How to Be Good

( 49 )

Overview

How to Be Good is a story for our times—a humorous but uncompromising look at what it takes, in this day and age, to have the courage of our convictions. In his third novel, Nick Hornby, whom The New Yorker named "the maestro of the male confessional," has reinvented himself as Katie—the consummate liberal, urban mom—a doctor from North London whose world is being turned on its ear by the outrageous spiritual transformation of her husband, David.

How to Be Good has the ironic, ...

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Overview

How to Be Good is a story for our times—a humorous but uncompromising look at what it takes, in this day and age, to have the courage of our convictions. In his third novel, Nick Hornby, whom The New Yorker named "the maestro of the male confessional," has reinvented himself as Katie—the consummate liberal, urban mom—a doctor from North London whose world is being turned on its ear by the outrageous spiritual transformation of her husband, David.

How to Be Good has the ironic, funny, startlingly accurate take on our modern selves and our modern world that has become Hornby's turf as a chronicler of our popular culture—but this time he tackles it all with more richness and depth, and carries his readers beyond the comic confines of the novel to a bigger truth about themselves. It's a story about how to wreck your marriage, how to help the homeless, how not to raise your kids, how to find religion . . . and how to be good.

It&#39:s a story about how to wreck your marriage, how to help the homeless, how not to raise your kids, how to find religion ... and how to be good.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
New Age guru GoodNews arrives just in time to teach crabby middle-aged columnist David how to be a Good person in this piercingly funny novel. But disenchanted wife Katie -- who's been aching for a happier husband (or a divorce) -- is bewildered by David's transformation. How to Be Good is a witty, insightful, and ultimately powerful look at modern values.
Sunday Times [London]
How to Be Good is a novel of ideas....on a subject almost nobody else has written about.
Mail on Sunday
How to Be Good? How to be bloody marvelous, more like.
Punch
An excellent example of Nick Hornby at his best. Witty and comic, Hornby also manages to be moving and moral.
New Statesman
This novel is a good, dark, espresso-strength comedy tha nobody else could have written.
Guardian
Enormously readable and ultimately powerful.
Observer
You can't help but get along with Nick Hornby's books.
Spectator
Hornby is a very funny and very clever writer, and How to be Good is packed with wit and brilliance.
Publishers Weekly
Kate, a doctor, wife and mother, is in the midst of a difficult decision: whether to leave or stay with her bitter, sarcastic husband David (who proudly writes a local newspaper column called "The Angriest Man in Holloway"). The long-term marriage has gone stale, but is it worth uprooting the children and the comfortable lifestyle? Then David meets a faith healer called Dr. Goodnews, and suddenly converts to an idealistic do-gooder: donating the children's computer to an orphanage, giving away the family's Sunday dinner to homeless people and inviting runaways to stay in the guest room (and convincing the neighbors to do likewise). Barber gives an outstanding performance as Kate, humorously conveying her mounting irritation at having her money and belongings donated to strangers, her guilt at not feeling more generous and her hilarious desire for revenge. Barber brilliantly portrays each eccentric character: hippie-ish Goodnews, crusading David, petulant children and, poignantly, the hesitant, halting Barmy Brian, a mentally deficient patient of Kate's who needs looking after. Barber's stellar performance turns a worthy novel into a must-listen event. Simultaneous release with Riverhead hardcover (Forecasts, June 25). (July) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
Frances Barber is perfect as the voice of Katie Carr, a North London doctor and mother of two in the midst of a midlife crisis. As the novel begins, Katie's marriage to her bitter and sarcastic husband, David, the author of the syndicated "Angriest Man in Holloway" column, has deteriorated to the point where she has taken a lover and asked for a divorce. Everything changes, however, after faith-healer DJ GoodNews lays his hands on David, and the "Angriest Man in Holloway" is transformed into a "sincere Do-Gooder." David invites DJ to move in, and the two embark on an ambitious campaign to change the world. Although Katie is proud of some of David's accomplishments, she struggles with the change in dynamics in their relationship as well as with some of David's more extreme acts of charity. Entertaining and substantial, Hornby's novel is recommended for all popular fiction collections. Beth Farrell, Portage Cty. Dist. Lib., OH Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Another delightful comedy from Hornby (High Fidelity, 1995, etc.), this one about a woman whose plans to divorce her crabby husband are sidetracked by his sudden, if loony, embrace of saintliness. Though the 72-hour metamorphosis is a bit of a stretch, no matter: this hilarious romp entirely justifies the wise reader's agreement to play along. Narrator Katie Carr, a 40-something doctor in England's National Health Service, finds herself disenchanted with her marriage and in the midst of an affair. Husband David, a newspaper columnist known as "the Angriest Man in Holloway," is insufferably cynical and absorbed by his public spleen-spitting. Katie feels forgotten. She confides the affair and suggests a divorce; David instructs her to tell their two children during his three-day absence; she dithers, and when David returns he apologizes for not loving her properly. It seems he has begun receiving "treatments" from DJ GoodNews, whose impeccably beneficent persona persuades David to embrace the love in the world and nourish it as he can. The divorce is called off, and DJ and David begin tackling the problem of homeless children in Holloway by persuading neighbors to take individual kids for a year or so. Soon, a homeless boy named Monkey is eating at the Carr table, and David is giving away his children's prized toys. Thus begins a series of several remarkable schemes rendered with an entertaining mix of humor and delicately suggestive questioning. Hasn't Katie, a doctor who helps the afflicted, always been the good one after all? Just what does it mean to be "good"? Hornby's quick eye and nimble observational style nail everyone's vanity, but they all come in for their moment ofinsight as well. By the close, the engaging Carr family is restored whole, even as it realizes-and as the author reminds us with his characteristic sprightly fatalism-that they still inhabit an empty universe.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780141802657
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 5/28/2001
  • Edition description: Abridged
  • Pages: 2
  • Product dimensions: 0.10 (w) x 0.10 (h) x 0.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Nick Hornby is the author of the bestselling novels High Fidelity and About a Boy, as well as the memoir Fever Pitch. He is also the editor of the short-story collection Speaking with the Angel. In 1999 he was the recipient of the American Academy of Arts and Letters&#39: E. M. Forster Award.

