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
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

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

  • Rate this book

Buy This Book

About this Book

Print Excerpt

"I don't know. I mean, if I'm with him, I can't be with anyone else. I do with him things instead of single things. We're going to the Screen on the Green tomorrow night to see some Chinese film. I mean, that's fine if you're sure about someone. That's what you do, isn't it? But if you're not sure, then it's just dead time. I mean, who am I going to meet in the Screen on the Green? In the dark? When you can't talk?"

I suddenly have a very deep yearning to go and see a Chinese film at the Screen on the Green -- the more Chinese it is, in fact, the better I would like it. That is another chamber of my heart that shows no electrical activity -- the chamber that used to flicker into life when I saw a film that moved me, or read a book that inspired me, or listened to music that made me want to cry. I closed that chamber myself, for all the usual reasons. And now I seem to have made a pact with some philistine devil: if I don't attempt to reopen it, I will be allowed just enough energy and optimism to get through a working day without wanting to hang myself.

"Sorry. This must all sound so silly to you. It sounds silly to me. If I'd known that I'd be the sort of woman who was going to end up sitting with married friends and moaning about my single status I would have shot myself. Really. I'll stop. Right now. I'll never mention it again." She takes a parodic deep breath, and then continues before she has exhaled.

"But he might be OK, mightn't he? I mean, how would I know? That's the trouble. I'm in such a tearing hurry that I haven't got the time to decide whether -they're nice or not. It's like shopping on Christmas Eve."

"I'm having an affair."

Becca smiles distractedly and, after a brief pause, continues.

"You bung everything in a basket. And then after Christmas you . . ."

She doesn't finish the sentence, presumably because she has begun to see that her analogy isn't going anywhere, and that dating and men are nothing like Christmas shopping and baskets.

"Did you hear what I said?"

She smiles again. "No. Not really." I have become a ghost, the comically impotent, unthreatening sort that you find in children's books and old TV programs. However much I shout, Becca will never hear me.

"Your brother's single, isn't he?"

"My brother's a semi-employed depressive."

"Is that a genetic thing? Or just circumstance? Because if it's genetic . . . It would be a risk. Not for a while, though. I mean, you on't get so many depressed kids, do you? It's a late-onset thing. And I'm so old already that I won't be around when they become depressed adults. So. Maybe it's worth thinking about. If he's game, I am."

"I'll pass it on. I think he would like children, yes."

"Good. Excellent."

"You know the thing you didn't hear?"


"When I said, 'Did you hear what I said,' and you said " 'No.' "



"He's my age, isn't he? More or less?"

And we talk about my brother and his depression and his lack of ambition until Becca has lost all interest in the idea of bearing his children.

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!

Support BookBrowse

Become a Member
and discover your next great read!

Join Today!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: Hag-Seed
    by Margaret Atwood
    There's a scene in The Tempest that many critics have concluded is indicative of Shakespeare&#...
  • Book Jacket: Crossing the Horizon
    Crossing the Horizon
    by Laurie Notaro
    In Crossing the Horizon, Laurie Notaro takes us back to a time when flying was a rare and risky ...
  • Book Jacket
    Auntie Poldi and the Sicilian Lions
    by Mario Giordano
    Munich matron and self-described worldly sophisticate, Isolde Oberreiter, has decided to retire to a...
Book Discussions
Book Jacket
The Bone Tree
by Greg Iles

An epic trilogy of blood and race, family and justice.

About the book
Join the discussion!

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    The Comet Seekers
    by Helen Sedgwick

    A magical, intoxicating debut novel, both intimate and epic.

    Read Member Reviews

Win this book!
Win The World of Poldark

Win the book & DVD

Enter to win The World of Poldark and the full first series on DVD.


Word Play

Solve this clue:

One S D N M A S

and be entered to win..

Books that     

 & 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.


Free Weekly Newsletter

Keep up with what's happening in the world of books:
Reviews, previews, interviews and more!

Spam Free: Your email is never shared with anyone; opt out any time.