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Starter for Ten

3.59  ·  Rating details ·  17,864 ratings  ·  1,201 reviews
The year is 1985. Brian Jackson, a working-class kid on full scholarship, has started his first term at university. He has a dark secret—a long-held, burning ambition to appear on the wildly popular British TV quiz show University Challenge—and now, finally, it seems the dream is about to become reality. He's made the school team, and they've completed the qualifying round ...more
Paperback, 338 pages
Published January 23rd 2007 by Villard (first published 2003)
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Leigh Ann I would think it has to do with (1) nakedness and (2) the similarity between the sounds of "habeas corpus" and "Harbinson's" (the latter being a happy…moreI would think it has to do with (1) nakedness and (2) the similarity between the sounds of "habeas corpus" and "Harbinson's" (the latter being a happy side effect).(less)
Sharon It is not as good as the book, but still a great movie adaptation. I watched the movie first and then read the book and wasn't disappointed.

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3.59  · 
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 ·  17,864 ratings  ·  1,201 reviews

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Nov 10, 2010 rated it did not like it
This was a First-Reads win, so I desperately wanted to like this book. It's a coming-of-age story about an awkward, nerdy main character. In fact, this character is like many a person I've known during my own coming-of-age period in my life. Unfortunately, unlike the many similar people I've known and liked and befriended, Brian Jackson lacks any redeeming quality that makes me, the reader, want to root for him.

The first forty pages of the book had me slightly interested in learning what would
Sep 15, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"I'm aware that the transition into adulthood is a difficult and sometimes painful one. I'm familiar with the conventions of the rites of passage, I know what the literary term bildungsroman means, I realise that it's inevitable that I'll look back at things that happened in my youth and give a wry, knowing smile. But surely there's no reason why I should be embarrassed and ashamed about things that happened thirty seconds ago? No reason why life should just be this endless rolling panorama of b ...more
Rosanna Threakall
This is David Nicholl's first novel and it really shows. Although it was enjoyable, funny, heart wrenching and relatable it just wasn't what I was expecting.

It felt clumsy and confused and I didn't like the way women were portrayed.

I guess I just can't get over the fact that Understudy by him is one of my all time fav books I think about it everyday and I just want another one of his books to do that to me. Unfortunately, this is not one of them.

I found the synopsis and reviews misleading.

Aug 15, 2009 rated it really liked it
"'Well...' says Alice '...we had some friends round, like we always do on Boxing Day, and we were playing charades, and it was my turn, and I was trying to do 'Last Year At Marienbad' for Mummy, and she was getting so frantic and over-excited, and shouting so hard, that her cap popped out and landed right in our next-door neighbour's glass of wine!'
And everyone's laughing, even Mr Harbinson, and the atmosphere is so funny and adult and amusing and irreverent that I say, 'You mean you weren't wea
Feb 03, 2018 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I think I'd have had a lot more sympathy for the main character if I had read this a decade ago, when I was also an insufferable asshole nineteen year old.
Greg Stragnell
Mar 07, 2009 rated it really liked it
This is a very funny book about an English lad during his first year at University. He has all the usual first year mishaps and, partly as a result of "falling in love" with a beautiful undergraduate, joins the team for University Challenge, a British quiz programme based on College Bowl. He pursues his relationship with "the beautiful girl" while at the same time crossing swords with a radical but much more rounded girl. The book was made into a film starring James McAvoy which is also very amu ...more
Carrie Kitzmiller
Nov 26, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2011
Brian Jackson is a grant student entering his first year at university. Coming from blue collar family and friends, he’s always been the oddball at home, and is hoping that at university he will find his niche. As a fan of the television show University Challenge, he is excited to make the team, even if it is only as first alternate – mostly because he gets to see the posh and beautiful Alice at team meetings. As his first year of college progresses, though, Brian learns the valuable lesson that ...more
This is set at Bristol University in one of the years I was studying there (which is why I read it) and is presumably somewhat autobiographical as the author was there at that time. However, bar the odd mention of certain music, it wasn't particularly comparable to my experience or people I knew.

