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Originally published Saturday, November 30, 2013 at 3:04 AM

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‘Ten Years in the Tub’: adrift in Nick Hornby’s book-lined world

“Ten Years in the Tub” collects Nick Hornby’s delightful columns from “The Believer” magazine, complete with lists of books bought, books read and essays that stitch together a crazy quilt of subjects.


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‘Ten Years in the Tub: Collected Columns 2003-2013’

by Nick Hornby

McSweeney’s, 464 pp., $26

A book about the pleasures of reading? Not so unusual. A book that makes you dash out, buy a small library, and devour it in one big greedy gulp? Rare indeed.

And if the book — British novelist Nick Hornby’s “Ten Years in the Tub” — is hilariously funny, profound, unpretentious and robust? And has a perfect title to boot?

Well, what’s not to like?

Hornby’s column “Stuff I’ve Been Reading,” in “The Believer” magazine, has a fetching premise. It starts with two lists: books bought that month versus books actually read. Hornby then riffs enthusiastically on them, explaining why he picked specific titles and why he’s read them (or not read them).

The author then uses his choices as springboards for taking on a combo plate of subjects. His tastes are eclectic, and split more or less evenly among several writerly categories: male/female, Brit/non-Brit, fiction/non-fiction, famous/not-famous.

Open “Ten Years in the Tub” anywhere and you’ll find something delicious, with the wit and energy supplied by Hornby’s formidable intelligence and tangy blend of high- and lowbrow.

Case in point: A single column drawn from one month’s choices ties together the cultural significance of the iPod, George Orwell’s essays, William Kennedy’s novel “Ironweed,” and Norman Lewis’ memoirs of WWII Naples. Stops along the way include sitcoms, 1980s-vintage pop music, rude people, poetry and books that make you feel good about sex. And it all fits together brilliantly.

In honor of one of Hornby’s many obsessions — pop music — I’ll give the book a 10. It’s got a good beat and you can dance to it, even while reading in the tub.

Adam Woog reviews crime fiction for The Seattle Times.



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