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31 Songs

3.56  ·  Rating Details  ·  10,215 Ratings  ·  430 Reviews
'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
Paperback, 256 pages
Published January 27th 2011 by Penguin (first published 2003)
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Nick Hornby contemplates the souls connection to music, and how it shapes our lives and culture while sharing with us 31 of his own favourite tunes and his personal connection to them. Hornby's essays, as with all his novels, are beautifully written with equal parts humour and insight and even if you’re unfamiliar with the song in that chapter, completely relatable.

I made a point to listen to every song while reading each chapter which added to my enjoyment as well as introduced me to some gems
Sep 04, 2007 David rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
the original hardcover edition is the one to get. it's all made up nice to resemble a mix tape you made back in high school and handed, sweaty palm and all, to the girl you were madly in love with. she was all long brown hair and old striped izod shirts that were hand-me-downs from her older brother or father. and afterwards. days later. you sat on a guardrail in a parking lot and talked about the songs. and the sun was setting over telephone wires on beat-up cars and still. it was a perfect lan ...more
Apr 12, 2010 Alison rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: music lovers, Hornby lovers (is there a difference?)
A couple of times a year I make myself a tape to play in the car, a tape full of all the new songs I've loved over the previous few months, and every time I finish one I can't believe they'll be another. Yet there always is, and I can't wait for the next one; you need only a few hundred more things like that, and you've got a life worth living.

I love Nick Hornby. I love his voice. And I love that he's so neurotically obsessive about the things that he loves.

Here he dissects 31 of his favorite s
Sep 22, 2007 Núria rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everybody who loves music
Tal como su título ya da a entender, '31 canciones' se trata de una disección de 31 canciones que por diversos motivos han impactado y llegado al autor. No importa que la lista que ha escogido Hornby no tenga ningún parecido con la que hubiéramos escogido nosotros, ni que ni siquiera hayamos oído las canciones de las que habla, porque consigue transmitir perfectamente el amor que siente por estas canciones en concreto, y por la música en general, con un estilo que mezcla crítica musical, ensayo ...more
Nov 04, 2013 Nickyty rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, memoirs
(Reposting an old review)

A few pages into book brought me to the observation. It’s not the typical Nick Hornby piece. Don’t expect to find yourself in the psyche of some middle-aged guy coming to terms with his personal foibles and neuroses. The book is a collection of essays on selected songs that Hornby relates to certain moments in his life – his personal soundtrack so to speak.

Granted, the topic is boring or, at the very least, uninspiring. His song selection is quite esoteric. Only two of
Mar 04, 2013 John rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
“You could, if you were perverse, argue that you’ll never hear England by listening to English pop music. The Beatles and the Stones were, in their formative years, American cover bands that sang with American accents; the Sex Pistols were The Stooges with bad teeth and a canny manager, and Bowie was an art-school version of Jackson Browne until he saw the New York Dolls.”
So begins Nick Hornby’s chapter on why England’s national anthem should change (shouldn’t they all?) from “God Save the Quee
Aug 22, 2013 Sarah rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I wavered between giving this book three or four stars, but decided on three because of several essays in the middle that I didn't find particularly interesting and could have done without. In general, these essays provide an insightful look at music in general, how it plays a part in our lives and its impact on culture.

Because the essays are written by Nick Hornby, they are often quite funny, and almost always well-crafted. I love his general lack of pretension about his music tastes, and that
Feb 27, 2011 Kitty-Wu rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Bueno, no es una novela, ni un ensayo, ni una crítica musical (como se esfuerza en recordarnos el autor constantemente).... es una mirada sobre 31 canciones que de alguna manera u otra han calado en Hornby, bien sentimentalmente, bien por otros motivos más "musicales". No puedo evitarlo, Hornby me cae bien, me gusta como escribe, y es un fan de la música, como yo, aunque no tenga su nivel de conocimientos seguramente... pero el libro destila pasión y eso es lo que me atrapa, aunque no compartamo ...more
May 05, 2014 Lavinia rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, in-en, 2014
I was playing Queen for my daughter today, thinking it's 24 years since I first consciously listened to their music and irremediably fell in love with them (read Freddie, mostly) and I just realized I didn't say a word about this little lovely book.

