Nicknamed by journalists as "the maestro of the male confessional," author Nick Hornby initially gained popularity through the troubled male protagonists of his first three novels -- Fever Pitch, High Fidelity, About a Boy -- and their eventual film adaptations. Yet, with the female narrator of his fourth book, How to Be Good, and his screenwriting partnership with Emma Thompson, he proved that his pop sensibilities -- Hornby is known for his references to popular culture, especially sports and music -- are not gender specific.
Born on April 17, 1957 in Maidenhead, England, Hornby is the son of businessman Sir Derek Hornby. When the younger Hornby was 11 years old, his parents divorced and his father began taking him to watch the North London Premier League club Arsenal during their visits. He ultimately developed into a loyal, and somewhat irrational, fan of the team. Hornby also became a dedicated reader, absorbing everything from comic books to Lorrie Moore. As an English Literature major at Cambridge University, he began composing stage plays, screenplays, and radio plays in his spare time. A professor then introduced Hornby to novelist Anne Tyler's Dinner at a Homesick Restaurant, which inspired him to write prose.
After graduating, Hornby worked a series of jobs -- he taught grade school, gave language classes, and served as host for Samsung executives visiting the U.K. -- before becoming a paid journalist. He composed a pop culture column for the Independent, and wrote about books and sports for publications like Esquire and the Sunday Times. In 1992, he published his first book, Contemporary American Fiction, a collection of essays on American writers such as Ann Beattie, Raymond Carver, and Tobias Wolff. That same year, he released Fever Pitch, a memoir about being a devoted (and irrational) Arsenal fan since childhood. The work was a surprise hit, earning countless acclaim and selling out copies years into its release.
Hornby finished his first novel, High Fidelity, in 1995. The story of a record shop owner whose only lasting relationship is with pop music, High Fidelity earned accolades for both its compassion and its flippant refusal to compromise itself for political correctness. Hornby followed its success with the screen adaptation of Fever Pitch (1997), a four-star dramatic comedy starring Colin Firth as a schoolteacher struggling to sustain a romance against the backdrop of Arsenal's first championship season in 18 years. He also made a cameo appearance in the film.
In 1998, Hornby published About a Boy, a novel inspired in part by the children (especially the badly behaved adolescent girls) that he encountered as a teacher. The story follows Will, an immature single man, and Marcus, a struggling preadolescent, as they grow up together. His most favorably reviewed book to date, About a Boy, helped its author earn the E.M. Forster Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1999.
Unlike with Fever Pitch, Hornby did not pen the film adaptations of High Fidelity and About a Boy. Co-written by its star John Cusack and helmed by legendary British director Stephen Frears, High Fidelity opened in 2000 to rave reviews and ended the year on many top ten lists. Despite having its setting transplanted from London to Chicago, the film still owed much of its success to its source material. About a Boy faired even better -- after buying the rights to the book for nearly three million dollars, Robert De Niro's Tribeca Films and Working Title commissioned What's Eating Gilbert Grape creator Peter Hedges to draft the screenplay. The film went into production under the direction of brothers Chris and Paul Weitz with Hugh Grant and Nicholas Hoult in the lead roles and Hornby as an executive producer. Released in 2002, critics hailed About a Boy as the best Hornby adaptation to date.
While enjoying his big-screen success, Hornby published How to Be Good, which earned him Britain's prestigious W.H. Smith Fiction Award in 2002. He also began working on several screenplays, including a collaboration with Academy Award-winning writer Emma Thompson. He continues to contribute to Time Out, the Sunday Times, the Times Literary Supplement, and is the pop music reviewer for the New Yorker. The parents of an autistic son, Hornby and his ex-wife founded TreeHouse, a school for autistic children in London. In 2000, he edited a collection of short stories entitled Speaking With the Angel to raise funds for the school. The book includes writings by Colin Firth, Irvine Welsh, and Helen Fielding.
In 2009, Hornby turned to screenwriting again, adapting someone else's memoir into the well-reviewed coming-of-age film An Education. His work for that film earned him an Academy Award nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay.