Three books to bring on the laughter and tears — from a master of both.
Few British writers have endeared themselves so completely to American readers. Nick Hornby’s novels take extremely specific conditions — that of, being, say, a record store owner more in love with the merchandise than the customers (High Fidelity) — and spin out of them a brand of humane comedy that reaches easily across borders. His latest book, Juliet, Naked, draws again on his passion for pop music, to craft a wry tale of fandom gone very wrong. Below, Nick Hornby names three of his favorite books.
By Jess Walter
“Jess Walter is an American writer to watch, and The Financial Lives Of The Poets is his best novel. It’s a painfully timely account of a life falling apart as America’s economy falls apart all around it; indeed, the two things are not unconnected. Walter’s gift is to understand that, just because times are hard, it doesn’t mean they’re not funny; and to see that, just because a novel has good jokes in it, it doesn’t mean it can’t accommodate and describe pain.”
By John Williams
“Every now and again, a passionate recommendation has to be taken seriously. A young screenwriter at this year’s Sundance Film Festival wanted to talk to me, not about his movie, or mine, but about John Williams’s unjustly obscure 1965 novel, and I’m very grateful that he did so. Stoner (the protagonist’s surname, not his occupation) is a pitch-perfect and heartbreaking story of an icy marriage and a doomed campus romance; you’re so close to the narrator’s unhappiness that you’re afraid to breathe.”
By Elizabeth McCracken
“I love Elizabeth McCracken’s work, but I picked this book up reluctantly – I knew that it was a memoir about her stillborn first child, and I didn’t know whether I could bear to read about that sort of grief. I shouldn’t have worried. Yes, the book is difficult in parts, but it’s also thoughtful, wry, and transcendent, and it provides confirmation, if any were needed, that McCracken is a genius.”