Biography

Journalist and bestselling novelist Nick Hornby is best known for his portraits of dysfunctional Peter Pans -- clueless postmodern males in various stages of arrested development who discover, often to their chagrin, that growing up is a process involving far more than the passage of time. Dubbed the "maestro of the male confessional" by The New Yorker, Hornby is credited as the founder of the "lad lit " genre -- a peculiar honor, since he also seems to be its only truly successful practitioner!

However, to dismiss Hornby's writing as the testosterone-laced equivalent of "chick lit" is to seriously underestimate his talent. The New York Times Book Review put it this way: "Hornby is a writer who dares to be witty, intelligent and emotionally generous all at once. He combines a skilled, intuitive appreciation for the rigors of comic structure with highly original insights about the way the enchantments of popular culture insinuate themselves into middle-class notions of romance." (As further proof of his standing in the literary community, a group of distinguished colleagues -- including Germaine Greer, Zadie Smith, and Doris Lessing -- honored Hornby with the 2003 London Award.)

After graduating from Cambridge, Hornby worked a succession of jobs (he taught school, gave language classes, and served as a host for Samsung executives visiting the U.K.) before becoming a journalist. He wrote a series of pop culture columns for the Independent and wrote about music, books, and sports for Esquire, The Sunday Times, Elle, and the Times Literary Supplement. Then, in 1992, Hornby published a hilarious sports memoir about his maniacal obsession with Britain's Arsenal Football Club. A huge bestseller, Fever Pitch won the William Hill Sports Book of the Year Award and helped to give soccer a cachet far beyond its formerly "blokey" appeal. His debut novel, High Fidelity, appeared in 1995. Teeming with hip music and pop culture references, this story of a thirty-something record store owner lamenting his failed romantic relationships struck a responsive chord with readers on both sides of the Pond, paving the way for his bestselling 1998 follow-up, About a Boy.

Critical praise and literary honors have followed Hornby throughout his career: His 2001 novel How to Be Good won the WH Smith Fiction Award and was nominated for a Booker Prize; A Long Way Down (2005) was shortlisted for both the Whitbread Novel Award and the Commonwealth Writers Prize. He is the author of a bestselling novel for young adults (Slam), and his nonfiction essays have been collected into several anthologies, including The Polysyllabic Spree, Housekeeping vs. the Dirt, and Songbook (published in the UK as 31 Songs). He also serves as a pop music critic for The New Yorker.

