Book 11 – 31 Songs

Book – 31 Songs
Author – Nick Hornby
Year – 2002
Genre – Music
Pages – 2004

I am a big fan of Nick Hornby.  I have read all of his novels, and I thought it would be a great idea to go through and read the non-fiction books that he has done.  I remember this book coming out many years ago, and thinking what a great idea for a book it was.  Hornby has taken thirty-one songs that he loves or has loved, and has written about the music, and why it matters to him.

I chose to go through this book with YouTube open, listening to each of the tracks as I read about them.  From this I heard some great new songs – Ian Drury and the Blockheads’ Reasons To Be Cheerful Part Three is the first that springs to mind – and heard some songs I love that I haven’t heard for a long time – Badly Drawn Boy and Ben Folds Five are two that I have listened to a lot in the past, but haven’t heard for some time.  With so much music out there it is nice to be directed to some things that someone loves, and whilst this usually comes in the form of advice from friends, I have no objection to it being from a world famous author with a known love of music behind him.

The problem with the book itself, is that it tends towards being incredibly self indulgent.  Nick Hornby knows a lot about music.  He likes old rock music, but goes to great pains to show that he is not shallow – including songs such as Nelly Furtado’s I’m Like A Bird – but unfortunately then spends a lot of time talking about ‘proper music’ and ‘real musicians’.  Riffing on the splendour of a particular riff for two pages is massively unnecessary to probably anyone except for the artist he is reviewing themselves, and some of the entries become absolutely dull.

The bright spots come instead from the moments when he talks about his life, and in particular the entry that he writes about A Minor Incident by Badly Drawn Boy, which was written for the soundtrack to the film version of his book About A Boy, but Hornby finds when he listens to it, that it says everything that he has ever wanted to say about his autistic son Danny.  It is a genuine and open moment, and is actually very moving.  If there were more of these in the book, then it may have become a must read, as opposed to being more of a book that I am only particularly pleased to have read in order to complete my Nick Hornby collection.


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