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31 Songs

3.56  ·  Rating details ·  12,825 ratings  ·  578 reviews
Librarian's note: See alternate cover edition of ISBN 0141013400 here.

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 i

Paperback, 256 pages
Published June 28th 2003 by Penguin (first published 2003)
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Average rating 3.56  · 
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 ·  12,825 ratings  ·  578 reviews

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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 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
Jun 29, 2008 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
Nov 01, 2007 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.
Jun 29, 2020 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Reading '31 Songs' is a bit like how I might imagine going out to the pub with Nick Hornby (in itself no bad thing I'm sure) just for a couple of beers and a general, not hugely insightful, chat about music - and therein lies the problem.

Whilst ostensibly a book about 31 songs - this comprises vague ideas and thoughts sometimes tenuously connected (although not always) with each song , but that's about it - there's nothing seemingly passionate or heartfelt concerning said songs.

'31 Songs' is th
Jun 28, 2008 rated it did not like it
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!
Mar 04, 2013 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
Jun 16, 2008 rated it liked it
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 14, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoirs, music
(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 29, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2014, non-fiction, in-en
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
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.
Feb 21, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I’m in the middle of reading Wolf Hall and thought tonight to interrupt my reading with this little gem from Nick Hornby. I had borrowed it months ago from a friend and they want to lend it to their nephew. 31 songs is insightful. In a sense we all could produce a list of songs, not necessarily 31, that have moved us in some way. Not that it was the song we first danced with a loved one or the song that reminds us of a certain holiday. More a song that spoke to us at a certain point in our life. ...more
Aug 22, 2013 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
But sometimes, very occasionally, songs and books and
films and pictures express who you are, perfectly.

I might not have the same music taste as Nick Hornby (I mostly related to the references to Sex Pistols, The Clash and Patti Smith) but we feel and are driven by our love for it which is exactly what this book is about.
Although, I do feel it got dragged by the end of it and the songs didn't feel as meaningful as the first ones and could've done without.
Hannah Polley
Jun 21, 2018 rated it did not like it
Shelves: nick-hornby, music
It is not really this book’s fault that I hated it because it really is not my thing. However, I like to give every book that comes my way a chance so I gave it a go.

This is a book about Nick Hornby’s favourite songs. My problems were that I don’t know who Nick Hornby is, I don’t care what he thinks about certain songs, and we clearly have different tastes in music.

I tried to read it carefully but after the first few songs, I just skimmed through it.

Not for me at all.
Nov 23, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, music
When I put this on my wishlist, I thought it was a novel. I just read a couple of Hornby's books and decided I wanted to read them all. I was a little disappointed when I discovered it was just him talking about 31 songs he liked, especially when I looked at the list of songs and either don't know or don't like any of them.

But this isn't really about those particular songs. This is a musical journey that pretty much everyone can relate to. Even though the songs are different, they way he's gone
Oct 26, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Songbook was going to be (I thought) my introduction to Nick Hornby. Hornby is, of course, the author of High Fidelity and About a Boy. I was looking forward to seeing Hornby's legendary mordant wit on display. To a certain extent that actually happened in Songbook, which is a collection of essays on music, specifically the music the author loves most-pop music. I cannot disparage the subject matter, but the book itself became a painful slog I only finished through sheer stubbornness. I quit eve ...more
May 27, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography, music
This book inspires me to discover and get inspired by good music (again).

Now I need to skim it again from cover to cover while looking up every single song I don't know on YouTube.
Pietrus Block
Aug 27, 2007 rated it did not like it
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."
Jan 02, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned
Music criticism? Not quite - music appreciation, and a reading so easy and quick it does feel like a good song, itself.
Aug 07, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: casual-reads
The other day I read a rather unfair review of Somerset Maugham's "The Razor's Edge" on The Atlantic, about how he was among the best of second-rate writers, or something like that. In explaining her position, the writer refered to a moment in the book where a character's library is used as a way of describing him, which is apparently lazy. This observation was weird for me, not only because the character in question was Elliot Templeton, who at the time of this "description" had already been ps ...more
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
Jun 04, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
When this book was written in 2003, the essays discussed songs that the reader either knew or would go out and seek having read the authors appreciation . Reading this in 2020 with the ability to ask Alexa to play each song would have been unimaginable feat, but what a joy it is! I’ve never found an in road to Ben Folds music, but reading the authors love for the song Smoke and being able to repeat it, enabled me to get it. While the book is dated, there are many gems to be discovered and classi ...more
Filipe Coutinho
Apr 14, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Hornby loves pop, and he's fascinated by how it transcends its own status to become 'pop culture'. Songbook is, in many ways, a testament to how he sees music and the function it should serve in his life. The song choices matter less than the way he writes about them. Throughout we get some wonderfully written and heartfelt stories that illustrate the power of music on the mundane. Towards the end, we also get some Hornby music criticism, which is just delightful and, as always, extremely well-o ...more
Lionel Valdellon
Jan 21, 2010 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
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
Feb 25, 2010 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
Jul 16, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Hornby is just about my age, and as we all know a person's age is one of the best determiners of the sort of things you'll have on your shelf. Although I am more of a jazz listener than Hornby, I found that there was a fairly extensive crossover between my collection and his list. What makes the book fun-- what makes lists like that fun-- are the arguments he sets out to make the case for his selections. His defense of Rod Stewart, for example, is spot on-- Stewart is cool, up to a point, and th ...more
Dec 19, 2009 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
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Goodreads Librari...: Year? 2 13 Apr 07, 2018 03:40PM  
Madison Mega-Mara...: # 18 Songbook 1 3 Jun 06, 2016 10:49AM  
The Rory Gilmore ...: Songbook by Nick Hornby 6 135 Dec 21, 2013 06:55PM  
Drinking Club wit...: Song Book 1 4 May 10, 2013 05:24AM  

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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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