Stuff I’ve Been Reading

A Bimonthly Column

by Nick Hornby


  • Elizabeth and Hazel: Two Women of Little Rock —David Margolick
  • A Spool of Blue Thread —Anne Tyler
  • Lives in Writing —David Lodge
  • The Story of a New Name —Elena Ferrante
  • Fifty Shades of Grey —E L James
  • This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage —Ann Patchett


  • My Brilliant Friend —Elena Ferrante
  • Clothes, Clothes, Clothes, Music, Music, Music, Boys, Boys, Boys —Viv Albertine
  • Leaving the Atocha Station —Ben Lerner
  • This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage —Ann Patchett

The last time I wrote for these pages, I tried to interest you in several books that were both abstruse and astonishingly insular: a memoir by an English politician you’ve never heard of, a book about Arsenal’s record-breaking 2003–04 season, a spoof autobiography of a cartoon soccer player, and so on. To cut a long story short, Words Have Been Had, and, reluctantly, I have had to resort to discussing books that you have either read or have some interest in reading at some point in the future. Disappointing, I know, but I haven’t given up the fight—rest assured that this column will eventually return to shining a dim light into crannies you have absolutely no desire to investigate. And, for the record, I think the Polysyllabic Spree, the nine desperately ambitious but vegetarian media mavens who run the Believer, are wrong, anyway: I could write about Elena Ferrante every month for a thousand years, and we still wouldn’t reel in the Directioners or the Swifties we’re apparently trying to interest now. And it’s not just Ferrante, I suspect—they’re uninterested in any modern European fiction in translation. But that’s the Spree for you, whose belief in the transformative power of literature is touching.

We hope you enjoy this excerpt.

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