by Nick Hornby


  • Bush at War—Bob Woodward
  • Six Days of War—Michael B. Oren
  • Genome—Matt Ridley
  • Isaac Newton—James Gleick
  • God’s Pocket—Pete Dexter
  • The Poet and the Murderer—Simon Worrall
  • Sputnik Sweetheart—Haruki Murakami
  • Lie Down in Darkness—William Styron
  • Leadville—Edward Platt
  • Master Georgie—Beryl Bainbridge
  • How to Breathe Underwater—Julie Orringer (two copies)


  • A Tragic Honesty: The Life and Work of Richard Yates—Blake Bailey (completed)
  • Wenger: The Making of a Legend—Jasper Rees
  • How to Breathe Underwater—Julie Orringer
  • Bush at War—Bob Woodward (unfinished)
  • Unnamed Literary Novel (abandoned)
  • Unnamed Work of Nonfiction (abandoned)
  • No Name—Wilkie Collins (unfinished)


  • The Spoken Word—Poets
  • The Spoken Word—Writers

Unfinished, abandoned, abandoned, unfinished. Well, you can’t say I didn’t warn you. In the first of these columns, I voiced the suspicion that my then-current reading jag was unsustainable: I was worried, I seem to recall, about the end of the summer, and the forthcoming football season, and it’s true that both of these factors have had an adverse effect on book consumption. (Words added to ongoing novel since autumnal return to work: not many, but more than the month before. Football matches watched in the last month: seven whole ones, four of them live in the stadium, and bits and pieces of probably half a dozen others.) Of the two books I started and finished this month, one I read in a day, mostly on a plane, during a day trip to Amsterdam. And it was a book about football.

It is not only sport and work that have slowed me up, however; I would have to say that the ethos of this magazine has inhibited me a little too. As you are probably aware by now, The Believer has taken the honorable and commendable view that, if it is attacks on contemporary writers and writing you wish to read, then you can choose from an endless range of magazines and newspapers elsewhere—just about all of them, in fact—and that therefore The Believer will contain only acid-free literary criticism.

This position is, however, likely to cause difficulties if your brief is simply to write honestly about the books you have been reading: Boredom and, very occasionally, despair is part of the reading life, after all.

We hope you enjoy this excerpt.

To read the full piece, please visit our store to purchase a copy of the magazine.

Nick Hornby is the author of five books, most recently Songbook. He lives in north London.

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