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Posts Tagged ‘Nick Hornby’

Growing up I was always encouraged by my parents to read as much as possible, and I still find it difficult to accept when my own children, particularly my daughter, tell me that reading is boring. I think the first book that I loved and read over and over again was, The Cricket in Times Square, written by George Selden with lovely drawings by Garth Williams. The story is about a Cricket named Chester from Connecticut, who ends up on a New York bound train, and then ends up on the subway and finds himself lost in Times Square station. He then goes on to make friends with a cat called Harry and a mouse called Tucker, after being discovered by a boy called Mario, whose parents run a financially failing newstand. After a couple of mishaps, Mario’s mother wants Chester gone but he saves himself by chirping her favourite song, and it turns out that Chester has a perfect ear for music and can chirp any piece of music or opera after hearing it once. It is a charming story with a fairly sad ending which I won’t go into here.

In my teenage years I did tend to drift away from reading for a bit, distracted as I was by girls and football, and although I did read I tended to stick with non-fiction books on football. So although my next book is a non-fiction book that is about football, it also went on to be made in to a film and a stage play. Fever Pitch, by Nick Hornby is the story of one man’s life told in a series of football matches (mostly Arsenal) and we follow Mr. Hornby on his journey through his parents divorce, his first love, work and career etc, all tied in with the effect that being an obsessive football fan has on all of his relationships and friendships and his career. A riveting read and one that I read in little more than a day, plus it led me back into reading fiction when Nick brought out his next books, High fidelity and About A Boy.

In 2002 I began an English Literature A-level course run in the evenings by my local college, and the first set book we had to read was, Regeneration written in 1991 by Pat Barker. It tells the harrowing stories of injured British officers of World War I, being treated  for shell-shock at Craiglockhart hospital in Scotland. It is based on true accounts and some of the more famous inmates included the war poets Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen although the story is fiction, it is fiction based on fact which is the kind of story I like as it adds authenticity. The book deals with many themes, such as madness, masculinity, homosexuality and the futility of war. The book is the first in a trilogy and it was followed by The Eye in the Door, and The Ghost Road, which won the Booker Prize in 1995.

Now that my love of works of fiction based on fact had begun I had to wait a couple more years to read another one that had an effect on me. That book was The Damned United, by David Peace and tells the story of football manager and self-proclaimed big head, Brian Clough and his brief 44 day tenure as manager of Leeds United. As manager of Derby County, Cloughie was one of the most vocal of all of Leeds United’s critics, and he was never far away from giving out a controversial quote or ten on the subject of Leeds United and their then manager Don Revie. When Revie left to take over the England managers job, the surprise choice of the Leeds United board for their new manager was Brian Clough. This book is fiction and is written totally from the point of view of Brian Clough, it later spawned a film adaptation that was not particularly true to the book and was slated by Clough’s widow, and family.

My last choice is the book that got me interested in a whole new genre, and that is travel writing, The book, Three Men in a Float, tells the story of three guys who one day decide to buy an old second-hand milk float off Ebay and travel across England from Lowestoft to Lands End and the people they meet on the way. The chapters are told from two of the travellers so each chapter is fresh and has a different prospective.

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Following on from my last blog, the next few books I read in March weren’t very good, starting with Strangers on the 16:02, a short novella from the “Quick reads” collection, and to be honest its only saving grace was that it was mercifully short. There is very little story and it just seems to be a collection of characters thrown together, even the event at the end doesn’t add to much. Next up was Dead man’s hand, a collection of short stories based around the game of Poker, One word sums this book up, and that word is “disappointing”. I looked forward to reading it but the stories are badly written and some are difficult to follow, I gave up in the end. I finished the month with another collection of short stories called Speaking with the Angel, edited by one of my favourite authors, Nick Hornby who also contributes with a story. This was another disappointing book with only one or two good stories and the rest were mediocre.

Due to my Open University course reaching its conclusion I didn’t get to read as many books as I would liked to have done in April and May due to concentrating on getting a passing grade, and the only book I managed to read in April was, For richer, for poorer,  a compelling look at the world of poker, through the eyes of journalist and broadcaster Victoria Coren. She details how she became hooked on the game from her early days playing for small stakes in smoke-filled back rooms of pubs and clubs, right up to becoming the European champion. She has an uncanny knack of bringing to life the characters that she has met through the years and the anecdotes are interesting, funny, and sometimes sorrowful. Finally free from the constraints of studying the next book I read is currently the best book I have read this year, a biography about the life of actor Patrick McGoohan called Not a number. I wasn’t expecting much from this biography if I’m honest as all though being a well-known actor, Patrick McGoohan was also a very private person who rarely gave interviews, and when he did he usually gave very little away. However I was blown away by the sheer amount of research that has gone into producing this very well put together book. It is obvious from the very first page that a huge amount of time and effort has been put into finding obscure excerpts from magazines and video taped interviews, that help bring to life the man and his works. If you are a fan of Mr. McGoohan this is a must read book, and if you are not familiar with him then this book should inspire you to sit down and watch this great character actor in action. May finished with a visit to my local library where I picked up a copy of Coming up for air, by George Orwell, which despite enjoying early on it fell away somewhat from the middle onwards and failed to hold my interest.

June started with a Kindle only publication entitled, Diary of the displaced, which I found to be very dull and a little weird, next up was a book that I had been meaning to read for some time, John Haldeman’s The forever war, a science-fiction classic written in the early seventies about a future war against an alien race on a far off world. It is a very good book that kept me interested through out and having read one of his previous works I shall endeavour to read more from Mr. Haldeman in the future.

Well that is all for the first six months of the year, I shall review July to December after Christmas

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