Nick Hornby - the Author Content from the guide to life, the universe and everything

Nick Hornby - the Author

5 Conversations

Nick Hornby was born in 1957 and is the author of Fever Pitch, High Fidelity, About a Boy, How to Be Good and 31 Songs. He has also been the editor of a number of short story novels including Speaking with the Angels, Big Night Out and My Favourite Year (A Collection of Football Writing). Hornby (at the time of writing) is the pop music critic for the New Yorker and in 1999 was awarded the EM Forster award by the American Academy of Arts and Letters. The first three of Hornby's novels have now been turned into successful feature films.

A graduate of Cambridge University, Hornby was a teacher before making the decision to become a full time writer. Before turning his attention to fiction, Hornby regularly contributed to the London Sunday Times and The Independent as well as magazines such as Esquire, GQ, Elle, Time, Vogue and Premiere.

Hornby currently lives in Highbury, North London, within walking distance of the stadium that's home to the football team, Arsenal.

Fever Pitch (1992)

Football isn't just a game; it's a lifestyle, as shown in Hornby's first autobiographical book, which documents his life from 1968, when he is traumatised by his father leaving his mother for another woman, through the next twenty four years of his life until 1992. Hornby's football-crazed autobiography is all done in a series of chapters based around every single Arsenal Football game between 1968 and 1992 - how the author has viewed the games and how they have affected his life. As Hornby wrote to introduce his book:

Fever Pitch is about being a fan. I have read books written by people who obviously love football, but that's a different thing entirely; and I have read books written, for want of a better word, by hooligans, but at least 95 per cent of the millions who watch game every year have never hit anyone in their lives. So this is for the rest of us, and for anyone who has wondered what it might be like to be this way. While the details here are unique to me, I hope that they will strike a chord with anyone who has ever found themselves drifting off, in the middle of a working day or a film or a conversation, towards a left-foot volley into a top right-hand corner ten or fifteen or twenty-five years ago.

Although this book may be written in a manner revolving purely around football matches and may have no discernible storyline within it, it is about personal experience and of how Arsenal has affected Hornby. This book may be about being a football fan, but the emotions and responses of the characters are recognisable to fans of any sort, whether that be rugby, Star Trek or stamp collecting.

Fever Pitch - the Film (1997)

Life gets complicated when you love one woman and worship eleven men.

Fever Pitch was released in 1997 by Channel Four Films and starred Colin Firth as the football-crazed Paul Ashworth and Ruth Gemmell as the tormented girlfriend, Sarah Hughes.

Although keeping the same theory and passion about football in the film, in order to make it into a film the script writer (Hornby) had to drastically add to his original creation to create it into a Channel Four Films romantic comedy about a man, a woman and a football team.

English teacher Paul Ashworth believes his long-standing obsession with Arsenal serves him well. But then he meets Sarah Hughes, the new teacher. Sparks originally fly but not romantically (Sarah believes Paul to be one of the football hooligans) until their relationship develops in tandem with Arsenal's roller coaster fortunes in the football league. Both leading to a nail-biting climax after Sarah falls pregnant, Paul fails to grow up and Arsenal look like they won't win.


Fever Pitch (1997) Certificate 15 (UK)
Director: David Evans
Starring: Colin Firth, Ruth Gemmell, Neil Pearson, Richard Claxton and Holly Aird
Duration: 105 minutes

High Fidelity (1995)

Can you veto your friends by their music collections? Even if you can't, Rob Fleming lives life by his record player. And surely if you can live your own life by music, the person you share your life with should be musically compatible?

For Rob, a thirty-five-year-old self-renowned music addict and owner of a failing record shop, these are the kind of questions that need to be answered in light of him recently being dumped by his long-term girlfriend. How long can he honestly carry on living in a poky London flat, surrounded by vinyl and CDs? Shouldn't he just get a real home, a real family and a real job? Firstly, of course, he'll tackle 'The Great Reorganization' of his record collection into autobiographical order. So now on top of trying to work out why he is to be eternally left by partners, he's also got to remember that if he wants to find Blue by Joni Mitchell, he also has to remember that he 'bought it for someone in the autumn of 1983, and thought better of giving it to her, for reasons I don't really want to go into.'

When it comes to relationships the all-time top five is a steady road of pain for Rob. Every break-up being a mixed version of that first painful ordeal aged 12 or 13. In order to come to terms with what he needs and wants in life, High Fidelity shows how he revisits these past loves and tunes into the present Rob. Perhaps the most difficult question to ask is will Rob ever be able to stop thinking about life in terms of All-time Top Five Lists?

This book is said to be 'memorable, sad and very, very funny, this is the truest book you will ever read about the things that really matter.' Rob Fleming is the 30-something male equivalent of Bridget Jones.

Film: High Fidelity (2000)

A comedy about fear of commitment, hating your job, falling in love and other pop favourites.