It is the story of Brian's first couple of terms at university, during which he fulfils an ambition to be on the University Challenge (TV quiz) team. However, the quiz is just a literary hook to portray
Carrie Hope Fletcher
Feb 25, 2014 rated it it was amazing
"1985. First-year student and Kate Bush fan Brian falls or beautiful University Challenge queen Alice Harbinson in a brilliant comedy of love, class, growing up and the all-important difference between knowledge and wisdom."
"Another David Nicholls book?!" I hear you scream! Yes indeed and they just get better and better! ‘Starter For Ten’ is a brilliant read however the main character is a bit of an oddball! Brian Jackson is a lanky and rather geeky boy that is unbelievably socially inept. ‘Sta
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Sep 24, 2011 rated it it was amazing
When we were young -a long long time ago- a friend of mine and me joked about the continuous crises: the first-year-at-uni crisis, the mid-degree crisis and of course, the last-degree-year crisis. Hey, our life was so full!
This is a first-year-at-uni crisis novel, dissected by his protagonist and narrator, Brian. He presents himself as a working-class lad setting off on his big university journey, with all its appealing prospects: leaving home to live on your own -that is to say, in your shared
Judy Mann
Apr 13, 2012 rated it did not like it
This book made me glad that there are such things as libraries.Had I wasted a nickle buying this book I would've been furious.
It's not very good.
The first thing I want to say is that once you're onto David Nicholl's gimmicks - the whole book falls apart. Here it is- his gimmick: He seems to lead you to this great climax in the plot and then whammo- he lets you drop-flat on your face. All his plots have bad endings. That's how he engages you- with bad endings.
Yes One Day was fabulous- but that wa
May 23, 2018 rated it liked it
A quick easy read, coming of age story. I felt the anxieties of teenagers, leaving to go to university was well portrayed and the issues of social class
Post-One Day, I wanted to have at some more of David Nicholls' work. Starter for 10 is his first novel, and well....I finished it underwhelmed.

A few reasons why this one tripped me up when One Day (for me anyway) was so lovely:

1) The protagonist, Brian Jackson: A college freshman, Brian has fancy notions of what it means to head off to university. But he's nerdy and his face is pock-marked with acne and he's awkward. So, SO awkward. Every scene becomes slightly painful to read because it's Brian
Aug 25, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Men don't read. Or that's something of a stereotype assigned by publishers that makes finding good books somewhat difficult at times. One can always pick up airport reads about lawyers (Grisham) spies (Clancy) or scary medical stuff (Crichton) and then of course there is fare for the intellectual (Franzen). What about the non-alpha male middle class white guy, somewhat in touch with his sensitive side who wants to pick up something that doesn't assume he is without brains, but doesn't necessaril ...more
Jan 11, 2015 rated it really liked it
4.5 stars

This book was hilarious. I don't tend to pick up funny books for some reason but I am so glad I picked this one up. Honestly, it was one of the funniest books I have ever read.

Brian was such a great character. He was the one you loved to hate and his knack of embarrassing himself constantly left me in hysterics. There were times when I was actually groaning audibly because of his awkwardness. By the end of the book, I felt so close to him and I just wanted more. I found myself picking
Kayla Perry
Feb 15, 2011 rated it did not like it
Shelves: fiction
I had high hopes for this book after reading One Day, but they turned out to be in vain. Starter for Ten has a cast of characters that I found generally repugnant, especially the main character. He's so obsessed with a girl who plainly doesn't like him and who uses him repeatedly, yet he never seems to learn from these lessons, so the reader is forced to roll their eyes as surprise!-she screws him over again. The story focuses more on his failed courtship of her than it does on his self-professe ...more
I like game shows, so I was interested in the quiz show aspect of this book. I found the book painful to read at times, as the main character was so awkward and inept. Yet, truth be told, I did a lot of stupid things when I was his age. Maybe I was a little better at covering my tracks.
Dec 16, 2011 rated it really liked it
When I approach the table, Alice stands up, and amazingly puts her arm round me and hugs me really tightly, her cheek pressed tight against mine. I don't know what to do, so I put my arms around her too, leaning forward slightly to allow for the volume of her puffball skirt, one hand on the grey satin, and one on her back, her beautiful back, just where the flesh swells out over the top of the satin, and she whispers in my ear-'you are such a lovely man'- and I think I'm going to cry again, not
J.A. Kahn
Feb 24, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I listened to the audio of this book read by David Tennant. It is absolutely sidesplittingly hilarious. (You do need to be familiar with the UK’s University Challenge quiz show to get the most enjoyment out of it). Throughout you get the ominous feeling things can only end badly for Brian. But do they....
Jan 30, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I don't know if I love or hate that ending.

So, at first, I really really really hated Brian and, to an extent, I still do. However, at a point about half way through the book my hatred gave way to some sort of mild eye-rolling affection. I just came to accept that he's a bit of a prat and got on with the book.

It was a good book. Not brilliant, but not bad either. I liked the fact that the plot followed the choices of the protagonist. It wasn't a plot-driven book, but it WAS a character-driven b
Mar 18, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: books-i-ve-loved
I thoroughly enjoyed this book from start to almost the finish. The style is wry and self-aware with just enough pretentiousness to let the reader into the world of the university and Brian Jackson.

The writing style was comedic and had me laughing on buses all over the city.

The major downfalls of the novel are the ending, which seemed a bit rushed, and some parts of the narrative became trite, leaving me a bit jaded. Perhaps I saw rather too much of myself in Brian Jackson: a pretentious twit w
Jan 23, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I definitely believe in the necessity of reading diverse literature. If we're not exposed to stories of those different from us, our horizons remain dangerously limited. Different races, religions, sexual orientations, genders – bring it on. I'm game for all of it.

