November in Review

Books Acquired:

Books Read:
A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms by George R.R. Martin
In a Sunburned Country by Bill Bryson
The Magician’s Nephew by C.S. Lewis
A House of Pomegranates by Oscar Wilde
Without Feathers by Woody Allen

A couple of the books I picked up to read this month were to finish up the 2015 TBR Pile Challenge, which I was lagging behind on a bit. I’m currently in the middle of Stephen Fry in America, which will finish that off. I’ve decided to only go for nine of my classic picks for the Back to the Classics Challenge this year, so I’ll be finishing that up pretty quickly as well.

Nothing too exciting this month. I was sick for a good chunk of it, but we did get out to see Billy Connolly’s latest stand up tour. He was hilarious as always. With the Parkinson’s disease, he can’t really jump around on stage the way he used to in his act, so his delivery is less aggressive. It must be odd having to completely change your delivery style after doing it for so long, but it’s clearly working because he was still great. I think every Scottish person in town was there. Very few Canadian accents in the crowd that night.

Movies watched:
The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993) – My girlfriend hadn’t watched this before and we had recently gone through the haunted house at Disney Land, which is entirely based around this movie now, so we thought we’d watch it. A fun story, Oogie Boogie is still creepy, but I found the music a little dull this time around.

Kingsman: The Secret Service (2014) – I’m not sure why we watched this, as I expected it to be horrible, but there ended up being parts of this that I really loved. It’s self-aware of its cheese, and there’s a tone shift in the middle that is kind of genius. The movie overall averages out to be just decent, but there’s definitely some high points.

TV watched:
BoJack Horseman: Season 1 (2014) – The start of this season is a decent comedy, but then it starts getting darker and much more interesting. Already started the second season – great show.

Master of None: Season 1 (2015) – I wasn’t really into this for the first couple of episodes. Everyone was so wooden that it missed the mark for me. By the end of the season, though, I really started loving this. I feel like everyone settled into their roles, and it actually really does feel like an old Woody Allen movie, in the best possible way. Very hopeful that it continues on for another season.

Games played:
Call of Duty: Black Ops III (2015) (PC) – I haven’t really played one of these for quite a while, and apparently this was a good year to jump back in. I’ve been having a great, if slightly frustrating, time playing online. I tried out the single player campaign, but the writing was hilariously bad, so I don’t think I have much interest in continuing with that.

Fallout 4 (2015) (PC) – After looking forward to this for years, it’s been a bit of a disappointment to be honest. I haven’t given up yet, but it’s just shallow and lazy compared to the previous games so far.

What have you been reading/watching/playing this month?

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In a Sunburned Country

In a Sunburned CountryIn a Sunburned Country by Bill Bryson
Published: 2000
Length: 319 pages

This is Bill Bryson’s Australian travelogue, called Down Under outside of Canada and the US, and it details two back-to-back trips to the country. He begins by travelling across Australia by train, from Sydney to Perth, and then recounts his time in the southeastern cities of the country. He then returns with a friend of his to visit the Great Barrier Reef, Alice Springs in the north and then down to Uluru, which I guess is a very impressive rock.

The people are immensely likable— cheerful, extrovert, quick-witted, and unfailingly obliging. Their cities are safe and clean and nearly always built on water. They have a society that is prosperous, well ordered, and instinctively egalitarian. The food is excellent. The beer is cold. The sun nearly always shines. There is coffee on every corner. Life doesn’t get much better than this.

I loved this. Apart from the small journal he kept for his African charity trip to Kenya, my only previous experience with him was his novel Notes from a Small Island, which I read before starting this blog (the dark years). I’d forgotten how funny he his. He has a kind of quiet humour, self-deprecating with a keen eye for pointing out the ridiculous without harping on it too much. He also travels the way I like to travel, which is fairly casual without much on the schedule – arrive in a city, walk around all day, spend some time in a museum, and eat and drink too much. He isn’t spending a week trying to survive in the desert or travelling from personal tour to personal tour with a film crew in tow. He’s just sightseeing, which is actually a refreshing read.

I have to admit, I’ve never really found Australia particularly exciting. I mean, the deadly critters and the expansive outback and all of the adventure tourism activities are exciting to me in an abstract sense, but as far as feeling personally excited to visit, it’s just never really captured my imagination. When I dreamed of travel as a kid, it was always for more exotic locales. Places where they served food I’d never come across and spoke a language I didn’t know. Australia fell into the same category as the rest of Canada for me, in that I’d love to see it at some point but it’s not something I sit up at night thinking about. This book has changed that view, though, somewhat. He has an unbridled enthusiasm for the country, and it’s hard not to have some of that rub off on you. This is probably good, because my girlfriend is desperate to get me to go.

I have no idea how he researched this book. He comes up with so many bizarre stories and interesting facts, and he’ll just drop those here and there nonchalantly throughout the narrative, as if it’s something off the top of his head. He clearly did a lot of reading for this book, and I feel like it would be very tempting to load it up with very detailed history and long-winded stories just to justify the research, but he has great self-restraint. It seems like some of the books he read about Australia must have only become one or two paragraphs in this book. It was so full of these stories and facts that it could have turned overwhelming, but instead it was a light and fun read, and it doesn’t feel like knowledge was sacrificed to accommodate that. He very naturally weaves the information into his travels.

He spends time describing how awful the aboriginal people were treated throughout history after the arrival of the Europeans, but I would have enjoyed a more thorough look at how attitudes have changed, or not, more recently, as well as some more information on their actual culture. While it is a bit disappointing, I do understand it. This is a personal travelogue of two relatively short trips, not a documentary, and he’s just describing what he experienced. Shoehorning in more information, without having actually experienced any of that culture himself, could have come across as quite superficial, so it’s probably for the best.

I realized part way through this that I now have to read everything he’s ever written, so I’ll certainly be reading more from him next year.

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A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms

A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms (The Tales of Dunk and Egg, #1-3)A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms by George R.R. Martin
Published: 1998 – 2010 (2015 for this collection)
Narrated by: Harry Lloyd
Length: 10:00

This is a collection of three novellas set a century before the events of A Song of Ice and Fire. House Targaryen are still in power, eventually to be overthrown by Robert Baratheon’s rebellion, and people can still remember the last of the dragons. While these are prequels, and some names will be familiar to those who have read the main novels, the stories are fairly self-contained.

The three included novellas are:

  • The Hedge Knight (1998)
  • The Sworn Sword (2003)
  • The Mystery Knight (2010)

I thought it might be a strange experience reading these back to back like this, since they were written so far apart, but Martin remained impressively consistent throughout. I would never have guessed there was a twelve-year span between two of them.

The stories follow a young hedge knight named Dunk and his squire Egg, a boy who is not exactly what he seems. In The Hedge Knight, the two meet on the way to a jousting tournament. Dunk was knighted by his old master, Ser Arlan of Pennytree, just before he passed away, and this is his first public appearance as Ser Duncan the Tall. He sets out to prove himself as a knight, but finds himself in much more peril than he intended. In The Sworn Sword, they are caught in the sour politics of land-ownership between a neighbouring lord and lady. The Mystery Knight finds them at another tournament, by chance, where a conspiracy is unveiled.

It’s interesting reading novella-length stories by George R.R. Martin, a man who typically takes his time with a story. At first it felt almost jarringly simple, but he’s amazing at connecting the reader with his characters. I loved Dunk and Egg by the end of the first novella, just as much as I would have if they’d been main characters in one of his thousand-page epics. He does seem to assume the reader knows the basics of the world, he doesn’t waste time explaining the significance of places like King’s Landing for example, so we are able to get right to the meat of the story.