Good To Know

Hollywood loves Hornby!
  • High Fidelity was filmed in 2000 with John Cusack.
  • Hugh Grant starred in the 2002 film About a Boy.
  • Fever Pitch was filmed twice: The 1997 British version starred Colin Firth. In 2005, an Americanized remake (substituting the Boston Red Sox for the Arsenal Football Club ) was released starring Jimmy Fallon and Drew Barrymore.

    Hornby has admitted that when he first began writing, voice was a problem. "Everything changed for me when I read Anne Tyler, Raymond Carver, Richard Ford, and Lorrie Moore, all in about '86-'87," he has said. " ... voice, tone, simplicity, humour, soul ... all of these things seemed to be missing from the contemporary English fiction I'd looked at, and I knew then what I wanted to do."

    Hornby is the father of an autistic son, Danny. He is also a co-founder of TreeHouse, an English charity school for autistic children. A portion of the proceeds from the sale of Speaking with the Angel, an anthology of stories he edited in 2002, was donated to TreeHouse.

    Writer Zadie Smith has credited Hornby for "reintrocuding the English novel to its long-lost domestic roots."

    Music is still paramount in Hornby's life. He has a longstanding relationship with the American rock group Marah and has collaborated with them in music/spoken word performances on several occasions.

    Hornby writes a monthly column, "Stuff I've Been Reading," for The Believer , a literary magazine published by Dave Eggers's McSweeney's publishing house.

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      1. Date of Birth:
        April 17, 1957
      2. Place of Birth:
        Redhill, Surrey, England
      1. Education:
        Jesus College, Cambridge University

    Read an Excerpt

    One

    I am in a car park in Leeds when I tell my husband I don't want to be married to him anymore. David isn't even in the car park with me. He's at home, looking after the kids, and I have only called him to remind him that he should write a note for Molly's class teacher. The other bit just sort of...slips out. This is a mistake, obviously. Even though I am, apparently, and to my immense surprise, the kind of person who tells her husband that she doesn't want to be married to him anymore, I really didn't think that I was the kind of person to say so in a car park, on a mobile phone. That particular self-assessment will now have to be revised, clearly. I can describe myself as the kind of person who doesn't forget names, for example, because I have remembered names thousands of times and forgotten them only once or twice. But for the majority of people, marriage-ending conversations happen only once, if at all. If you choose to conduct yours on a mobile phone, in a Leeds car park, then you cannot really claim that it is unrepresentative, in the same way that Lee Harvey Oswald couldn't really claim that shooting presidents wasn't like him at all. Sometimes we have to be judged by our one-offs.

    Later, in the hotel room, when I can't sleep -- and that is some sort of consolation, because even though I have turned into the woman who ends marriages in a car park, at least I have the decency to toss and turn afterward -- I retrace the conversation in my head, in as much detail as I can manage, trying to work out how we'd got from there (Molly's dental appointment) to here (imminent divorce) in three minutes. Ten, anyway. Which turns into an endless, three-in-the-morning brood about how we'd got from there (meeting at a college dance in 1976) to here (imminent divorce) in twenty-four years.

    To tell you the truth, the second part of this self-reflection only takes so long because twenty-four years is a long time, and there are loads of bits that come unbidden into your head, little narrative details, that don't really have much to do with the story. If my thoughts about our marriage had been turned into a film, the critics would say that it was all padding, no plot, and that it could be summarized thus: two people meet, fall in love, have kids, start arguing, get fat and grumpy (him) and bored, desperate and grumpy (her), and split up. I wouldn't argue with the synopsis. We're nothing special.

    The phone-call, though...I keep missing the link, the point where it turned from a relatively harmonious and genuinely banal chat about minor domestic arrangements into this cataclysmic, end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it moment. I can remember the beginning of it, almost word for word:

    Me: "Hiya."

    Him: "Hello. How's it going?"

    Me: "Yeah, fine. Kids all right?"

    Him: "Yeah. Molly's here watching TV, Tom's round at Jamie's."

    Me: "I just phoned to say that you've got to write a note for Molly to take in to school tomorrow. About the dentist's."

    See? See? It can't be done, you'd think, not from here. But you'd be wrong, because we did it. I'm almost sure that the first leap was made here, at this point; the way I remember it now, there was a pause, an ominous silence, at the other end of the line. And then I said something like, "What?", and he said, "Nothing." And I said "What?" again and he said "Nothing" again, except he clearly wasn't baffled or amused by my question, just tetchy, which means, does it not, that you have to plow on. So I plowed on.

