STUFF I’VE BEEN READING

A MONTHLY COLUMN

by Nick Hornby

BOOKS BOUGHT:

  • Jesus Land: A Memoir—Julia Scheeres
  • This Is Your Brain on Music: The Science of a Human Obsession—Daniel J. Levitin
  • Feed—M. T. Anderson
  • The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2007
  • The Best American Comics 2007

BOOKS READ:

  • The Ghost—Robert Harris
  • The Pigman—Paul Zindel
  • X Saves the World: How Generation X Got the Shaft but Can Still Keep Everything from Sucking—Jeff Gordinier
  • The Abstinence Teacher—Tom Perrotta

I have recently spent two weeks traveling around your country—if your country is the one with the crazy time zones and the constant television advertisements for erectile dysfunction cures—on a fact-finding mission for this magazine: the Polysyllabic Spree, the forty-seven literature-loving, unnervingly even-tempered yet unsmiling young men and women who remove all the good jokes from this column every month, came to the conclusion that I am no longer in touch with American reading habits, and sent me on an admittedly enlightening tour of airport bookshops. This is how I know that your favorite writer is not Cormac McCarthy, nor even David Foster Wallace, but someone called Joel Osteen, who may even be a member of the Spree, for all I know: he has the same perfect teeth, and the same belief in the perfectibility of man through the agency of Jesus Christ our savior. Osteen was on TV every time I turned it on—thank heaven for the adult pay-per-view channels!—and his book Become a Better You was everywhere. I suppose I’ll have to read it now, if only to find out what you are all thinking.

True story: I saw one person, an attractive thirtysomething woman, actually buy the book, in the bookstore at the George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston, Texas, and, perhaps significantly, she was weeping as she did so. She ran in, tears streaming down her face and muttering to herself, and went straight to the nonfiction hardback bestsellers display. Your guess is as good as mine. I am almost certain that a feckless man was to blame (I suspect that she had been dumped somewhere between gates D15 and D17) and indeed that feckless American men are generally responsible for the popularity of Christianity in the United States. In England, interestingly, the men are not in the least bit feckless—and, as a result, we are an almost entirely godless nation, and Joel Osteen is never on our televisions.

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 lives in North London. His most recent book is Slam, a novel for young adults.


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