Archives For Books

I’m not much of a reader. I mean, I love to read, but I don’t do it nearly as much as I’d like to, or even as much as I should. This year, though, I’ve read a fair number of books, at least for me. Weirdly, though, my book-reading often intersects with my movie-watching, and sometimes my TV-watching. It’s usually the movies that inspire me to read.

I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s like this. There are just so many books out there, and so many are considered great, and so many are considered classics; it’s difficult to know which books to read at any moment in time. That’s why inspiration is important. A little nudging. Sometimes it’s the nudging from a friend, or a teacher, or an employee at a bookstore. Sometimes you’re looking to your idols, trying to soak in the same books that influenced them. For me, it’s usually something to do with movies. Click to read more.


Dear Smug Jerks,

The Hunger Games is not Battle Royale.

Sure, both properties have an authoritarian government forcing teenagers to do battle-to-the-death. And sure, both have serious political undertones and social satire. Nobody can deny this, and I think it’s reasonable to assume Battle Royale, either in film or manga form, was a considerable influence on The Hunger Games.

Other influences on The Hunger Games? The Most Dangerous Game, The Running Man, Soylent Green, Death Race 2000, The Giver, and many other sci-fi films and books.

But The Hunger Games is not merely the sum of a bunch of influences. While I am not the biggest proponent of the novels—I find them entertaining, but also quite poorly written—I do think they cover really interesting thematic and allegorical ground in a unique and accessible way.

Continue Reading…

After loving Patrick deWitt’s The Sisters Brothers, I wanted to read more from the author. He only had one other published novel, so I bought a copy of Ablutions and set to reading. I won’t deny how happy I was to see that the book was very short. Not even 200 pages! This was going to be an easy read. And while the prose was certainly easy and enjoyable, the content was dark and difficult. It took getting through the whole book to come to terms with wether deWitt had gone too far in his dark depictions of debauchery and apathy. Click to read more.

I’m a fan of a light read. Books that feel like work are often rewarding, but being a movie buff makes me slightly impatient. Sometimes all I need is to sit back and devour a really simple-to-read book. I would never claim that The Da Vinci Code is well-written, or even that it’s particularly good, but I still read it in the space of hours in a single night. One rare occasions I stumble upon that wonderful gift, a book that has the artistic heft of a difficult read and the light prose of a J.K. Rowling. Such is the case with Patrick deWitt’s The Sisters Brothers, a revisionist Western of sorts that I managed to read in the space of a day. Click to read more.

Such a disappointment. I’d heard this book pimped by so many cinephiles, including the guys on Filmspotting. How could it possibly not live up? Easy Riders, Raging Bulls is Peter Biskind‘s book about the New Hollywood of the late-60s and 70s. It promised to run through everything. All the little details. A journalistic look at how the era came about and eventually faltered. Unfortunately I wasn’t told that the journalism was less New Yorker, more People Magazine. Click to read more.

Another Mark Kermode book! Only this time I actually read it. No audiobook crap on this one. Amazingly, I could pretty much hear Kermode’s voice in my head as I read it, so it wasn’t too unlike the pleasures of an audiobook. It’s Only a Movie is essentially a memoir. Kermode talks about growing up, falling in love with movies, becoming a journalist, doing journalist things, and watching Werner Herzog get shot. Click to read more.

I love me some Mark Kermode. LOVE HIM! For those of you who may not be familiar with The Good Doctor, Mark Kermode PhD is a film critic for BBC radio. His show is available on iTunes as a podcast called Kermode and Mayo Film Review. Go listen to it. It’s great.

Anyway, Mark Kermode is one of the most entertaining and erudite critics around. He also knows how to string a damn good sentence together. He’s passionate and loud and funny and loves to rant. Basically the perfect guy to write a book about the state of film in the modern era. But here’s the rub: I didn’t actually “read” his latest book, The Good, the Bad and the Multiplex. Instead, since he’s a great guy to listen to on the radio, I opted for the audiobook version. Kermode reads his book and brings so much passion in his voice that I can’t recommend “reading” it any other way. Click to read more.

Two books down. My choice for the second book of my 50 Book Pledge was Cormac McCarthy’s seminal Blood Meridian. Given how much I loved the Coen brothers’ adaptation of No Country for Old Men, and how great McCarthy’s novel The Road was, my excitement was pretty high. Sadly, I can’t say I enjoyed Blood Meridian very much. Click to read more.

One book down! Yay!

Look, I’m a bit of an idiot. I got a late start on this #50BookPledge business, but then on top of that I decided my first book would be an 850 page fantasy opus. I’m just lucky the prose wasn’t as heavy as War and Peace or else my pledge would have been over before it even started.

Anyway, on to Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell. It’s a book by one Susanna Clarke, released some years ago to a fair bit of acclaim and a nice spot on a number of bestsellers lists. It’s an interesting book in that it’s not exactly easy to fit it into a box. On the one hand it’s a fantasy book. No doubt about it. It’s got magicians who can do real magic, fairies, naval armadas made out of rain, all that jazz. But it’s also something of an alternate history tale, except the “alternate” in this case is that it’s an 19th Century England in which magic once existed and is now being restored. And then on top of this, the book is written in a style highly reminiscent of the works of Jane Austen, mixed with a little Charles Dickens.

If all this sounds like it might be up your alley, then you should probably just stop reading now and go pick up a copy of the book. Click to read more.

My (50) Book Pledge

January 9, 2012 — 12 Comments

This week I learned about something called The 50 Book Pledge. The idea comes from the site, The Savvy Reader, and I think it’s a great one. What does the pledge entail? Well, it’s as simple as it sounds.

I hereby pledge to read 50 books during the calendar year 2012.

Okay, fine, I’ll be honest with you. I am very bad with these sorts of pledges. Very bad. I usually bail out super fast. A pledge that relates specifically to books is even harder for me. I enjoy reading, but I’m not the fastest reader, and my reading habits are terrible. Sometimes I can read a book in two days. Sometimes it takes me five months.

So here’s how this will work. My pledge is going to be a bit more maleable. I’m going to hedge myself. My aim is to get to 50 books. Heck, maybe I’ll try for more than 50. But I don’t think the idea behind the pledge is to stress people out about reaching any particular number. It’s a way to get people like myself to read more. That’s all. So here’s the altered version of my pledge.

I hereby pledge to attempt to read 50 books during the calendar year 2012.

It’s a slight change, but it makes a huge difference. No longer is my pledge about the number, it’s about the attempt. It’s about the idea of the pledge in the first place. I’m going to try to read as much as possible. I’m going to mix it up with fiction and non-fiction. I’m going to aim for the stars (50) and hopefully I’ll reach them, but if I only get to the moon at least I’ll have gotten somewhere.

So here goes My (50) Book Pledge. The first book on the docket? Susanna Clarke’s Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell.

I’ll be using this post as the index for reviews of each book I finish, as well as any potentially related posts I write. Let’s hope it’s nice and long by the end of the year.

Click to see Index