    "Come on."

    "No."

    "Come on."

    "No. What you said."

    "What did I say?"

    "About just phoning to remind me about Molly's note."

    "What's wrong with that?"

    "It'd be nice if you just phoned for some other reason. You know, to say hello. To see how your husband and children are."

    "Oh, David."

    "What, 'Oh David'?"

    "That was the first thing I asked. 'How are the kids?' "

    "Yeah. OK. 'How are the kids?' Not, you know, 'How are you?' "

    You don't get conversations like this when things are going well. It is not difficult to imagine that in other, better relationships, a phone call that began in this way would not and could not lead to talk of divorce. In better relationships you could sail right through the dentist part and move on to other topics -- your day's work, or plans for the evening, or even, in a spectacularly functional marriage, something that has taken place in the world outside your home, a coughing fit on the Today Programme, say -- just as ordinary, just as forgettable, but topics that form the substance and perhaps even the sustenance of an ordinary, forgettable, loving relationship. David and I, however...this is not our situation, not anymore. Phone calls like ours only happen when you've spent several years hurting and being hurt, until every word you utter or hear becomes coded and loaded, as complicated and full of subtext as a bleak and brilliant play. In fact, when I was lying awake in the hotel room trying to piece it all together, I was even struck by how clever we had been to invent our code: it takes years of miserable ingenuity to get to this place.

    "I'm sorry."

    "Do you care how I am?"

    "To be honest, David, I don't need to ask how you are. I can hear how you are. Healthy enough to look after two children while simultaneously sniping at me. And very, very aggrieved, for reasons that remain obscure to me at this point. Although I'm sure you'll enlighten me."

    "What makes you think I'm aggrieved?"

    "Ha! You're the definition of aggrieved. Permanently."

    "Bollocks."

    "David, you make your living from being aggrieved."

    This is true, partly. David's only steady income derives from a newspaper column he contributes to our local paper. The column is illustrated by a photograph of him snarling at the camera, and is subtitled "The Angriest Man in Holloway." The last one I could bear to read was a diatribe against old people who traveled on buses: Why did they never have their money ready? Why wouldn't they use the seats set aside for them at the front of the bus? Why did they insist on standing up ten minutes before their stop, thus obliging them to fall over frequently in an alarming and undignified fashion? You get the picture, anyway.

    "In case you hadn't noticed, possibly because you never bother to fucking read me -- "

    "Where's Molly?"

    "Watching TV in the other room. Fuck fuck fuck. Shit."

    "Very mature."

    "Possibly because you never bother to fucking read me, my column is ironic."

    I laughed ironically.

    "Well, please excuse the inhabitants of 32 Webster Road if the irony is lost on us. We wake up with the angriest man in Holloway every day of our lives."

    "What's the point of all this?"

    Maybe in the film of our marriage, written by a scriptwriter on the lookout for brief and elegant ways of turning dull, superficial arguments into something more meaningful, this would have been the moment: you know, "That's a good question...Where are we going?...What are we doing?...Something something something...It's over." OK, it needs a little work, but it would do the trick. As David and I are not Tom and Nicole, however, we are blind to these neat little metaphorical moments.

    "I don't know what the point of all this is. You got cross about me not asking how you were."

    "Yeah."

    "How are you?"

    "Fuck off."

    I sighed, right into the mouthpiece of the phone, so that he could hear what I was doing; I had to move the mobile away from my ear and toward my mouth, which robbed the moment of its spontaneity, but I know through experience that my mobile isn't good on nonverbal nuance.

    "Jesus Christ! What was that?"

    "It was a sigh."

    "Sounds like you're on top of a mountain."

    We said nothing for a while. He was in a North London kitchen saying nothing, and I was in a car park in Leeds saying nothing, and I was suddenly and sickeningly struck by how well I knew this silence, the shape and the feel of it, all of its spiky little corners. (And of course it's not really silence at all. You can hear the expletive-ridden chatter of your own anger, the blood that pounds in your ears, and on this occasion, the sound of a Fiat Uno reversing into a parking space next to yours.) The truth is, there was no link between domestic inquiry and the decision to divorce. That's why I can't find it. I think what happened was, I just launched in.

    "I'm so tired of this, David."

    "Of what?"

    "This. Rowing all the time. The silences. The bad atmosphere. All this...poison."