But if I'm going to be honest, my wheelhouse, my comfort food, my warm blanket and cup of cocoa in front of a crackling fire on a cold winter night, is always going to be books about awkward, lovelorn, pop-cultured obsessed, too-clever
Feb 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: young-adult, i-own
Almost died from second hand embarrassment
Amrita Sarkar
Feb 08, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Starter for Ten started out to be the prose equivalent of a British John Hughes film. The year is perfect; The Breakfast Club year of 1985. Something like this book had been badly needed and I was so grateful to Mr. Nicholls for having written a deliciously long book. Like his protagonist( and himself), I read English in college. Accordingly, I developed all the pretentiousness and affectations of a literature student. I cannot remember any other reading experience that made me feel so profoundl ...more
Jan 09, 2016 rated it liked it
was more than a bit pissed when I realised it’s January 16th and I’ve only read two books. Two bloddy books! And neither of them have been that good, either. From here on out I’m dedicating a lot more time to reading. Anyway, back to the book.

Ever since I read One Day by David Nicholls I’ve been meaning to try more of his work. I’ve got his most recent release Us on my kindle, but I put it down after about fifty pages as it wasn’t working for me. I might try it again at some point though as I'v
Dean Tsang
Nov 26, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: goldies
Starter For Ten features the incredibly unlikable protagonist, Brian Jackson, as he bumbles his way through university life in this coming-of-age novel.

The main problem that irks many readers is that Brian is a pretentious git who spends his entire time lusting after his university challenge teammate Alice. But Nicholls is very, very aware of this. At some point in the novel, everyone calls him out on his horrendous attitude, and he eventually does get his comeuppance.

But Brian, I think, was a
Feb 14, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2013
I love David Nichols' writing but I've been putting this one off for a long time because I love the movie so much. I know books are usually (almost always?) better than the movie but in this case I wasn't sure I'd be able to picture anything other than James McAvoy, Benedict Cumberbatch etc. The book definitely holds up on it's own as an entertainment, but I was fascinated by the changes that were made to put this story on screen - and I do think that some of the changes actually improved the st ...more
May 03, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I just, this book was adorable and cringey and embarrassing and gross all at the same time. I really really enjoyed it! So much so, that is definitely deserves 5 stars.

It was just such a beautiful coming of age story. It's set over the space of one year, and Brian's, the main character, life at university. Along the way he meets various people due to various different activities, and each character was described so well and they all really came to life in my head. I definitely developed a dislik
Oct 24, 2015 rated it really liked it
David Nicholls may be my new Nick Hornby. He certainly writes similar pitiable yet lovable British men. My dear friend Megan recommended this one after reviewed Us, knowing as she did my history with coaching a quiz team. This is not necessarily an examination of the inner workings of quiz bowl culture (cementing my suspicion that perhaps THAT is the book I should be writing already), it does get the quirks and endearing quality of those that aim to prove their worth at trivia. There were times ...more
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David Nicholls is a British author, screenwriter, and actor. A student of Toynbee Comprehensive school and Barton Peveril Sixth Form College, he Graduated from the University of Bristol having studied English Literature and Drama.

After graduation, he won a scholarship to study at the American Musical and Dramatic Academy in New York, before returning to London in 1991 and finally earning an Equity
“Independence is the luxury of all those people who are too confident, and busy, and popular, and attractive to be just plain old lonely. And make no mistake, lonely is absolutely the worst thing to be. Tell someone that you've got a drink problem, or an eating disorder, or your dad died when you were a kid even, and you can almost see their eyes light up with the sheer fascinating drama and pathos of it all, because you've got an issue, something for them to get involved in, to talk about and analyse and discuss and maybe even cure. But tell someone you’re lonely and of course they’ll seem sympathetic, but look very carefully and you'll see one hand snaking behind their back, groping for the door handle, ready to make a run for it, as if loneliness itself were contagious. Because being lonely is just so banal, so shaming, so plain and dull and ugly.” 135 likes
“I want to be able to listen to recording of piano sonatas and know who's playing. I want to go to classical concerts and know when you're meant to clap. I want to be able to 'get' modern jazz without it all sounding like this terrible mistake, and I want to know who the Velvet Underground are exactly. I want to be fully engaged in the World of Ideas, I want to understand complex economics, and what people see in Bob Dylan. I want to possess radical but humane and well-informed political ideals, and I want to hold passionate but reasoned debates round wooden kitchen tables, saying things like 'define your terms!' and 'your premise is patently specious!' and then suddenly to discover that the sun's come up and we've been talking all night. I want to use words like 'eponymous' and 'solipsistic' and 'utilitarian' with confidence. I want to learn to appreciate fine wines, and exotic liquers, and fine single malts, and learn how to drink them without turning into a complete div, and to eat strange and exotic foods, plovers' eggs and lobster thermidor, things that sound barely edible, or that I can't pronounce...Most of all I want to read books; books thick as brick, leather-bound books with incredibly thin paper and those purple ribbons to mark where you left off; cheap, dusty, second-hand books of collected verse, incredibly expensive, imported books of incomprehensible essays from foregin universities.

At some point I'd like to have an original idea...And all of these are the things that a university education's going to give me.”
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