High Fidelity was released by Disney's Touchstone Pictures in 2000, and the major motion picture starring John Cusack was a hit both in the USA and abroad.

The main contrast between the novel and the film is the location. Hornby's book was set in North London, whereas the film is set in Chicago, USA. Some people have commented that this change of location damaged some of the charm of the novel, but most people recognised that many the locations used in the film were actually similar to places you can find in London, so it was actually quite easy to forget about the location change and so the story is just as well-presented in the USA as in the UK.

Rob Gordon's1 (John Cusack) mind starts theorising his relationships with women when Laura (Iben Hjejle), his smart and successful girlfriend, leaves him because he hasn't changed so much as a pair of socks since they met. And in reviewing his top five2 worst break-ups, he recalls each break-up, reconnects with former loves to find out why they dumped him, wallows in the misery of losing Laura, and ponders why he is ultimately 'made to be left'.

Much of the film plays out at Championship Vinyl Record Store, where Rob and his 'friends'3 Barry (Jack Black) and Dick (Todd Louiso), and the socially-inept savants that they are, live and breathe obscure contemporary music. Throughout the film Rob makes rash attempts to win Laura back, indulges in new relationships intermingling with the fantasies of what she and her new lover Ian (Tim Robbins) are getting up to and how in fact to knock out all the smug idiot's teeth.

Ultimately throughout the film you are left wondering - like in the book - whether Rob does in fact love Laura or whether he just wants to have the security of her being there until the next female entity enters the room, but when you hear the 'Top Five Things I Miss About Laura' list it changes the viewers perspective... but will Laura see it before the end of the film?

What came first, the music or the misery? People worry about kids playing with guns or watching violent videos, like some kind of culture of violence will take them over. Nobody worries about kids listening to thousands, literally thousands of songs about heartbreak, rejection, pain, misery and loss.

Did I listen to pop music because I was miserable? Or was I miserable because I listened to pop music?


High Fidelity (2000) Certificate 15 (UK)
Director: Stephen Frears
Starring: John Cusack, Jack Black, Laura Lydon, Todd Louiso, Tim Robbins, Joan Cusack, Lisa Bonet, Lili Taylor and Catherine Zeta-Jones
Duration: 113 minutes

About a Boy (1998)

Will's thirty-six and a hip Londoner, but he acts like a teenager; he reads the right magazines, he goes to the right clubs, he knows which trainers to wear and he knows the right brand names to wear. He's single, child-free and happy.

And he's found a great way to get together with women, at single parents' groups, full of unattached and grateful single mothers all waiting for Mr Right.

Here's where he meets Marcus, the oldest twelve-year-old anyone's ever met. In general people think he's a bit strange; he listens to Joni Mitchell and Mozart, he takes care of his mum and he's never owned a pair of trainers.

Marcus is Will's complete opposite. Will Freeman may be cool, but when it comes to being an adult, Marcus has years on him.

Perhaps if Will can teach Marcus how to be a kid, Marcus can help Will grow up and they can both start to act their age.

Film: About a Boy (2002)

Growing up has nothing to do with age.

About a Boy was released by Working Title in association with the French company Studio Canal (distributed by Universal) in 2002, staring Hugh Grant as Will Freeman and Nicholas Hoult as Marcus in this updated version of Hornby's 1998 book.

Following the success of Hornby's book, Working Titles set about adapting it for the new Millennium, changing grunge band Nirvana for rap band Mystic Cow and Joni Mitchell for Roberta Flack, this being only the major change from the original novel. The film shows Marcus's claustrophobic home life and Will's all too free-and-easy life of no work and everything made up of units of time through their interaction and using both their voices as narrative aids.

These two characters bounce off each other, growing up and in Marcus's case growing down, each having to learn to be their respective ages in order to see that in fact the comment, 'every man is an island,' really isn't true and in fact 'some men are part of island chains; below the ocean they're actually connected,' and if two isn't enough, you can make a family of more than one of these units, connecting up. In other words, 'Couples aren't the future; you need more than that, you need back-up.'


About a Boy (2002) Certificate 12 (UK)
Director: Chris Weitz and Paul Weitz
Starring: Hugh Grant, Nicholas Hoult, Toni Collette, Rachel Weisz, Sharon Small, Nat Gastiain Tena, Victoria Smurfit
Duration: 101 minutes


The About a Boy soundtrack was written and performed by Badly Drawn Boy.

How to be Good (2001)

Listen. I'm not a bad person. I'm a doctor. One of the reasons I wanted to become a doctor was because I thought it would be a good - as in Good, rather than an exciting or well-paid or glamorous thing to do. Anyway, I'm a good person, a doctor, and I'm lying in a hotel room with a man I don't really know very well called Stephen, and I've just asked my husband for a divorce.

