STUFF I’VE BEEN READING

A MONTHLY COLUMN

by Nick Hornby

BOOKS BOUGHT:

  • Prayers for Rain—Dennis Lehane
  • Mystic River—Dennis Lehane
  • Jesse James: Last Rebel of the Civil War—T. J. Stiles
  • The Line of Beauty—Alan Holllinghurst
  • Like a Fiery Elephant—Jonathan Coe

BOOKS READ:

  • Prayers for Rain—Dennis Lehane
  • Mystic River—Dennis Lehane
  • Like a Fiery Elephant—Jonathan Coe

Shortly after I submitted my copy for last month’s column, my third son was born. I mention his arrival not because I’m after your good wishes or your sympathy, but because reading is a domestic activity, and is therefore susceptible to any changes in the domestic environment. And though it’s true that the baby is responsible for everything I read this month, just about, he’s been subtle about it: he hasn’t made me any more moronic than I was before, and he certainly hasn’t prevented me from reading. He could argue, in fact, that he has actually encouraged reading in our household, through his insistence on the increased consciousness of his parents. (Hey—if you lot are all so brainy and so serious about books, how come you’re still using contraception?)

Shortly after the birth of a son, I panic that I will never be able to visit a bookshop again, and that therefore any opportunity I have to buy printed matter should be exploited immediately. Jesse (and yes, the T. J. Stiles bio was bought as a tribute) was born shortly before 7 a.m.; three or four hours later I was in a newsagents’, and I saw a small selection of best-selling paperbacks. There wasn’t an awful lot there that I wanted, to be honest; but because of the consumer fear, something had to be bought, right there and then, just in case, and I vaguely remembered reading something good about Dennis Lehane’s Mystic River. Well, the shop didn’t have a copy of Mystic River, but they did have another Dennis Lehane book, Prayers for Rain: that would have to do. Never mind that, as regular readers of this column know, I have over the last few months bought several hundred books I haven’t yet read. And never mind that, as it turned out, I found myself passing a bookshop the very next day, and the day after that (because what else is there to do with a new baby, other than mooch around bookshops with him?), and was thus able to buy Mystic River. I didn’t know for sure I’d ever go to a bookshop again; and if I never went to a bookshop again, how long were those several hundred books going to last me? Nine or ten years at the most. No, I needed that copy of Prayers for Rain, just to be on the safe side.

We hope you enjoy this excerpt.

To read the full piece, please purchase a copy of the magazine from The McSweeney’s Store.

Nick Hornby is the author of five books, most recently Songbook. He lives in north London.

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