Book Review: The Polysyllabic Spree

The Polysyllabic Spree: A Hilarious and True Account of One Man’s Struggle with the Monthly Tide of the Books He’s Bought and the Books He’s Been Meaning to Read

Nick Hornby

McSweeney’s, Believer Books

184 pages

So this is supposed to be about the how, and when, and why, and what of reading–about the way that, when reading is going well, one book leads to another and to another, a paper trail of theme and meaning; and how, when it’s going badly, when books don’t stick or take, when your mood and the mood of the book are fighting like cats, you’d rather do anything but attempt the next paragraph, or reread the last one for the tenth time.

Oh-Em-Gee.  Where has this book been all my life?!  I admit, I had heard of it plenty of times but had absolutely no idea what it was about.  Fast forward to a few weeks ago when I was having a bookish discussion with my boss.  She mentioned Hornby as one of her favorite authors and I admitted I hadn’t been too impressed with what I had read of his.  She asked what exactly I had read, and when I told her (Slam, A Long Way Down, and How to be Good), she told me I hadn’t gotten to his good stuff yet.  Then she told me about this book.

The Polysyllabic Spree is a compilation of Hornby’s columns for the British magazine The Believer.  The format starts off with two columns–to the left are the books he bought the previous month, and to the right are the books he read the previous month.  I am guessing it is something most (all) book bloggers can appreciate; the books we buy are not necessarily the books we read, and some months we can go a bit overboard with the books we acquire.  The majority of the column is Hornby discussing the books he read.

His wit is phenomenal; I was busting with mirth for most of the book. Not to mention that I could relate to pretty much everything he was saying, even if the specific books he was discussing weren’t my cup of tea.  His first ground rule, set out in column #1, is as follows.

I don’t want anyone writing in to point out that I spend too much money on books, many of which I will never read.  I know that already.  I certainly intend to read all of them, more or less.  My intentions are good.  Anyway, it’s my money.  And I’ll bet you do it too.

Can’t argue with that logic, could you.  I tore through this book so fast, it’d make your head spin.  And then I immediately ordered the other two books of his columns, which will hopefully get here in time for my vacation! Now I am off to check out The Believer to see whether it is as good as I suspect.

Other Reviews:

Books and Movies

Erin Reads

Life is a Patchwork Quilt

things mean a lot

I purchased this book from Borders.

14 Responses

  1. Oh my gosh, this sounds amaaaazing!

  2. I actually don’t really enjoy Hornby’s fiction, but I LOVE his nonfiction. I’ve read the first two of these books and really adored them, so I will have to read the final volume one of these days!

  3. This sounds fabulous! I can’t believe I didn’t know about it before!!!

  4. I enjoyed this one, too. I haven’t gotten to the second (and there may be a third). I hope you enjoy the other collections if you get to them!

  5. I keep hearing great things about this one!

  6. I agree with steph partly his early fiction is good ,but he is a great non fiction writer ,I read this when it came out and loved it he has a great wit ,all the best stu

  7. I,too, need to experience this author. I know everyone loves him but I just haven’t gotten to him yet! I will look for this one in particular.

  8. Oooh I’m glad you liked this!! I have this on my TBR and was hoping it was good! Must get to it soon… although I say that about half of the hundreds of books on there, LOL.

  9. I loved this book! And the next two that followed it. So many of the books that I read over the following two years were recommendations from Horny’s reviews. And yet there are still more I want to read. So glad you enjoyed it!

  10. I loved this book too–made a Hornby fan out of me, in fact. He is fun, insightful, and I found several gems that I wouldn’t have heard of had I not read it.

  11. How did you like Slam?

    I like you only read A Long Way Down, and How to be Good. I LOVED Polysyllabic Spree. Just finished and blogged it myself and thought I’d peruse the internet to see what others are saying.

    • Slam is by far my favorite of the three novels of Hornby’s that I have read. I would definitely recommend it.

      I am glad to hear you loved The Polysyllabic Spree. You should read his next two books of the same vein: Housekeeping vs The Dirt and Shakespeare wrote for Money. I have a combined review of the two scheduled to post in two days.

      • Hilarious! I thought my boss was wrong when he was telling me it wasn’t called Polysyllabic Spree but Housekeeping vs. The Dirt.

        Thanks for schooling me.

  12. […] or so of his Believer column entitled “Stuff I’ve Been Reading”, which I reviewed here. Housekeeping vs The Dirt and Shakespeare Wrote for Money are the second and third compilations […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s