Posts Tagged ‘nick hornby’

My Ten Favorite Books of 2011

I finished a Baker’s Cannonball (that’s fifty-three books) for CBR-III, but I only really finished forty-eight in 2011. But that’s plenty of books from which to choose a Top Ten.

10. Y: The Last Man by Brian K. Vaughan
y: the last man

This is actually a graphic novel series in ten volumes, and not a single book. But it’s a graphic novel, so it’s a quick and fun read. The premise of the story is that a mysterious plague has caused every male organism on Earth to die: except for Yorick Brown, an aspiring escape artist, and his helper monkey, Ampersand. It explores a lot of gender issues, but does so in a witty and interesting way. There are plenty of meta references and jokes, and a few parts even made me laugh out loud, which rarely happens when I’m reading.

But this is a graphic novel series for grown-ups, and not a comic book for kids, so be forewarned that there are some squicky parts that prudes like me don’t appreciate, including some nudity.

9. Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
things fall apart

Culture changes with every generation. The dominant people of one generation can quickly become obsolete and shunned by the next. Things Fall Apart explores what happens when someone cannot let go of the past in order to adapt to the future. Okonkwo, the most powerful man in a remote Nigerian village, is unable to change as the times do, with tragic consequences. This book is a quick read, but a heavy one.

8. John MacArthur: Servant of the Word and Flock by Iain H. Murray
john macarthur: servant of the word and flock

Iain Murray is, in my opinion, one of the finest biographers of our day, and certainly the foremost Christian biographer of our generation. His proto-biography of John MacArthur is a brief but encouraging look at the life of one of my spiritual heroes. Murray himself reminds the reader that a full biography can’t really be finished until the subject’s life and testimony are complete, but this is a great glimpse at what that full testimony will look like when it’s ready to be written.

I can only wonder who will write Murray’s biography when he is gone.

7. John Adams by David McCullough
john adams

John Adams is an historical figure who doesn’t get much play time in the American classrooms of today. But he’s certainly one of the most important patriots who ever lived, and historian David McCullough brings him to life in the pages of this book. Adams was a man of deep integrity and passion, and I appreciate that McCullough chooses to write about men of character instead of those who lived more glamorous and superficially exciting lives.

6. High Fidelity by Nick Hornby
high fidelity

This is a book that will speak to anyone who’s ever loved and lost and pined after someone they couldn’t have. Hornby has a knack for writing about common human experiences with a humor and with that makes them seem somehow glorious because of how pitiful they are. Rob Fleming is everyman, and laughing at his romantic misadventures helps you to laugh at your own.

5. The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom
the hiding place

One of the few books I re-read in 2011, I was surprised at how much richer this book was for me upon re-reading it. Perhaps it’s because I’ve grown to appreciate God’s love and care for His children since I first read it back in high school, but I was very personally encouraged by this book, and the testimony of Corrie ten Boom’s life, especially in how God used her time in a German concentration camp during WWII to teach her more about His power, grace, and love. This is a book that I’ll keep in my heart for the rest of my life.

4. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer
extremely loud and incredibly close

I hear that the movie version of this book is retaaaaahded, but don’t let that stop you from reading this beautiful, tragic, poignant book. One of the first novels to be set against the backdrop of 9/11, it came under some fire for being “manipulative” because of its setting. But I think time has been kind to it, and I found the story of young Oskar Schell’s search for a way to make sense out of life after losing his father in the 9/11 attacks to be profoundly moving.

3. Black Swan Green by David Mitchell
black swan green

What High Fidelity is for relationships, Black Swan Green is for growing up. Jason Taylor is unpopular, unconfident, and uncomfortable. His parents are on the verge of splitting up, the girl he fancies fancies the class bully, and, to make matters worse, he has a stammer that makes King George VI look like Cicero. He’s the Rob Fleming of junior high, and David Mitchell writes this semi-autobiographical character with honesty, compassion, and feeling. It’ll make you look back on the miserable memories of junior-high awkwardness (if you have them. I have them in abundance) with fondness — not because they weren’t really miserable, but because that misery shaped you into the person you are today.

2. Native Son by Richard Wright
native son

Native Son may well be one of the most important works of American literature. It’s well-written, thought-provoking, and harrowing. It tells the tale of Bigger Thomas, a black man ironically forced into a terrible situation by the kindness of people in a class oppressing his own. Part of me wants to say it’s a sad story, but it’s also a very cold story. Wright himself described it best when he said of its creation, “I swore to myself that if I ever wrote another book, no one would weep over it; that it would be so hard and deep that they would have to face it without the consolation of tears.”