I listened to this on audiobook, narrated by Harry Lloyd (Viserys Targaryen from the television show), and he did a great job. Apparently the physical copy is full of beautiful illustrations that people on Goodreads seem to be raving about, so if I’d known that I probably would have picked up that edition, but I still really enjoyed this. He hinted at the end that there’ll be more of these stories, which I’ll be sure to buy. For now, this was a nice stop-gap until The Winds of Winter comes out.

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Consider Phlebas

Consider Phlebas (Culture, #1)Consider Phlebas by Iain M. Banks
Published: 1987
Narrated by: Peter Kenny
Length: 16:26

This is the first novel in The Culture series, and the first novel published under Iain M. Banks (as opposed to his regular fiction, which is published without the middle initial). I’ve heard from multiple sources that the place to start in the series is with the second novel, The Player of Games, because this one is considered a weaker entry in the series. I guess each novel is set in the same universe but has a different cast of characters, so they can be read out of order. I decided against doing this because it just feels wrong somehow, and I figured I’d rather just get it out of the way. I’ve read a couple of his novels now, and know I like his style, so I’ll go on to read The Player of Games regardless of my opinion on this one.

Thankfully, it’s not an issue, because I was pleasantly surprised by this. My expectations were quite low going in, to be fair, which always helps. This wasn’t amazing by any means, but I did enjoy it, and it left me excited to read further. The universe is quite interesting, and his humour and love for the grotesque are definitely well present here. The plot in this was all over the place, though, and I was mainly left with the feeling that he really wanted to write about space battles and explosions. The characters and plot turns often felt like nothing more than tools to facilitate that. A large portion of this book could have been skipped without any effect on the plot or character development. But even with its flaws, it’s easy to see that there’s so much potential here for the rest of the series.

There are two warring faction in this universe. The first is the Culture, a hedonistic society consisting of a mix of humanoids, aliens and cognitive computers. Their advanced computers manage the society’s economy, so the people are left to their own desires, to pursue their hobbies and passions as they see fit without having to do work they don’t enjoy. There wasn’t too much of a glimpse inside the Culture in this book, but I imagine the rest of the series deals with the advantages and problems that such a society could bring. The other faction is the Idirans, a militaristic and highly religious race. Their aggressive expansion in the universe is the cause of the Idiran-Culture War.

Many other races have been pulled into both sides of the war. The main character in this book is Horza, a Changer that can slowly transform his body, from outward appearance to the muscle structure and bones, over the course of days. Changers also have full control over how their body functions, feeling pain and producing sweat for example, and can administer poison through their spittle and nails. I’m not sure if they’re a throw-away race for this novel or not, but they were pretty interesting. Horza has been hired by the Idirans to retrieve a Culture Mind, one of their super-intelligent sentient computers. I heard an interview where Banks described the plot as a group of pirates travelling to a far-off land to retrieve a buried treasure, which is really what it boils down to.

It’s interesting that he wrote this from the viewpoint of an outside character, neither Culture nor Idiran, and then went on to apparently write the rest of the series from the Culture’s side. I feel like coming back to this novel, after having read the others, would really feel out of place. It seems most people feel this is a bad place to start, since it gives a false impression of the series. It may in terms of quality, I don’t know as I haven’t read on yet, but I think as an introduction to the universe it works quite well. The setting, the races, the politics, and the technology are full of really interesting ideas, so I’ll be looking to see if that creativity makes its way into the plot in the next of the series.

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AtonementAtonement by Ian McEwan
Published: 2001
Length: 371 pages

This is the story of a young teen Briony Tallis, her older sister Cecilia, the housekeeper’s son Robbie Turner, and how the actions of one day changed the rest of their lives.

This is a bit of a hard one to summarize without giving away important plot points. He does some very interesting things with plot structure in this, and a lot of the suspense in the novel is waiting to see what happens and how it plays out. The main crime is telegraphed quite far in advance, but exactly what happens and what the repercussions will be is what’s really interesting.

The novel begins on the Tallis family estate in the summer of 1934. Nearly everyone in the family is home, or arriving shortly, and they’re to all have dinner together that night. The first third of the novel is quite slow, as we’re introduced to the characters and the scene is set, but I was still really enjoying his writing. I knew a horrible thing was about to happen that night, and while I obviously wouldn’t wish that upon anyone, I did find myself thinking ‘okay, let’s get on with it already’, which felt a little wrong.

In the rest of the book, time keeps jumping ahead to show what has happened to those involved. I often find myself feeling very disconnected and uninterested when time shifts like that in a novel, but again he managed to keep my interest. Whenever I felt like I knew where the story was going, I was always left surprised. McEwan does a great job of toying with your emotions in this, especially when it comes to how you feel about each character. You love them, you hate them, you like them again – he manages to do what George R.R. Martin does so well, but in a single four-hundred page novel.

The ending of this novel really messes with your mind a bit. It’s revealed that what you just read was actually written by Briony, and that events may have played out a bit differently than she wrote, that Cecilia and Robbie never met again.

At first I felt a bit cheated by this. It struck me as a little ‘and then I woke up, and it was all a dream’ for my liking, but then it did grow on me. Not everything has a happy ending, and actions have life-long consequences, and the fact that she felt compelled to rewrite history only highlighted her remorse.

So, I’ve decided to forgive Ian McEwan.

I really enjoyed this. The subject matter is pretty heavy, and it was written in a way that could have easily turned hacky in another author’s hands, but it’s handled very well here. This won the 2001 Man Booker Prize, and while I don’t normally keep up with literary prizes, I remember it being mentioned in the literature course I was taking in university at the time. I’ve had it filed away in the back of my mind to read since. It only took me a decade and a half, not bad.

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Saga, Volume 5

Saga, Volume 5Saga, Volume 5 by Brian K. Vaughan
Illustrated by: Fiona Staples
Published: 2015
Publisher: Image Comics
Length: 152 pages
Collects: issues #25–30

This felt like a return to form. I described the last volume as having a teen-drama vibe, in an annoying way, and this got right back into the adventure.


The team is still split up, which I’m actually finding a little annoying. I was really enjoying their story together, and while that’s still the underlying theme, it was more interesting overall for me when that was the focus – watching the relationships grow between a group of people on the run. This volume felt a little scattered compared to the first few, with three main groups of characters in completely different physical locations. I like that it’s complicated and bizarre, but I think it loses a bit of magic when you stretch the plot out in so many ways.

The juvenile humour is still here in all its glory. There’s a hilariously disgusting two-page spread that took me off guard, which I always appreciate. Fiona Staples art is still also going strong. A whole slew of new characters were introduced in this, and she’s still coming up with creative character designs for each.

My interest was starting to wane a bit with that fourth volume, but this one brought me back. It’s still not on the same level as the first three volumes, but it’s on the right track. There will always be dips in the comic series, I suppose, but I think overall this is still going to turn out to be one of my favourite comics of all time. This is definitely worth picking up if you’re at all interested in the medium and a fun mix of science fiction, fantasy, and humour.

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October in Review

Books Acquired:

Books Read:
Consider Phlebas by Iain M. Banks

I was a naughty book blogger this month with only one book read. It happens sometimes. I do most of my reading currently in bed, something I’m hoping to change, and I’ve been falling asleep quick this month. Despite this, I’m still a couple posts behind, so maybe it was for the best. I’ll finally be catching up with myself in November.

Not book related, but we did spend a week in California earlier in the month, visiting Disneyland and doing a bit of shopping. With the Canadian dollar as it currently is, this is not a great time to visit an expensive American amusement park, but we still had a blast. I hadn’t been to Disneyland since I was fourteen, and it was surprising how much stayed the same in the last twenty years.

