On the list of the top five books that have been on my Reading List the longest, High Fidelity by Nick Hornby was number one. The next one wasn’t even close. My wife, Lisa, gave this one to me to read after she was done with it, and I brought it on a trip we took to Palm Springs. This trip took place back in February of 2004. This was before we were even engaged, let alone married. I read about 60 pages of it, but didn’t finish it before the trip was done, and for whatever reason, it sat and sat on my shelf, unread for over 7 years before I finally picked it up again.
This is not to say that it is a bad book. It isn’t. It’s a pretty darn good book. But you have to be in the mood to read it, and if you’re a book-thinker (or a book-over thinker), like I am, you have to make sure you’re not at that point in your life where reading a book about a man having early-mid-life crisis is going to seriously screw up your perspective on the world. Back in the spring of 2004 I had been dating Lisa for just over a year. Things were going well, and I was debating popping the question. That was not the time to read this book.
You see, the main character is a man named Rob, who lives in London in the mid-90’s, and runs a small record shop. He’s a bit of a dead-ender. Not really going anywhere in his life, and always looking for a way to not get anywhere else. He’s had a few serious relationships in his life, but the most recent one, with his relatively long-term girlfriend has just ended when she left him for another guy. This leads him to question the end of every relationship he’s ever had, all the way from grade school to present day. He set out to try to track down these old flames, to see why they always left him. A small spoiler, it wasn’t always ‘them’.
The book is really well written, full of engaging minor characters like Barry and Dick, the two half-men-half-boy hangers-on that work at the record shop, and Liz, Laura’s best friend who acts as a go between for Rob and Laura. Rob goes off on long, frequent, soliloquys about how a person’s life can be measured by the music they own. The dialog is funny and snappy, and very well done.
I’d actually seen the movie version of High Fidelity starring John Cusak as Rob, Jack Black as Barry, and Joan Cusak as Liz, long before I read the book, so I remembered the basic plot. The movie (though Americanized) holds pretty close to the book, and it’s almost impossible for my to see those characters as anyone else but Cusak, Black and Cusak. The casting was spot-on perfect, and really did justice to the characters. I’ve added the book back to my NetFlix queue to watch again now that I’ve read the book.
It completely wasn’t fair of me to leave this book on the shelf for so long. But at least waiting this long ensured that I didn’t book-think my life too much and come out worse for it. It’s a good book, and well worth the read.