According to Katie Carr and her own complex moral calculations she's earned her affair. She's a doctor and doctors are decent people after all and to make matters worse her husband is one of the angriest men in Holloway. But when husband David suddenly becomes good - to the point of insanely giving all his money away - Katie's calculations no longer make sense to her and she is forced to ask herself some incredibly hard questions.

'How to be Good' is 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.

Speaking with the Angels (2001)

Edited by Nick Hornby Speaking with the Angels is a book of short stories written by:

  • Nick Hornby

  • Giles Smith

    (Author of the novels Midnight in the Garden of Evel Knievel and Lost in Music.)

  • Roddy Doyle

    (Author of the novels The Commitments, The Giggler Treatment, Rory and Ita and the infamous Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha.)

  • Melissa Bank

    (Author of the novels The Girls Guide to Hunting and Fishing.)

  • Irvine Welsh

    (Author of the novels Trainspotting, Porno, Marabou Stork Nightmares and Filth.)

  • Zadie Smith

    (Author of the novels The Autograph Man and White Teeth.)

  • Dave Eggers

    (Author of the novels You Shall Know Our Velocity and A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius.)

  • Colin Firth

    (Actor most famous for his roles as Mr Darcy4.)

  • Helen Fielding

    (Author of the infamous novels Bridget Jones's Diary, Bridget Jones: the Edge of Reason and Cause Celeb.)

  • John O'Farrell

    (Author of the novels This Is Your Life, Global Village Idiot, Things Can Only Get Better: Eighteen Miserable Years in the Life of a Labour Supporter, 1979-1997.)

  • Robert Harris

    (Author of the novel Creation and Archangel.)

  • Patrick Marber

    (Author of the novel Closer.)

My Favourite Year (A Collection of Football Writing) (2001)

My Favourite Year (A Collection of Football Writing) is an anthology of original football writing, edited by Hornby, in which different writers describe their favourite season following a football team. Matches and events such as the Republic of Ireland's triumphant journey through Italia 1990, Leeds United 74/75 and Chelsea 73/74, feature the authors as either adults or children. And of course Hornby's own piece on the futility of following Cambridge United in 83/84.

Contributing authors including Roddy Doyle, Harry Pearson, Harry Ritchie, Ed Horton, Olly Wicken, D.J. Taylor, Huw Richards, Nick Hornby, Chris Pierson, Matt Nation, Graham Brack, Don Watson and Giles Smith.

A new kind of football writing developed - passionate, disrespectful, self-mocking, yet steeped in personal bias. In book form, young writers such as Nick Hornby and Pete Davies became to the New Football Writing what Tom Wolfe and Hunter S. Thompson had been to the New Journalism
- Terence Blacker, Sunday Times

Big Night Out (2002)

Big Night Out is a collaborative novel covering everything you need for a great night out on the town. Full of tips, solutions to common partying problems, and great short stories by celebrities such as Nick Hornby, Jessica Adams, Marian Keyes, Candace Bushnell, Maggie Alderson, Nick Earls, Imogen Edwards-Jones. The book also benefits a good cause called War Child.

This book is part of a collection including: Girls Night In, and Girls Night Out/Boys Night In both also benefiting the War Child programme. Overall this book is said to be:

A humorous compilation of pieces written by celebrities to give you some courage to go and have a great time! It makes you want to throw out those old and dull clothes, and put on something snazzy and suitable for a wild night out.

31 Songs (2003)

I decided that I wanted to write a little book of essays about songs I loved. Songs are what I listen to, almost to the exclusion of everything else. I don't listen to classical music or jazz very often, and when people ask me what music I like, I find it very difficult to reply, because they usually want names of people, and I can only give them song titles.

31 Songs is a slightly self-indulgent book in which Hornby discusses the good and bad songs, which have affected him throughout his life. Ranging from Teenage Fanclub, Van Morrison, Nelly Furtado and Patti Smith to 'Puff the Magic Dragon' done in a reggae-style.

Encompassing guitar solos, 'singers whose teeth whistle', and the kind of 'elevator' music you hear in department stores, this book is another testament to Hornby's life and loves in the musical world rather than in the guise of football.

Nick Hornby at PenguinNick Hornby
1In the book of High Fidelity Rob's surname is Fleming as apposed to Gordon in the film.2The fascination of making up top five lists throughout the book and ultimately the film play a very important role.3Comically called the 'Musical Moron Twins' by Rob.4Colin Firth played Mr Darcy in the BBC's Pride and Prejudice, and also Mark Darcy in Bridget Jones' Diary.

Bookmark on your Personal Space

Edited Entry


Infinite Improbability Drive

Infinite Improbability Drive

Read a random Edited Entry

Categorised In:

Write an Entry

"The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is a wholly remarkable book. It has been compiled and recompiled many times and under many different editorships. It contains contributions from countless numbers of travellers and researchers."

Write an entry
Read more