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I feel like I appreciate the park more now than I did as a young teen. I was mostly interested in finding the biggest, scariest rides last time, but I really enjoyed all of the animatronics and silly little things this trip. I’m also much more of a wimp on rides now, so it’s easier to get a thrill. I wasn’t sure I really wanted to go at first, but we had a fantastic time.

Movies watched:
The Martian (2015) – This was awesome. The book is more suspenseful and interesting, just because it has time to pace itself properly, but this adaptation was great. It looks amazing (something Ridley Scott always gets right) and Matt Damon was actually quite good in the part.

Wet Hot American Summer (2001) – I heard good things about the new Netflix series, so we thought we’d check out the original movie. I found it really funny in parts, and I loved how it made fun of some tropes and kept getting more and more ridiculous. Probably not for everyone, but I liked it.

The Imitation Game (2014) – I really meant to get to this earlier, as I’ve been interested in Alan Turing since university, but it somehow fell off my radar. It’s such an amazing story, and he had such a huge impact on the world. It’s tragic how he was treated, such an injustice, and it’s great to see his story told so well.

TV watched:
Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp (2015) – This is a prequel to Wet Hot American Summer with all of the actors fifteen years older, which was just great. I really enjoyed this.

Con Man: Season 1 (2015) – Alan Tudyk’s web series. I Kickstarted (or, I guess, Indiegogoed) it a while back, and the episodes were released this last month. This was a blast, with fun guest appearances throughout. Definitely fan service for any Firefly fan out there.

Games played:
Samorost 2 (2005) (PC) – A little indie game from Amanita Design, with under an hour of gameplay, and not the most exciting to be honest. I loved the art, but something just didn’t connect with me on this. I love their other games, though, and will definitely check out Samorost 3 when it’s released.

The Shivah (2006) (PC) – This is the first game from Wadjet Eye Games, my favourite point and click game studio, and it was fantastic. Quite short also, but brilliantly done. It’s somewhat educational if you know very little about Judaism, which is sadly the case for me.

Tales from the Borderlands: Episode 2 (2015) (PC) – I forgot about this game, and finally played through the second episode. I loved it, and plan to get through the rest this month. Incredibly funny and well-written.

Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes (2015) (PC) – A friend of mine got me onto this. It’s a two-player game in which you try to defuse a bomb. One person relays the information he or she sees before them (“there’s six wires, two red, four black, “there’s flashing morse code, long short short short”, etc) to someone with a giant manual. The person with the manual has to take in this information and try to sort out how to diffuse the bomb (“cut the third wire”, “the password is ‘boats'”, etc). It can get pretty intense and is a lot of fun.

Rocket League (2015) (PS4) – Because, yay Rocket League.

What have you been reading/watching/playing this month?

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The Poison Belt

Poison BeltThe Poison Belt by Arthur Conan Doyle
Published: 1913
Narrated by: Glen McCready
Length: 03:35

This is the second novel in Doyle’s Professor Challenger series, the first of which being The Lost World, which I really enjoyed. I loved the Professor character, so I figured I’d carry on with the lesser-known sequels. I heard that the quality of this series took a steep drop after the first, and while I do think the plot was a lot weaker than The Lost World, the characters were just as great.

The story begins with Professor Challenger having summoned everyone from the previous adventure to his home. When they arrive, Challenger explains his recent discovery that the earth is about to pass through a “poison belt” of aether that is going to kill every living being on earth. They have no time to contact family, to make any plans, because this is all going to happen that same night. He has rigged an enclosed room with oxygen, so they plan to spend the night in there and see how long they can stay alive or even if they can outlast the catastrophe.

The plot is definitely a bit silly, but I did find how it played out to be quite interesting. As they sit in the room, they discuss all of the natural questions that might arise in such a situation. Why even try to postpone death? What was the purpose of their lives? If they survive and no one else does, how will they continue exploring their passions? Professor Challenger is almost excited at that prospect, as it’s an unusual chance to observe life rebuilding itself, but our narrator Edward Malone is a journalist. What would be left for him?

