Book Review: Shakespeare Wrote for Money by Nick Hornby

Title: Shakespeare Wrote for Money
Author: Nick Hornby
Genre: Essays
Publisher: Believer Books
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Source: Print copy from my personal library
First line: I like liking things.

I’m just a little sad to know I’ve read the last collection of Nick Hornby’s “Books I’ve Been Reading” columns from The Believer magazine. Although, since he’s started writing for them again, hopefully there will be many more collections to come.

The best thing about this particular collection was reading about Hornby’s excitement over “discovering” YA fiction. I also underlined these gems so I wouldn’t forget them:

The annoying thing about reading is that you can never get the job done. The other day I was in a bookstore flicking through a book called something like 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die (and, without naming names, you should be aware that the task set by the title is by definition impossible, because at least four hundred of the books suggested would kill you anyway), but reading begets reading – that’s sort of the point of it, surely? – and anybody who never deviates from a set list of books is intellectually dead anyway. ~p. 49

(How many times have you read someone describe a novel as “unflinching,” in approving terms? What’s wrong with a little flinch every once in a while?)…Yes, it’s the job of artists to force us to stare at the horror until we’re on the verge of passing out. But it’s also the job of artists to offer warmth and hope and maybe even an escape from lives that occasionally seem unendurably drab. I wouldn’t want to pick one job over the other – they both seem pretty important to me. ~p. 73

I recently discovered that when my friend Mary has finished a book, she won’t start another for a couple of days – she wants to give her most recent reading experience a little more time to breathe, before it’s suffocated by the next. This makes sense, and it’s an entirely laudable policy, I think. Those of us who read neurotically, however – to ward off boredom, and the fear of our own ignorance, and our impending deaths – can’t afford the time. ~ p. 97

The French book about reading that’s been getting a lot of attention recently is Pierre Bayard’s How to Talk About Books You Haven’t Read, which should surely be retitled You Need Some New Friends, Because the Ones You’ve Got Are Jerks: literary editors seem to think it’s zeitgeisty, but out in the world, grown-ups no longer feel the need to bullsh*t about literature, thank God. Pennac’s book is the one we should all be thinking about, because it’s author hasn’t given up. The Rights of the Reader is full of great quotes, too. Here’s one of my favorites, from Flannery O’Connor: “If teachers are in the habit of approaching a story as if it were a research problem for which any answer is believable so long as it is not obvious, then I think students will never learn to enjoy fiction.” That one is dedicated to anyone who graduated from college and found themselves unable to read anything that came from the imagination. ~ p. 103-104

Books Hornby mentioned that I added to my wish list:

~ Stasiland: Stories from Behind the Berlin Wall by Anna Funder
~ The Brambles by Eliza Minot
~ Skellig by David Almond
~ Weetzie Bat by Francesca Lia Block
~ Tom’s Midnight Garden by Philippa Pearce
~ The Rights of the Reader by Daniel Pennac
~ The Child That Books Built by Francis Spufford

This entry was posted in essays, non-fiction and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

24 Responses to Book Review: Shakespeare Wrote for Money by Nick Hornby

  1. Sharla says:

    These make me laugh! I may have to check this book out. Thanks!
    .-= Sharla´s last blog ..Dreams of Trespass by Fatima Mernissi — A Review =-.

  2. JoAnn
    Twitter: lakesidemusing
    says:

    Great quotes – especially like the first one! I haven’t seen this collection before… off to check my library website.
    .-= JoAnn´s last blog ..South of Broad by Pat Conroy =-.

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies
      says:

      JoAnn – all of his collections are wonderful – so even if they don’t have this particular one, you should still give one a try.

  3. This sounds great! I think both my son and I would enjoy it. Love the quotes you selected.

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies
      says:

      Kathy – thanks – I love reading his collections – they always make me laugh.

  4. Melissa
    Twitter: avidreader12
    says:

    I love Hornby. He always manages to say exactly what I’m thinking, but in a way that makes it seem both new and profound. Must read this book.
    .-= Melissa´s last blog ..Friday Favorites: A Moveable Feast =-.

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies
      says:

      Melissa – I know what you mean – I find myself saying, “Yes, exactly!” out loud as I read.

  5. Jeane says:

    I love his books on reading. And so glad to know he’s writing the column again, hopefully there will be more bookish collections in the future! I haven’t yet read any of his fiction, though.
    .-= Jeane´s last blog ..bookmarks giveaway =-.

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies
      says:

      Jeane – I enjoyed both How to Be Good and A Long Way Down, if you’re looking to try some of his fiction.

  6. ibeeeg says:

    Loved the quotes you choose to highlight!

    Where do you find this stuff…the Believer magazine?

    I also like your Bookmarks post, another magazine that I was unaware of until I started reading your posts.
    I like the list of books you got from Hornby’s “books I’ve Been Reading”.

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies
      says:

      Ibeeg – they were originally published as columns in The Believer, but have been collected in three books: The Polysyllabic Spree, Housekeeping vs. the Dirt, and Shakespeare Wrote for Money.

  7. Arukiyomi says:

    aaaahhh I remember reading High Fidelity… thought the beginning of that was a must read for women to understand men… and for men to understand why they are.

    Anyway… yours is a blog I’ve not seen before but it looks amazing. SO much here. How have I never seen you before… especially with a category marked “Christian”

    I found you because you put something about the 1001 books list. I wonder if in your travels you’ve come across the 1001 Books spreadsheet. There’s a new v4 I’ve just released if you’re interested:

    http://johnandsheena.co.uk/books/?page_id=1806
    .-= Arukiyomi´s last blog ..0259 | Choke – Chuck Palahniuk =-.

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies
      says:

      Arukiyomi – I haven’t read High Fidelity – seems like I need to pick it up!

  8. Arukiyomi says:

    Ah… you haven’t read it. I think you’ll like it. To whet your appetite, check out my review

    http://johnandsheena.co.uk/books/?p=73
    .-= Arukiyomi´s last blog ..0259 | Choke – Chuck Palahniuk =-.

  9. Pingback: BOOKS AND MOVIES » The Sunday Salon – May 2, 2010 (the “April wrap-up” edition)

  10. Pingback: Book Review: Shakespeare Wrote for Money by Nick Hornby « Non-Fiction Books

  11. Pingback: The Sunday Salon – May 2, 2010 (the “April wrap-up” edition) « Non-Fiction Books

  12. S. Krishna
    Twitter: skrishna
    says:

    This sounds great. I love Hornby’s sense of humor and will have to check this out.
    .-= S. Krishna´s last blog ..Book Review: This Is Not The Story You Think It Is: A Season of Unlikely Happiness – Laura Munson =-.

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies
      says:

      Swapna – I love his non-fiction – his humor really comes through.

  13. Pingback: Mommy Brain » Book and movie links

  14. Pingback: BOOKS AND MOVIES » Suggested reading for the 2011 Essay Reading Challenge

  15. Pingback: Book Review(s): The Polysyllabic Omnibus « ReviewsbyLola's Blog

  16. Pingback: Recommended reading for the Essay Challenge – and “Why read essays?” | BOOKS AND MOVIES