"Sometimes, very occasionally, songs and books and films and pictures express who you are, perfectly. And they don’t do this in words or images, necessarily; the connection is a lot less direct and more complicated than that"

This quote really sums up
Jul 05, 2008 Zac rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
What could perhaps described as autobiographical music criticism. Anyone who knows me knows I frequently cite the often miss attributed quote "writing about music is like dancing about architecture" (Costello? Monk? Mingus? Kant?) so this book is kinda like that. Plus, Hornby frequently comes across as an old, liberal fart, especially in his descriptions of 21st century pop music and hip hop BUT HE KNOWS HES AN OLD LIBERAL FART AND HE REALLY LOVES Nelly Furtado so that sort of makes it OK doesn' ...more
Jun 28, 2008 Dynamopiev rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Absolute shit! Some terrible, terrible song choices - Nelly Furtado!! It's embarrasing! Like hearing your dad telling you he watched the fratellis on Jools Holland and thought they were great! Awful, awful book!
Apr 06, 2015 Marla rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Nick Hornby is a good writer and it is obvious with this book. But this was a really boring book. As I was reading about songs I didn't know or could care about I wondered how this book even got made and who would really buy it. I fill like it was something he just did to fulfill an obligation. I'm glad I could read it in a day.

I won this book on Goodreads and thank the publisher for my copy.
Nov 01, 2007 Todd rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
turns out i don't give a shit what nick hornby's favorite songs are.
Meghan Sochocki
"A couple of times a year I make myself a mix to play in the car, full of all the new songs I've loved over the previous few months, and every time I finish one I can't believe that they'll be another. Yet there always is, and I can't wait for the next one; you need only a few hundred more things like that, and you've got a life worth living."

I would classify this short book as part memoir, part music criticism, and part pop-culture manifesto. English novelist/essayist Nick Hornby dissects 30 po
Music is such a personal experience that, in the course of writing about 31 songs, one is bound to alienate some and endear oneself to others, possibly at the same time. I think that's why I found it difficult to rate this book. I was both delighted by it and disappointed with it. Some lines were illuminating and others made me laugh out loud. But I found large sections irrelevant and actually skipped a lot of it. The pace felt schizophrenic and overwhelming, as he pulled in random tidbits from ...more
Lionel Valdellon
Jan 21, 2010 Lionel Valdellon rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Rummaging through the music section of my library one day, I found Songbook by Nick Hornby, author of High Fidelity and About A Boy, and immediately brought it home. There’s nothing better than coming across someone who enjoys music and can write about it with skill and verve.

Songbook is basically a collection of reflections on 31 songs, not his all-time “best of” list, but rather, songs which he’s listened to over and over again and which he wanted to write something about. Thus he has essays o
Feb 25, 2010 Brayden rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I've been a Nick Hornby fan ever since I read High Fidelity and was blown away by what I consider to be one of the best "pop" novels ever written. But ever since reading High Fidelity, I've felt let down by his work. It's not that the other novels aren't enjoyable, but they don't emanate the same kind of raw honesty and personal meaning that High Fidelity did for me. There was something about that book that just seems very true to me.

That said, this is best book I've read by him since High Fidel
Jan 03, 2010 Kyla rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was my first introduction to Nick Hornby, and now that I've found an author who shares my feelings and taste in music, I'm completely willing--even more willing than I might be for a writer who's "only" as great as Hornby--to explore the novels he's written. For one, he's hilarious. I laughed and laughed deeply at his jokes (especially those regarding his Billboard exploration and songs to have sex to). And secondly, he has a writing style that's both candid and eloquent, serviceably invisi ...more
Jason Briggs
I read this book a few years ago. I picked up the book because this is the author of high fidelity. One of my favorite movies. I also was interested because the idea behind the book. In this book, Nick Hornby takes the reader through a list of his favorite songs, their significance to him and why and what he loves about music in general as well. This is a great book and I believe everyone can relate to the author's emotional connections with a song list, in their own unique way. We all love musi ...more
Sharmila Madhvani
Bijzonder boek. De vele muziekbesprekingen zijn slim, genuanceerd en inspirerend en geven meteen zin om de besproken titels te gaan verkennen (zelfs Bruce Springsteen). Maar wat het echt goed maakt, is hoe Nick Hornby zijn bedenkingen en associaties bij de songs gebruikt om zichzelf te omschrijven. Doorheen het boek krijg je dan ook op een heel subtiele manier een duidelijk gevoel over wie de auteur is. Heerlijk.

Een van de citaten die ik aanduidde (over Thunder Road - Bruce Springsteen):
'When it
Lisa Bentley
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 h
Jan 18, 2015 Tamara rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
It was refreshing, Hornby talking about the pop music he loved in an unpretentious way. Until the last chapter, when he shat on all of the pop music he doesn't love.

P.S. Nick Cave is an author? Who knew?!?