The Sherlock stories contained grounded investigation techniques that would go on to actually inspire real-life detective practices, whereas these Challenger stories are a little more fantastical. The magical poison aether is treated as if scientific, but it’s really just nonsense. I imagine it was at the time as well. I’m in these stories for the characters, though, and even if the science is silly it does still raise some interesting discussion points, which was a lot of fun.

Some of this was actually quite funny as well, something I don’t think comes out as much in his Sherlock stories. Before we, the reader or the characters, knew about the poisonous aether, it had already begun affecting people in quite odd ways. This resulted in some absurdly funny moments that had me wondering if Doyle had gone off the deep end when writing this. We had one character crying, another showing off his animal calls, and another biting a maid, and I really didn’t know what was happening for a bit there. I thought he paced it really well. It was subtle enough that I didn’t completely catch on to what was happening, and it ended just as I was beginning to wonder why this novel was so ridiculous compared to his others.

This was narrated by the same man who narrated The Lost World, Glen McCready, and he is fantastic. He really brings Professor Challenger to life in his full grumbling and arrogant glory. I think these are worth reading, and I’ll be picking up the next in the series, The Land of Mist, when I next come across it.

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To Kill a Mockingbird

To Kill a MockingbirdTo Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Published: 1960
Narrated by: Sissy Spacek
Length: 12:17

It will be news to basically no one that To Kill a Mockingbird is an amazing novel. I’m just learning that now, though, as this wasn’t offered as part of my high school curriculum, and that’s a shame. It would be a great book to read in your early teens. Not only would it have led to some interesting discussion around race issues, but Atticus Finch would be such a great role model to have in one’s life growing up, even if just in fiction.

Until I feared I would lose it, I never loved to read. One does not love breathing.

This is the story of six-year-old Jean Louise Finch who prefers to go by the name of Scout. She lives in the fictional town of Maycomb, Alabama with her brother Jem and widowed father Atticus. The first half of the book is composed of scenes from her childhood as she and her brother attend school, puzzle over their reclusive neighbour Boo Radley, and enjoy the long summers. It really felt like a Tom Sawyer or Huckleberry Finn story at parts, in a great way – pure innocent childhood adventures.

The second half of the book has more of a central plot in which Atticus Finch, a lawyer by trade, has been tasked with defending a local black man accused of molesting a white girl. At the time, a black man accused of such a thing was essentially guilty before the trial had even begun, and to defend him with any sort of earnestness was to subject yourself to a lot of anger from the community. Atticus Finch believes the man to be innocent, however, and he’s truthful and kind to the core, so he fights what most people consider a futile fight. Over the course of the trial, and during its aftermath, the seemingly inconsequential events from the first half of the book all tie together nicely as the children start to grow up.

As you grow older, you’ll see white men cheat black men every day of your life, but let me tell you something and don’t you forget it—whenever a white man does that to a black man, no matter who he is, how rich he is, or how fine a family he comes from, that white man is trash.

I really loved everything about this and every character in it. The narrator Scout is fantastic, but everyone else in the book is so vivid on the page as well. Atticus Finch is one of my new favourite fictional characters, I think. In a way he almost comes across as somewhat one-dimensional. He’s established as the wise and calm father from the beginning and stays that way throughout the novel, but I thought it was really interesting how the children’s views of him changed. His depth and character arc comes out through the eyes of Scout and Jem. They see him at the beginning of the novel as a completely different person than they do at the end. I love how they come to realize how principled a man he is as the novel progresses, how some of his decisions they had assumed were made from fear were actually made with patience and humility, and how you could see his attitude quietly affect them in ways that would change the adults they eventually become.

