top ten smackdown

Switch: Nick Hornby’s Favorite Albums, Ben Folds’s Favorite Books

This week, New York spoke to Nick Hornby and Ben Folds about their new project Lonely Avenue. On the album, as one might expect, author Nick Hornby wrote the lyrics and musician Ben Folds then transformed those words into the album’s eleven songs. But since Hornby is to the top-five list what Basho is to the haiku, Vulture asked Hornby and Folds to face off with their own playlists and booklists, only, turning the tables: with Hornby recommending his current favorite songs and Folds his favorite books. Click through to see Hornby’s ten-song playlist (from Sade to the Format) alternate with Folds’s ten-book reading list (from Woody Allen’s short stories to biologist Richard Dawkins’s The God Delusion). Who wins? You.

Folds: Certainly this man has had one of the most extraordinary lives in modern history. Straight from the horse’s mouth — I couldn’t put this book down … and I am very quick to put a book down!
Folds: How can you still be that damn cool and that damn old! He lays out all the possible templates for story plots, draws some naughty pictures, and explains why it’s important to “fart around.”
Folds: We all love history except for the part where you have to read about it to learn it. Bryson beams you into Elizabethan London and debunks or at least puts a question mark after nearly everything you thought you knew about Shakespeare.
Folds: I’d read all of Nick’s books before we made our record together — I’m a fan. This is as good as anything he’s ever written, which means it’s damn good! Nick just gets it.
Folds: I think this must be loosely based on a book I once read about General Smedley Darlington Butler and a plot to seize the White House. A fascinating “what if” historical fiction that’s probably much closer to the bone than we’d like to think.
Folds: I waited years for another book of short stories from Woody Allen — I’d read the others too many times. These stories are probably more serious at the root, and complex. And he uses more big words in his old age.
Folds: I’m going to make sure my kids read this in college one day. It’s an important check and balance kind of historical perspective that rings more true to me than so much of what I learned in school. As I say, it’s an alternative and a very well-researched and articulated one. We’re not sure how accurate the evening news is on the day of an event — with hundreds of years to mutate, news should be reviewed and audited as it becomes history and history should be viewed from as many perspectives as possible. This book is a gift.
Folds: We know he got it right.
Folds: Any musician or scientist who likes music should read this.
Folds: If you can’t deal with the “there’s no God” part of this book and Dawkins’s opinions, it’s at least a fine statement on superstition, manipulation, ignorance, and con artistry.
Switch: Nick Hornby’s Favorite Albums, Ben Folds’s Favorite Books