    "Oh. That." Delivered as if the venom had somehow dripped into our marriage through a leaking roof, and he'd been meaning to fix it. "Yeah, well. Too late now."

    I took a deep breath, for my benefit rather than his, so the phone stayed on my ear this time. "Maybe not."

    "What does that mean?"

    "Do you really want to live the rest of your life like this?"

    "No, of course not. Are you suggesting an alternative?"

    "Yes, I suppose I am."

    "Would you care to tell me what it is?"

    "You know what it is."

    "Of course I do. But I want you to be the first one to mention it."

    And by this stage I really didn't care.

    "Do you want a divorce?"

    "I want it on record that it wasn't me who said it."

    "Fine."

    "You not me."

    "Me not you. Come on, David. I'm trying to talk about a sad, grown-up thing, and you still want to score points."

    "So I can tell everyone you asked for a divorce. Out of the blue."

    "Oh, it's completely out of the blue, isn't it? I mean, there's been no sign of this, has there, because we've been so blissfully happy. And is that what you're interested in doing? Telling everyone? Is that the point of it, for you?"

    "I'm getting straight on the phone as soon as we've finished. I want to spin my version before you can spin your version."

    "OK, well -- I'll just stay on the phone, then."

    And then, sick of myself and him and everything else that went with either of us, I did the opposite, and hung up. Which is how come I have ended up tossing and turning in a Leeds hotel room trying to retrace my conversational steps, occasionally swearing with the frustration of not being able to sleep, turning the light and the TV on and off, and generally making my lover's life a misery. Oh, I suppose he should go into the film synopsis somewhere. They got married, he got fat and grumpy, she got desperate and grumpy, she took a lover.

    Listen: I'm not a bad person. I'm a doctor. One of the reasons I wanted to become a doctor was that I thought it would be a good -- as in Good, rather than exciting or well-paid or glamorous -- thing to do. I liked how it sounded: "I want to be a doctor," "I'm training to be a doctor," "I'm a GP in a small North London practice." I thought it made me seem just right -- professional, kind of brainy, not too flashy, respectable, mature, caring. You think doctors don't care about how things look, because they're doctors? Of course we do. Anyway. I'm a good person, a doctor, and I'm lying in a hotel bed with a man I don't really know very well called Stephen, and I've just asked my husband for a divorce.

    Stephen, not surprisingly, is awake.

    "You all right?" he asks me.

    I can't look at him. A couple of hours ago his hands were all over me, and I wanted them there, too, but now I don't want him in the bed, in the room, in Leeds.

    "Bit restless." I get out of bed and start to get dressed. "I'm going out for a walk."

    It's my hotel room, so I take the keycard with me, but even as I'm putting it in my bag I realize I'm not coming back. I want to be at home, rowing and crying and feeling guilty about the mess we're about to make of our children's lives. The Health Authority is paying for the room. Stephen will have to take care of the minibar, though.

    I drive for a couple of hours and then stop at a service station for a cup of tea and a doughnut. If this was a film, something would happen on the drive home, something that illustrated and illuminated the significance of the journey. I'd meet someone, or decide to become a different person, or get involved in a crime and maybe be abducted by the criminal, a nineteen-year-old with a drug habit and limited education who turns out to be both more intelligent and, indeed, more caring than me -- ironically, seeing as I'm a doctor and he's an armed robber. And he'd learn something, although God knows what, from me and I'd learn something from him and then we'd continue alone on our journeys through life, subtly but profoundly modified by our brief time together. But this isn't a film, as I've said before, so I eat my doughnut, drink my tea, and get back in the car. (Why do I keep going on about films? I've only been to the cinema twice in the last couple of years, and both of the films I saw starred animated insects. For all I know, most adult films currently on general release are about women who drive uneventfully from Leeds to North London, stopping for tea and doughnuts on the M1.) The journey only takes me three hours, including doughnuts. I'm home by six, home to a sleeping house which, I now notice, is beginning to give off a sour smell of defeat.

