Lately I’ve been over critical of my life. I mean, what normal person spends so much time reading and obsessing over book lists and planning their book purchases? But then I read Nick Hornby’s The Polysyllabic Spree. Within it’s 143 pages, I found all the self-justification I could ever want, because Hornby shares my love of literature. In a series of essays written for a literary magazine, the author begins by sharing a list of books he’s purchased that month and then goes on to list and discuss the books he actually read that month.
It’s much like sitting down for coffee with a good friend, a kindred book spirit, and listening to him critique the books he’s read, justify the books he hasn’t, and all the while making you laugh out loud, nodding while saying “Yes! I feel the same way!”
I commiserated with his frustration at not remembering books he’s read, and at falsely remembering books he thought he read but actually hadn’t. When he talked about his four hundred plus books sitting on his shelves still unread, I envisioned my own packed bookshelves, spilling out onto makeshift bookshelves (okay, I won’t buy another book that I haven’t room for…but ooh, this book is available on the Kindle today for the great price of only $1.99! Never mind that I prefer physical books…)
But I love books and I love reading. It’s who I am, and as Nick Hornby said: “all the books we own, both read and unread, are the fullest expression of self we have at our disposal.” I now feel somewhat justified at my book-buying habits, because it’s how I express myself – it’s my art, and thanks to Hornby, I can embrace it.
4 stars (out of 5)
Published in 2004