I’m not sure I’ll read Go Set a Watchman. Everything seems off about the publication of that, and I think I’d rather not overshadow this story with an apparently mediocre prequel. Obviously I’ve just read To Kill a Mockingbird for the first time, so I don’t have any sacred nostalgia tied to it, but even so I’m happy with it as it is. I have no idea if Harper Lee is being taken advantage of by her publisher, but I hate the idea of an author’s work being published without their permission, especially if it may in any way tarnish his or her existing work.

This is one of those novels that I probably wouldn’t have gotten around to reading if I hadn’t started this blog. More and more of what I read these days fall under that same category, and it’s worth acknowledging. Sometimes it seems silly to write about every book I read and take part in challenges to read more classics, but there’s no doubting that it’s changed my reading for the better.

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High Fidelity

High FidelityHigh Fidelity by Nick Hornby
Published: 1996
Length: 334 pages

Rob Fleming (which is what my name would be if I were heir to the Bond fortune) has just broken up with his girlfriend. He isn’t where he wants to be in life, a washed-up DJ who owns a failing record store, and he doesn’t know how to change that. This break-up is just enough to send him spiraling into anxious neurosis. He looks back on his life’s romances and lists off his top five worst breakups. They haunt him still to this day, and in a desperate attempt to understand why he can’t hold down a relationship, he decides to try to contact each woman.

I’ve committed to nothing…and that’s just suicide…by tiny, tiny increments.

I’ve read nearly all of Hornby’s books in the last few years, but I never got around to this, one of his most famous. The reason for that is it’s nearly impossible to find a copy that doesn’t have the movie actors on the cover, and I just can’t bring myself to buy books with movie tie-in covers. I’m not sure why I despise them so, maybe I worry I’ll picture the actors as I read, or maybe it’s just because they look tacky. I think part of it is that I don’t want to feel as though I bought the book because of the movie. Which is silly for a number of reasons, the most obvious of which being that it doesn’t matter why you buy a book.

I had resigned myself to buying the audiobook, but then my girlfriend saved me the trouble and bought the book for herself – a loophole! So I read her copy, with John Cusack’s lovely little face staring at me all the while.

Over the last couple of years, the photos of me when I was a kid… well, they’ve started to give me a little pang or something – not unhappiness, exactly, but some kind of quiet, deep regret… I keep wanting to apologize to the little guy: “I’m sorry, I’ve let you down. I was the person who was supposed to look after you, but I blew it: I made wrong decisions at bad times, and I turned you into me.

I really enjoyed this. His writing is hilarious, and the characters were a blast. He pulls off melancholy in an interesting way that doesn’t feel too self-involved. I also have a deep love of lists, so he got some major brownie points for having the characters list off so many top-fives. I thought Rob Fleming in book form worked a lot better than his film counterpart. We got to experience most of his angst in his head, where the heightened doubt and rage made sense. Having to get it across physically in the film made him seem like an aggressive psychopath at times, which made it a harder to be sympathetic.

Slight Spoiler
The bit a the end, with him making a mix-tape for the interviewer, was an odd choice I thought. I get that it shows him endlessly failing to commit to anyone, and results in him deciding to propose and drop that aspect of his life, but it felt oddly out-of-place to me. It’s supposed to symbolize the last almost-fall before he starts getting his shit together, but it left me with the impression that the relationship is likely screwed eventually.
/Slight Spoiler

I got rid of my music collection a couple of years ago, and this book really made me crave those days where I used to spend hours digging through albums (never records, sadly). I started using Spotify a few months ago, and I don’t know if it’s the medium or just an age thing, but I definitely feel less connected to specific albums now than I did when I was younger. I used to really cherish every CD I brought home. There’s something very transient in the way I consume music now.

It’s brilliant, being depressed; you can behave as badly as you like.

I thought this was great. It’s not my favourite Hornby, but it’s one of his best. In the spirit of top-five lists, my top five Hornby books so far:

  1. A Long Way Down
  2. About a Boy
  3. The Polysyllabic Spree (and its sequels)
  4. High Fidelity
  5. Juliet, Naked
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