    No one wakes up until quarter to eight, so I doze on the sofa. I'm happy to be back in the house, despite mobile phone calls and lovers; I'm happy to feel the warmth of my oblivious children seeping down through the creaking floorboards. I don't want to go to the marital bed, not tonight, or this morning, or whatever it is now -- not because of Stephen, but because I have not yet decided whether I'll ever sleep with David again. What would be the point? But then, what is the point anyway, divorce or no divorce? It's so strange, all that -- I've had countless conversations with or about people who are "sleeping in separate bedrooms," as if sleeping in the same bed is all there is to staying married, but however bad things get, sharing a bed has never been problematic; it's the rest of life that horrifies. There have been times recently, since the beginning of our troubles, when the sight of David awake, active, conscious, walking and talking has made me want to retch, so acute is my loathing of him; at night, though, it's a different story. We still make love, in a halfhearted, functional way, but it's not the sex: it's more that -- we've worked out sleeping in the last twenty-odd years, and how to do it together. I've developed contours for his elbows and knees and bum, and nobody else quite fits into me in quite the same way, especially not Stephen, who despite being leaner and taller and all sorts of things that you think might recommend him to a woman looking for a bed partner, seems to have all sorts of body parts in all the wrong places; there were times last night when I began to wonder gloomily whether David is the only person in the world with whom I will ever be comfortable, whether the reason our marriage and maybe countless marriages have survived thus far is that there is some perfect weight/height differential that noone has ever researched properly, and if one or other partner is a fraction of a millimeter wrong either way then the relationship will never take. And it's not just that, either. When David's asleep, I can turn him back into the person I still love: I can impose my idea of what David should be, used to be, onto his sleeping form, and the seven hours I spend with that David just about gets me through the next day with the other David.

    Reprinted from How to be Good by Nick Hornby by permission of Riverhead, a member of Penguin Putnam Inc. Copyright © 2001 by Nick Hornby. All rights reserved. This excerpt, or any parts thereof, may not be reproduced in any form without permission.

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    Reading Group Guide

    Question: In what ways are the notions of what it means to be "good "explored in this novel? How do Katie and David Carr each represent - or defy - these notions? Discuss the role of "goodness" in the couple's relationship to each other, their children and their community.

    Question: Vocation plays a central role in the characterizations of both Katie and David. Compare his work at the outset of the novel ("The Angriest Man in Holloway" columnist) to her job (Katie Carr, GP). To what extent is each defined by what they do? How does their relationship to their work change as their marriage stumbles?

    Question: In what ways does economic class play into the theme of the novel? Compare the Carr family's economic status to that of DJ Good News, their neighbors, and the homeless kids. In what ways does each defy or exemplify class stereotypes? Is the meaning of "goodness" reliant upon these social and economic class distinctions?

    Question: The idea of guilt arises a number of times in the course of Katie's thinking about her marriage and her parenting tactics. Does the novel suggest that "good" behavior stemming from guilt is something less than true goodness? Why or why not?

    Question: Discuss GoodNews' position in the Carr household. Is he an example of "goodness"? Why or why not? What challenges does he offer them as someone who lives outside of the societal norms they've built their lives upon? Do you agree with his description of the "possessions game" as something that makes people "lazy and spoiled and uncaring" (p. 127)? Why or why not?

    Question: The private and public lives of the Carrs are considered in some detail by both of them. Katie muses, "One of the reasons I wanted to become a doctor was that I thought it would be a good-as in Good, rather than exciting...thing to do. I liked how it sounded...I thought it made me seem just right. (p.8), while David demands the right to "spin my version before you spin your version." Discuss ways in which the characters' concerns for their public personas impact their personal lives.

    Question: "When he's asleep, I can turn him back into the person I still love," Katie says of her husband (p.11). "I can impose my idea of what David should be, used to be, onto his sleeping form..." Contrast the Carr's marriage before and after David's 'conversion.' In what ways do both partners judge the evolution of the other? Is her desire for an opportunity to "rebuild myself from scratch" realistic, or is it illusory?

    Question: How do Katie's decisions-as a wife, mother, and woman—reflect her struggle to maintain her identity as the threads of her marriage begin to unravel? Identify the factors that lead to her infidelity. Is there a "kind of person" who "conducts extramarital affairs"? Who "moves out without telling her children?" Why or why not?

    Question: Discuss the role of spirituality in the novel. How is the family dynamic changed by David's conversion to 'goodness?' Why are the Carrs inclined to identify David's new persona with religiosity (p. 95-97)? Why does Katie approach organized religion only after David has taken on his new persona?

