Hornby was born on April 17, 1957, the child of middle-class parents who lived outside of London. His father, Sir Derek Hornby, is an international businessman. After his parents divorced, Hornby lived with his mother and younger sister, Gill, who is also a writer. He spent weekend afternoons with his father, who took him to football matches, thus beginning Hornby's lifelong fascination with the Arsenal Football Club. Hornby attended Jesus College, Cambridge University, receiving his degree in English. He worked as a gas station attendant for a year and underwent two years of teacher training at Kingston Polytechnic; he later taught English at a school in Cambridge. Determined to become a writer, Hornby moved to London and taught English as a second language. He also held a job teaching English to Korean employees of the Samsung Corporation. At length he decided to become a full-time writer, composing reviews and sports articles while formulating ideas for his memoir Fever Pitch (1992), which won the William Hill Sports Book of the Year Award and has been adapted as both a play and film. Hornby received the E. M. Forster Award from the Academy of Arts and Letters in 1999. In 2002, he won the W. H. Smith Fiction Award for How to Be Good (2001). Furthermore, Hornby was a finalist for the 2003 National Book Critics Circle Award for criticism for Songbook (2002; published in England as 31 Songs, 2003); his novel A Long Way Down (2005) was short-listed for the 2005 Whitbread Book Award for best novel. Hornby lives in Highbury, North London, with his wife and three sons.
Although some critics have categorized Hornby's books as "light" reading, they nonetheless admire the author's wit and use of dialogue. Specifically, commentators acknowledge his ability to capture the rhythm of conversation as one of his unique strengths, describing the interaction of his characters, as did Margaret Forster in her review of High Fidelity, as "fast, witty and convincing." Others note the cinematic appeal of his characters' exchanges, citing the numerous film adaptations of his work. Equally emphasized, especially in his early works, are Hornby's perceptive observations about such concepts as obsession, masculinity, identity, and maturation. In High Fidelity, one of Hornby's more critically examined novels, scholars investigate the metaphoric connection between romantic relationships and formats of audio technology, linking unmarried life to the single record, marriage to the long-playing album, and promiscuity to the compilation cassette. Furthermore, commentators frequently laud Hornby for his candid honesty. As Stephanie Dickison asserts in her review of The Polysyllabic Spree, "It is this frankness about his abilities and shortcomings that makes this book such a compelling read." Likewise, some critics praise his authentic portrayal of self-awareness as related to mental health in A Long Way Down, while others characterize the novel as contrived and have derided its characters as simplistic. Despite charges of being overly sentimental or maudlin, Hornby's novels and essay collections continue to entertain readers and reviewers alike.
WRITINGS BY THE AUTHOR:
Contemporary American Fiction (criticism) 1992
Fever Pitch (memoir) 1992
My Favourite Year: A Collection of New Football Writing [editor] (nonfiction) 1993
High Fidelity (novel) 1995
The Picador Book of Sportswriting [editor; with Nick Coleman] (nonfiction) 1996
About a Boy (novel) 1998
Speaking with the Angel [contributor and editor] (short stories) 2000
How to Be Good (novel) 2001
Songbook (essays) 2002; also published in England as 31 Songs, 2003
The Polysyllabic Spree (essays) 2004
A Long Way Down (novel) 2005
Housekeeping vs. the Dirt (essays) 2006
Slam (juvenilia) 2007
Source: "Nick Hornby." Contemporary Literary Criticism. Ed. Jeffrey W. Hunter. Vol. 243. Detroit: Gale, 2008. Literature Resource Center. Web. 17 May 2010.