Nick Hornby Goes from Inspirational to Wickedly Funny in 'More Baths Less Talking'

Not even two full pages into the book, Nick Hornby says “vent my spleen”. To me, this should be proof enough of More Baths Less Talking's greatness. But if that's not quite enough for you, don’t worry— Hornby has a lot more to offer.

More Baths Less Talking: Notes from the Reading Life of a Celebrated Author Locked in Battle with Football, Family, and Time Itself

Publisher: McSweeney's
Length: 135 pages
Author: Nick Hornby
Price: $14.00
Format: Paperback
Publication date: 2012-08

More Baths Less Talking by Nick Hornby is the latest in a series of books that pull from his "Stuff I've Been Reading" column published in the Believer magazine. If you are familiar with the column or Hornby’s earlier books (such as The Complete Polysyllabic Spree: The Diary of an Occasionally Exasperated but Ever Hopeful Reader), you might stop reading this now because, most likely, you already know how witty and charming Hornby’s writing is, and I’m not certain I can tell you anything new. In short, if you liked Hornby’s previous books and/or his column, this book should be a pretty safe bet for you.

If, on the other hand, you aren’t familiar with Hornby and his work, More Baths Less Talking is a great introduction.

More Baths Less Talking looks at the books Hornby is reading (and sometimes the ones he didn’t quite get around to reading) from May 2010 to December 2011. Each entry in the book follows the same format as the column: “Hornby lists the books he’s bought that month, followed by the books he’s actually read. The seasoned reader, accustomed to the vicissitudes of a life spent accumulating books, can probably guess without checking that in any given month the Books Bought and Books Read lists hardly overlap.”

After the lists, comes the fun—Hornby’s reading experiences—which range from trying to read in a noisy household to trying to find a book to read: “I bought Fishing in Utopia because I found myself in a small and clearly struggling independent village-bookshop, and I was desperate to give the proprietor some money, but it was a struggle to find anything that I could imagine myself reading, among all the cookbooks and local histories”.

To those unfamiliar, a column (and now book) about what someone is reading may not sound that riveting, but Hornby’s musings range from inspirational to wickedly funny. First, not even two full pages into the book, Hornby says “vent my spleen”. To me, this should be proof enough of the book’s greatness. But if that's not quite enough for you, don’t worry— Hornby has a lot more to offer.

More Baths Less Talking, like much of Hornby’s writing, is simply bookworm heaven. Many bibliophiles only like one thing more than reading books—and that’s talking about books. At its heart, More Baths Less Talking is simply a conversation about books, from one book person to another. Most of us probably just wish our conversations about books had as much style, as much panache as Hornby’s. But while Hornby may be wittier than the average reader, many of his statements suggest that he’s just another booklover at heart.

After all, who other than a book-obsessed individual would ever say: “Finishing Austerity Britain was indisputably my major achievement of the month, more satisfying, even, than sitting in a plush seat and applauding for three and a half hours while other people collected statuettes.” And would anyone other than a reader truly appreciate this sentiment?

Another common readerly sentiment: Why don’t more people read? Hornby has some thoughts on that, too:

“The quickest way to kill all love for the classics, I can see now, is to tell young people that nothing else matters, because then all they can do is look at them in a museum of literature, through glass cases. Don’t touch! And don’t think for a moment that they want to live in the same world as you! And so a lot of adult life—if your hunger and curiosity haven’t been squelched by your education—is learning to join up the dots that you didn’t even know were there.”

As part of the overall literary experience, Hornby addresses the realities of reading: “I first read Our Mutual Friend years and year ago, and didn’t enjoy the experience much, but I was almost certain that the fault was mine rather than the author’s. Something was going on at the time—divorce, illness, a newborn, or one of the other humdrum hazards that turn reading into a chore…” And Hornby admits when books don’t meet expectations:

Game Change isn’t the book I thought it would be…I was expecting a thrilling and inspirational story, full of goodies and baddies, dizzying highs and dispiriting lows; instead, Heilemann and Halperin describe a long, strength-sapping, and bitter trudge to victory…This is not to say that Game Change is dull. It isn’t, because every page feels like the truth. It’s just that the truth isn’t as uplifting as you want to believe.”

But most of Hornby’s literary meanderings are heartening and filled with make-you-smile moments. When a writer expresses, as Hornby often does, such awe of fellow writers and their books, it’s a bit inspirational. His comments about Rebecca Skloot’s The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks fall into that category; he states it "... is riveting, beautifully written, and yes, educational. I learned stuff. I learned so much stuff that I kept blurting it out to anyone who’d listen. Do you know who Henrietta Lacks was? Have you ever heard of the HeLa cells?... And so on. I’ll tell you, you don’t want to be living with me at the moment. I’m even more boring than usual."

Don’t believe him, though. More Baths Less Talking doesn’t contain a boring passage and will, most likely more than once, make you laugh out loud. And of course, the added bonus: the great selection of must-read books you’ll have based on Hornby’s lists.


So far J. J. Abrams and Rian Johnson resemble children at play, remaking the films they fell in love with. As an audience, however, we desire a fuller experience.

As recently as the lackluster episodes I-III of the Star Wars saga, the embossed gold logo followed by scrolling prologue text was cause for excitement. In the approach to the release of any of the then new prequel installments, the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare, followed by the Lucas Film logo, teased one's impulsive excitement at a glimpse into the next installment's narrative. Then sat in the movie theatre on the anticipated day of release, the sight and sound of the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare signalled the end of fevered anticipation. Whatever happened to those times? For some of us, is it a product of youth in which age now denies us the ability to lose ourselves within such adolescent pleasure? There's no answer to this question -- only the realisation that this sensation is missing and it has been since the summer of 2005. Star Wars is now a movie to tick off your to-watch list, no longer a spark in the dreary reality of the everyday. The magic has disappeared… Star Wars is spiritually dead.

Keep reading... Show less

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.