    Question: Why does the act of reading and listening to music become a matter of spiritual survival for Katie? She states, "Can I be a good person and spend that much money on overpriced consumer goods? I don't know. But I do know this: I'd be no good without them (p. 304). What does she mean by this?
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    See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 49 Customer Reviews
    • Anonymous

      Posted May 29, 2002

      Unvonvincing

      As a Hornby fan, I was very disappointed in this book. His characterisations are unconvincing. I didn't even gel with the husband, never mind the Dr wife. Result, I didn't really care what happened to them. An ultra slow start - I doubt whether new Hornby readers will get beyond page 80. Nick, stick to writing about things you believe you understand.

      1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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    • Anonymous

      Posted May 14, 2002

      Disappointing...

      This book was definitely a let-down.The protagonist has no backbone!

      1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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    • Anonymous

      Posted July 31, 2002

      Dropping The Balls

      Modern life is a juggling act, so how do you keep all of the balls in the air? In 'How To Be Good' Nick Hornby examines what happens when irrascible journalist David,who writes a vituperative column, meets a guru and decides to become truly good. He decides to stop juggling conflicting interests and adopts a naive form of goodness that prompts him to share his family's home and wealth with the needy. Katie, his wife, represents the more ordinary and complex goodness most of us recognise from our own lives. If David is unbelievably naive Katie is believably exhausted and flat. In the end I was left feeling that Hornby had successfully identified what constitutes virtue in the modern world but dropped a narative ball or two by leaving Katie so bleak at the end of the novel.

      1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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    • Anonymous

      Posted February 18, 2002

      Loved it

      I loved this book! Kate and her family go through something which I highly doubt many families do go through. I loved how the characters grow on me. It's amazing and a must have!

      1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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    • Anonymous

      Posted October 25, 2013

      If you are member of a family and capable of laughing at your ow

      If you are member of a family and capable of laughing at your own foibles, you cannot help but enjoy this book. My entire extended family read HOW TO BE GOOD and are convinced that Hornby has our houses bugged. As with most of his books, Hornby is an observer of his characters’ lives. The story is secondary to the thoughts/convolutions of his characters. It is a bit dark, but hilarious!!! Face it, it is complicated trying to be good...might as well laugh at our failed attempts and keep trying.

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    • Posted January 26, 2012

      more from this reviewer

      Review

      A more frustrating story than the usual Nick Hornby approach, this book is still a story worth reading because of its aggravating realism.

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    • Anonymous

      Posted March 7, 2012

      Superb

      Loved

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    • Posted March 26, 2010

      DO NOT READ

      What a horrible read. I purchased this on my nook and was so utterly disappointed. I had just finished reading Jonathan Troppers "This Is Where I Leave You" which is my all time favorite book so far this year, and went online to see if I could find an author with a similar style of writing. Nick Hornby came up, and since I am familiar with the films that were based on his books (High Fidelity and An Education), I thought I'd give it a try. What interested me in the synopsis was the fact that this was written by a man, but through the eyes of a woman. I cannot tell you how disappointed I was. The week it took me to read it (with 60 hour work weeks, reading at night is supposed to be an escape for me), I kept going thinking... "this has to get better". Wow, what a disappointment. I'm almost angry I wasted my time on it (not to mention $10 for the actual download). Don't get fooled by the cover or the synopsis. This is just horrible.

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    • Posted May 21, 2009

      more from this reviewer

      Hornby's Most Mature Work Yet

      Though many may chastise How To Be Good for its lack of humor and heavy serious tone compared with Hornby's other Novels, it is a masterpiece. It is refreshing to hear Hornby's witty and biting remarks coming from a character who is not an immature male struggling to find meaning in his life. The characterization is of course absolutely top notch, everyone seeming real and authentically pathetic and worried about their morality. Katie's internal conflicts are both reasonable and difficult to resolve. Her irritation with David both understandable and condemnable. This is a novel that makes you think and really question morality. It is in some ways a criticism of the empty liberalism that so many of us hide behind, and in other ways a critique on charity.

      Hornby does an excellent job writing from a woman's point of view, making the reader completely forget the authors real gender. This novel again differs from previous novels in that the narrator is a much more sympathetic character, one can feel themselves getting annoyed at David (her husband) as they read. The novel is of course filled with his trademark pop culture references, though they are less frequent and their use seems more pertinent.

      Overall this is a wonderful read for anybody who is a fan of Nick Hornby's accessible and witty style, a style that is only made more enjoyable with How to be Good's serious and difficult moral quandaries.

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    • Posted October 28, 2008

      more from this reviewer

      Smart Funny Well Written

      I've read and re-read this book and I laugh every time like it's the first time.

