Excerpt from How To Be Good by Nick Hornby, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reading Guide |  Reviews |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

How To Be Good

by Nick Hornby

How To Be Good by Nick Hornby
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Jul 2001, 320 pages
    Paperback:
    Apr 2002, 320 pages

  • Rate this book


Buy This Book

About this Book

Print Excerpt


I even had a fantasy about the moment of separation. David and I are looking through travel brochures; he wants to go to New York, I want to go on safari in Africa, and -- this being the umpteenth hilarious you-say-tomayto-I-say-tomato conversation in a row -- we look at each other and laugh affectionately, and hug, and agree to part. He goes upstairs, packs his bags, and moves out, maybe to a flat next door. Later that same day, we have supper together with our new partners, whom we have somehow managed to meet during the afternoon, and everyone gets along famously and teases each other affectionately.

But I can see now just how fantastical this fantasy is; I am already beginning to suspect that the wistful evenings with the photograph albums might not work out. It is far more likely, in fact, that the photographs will be snipped down the middle -- indeed, knowing David, they already have been, last night, just after our phone call. It's kind of obvious, when you think about it: if you hate each other so much that you can't bear to live in the same house, then it's unlikely you'll want to go on camping holidays together afterward. The trouble with my fantasy was that it skipped straight from the happy wedding to the happy separation; but of course in between weddings and separations, unhappy things happen.

I get in the car, drop the kids off, go home. David's already in his office with the door closed. Today isn't a column day, so he's probably either writing a company brochure, for which he gets paid heaps, or writing his novel, for which he gets paid nothing. He spends more time on the novel than he does on the brochures, which is only a source of tension when things are bad between us; when -we're getting on I want to support him, look after him, help him realize his full potential. When -we're not, I want to tear his stupid novel into pieces and force him to get a proper job. I read a bit of the book a while ago and hated it. It's called The Green Keepers, and it's a satire about Britain's post--Diana -touchy--feely culture. The last part I read was all about how the staff of Green Keepers, this company that sells banana elbow cream and Brie foot lotion and lots of other amusingly useless cosmetics, all require bereavement counseling when the donkey they have adopted dies.

OK, so I am not in any way qualified to be a literary critic, not least because I don't read books anymore. I used to, back in the days when I was a different, happier, more engaged human being, but now I fall asleep every night holding a copy of Captain Corelli's Mandolin, the opening chapter of which I still haven't finished, after six months of trying. (This is not the author's fault, incidentally, and I am sure the book is every bit as good as my friend Becca told me it is when she lent it to me. It's the fault of my eyelids.) Even so, even though I no longer have any idea of what constitutes passable literature, I know that The Green Keepers is terrible: facetious, unkind, full of itself. Rather like David, or the David that has emerged over the last few years.

The day after I finished reading it, I saw a woman whose baby was stillborn; she'd had to go through labor knowing that she would produce a dead child. Of course, I recommended bereavement counseling; and of course, I thought of David and his sneering book; and of course, I took a bitter pleasure in telling him when I got home that the reason we could rely on our mortgage being paid every month was that I earned money by recommending the very thing that he finds contemptible. That was another good evening.

When David's office door is closed it means he cannot be disturbed, even if his wife has asked him for a divorce. (Or at least, that's what I'm presuming -- it's not that we have made provision for precisely that eventuality.) I make myself another cup of tea, pick up the Guardian from the kitchen table, and go back to bed.

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.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

One-Month Free Membership

Discover your next great read here

Join Today!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: Goodbye Days
    Goodbye Days
    by Jeff Zentner
    Guilt can be a heavy burden for anyone to manage, but it's especially difficult for teenagers. ...
  • Book Jacket: The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley
    The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley
    by Hannah Tinti
    Hannah Tinti follows her spectacular 2008 debut, The Good Thief, with a novel of uncommon ...
  • Book Jacket: Music of the Ghosts
    Music of the Ghosts
    by Vaddey Ratner
    Music of the Ghosts is about healing and forgiveness, but it is also about identity and the revival ...

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
The Nest
by Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney

A funny and acutely perceptive debut about four siblings and the fate of their shared inheritance.

About the book
Join the discussion!

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    The Stars Are Fire
    by Anita Shreve

    An exquisitely suspenseful novel about an extraordinary young woman tested by a catastrophic event.
    Reader Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    No One Is Coming to Save Us
    by Stephanie Powell Watts

    One of Entertainment Weekly, Nylon and Elle's most anticipated books of 2017.
    Reader Reviews

Who Said...

We should have a great fewer disputes in the world if words were taken for what they are

Click Here to find out who said this, as well as discovering other famous literary quotes!

Word Play

Solve this clue:

Y S M B, I'll S Y

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.

 
Modal popup -