Favorite Quotes

I don't want to be terrified by art anymore. It's a strange critical phenomenon that only works of art that are "edgy," or "scary," or "dangerous" are regarded as any way noteworthy...There are, I suspect, two reasons why so much critical interest is excited by edginess or dange
Robert Poor
Sep 19, 2014 Robert Poor rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Music often plays an important role in the books of Nick Hornby, popular British author of "High Fidelity" and "About A Boy." A joke about "Kathleen Turner Overdrive" here, a joke about "Killing Me Softly" there. "Songbook" provides the context and tells the story of 31 pop songs that Nick Hornby loves.

Only a couple of the tunes he mentions - something by Teenage Fanclub and a kids song covered by Gregory Isaacs - are important to him based on what HE brings to the song. (And who can argue with
Mar 03, 2016 Glenn rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I read a short book by Nick Hornby recommended by my most prolific biblio-muse, my brother, Ron. This is the first book he has recommended to me that I have not particularly enjoyed, and here's why. This book was a nostalgic, deeply personal, somewhat self-indulgent trip down Nick Hornby's musical memory lane. Basically, each chapter had the title to a song that is near and dear to him and he elaborated on why, spoke about the elements of the song, in some cases where he heard it first and why i ...more
Nick Davies
Oddly, despite me now (mid thirties) being closer to the age at which Nick Hornby wrote this (mid forties) than I was when I first read it (mid twenties), it somehow feels slightly less relevant and less impactful, second time round. I wonder whether this is because of the explosion in recent years of 'lists' and 'top tens' as an internet trope, lessening the effect of this book - after all, everyone does it these days.

Nevertheless, it was pleasant and full of clever and pleasantly honest/humble
Jul 12, 2014 Sam rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: music
I take music very seriously, drawing deep meaning, or trying to, from many of the songs and albums I listen to. I've been told by someone I care deeply for that I take music too seriously--that I'm idealizing fake or pretend stories and messages and that, by doing so, I've tainted my outlook on reality. But that, to put it bluntly, is utter bullshit. Music is just another form of human artistic communication, no different than someone pouring their inner feelings and desires out on canvas or on ...more
Aug 16, 2015 Hung-ya rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
31 Songs is merely my second Nick Hornby book. I have loved About a Boy, both the movie and the book from years ago. Nick Hornby' s writing not only has the usual sarcasm you manage to find in average Britons, but also provides you laughters out of nowhere from time to time, then offers you comfort just when you need it even though you might not have expected in the first place.

i have just realized lately that as I grow older, I feel generally more confused about my life. Reading 31 Songs last w
Dave Logghe
Jul 02, 2015 Dave Logghe rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a collection of essays about some of Hornby's favorite songs. I started off the book listening to each song before reading the attached essay. Then I started to realize that I was becoming more interested in the slices of life each song was revealing about the author. Hornby wrote the book my favorite movie (High Fidelity) is based upon. I have always viewed him as something of a hero, and it seems so fitting that he would hide his autobiography in a collection of essays about music. He ...more
John Alexander
Sep 26, 2014 John Alexander rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Hornby on not discovering Jackson Browne until he was middle-aged: "It was almost like discovering a writer I'd never read -- except we discover writers we've never read all the time, and only rarely, as adults, do we stumble across major pop artists with a decent back catalog: it is usually prejudice rather than ignorance that has prevented us from making their acquaintance, and prejudice is harder to overcome (indeed, much more fun to maintain)." True. I gave up on Nick Cave after listening to ...more
Apr 06, 2011 Jo rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoirs, non-fiction
I thought this would be some kind of pretentious snobbery featuring lots of indie bands I'd never heard of. Okay, so it did feature lots of bands/musicians I've never heard of but mostly it reveals Hornby's incredible love for music. Of all kinds. And even if he doesn't like a particular genre, he doesn't 'diss' those who do.
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Nick Hornby is the author of the novels A Long Way Down, Slam, How to Be Good, High Fidelity, and About a Boy, and the memoir Fever Pitch. He is also the author of Songbook, a finalist for a National Book Critics Circle Award, Shakespeare Wrote for Money, and The Polysyllabic Spree, as well as the editor of the short-story collection Speaking with the Angel. He is a recipient of the American Acade ...more
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“I love the relationship that anyone has with music ... because there's something in us that is beyond the reach of words, something that eludes and defies our best attempts to spit it out. ... It's the best part of us probably ...” 542 likes
“Sarcasm and compassion are two of the qualities that make life on Earth tolerable.” 497 likes
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