‘I decided that I wanted to write a little book of essays about songs I loved … Songs are what I listen to, almost to the exclusion of everything else.’
In his first non-fiction work since Fever Pitch, Nick Hornby writes about 31 songs that either have some great significance in his life – or are just songs that he loves. He discusses, among other things, guitar solos and losing your virginity to a Rod Stewart song and singers whose teeth whistle and the sort of music you hear in Body Shop.
‘The soundtrack to his life … a revealing insight into one of Britain’s most popular writers’ Evening Standard
Anyone who has read ay of Hornby’s fictional books before will know that music plays a huge part of his narrative voice; High Fidelity is set in an independent music shop and Juliet, Naked is a story about the impact of music on people’s lives and how fandom can come across as a bit creepy at times. So it is no surprise with 31 Songs (Penguin, 2003) that Hornby’s passion for music is fervent from the very first line.
The book is essentially a list of 31 songs, enough to fill a double album that have resonated with Hornby throughout his life. Some of these songs have held the same power and punch whereas others have faded away and where there was once love is now a mild acceptance. What makes it stand out from other books of this ilk is that Hornby almost uses these stories, or his memories of these songs, as a measure of culture. How they shaped the world around him and everyone else. How the music’s relevance is intrinsically linked to the time and place that it was released. It could be argued that it becomes almost a cultural study.
What is refreshing though is that Hornby holds no punches. If he likes something he says it. The same can be said if he doesn’t. This is a no apologies account of why he thinks a song is great and in turn why he things other songs are not.
My advice would be to read 31 Songs, however, if you are a pre-existing fan of Hornby’s works of fiction then please do not expect the same sort of narrative ease and flow. It is not that kind of book. If you want to be introduced to some obscure music which will melt your mind then pick it up, give it a flick through and maybe en come up with a list of your own life soundtrack.
31 Songs by Nick Hornby is available now.