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31 Songs

3.56 of 5 stars 3.56  ·  rating details  ·  8,562 ratings  ·  373 reviews
The personal essays in Nick Hornby's Songbook pop off the page with the immediacy and passion of an artfully arranged mix-tape. But then, who better to riff on 31 of his favorite songs than the author of that literary music-lover's delight, High Fidelity?

"And mostly all I have to say about these songs is that I love them, and want to sing along to them, and force other pe

...more
Paperback, 256 pages
Published June 28th 2003 by Penguin (first published 2002)
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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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David
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
Alison
Apr 12, 2010 Alison rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  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...more
Nickyty
(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...more
Núria
Sep 22, 2007 Núria rated it 3 of 5 stars
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
Kitty-Wu
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
John
“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...more
Sarah
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...more
Zac
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
Dynamopiev
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!
annik
Хорнби – один из тех парадоксов, которые постоянно встречаются на моем пути. Причем я сознательно взращиваю их, видимо, надеясь перехитрить саму себя.
Парадокс Хорнби в том, что я не читала ни одной его художественной книги, только статьи о книгах и о музыке, хотя изначально к нему меня привела именно обложка его художественной книжки, а отзывы других людей на музыку-кино-книги я вообще не люблю. Читаю только в исключительных случаях, чаще это люди, которых я знаю лично, и поэтому Хорнби – интере...more
Lionel Valdellon
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...more
Brayden
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...more
Kyla
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...more
Robert Poor
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...more
Sam
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
John Alexander
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
Jo
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.
Peebee
Nick Hornby on Thunder Road....seriously, what could be better? Some of the essays were better than others, especially since some of the music was pretty seriously obscure, but I enjoy Hornby's thought processes so much that he can pretty much write about anything and I'll dig it.
Eleni
"Just as some of us were beginning to fear that club culture was finally going to make us feel excluded from the young person’s party (and, let’s face it, it was about time), they invented chillout music, and we felt right at home again", or else: I love you Nick Hornby.
Sarah
I won this book in a songwriting contest, which is fitting. It was the hardcover, which has a great look and feel, and comes with a CD. I loved listening to the CD while reading about the individual songs, and following the journey that each song took him on.
Pietrus Block
Does anyone know if Mr. Hornby was serious when he cited the following lines (from Aimee Mann's "Ghostland") as excellent?

"Everyone I know is acting weird
or way too cool
they hang out by the pool
so I just read a lot and ride my bike around the school."
Laura
I wish there was a CD to go with this edition. Thankfully youtube could help me out, and I'm listening to each song now, after reading the essays.
Bryce Wilson
Once again Hornby's affectionate and intelligent criticism reminds me why I bothered with him in the first place.
Alex
Fairly weak for Nick, I thought. A couple of good chapters, but a lot of filler.
Beth
I love the obsessive pop fandom done with a British accent.
Todd
turns out i don't give a shit what nick hornby's favorite songs are.
Lavinia
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...more
Kelsey
Feb 23, 2014 Kelsey rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people who love High Fidelity & would like to hear more of Jack Black's character's opinion
So this is definitely the kind of book you get to write once you've achieved superstar author status in that it's totally self-indulgent but there's a reason that Hornby's a superstar author and that's because he's a pretty great writer and this book is no exception. It's basically just 31 mini-essays about his favorite songs and his personal relationship with them as well as cultural attitudes toward certain musical genres; as I'm sure you can imagine, the guy who wrote High Fidelity has some p...more
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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
More about Nick Hornby...
High Fidelity About a Boy A Long Way Down How to Be Good Juliet, Naked

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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 ...” 507 likes
“Sarcasm and compassion are two of the qualities that make life on Earth tolerable.” 466 likes
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