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The Polysyllabic Spree Paperback – November 30, 2004

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 143 pages
  • Publisher: McSweeney's, Believer Books; First Edition edition (November 30, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1932416242
  • ISBN-13: 978-1932416244
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.7 x 0.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (44 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #409,862 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

The Polysyllabic Spree is the first title in the Believer Book series, which collects essays by and interviews with some of our favorite authors—George Saunders, Zadie Smith, Michel Houellebecq, Janet Malcolm, Jim Shepard, and Haruki Murakami, to name a few. These attractive books combine material previously published in the Believer with new, shockingly good material. In addition, Believer Books is happy to introduce our audience to titles from around the non-English-speaking world (places like Sweden, Portugal, and Madagascar), translated and published in English for the first time.These jacketed paperbacks will feature a recognizable and cohesive style and will be affordably priced.

About the Author

Nick Hornby is the best-selling author of High Fidelity, About a Boy, How to Be Good, Fever Pitch, and Songbook. He lives in London.

Customer Reviews

I read some other books from this guy and I came to an end: he writes just the way he things.
Gustavo B. Horbach
Each month, Mr. Hornby lists the title and author of the eclectic collection of books he bought vs. the ones he actually read.
Erik Olson
This is some of the most hysterically funny writing about books and reading I have ever read.
Armchair Interviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

57 of 59 people found the following review helpful By Clare Quilty on December 11, 2004
Format: Paperback
I always enjoy it when, during interviews, journalists will mention something that their subject is reading, watching or listening to. An early Rolling Stone profile of R.E.M., for example, once mentioned that Peter Buck was buying a copy of a book by Jim Carroll, which pointed me the way to "The Basketball Diaries," a book that warped my then-young mind like a breath of fresh airplane glue.

I'm also a big fan of Nick Hornby's writing, so "The Polysyllabic Spree" is double the pleasure for me because it's a series of articles he wrote for "The Believer," chronicling his reading habits for the better part of a year.

In his typical conversational style, Hornby simply lays out his likes and dislikes, offering the reader potential listings for their own reading lists.

I'm an avid but severely undisciplined reader and was heartened to read that even a bestselling author sometimes sets aside a great novel in favor of a football game.

Just as "Songbook" was Hornby's meditation on music and life and living, "The Polysyllabic Spree" is a quick (I would contend *too* quick) and friendly tour of his bookshelf. It's also one that's rich enough to make the reader wish he'd go on and wax rhapsodic about, for example, what movies he's into these days or what TV shows he's digging -- that's the mark of a truly apt critic and writer.
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42 of 43 people found the following review helpful By C. Ebeling on February 1, 2005
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I am attracted to books that discuss the author's reading and ideas about it and inevitably I get so far and wonder, why aren't I out there reading for myself instead of holding this person's hand? Not so with this, which is over far too soon. Hornby, riffing about his own reading, his life, his outlook, is holding the reader's hand.

The title would suggest a word riot, which THE POLYSYLLABIC SPREE is, but it is also the name Hornby puts to the murkily protean powers that be at "The Believer Magazine" where the book was born in monthly columns. Each month's chapter begins like an entry in Bridget Jones's Diary, books bought, books actually read, then leaps off into what happened, what he actually read, what he thought about it, how it connects (and sometimes does not, like when one's football team is on the television) to life. Hornby is very funny, and also very serious. He is also full of contagious, unabashed wonder. He is quick to skewer pretension or gratuitous content. His style is highly caffeinated and raspy from nicotine, hilariously hyperbolic one moment, piercingly specific the next. He is willing to say he is wrong or doesn't know. He keeps it all about our mutual love of reading, but divulges other insights along the way, like what it's like to be the dad of an autistic child, to become a father for the third time, to try unsuccessfully to quit smoking, to be a writer amongst all the reading, the parenting and everything else going on.

The proceeds of this book go to charity. How can you not like this guy?
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful By John Zxerce on January 21, 2005
Format: Paperback
Like Hornby I end up buying more books than I read - a lot more. And every time I see those shelves of unread books I'm hit with two emotions simultaneously. First, I admire the condition and selection of my books and then I feel like a deadbeat parent who's long neglected one's children. I suppose joy and sorrow have never meshed so well in a unified whole.

And Hornby presents similar feelings not too mysterious regarding his lack of discipline in consuming his books. He writes, "I certainly 'intend' to read all of them, more or less. My 'intentions' are good. Anyway, it's my money. And I'll bet you do it, too."

Additionally, I like the fact that Hornby is a discerning reader who searches for the `mesmerizing books'. These are the ones Hornby finds worthy of the hunt - those that will make you "walk into a lamp-post" while reading them.

Hornby's wit and caustic humor make this an entertaining read for the bibliophile, or for anyone aspiring to own more books than days left to live.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By E. Bukowsky HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on January 16, 2005
Format: Paperback
Nick Hornby's "The Polysyllabic Spree" is an entertaining collection of essays about why Hornby buys so many books, reads some of them, and fails to read or finish others. Hornby gives his "varnished" opinion about what he has read. Why? It is part of the creed of "The Believer," the publication for which he writes, that he is not allowed to be too snarky. Therefore, he cannot give his unvarnished opinion lest he be called to task, or even worse, fired. This is an intensely personal book that feels as if Hornby is sitting on our living room couch and conversing with us. It is hilarious, thoughtful, and delightfully tongue-in-cheek.

"The Polysyllabic Spree" is a slim book that you can knock off in a day. The essays are divided by month. In each chapter, Hornby lists the books he has purchased and completed that month. He then proceeds to explain his choices and gives a quick critique of what he has read. In a few cases, Hornby includes excerpts from his readings. To say that his literary tastes are eclectic is a huge understatement. He includes not only fiction and poetry, but also a book about the economics of putting together a winning baseball team, a sociological study of two women living in the Bronx, a best-seller about punctuation, and a book about how to quit smoking.

Hornby gives the reader a glimpse into his family life, as well; he describes the ups and downs of living with an autistic son. (He includes several books about autism in his readings.) Although I did not entirely agree with his criticism of Zoe Heller's "What was She Thinking?" or Mark Haddon's "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time," I was in total agreement with Hornby on Dennis Lehane's "Mystic River," which he and I both adored.
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More About the Author

Nick Hornby is the author of the novels A Long Way Down, How to Be Good (a New York Times bestseller), High Fidelity, and About a Boy, and of the memoir Fever Pitch. He is also the author of Songbook, a finalist for a National Book Critics Circle Award, and editor of the short-story collection Speaking with the Angel. He is also the recipient of the American Academy of Arts and Letters E. M. Forster Award, and the Orange Word International Writers London Award 2003.

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