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Debra Hamel is the mother of two preternaturally attractive girls and the author of a number of books about ancient Greece. She writes and blogs from her subterranean lair in North Haven, CT. Read more.


Books by Debra Hamel:

THE BATTLE OF ARGINUSAE :
VICTORY AT SEA AND ITS TRAGIC AFTERMATH IN THE FINAL YEARS OF THE PELOPONNESIAN WAR
By Debra Hamel


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KILLING ERATOSTHENES:
A TRUE CRIME STORY
FROM ANCIENT ATHENS
By Debra Hamel


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READING HERODOTUS:
A GUIDED TOUR THROUGH THE WILD BOARS, DANCING SUITORS, AND CRAZY TYRANTS OF THE HISTORY
By Debra Hamel


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THE MUTILATION OF THE HERMS:
UNPACKING AN ANCIENT MYSTERY
By Debra Hamel


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TRYING NEAIRA:
THE TRUE STORY OF A COURTESAN'S SCANDALOUS LIFE IN ANCIENT GREECE
By Debra Hamel


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SOCRATES AT WAR:
THE MILITARY HEROICS OF AN ICONIC INTELLECTUAL
By Debra Hamel


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ANCIENT GREEKS IN DRAG:
THE LIBERATION OF THEBES AND OTHER ACTS OF HEROIC TRANSVESTISM
By Debra Hamel


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IT WAS A DARK AND STORMY TWEET:
FIVE HUNDRED 1ST LINES IN 140 CHARACTERS OR LESS
By Debra Hamel


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PRISONERS OF THE PELOPONNESIAN WAR
By Debra Hamel


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Hornby, Nick: The Polysyllabic Spree

  Amazon  

3.5 stars

Nick Hornby, the author of High Fidelity and About a Boy, among other novels, began writing his monthly column "Stuff I've Been Reading" for Believer magazine in September of 2003. Fourteen of Hornby's essays are collected here in The Polysyllabic Spree. Each is prefaced by lists of the books the author read and purchased in the month preceding the column's appearance: Hornby, who reads a lot of books and buys even more, is admirably comfortable with populating his shelves with books he is unlikely ever to get to.

In his column Hornby discusses what he's read during the month, how he came to read or buy the books he did, how the books under discussion relate to one another.  In the course of writing about his reading life Hornby hits on any number of topics: the dampening effect of parenthood on one's reading; his experience watching an unwitting stranger read his book poolside; Anton Chekhov's unfortunate use of sappy endearments--"little ginger-haired doggie," "my dearest chaffinch"--in letters to his wife ("For god's sake, pull yourself together, man! You're a major cultural figure!"); the surprising similarity between reading and, well, being the leader of the free world:

"Being a reader is sort of like being president, except reading involves fewer state dinners, usually. You have this agenda you want to get through, but you get distracted by life events, e.g., books arriving in the mail/World War III, and you are temporarily deflected from your chosen path."

Hornby's tone in his essays is conversational, his observations often witty. The book is most interesting, inevitably, when Hornby's reading life intersects with one's own, but familiarity with the books he discusses is not necessary to one's enjoyment. (I fear I've read regrettably few of the books on his lists.) One comes away from The Polysyllabic Spree liking Hornby and appreciating his regular-guy take on the highbrow world of letters.

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