Summary and book reviews of How To Be Good by Nick Hornby

How To Be Good

By Nick Hornby

How To Be Good
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  • Hardcover: Jul 2001,
    320 pages.
    Paperback: Apr 2002,
    320 pages.

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Book Summary

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.

Chapter 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 ...

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Introduction

Katie Carr is a good person. She recycles. She's against racism. She's a good doctor, a good mom, a good wife....well, maybe not that last one, considering she's having an affair and has just requested a divorce via cell phone. But who could blame her? For years her husband's been selfish, sarcastic, and underemployed, writing the "Angriest Man in Holloway" column for their local paper.

But now David's changed. He's become a good person, too—really good. He's found a spiritual leader. He has become kind, soft-spoken, and earnest. He's even got a homeless kid set up in the spare room. Katie isn't sure if this is a deeply-felt conversion, a brain tumor—or David's most ...
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Reviews

Media Reviews
The New York Times Book Review

Hornby is a writer who dares to be witty, intelligent, and emotionally generous all at once.

Library Journal

For his third novel after the male-sympathetic High Fidelity and About a Boy, Hornby hasn't merely gotten in touch with his feminine side--- more importantly, via Katie he harrowingly portrays how ambivalence attacks the heart like a virus at mid-life..... But fear not, old-school Hornby fans, for this departure is expertly tempered with flecks of humor and pop culture references.

Kirkus Reviews

Another delightful comedy from Hornby ... Hornby's quick eye and nimble observational style nail everyone's vanity.

Hello Magazine

Perceptive and funny, this is a classic slice of Hornby's humanity.

The Sunday Times

...a bitingly clever novel of ideas [How to be Good] leaves you not knowing whether to laugh or cry ... [a] profound, worrying, hilarious, sophisticated, compulsive novel.

The Independent

Hornby's prose is artful and effortless, his spiky wit as razored as a number-two cut ... his dialogue sings with empathy for the discordant voices of ordinary, struggling humanity.

The Mail on Sunday - Christopher Bray

Nick Hornby's latest novel pins you in your armchair and won't let go. Eating, drinking, bathing…all took second place while I was reading this book.

Observer

He should write for England

Daily Telegraph

Hornby's aim is true ... like all good comic writers, Hornby uses jokes to confront more deeply, not side-step

The Mail on Sunday

How to be Good? How to be bloody marvelous more like.

New Statesman

...a good, dark, espresso-strength comedy that nobody else could have written.

Reader Reviews
tim

Not a good read
It's always helpful to know the author's intentions behind writing a book, but in this case it just doesn't matter. It's just an all-around unpleasant reading experience. The story is not very interesting. The humor is weak. There is just not a ...   Read More

hexehillary

I found "how to be good" very entertaining. At the end I was uncertain what Hornby was trying to say: that there is no God? that Katie suddenly appreciates what she has but then loses it? it seems to me very ambiguous. What actuallly ...   Read More

cheese borger

I have read this book twice in 3 months and absolutely love it. I am a 43 year old male "with a flat battery" and this book really hit home. Thought provoking and also very funny.

kate jones

I thought it was wonderful, thought provoking, funny, a great read.

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