didn't like about this collection of essays. While I didn't always agree with his musical loves or even some of his exploration on music, that is to be expected. I know there are quite a few people who would look at my musical collection and scratch their heads. That is the great thing about music, there is a lot of it out there and there is something for everyone.
In the end it wasn't the best thing I have read in the past year or the past decade. This is not because it was poorly written or I didn't enjoy the subject matter, but didn't capture me completely which is ok. It’s not a book that is headed to the library or the Used Book Barn, but for me something was missing to make it truly awesome. I did get some insight into one of my favorite authors and picked up some music in the end as well. So there is that.
Buy or Borrow: Buy. If you are a music fan and also one of Hornbys...its worth picking up.
Part of: Standalone.
Also Recommended: I would recommend High Fidelity also by Hornby.
3.5 out of 4 happy bibliosnark bookmarks
The Soundtrack for this Post: Barely Listening by Pilot Speed , Live and Let Die by Duffy, Touched by Vast, Release the Stars by Rufus Wainwright, Spider pig by Hans Zimmer (from the Simpsons movie) and Your Protector by Fleet Foxes. (ooh I may have to do this now...my mix-tapes to all of you)