1. The Prodigal God: Recovering the Heart of the Christian Faith by Tim Keller
prodigal god

I guess you could accuse me of copping out because I put a Christian book at the top of my list. But while this book may not change the world at large, it certainly changed my life, and my view of God’s love and grace. We’ve all heard the story of the prodigal son, and we think that the word “prodigal” means “lost” or “wayward.” But what it really means is “wastefully extravagant,” and Keller posits that the real prodigal in this story is the Father, who lavishes his love and riches on a son that doesn’t deserve it. I can’t even write about this book without being moved to tears because I know that God has given me so much more than I could ever hope to deserve. Because of His prodigal love, all the riches of heaven are mine, and there’s not a thing I can do to lose it or earn more of it. This book is a must-read for Christians who want to glimpse into the depths of God’s love for them.

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What were your favorite books of 2011?

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Cannonball 28: High Fidelity by Nick Hornby

High FidelityHigh Fidelity by Nick Hornby
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Nick Hornby has a real gift for sympathy. He discerns situations and reactions that are common to the human experience and is able to articulate them in such a way that every reader can identify with what he’s written. And, in High Fidelity, he delves into one of the most common human experiences: falling in and out of love.

High Fidelity is the ultimate book about relationships. It covers the initial euphoria of attraction, the crushing blow of heartbreak, and the sobriety and caution with which heartbreak can cause us to proceed the next time around.

Rob Fleming is the hapless main character that gets to experience all of the highs and lows of relationships in Hornby’s book. He starts the book by listing his top five break-ups of all time. We also learn that he has really screwed up his last relationship with a woman named Laura. That relationship is the central focus of the book. Although we see other relationships of Rob’s, both before and after this one, they’re all discussed in light of their bearing on his relationship with Laura.

high fidelity

John Cusack and Iben Hjejle as Rob and Laura in the film based on the book. It's a good movie, too; made back when John Cusack and Jack Black were likeable.

I never do this, but there were certain passages of the book that were so good that I just had to read them aloud to my sister. Hornby really just hits the nail on the head as far as how people behave and think when they’re in relationships, especially when it comes to the mistakes we make.

Now, I wouldn’t look to this book as an example of how to conduct oneself in a relationship. But it certainly gives insight as to how many people react to emotions and situations in their own lives when it comes to the opposite sex. That insight can be helpful in not only understanding your own behavior in these types of circumstances, but also in understanding what it might be like for the other person involved as well.

This review doesn’t even begin to do justice to the book, but suffice it to say that I absolutely loved it. Hornby writes with simplicity and nuance, a quality largely lacking in popular literature today. It’s a fast read, but a good one.

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Cannonball 45: About a Boy by Nick Hornby

About a BoyAbout a Boy by Nick Hornby
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’d never read Nick Hornby before picking up this book. I had seen and enjoyed the movie with Hugh Grant (and Nicholas Hoult, who, by the way, is aaaaaaall growns up now).

about a boy

Before.

nicholas hoult

After.

But I’d heard great things about this book, so I picked it up on a recommendation from Pajiba.

As usual, the book was better than the movie. One of the reasons that books are generally better than movies is that books can take a moment and make it last without making it feel like it’s taking the two or three minutes that it’s actually taking you to read the words describing that moment. Books can take you into the psyche of the character and let you feel what they’re feeling, whereas the best that movies are able to do is to either hint at it or give you some cheesy voiceover.

(P.S. I still love movies.)

About a Boy tells the tale of a womanizing man-child who meets an unpopular kid. Will lives off the royalties of his father’s hit Christmas song, and Marcus is the child of a suicidal hippie tree-hugger.

Marcus is unpopular at school, and the usual parental advice of “ignore them” isn’t helping. And the fact that his mother might still be suicidal makes it even more difficult for Marcus to deal with everything going on at school. The only time when he’s able to just relax and be himself is when he’s slumped over on Will’s couch, watching “Countdown.”

I liked that Hornby went back and forth between Will’s and Marcus’ points of view. And I like that Will and Marcus help each other without it being an obvious Ebenezer Scrooge-like transformation. Will cares about Marcus despite his selfish nature, not because Marcus is such a lovable kid, but simply because he senses that he can offer help, and it won’t be too difficult to proffer that help. Will’s afraid of getting involved with people because he likes that his way of life leaves him untouched and invulnerable to emotional hurt by others. But because of Marcus’ persistence, he can’t avoid seeing that Marcus is hurting and that it’s in his power to help.

I loved Will’s epiphany in the book that, while he was the last person qualified to teach Marcus how to be a man, he was the best qualified to teach him just how to be a kid. He thought he was worthless to Marcus because he lived this man-child lifestyle, but that information actually came in handy to a kid trying to fit in at a new school.

About a Boy was touching and funny without being cloying or overly sentimental. And that’s what I appreciate most about Hornby’s writing. It’s a quality that we seem to be losing as a society: subtlety.

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