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    • Anonymous

      Posted November 11, 2007

      A reviewer

      I really enjoy Nick Hornby reads, but this book was really quite disappointing. It was a really slow start, and I could not connect with the characters at all. It got to the point where after I had read about half of it, I felt obliged to finish the book, but it was painful to keep reading because I just honestly didn't care at all about the characters. Skip this book and grab one of Hornby's other books instead.

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    • Anonymous

      Posted May 10, 2003

      Funny, clever, enjoyable!

      The confessions of Katie are extremely enjoyable, the character multi-dimensional, every moment is exciting and it made me explode with laughter. The only failing was the final page, because although the rest of the book prepares us for something really surprising, it leaves the reader wanting more. It should have ended with Katie's explosion, which takes place earlier

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    • Anonymous

      Posted February 1, 2003

      Good effort, but...

      Nick makes a bold move writing from the viewpoint of a woman. As far as I can tell he gives a pretty accurate portrail (but I'm also a man, so what do I know). Futhermore, he takes on divorce, and actually manages to throw in a few chuckles. However, the title posses a question, leading you believe he would answer it in the novel...HE DOES NOT! After 300 odd pages, the characters are pretty much left where they started. I won't give away the ending, but there is no grand denouement.

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    • Anonymous

      Posted March 14, 2003

      Remarkable combo of humor and substance

      Although the end left me a little perplexed and depressed, the way there was so hilarious and thought-provoking that I want immediately to read it all over again. This book takes on Big Questions: How good do you have to be to be 'good'? Is anyone really prepared for what 'for better or worse' might mean (and it's a lovely irony that the 'worse' is because the husband has become 'better')? Hornby intelligently and deftly rattles middle/upper-class complacency from any number of angles, but treats his characters (and readers) with enough gentleness and respect to avoid being mean-spirited or didactic. And above all, the first 90 (95?) percent of the book is endlessly witty and entertaining, a joy ride through some dark and thorny terrain--there was hardly a page that didn't provide at least one laugh, and often the out-loud variety. I have never read anything by Nick Hornby before, by the way, so cautions that this is a poor one on which to cut one's teeth should be ignored, or at least as long as you like books that make you think and laugh in roughly equal, generous amounts.

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    • Anonymous

      Posted December 14, 2002

      EXCELLENT CHOICE!

      The humor is so bizzar you almost wonder if you should really be laughing, but you can't help yourself! Not my favorite Hornby novel, but a definite must read.

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    • Anonymous

      Posted December 7, 2002

      wry, honest humor

      Nick Hornby's books are always touching and humorous, and How to be Good is no exception. The main character "Katie" reveals her innermost thoughts in a wry, often laugh-out-loud manner. This book made me question the ideologies I take for granted, yet at the same time made me feel (a little rebelliously) content to be a "normal" member of society.

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    • Anonymous

      Posted August 26, 2002

      Nick gets in a womans' mind...

      My first Hornby novel...As a woman, I have to say that this story and the main character, really spoke to me. I found myself memorizing passages to read to my friend, LAUGHING, thinking, and all-around enjoying the read. For all the praise however, I did feel also that the very end fell short of the rest of the book. Still worth reading!

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    • Anonymous

      Posted July 17, 2002

      indulgence vs. morality

      with 'How to be good' Hornby asks his reader to look at the difference between self pleasure coupled with indulgence, and morality. At its least this novel is a humourous page turner. at its best this novel is introspective and makes you question what drives you to do the things you do. If you're only looking for humour in a novel this isn't going to thrill you as much as 'high fidelity' but if you are looking for something to question you're moral compass this novel is for you.

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    • Anonymous

      Posted June 1, 2002

      It made me think!

      I really love reading 'Nick Hornby'... He writes about things that I relate to... and this is no exception! It's not as 'in your face' as others, but reflective and thought provoking. How did he write as Katie- about all those female things he 'knows' nothing about. I also know lots of women in relationships that he describes and 'men' just like the 1st David. Men need to read this and think about it! Women need to read it and laugh/cry! I did! Just ask your divorced friends for their comments!

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    • Anonymous

      Posted May 11, 2002

      Hmmm...

      Possible not the best choice for my first Nick Hornby read. I found it more depressing and unfortunate than humorous (as the reviews suggested). Don¿t get me wrong, I did find myself smirking a few times but, not as much as I would have liked.

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    See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 49 Customer Reviews

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