As you've probably figured out by now, because of other commitments, there aren't going to be any more updates to this website. Bartcop Books is now archived at and any further book recommendations I make will be included as part of What You Can Get Away With at

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Issue 017 - September 3rd 2002

Reader Recommendations
Here we are, the last issue of Bartcop Books for three months. Exactly forty-eight hours from when I'm writing this, I'll be taking off from Gatwick Airport and heading across the Atlantic to spend three months travelling around the US, looking for material for a book of my own. Yes, I don't just recommend books, I write them as well.

So, I hope you've all enjoyed the recommendations over the last few months. Sorry that I haven't been updating with the frequency I've promised but life has this habit of getting in the way of all your best laid plans. Still, after 17 issues, and including the Library and Reader Recommendations there are probably almost fifty books in total recommended on the site - and that should be enough to keep you busy for the three months till I return. If you want to contact me then I'll still be checking the Bartcop Books email address periodically during my trip, and hopefully, I'll be filing regular trip reports for on the way so you can find out just what an English slacker can discover in the US. For those of you who are going, I'll see you at Bartfest as well!

It took me a while to decide what this week's recommended book should be. First, I thought of recommending something big, or a huge trilogy that might take you three months to read (Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars series, Peter Hamilton's Night's Dawn trilogy and WIlson & Shea's Illuminatus! were all ones that came to mind) but in the end I decided on something a lot smaller and just went for one of my favourites:

Cover of High Fidelity
High Fidelity
by Nick Hornby
Click here to buy from

Click here to buy from

Nick Hornby's Fever Pitch, recounting the story of his life in terms of his support for Arsenal football team was one of the biggest British publishing successes of the 90s. Coming from seemingly nowhere, it seemed to define the national mood in the early 90s as football moved from the shameful corner hooliganism had confined it to in the 80s and returned to the centre of national life. However, Fever Pitch was also something else: the story of what it meant to be a man in this modern world, not the action hero of thrillers, but just an ordinary bloke trying to get along day-to-day, life's ups and downs mirrored by the vagaries of sporting success.

Fever Pitch could just have been a one-off and there are many writers who would have been happy with that, but High Fidelity managed to achieve the rare feat of becoming a second book that was as widely influential and talked about as the first. Hornby's first purely fictional work, it looks at a different aspect of modern masculinity, linking an obsession with music to sex and relationships, showing a real picture of how the male mind works. It might not be pretty or noble but it is true.

"Which came first, the music or the misery? Did I listen to music because I was miserable? Or was I miserable because I listened to music? Do all thos records turn you into a melancholy person?

People worry about kids playing with guns, and teenagers watching violent videos; we are scared that some sort of culture of violence will take them over. Nobody worries about kids listening to thousands - literally thousands - of songs about broken hearts and rejection and pain and misery and loss. The unhappiest people I know, romantically speaking, are the ones who like pop music the most; and I don't know whether pop music has caused this unhappiness, but I do know that they've been listening to the sad songs longer than they've been living the unhappy lives."

High Fidelity is the story of Rob Fleming, the owner of Championship Vinyl, a North London record store. At the start of the book, his girlfriend Laura ahs just walked out on him, sending him into a period of introspection, trying to find out why women always leave him as he searches for a way to get her back. While that could be just the plot for any other romantic comedy, Hornby turns it into an examination of what it is that make men tick starting with how music can affect your life as above, but moving on through all the foibles of male existence while all the time keeping the book fantastically readable, balancing comedy with tragedy throughout. It's packed full of insights into life, both humorous and wise, as well as a great cast of characters, not least Rob's work colleagues Dick and Barry, two of my favourite fictional characters of all time.

If you've seen the film then you might think that you don't need to read the book - after all, it is a pretty faithful adaptation (apart from Chicago standing in for North London) but there's a whole lot of stuff in the book that didn't make it to the screen, including the exructiating embarassment of Rob's birthday and The Most Pathetic Man In The World. It's a good film, but as it comes from such a good book, it would have taken an effort to make it bad.

If you're a man, read this book just to recognise all of your own personal faults in it, and be glad you're not alone. If you're a woman, read it and you'll actually get an insight into just how our minds work - and you'll probably pity us all afterwards.

OK, that's it for now. Enjoy the next three months, keep reading and have fun!