How to Be Good

After finishing “How to Be Good” by Nick Hornby late last night, I am further from understanding how to be good than I ever was. Nick Hornby is also the author of other piercingly observant, and enjoyable books like High Fidelity, but he writes a lousy how-to manual, instead raising questions about the goodness of being good. I know – that’s the point – and I get it, but it’s like someone opening the blinds or turning on a bright light in the morning. It’s good for me, but really, I was enjoying my sleep.

The story is about a ‘good’ person – a doctor, with a nice, normal family and a nice, normal life right up until she has an affair, and her husband has a spiritual revelation at the hands of a alternative healer named GoodNews. Suddenly the definition of ‘good’ gets tossed into the air and beaten up a bit. Helping the homeless is good, but inviting them into your house and letting them steal what they think is your emergency money?

And then, the book doesn’t even have the decency of ending properly – in a way that is also disturbingly real-life, but if I stay up late to finish books I like to be rewarded with an ending. It doesn’t have to be a happy ending, but although the story definitely has a denouement, it sort of dodges the conclusion, leaving me with a hanging feeling.

My own conclusion? It’s a ‘good book’, but I didn’t really enjoy it very much.

2 thoughts on “How to Be Good

  1. Mike

    How can you possibly do so much? I think there must be 5 of you. 🙂 I’m hoping to get out of bed tomorrow.

    How to be good? That’s a good question. For me it all seems to revolve around helping others. I grew up Christian and I like what Christ teaches about helping and serving others. It always makes me feel good.

    Here’s an even better question. What is a good purpose in life? Inventing? Being president? Being a parent? Just being happy? How about helping others enjoy Yosemite?

  2. Theresa

    Mike, Hahaha! And yet, there is still so much more to do…

    I think most religions advocate helping and caring for others, but it’s interesting how Hornby manages to take that idea to such an extreme that it doesn’t sound very good anymore. (At least to me). He asks all those other questions you ask too – or maybe gets you to ask them for yourself, and doesn’t give you any answers. Maybe ya’ just gotta read the book.

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