Friday, April 24, 2015

Book Update

I have 16 books to write about today, bringing the year-to-date total to 35.I seem to be gravitating towards more non-fiction than fiction lately. Odd, the same is kind of true for my TV watching too. Been watching a ton of documentaries lately.

  • The Secret Life of Wonder Woman by Jill Lepore
    • I first saw this author discuss her book on "The Daily Show" and it sounded very interesting. The creator of Wonder Woman, William Moulton Marston, was quite a character and basically lived a secret life before dying of polio complications in 1947. He was the inventor of a lie detector test too.
    • He was married but he also had a live-in mistress named Olive. He had children with both of them (Olive told everyone she was widowed). She was the niece of birth control advocate Margaret Sanger. The feminism of Wonder Woman was based on that of Sanger's, Marston's wife and his mistress.
    • I think many of us of a certain age mainly remember Lynda Carter's Wonder Woman portrayal and the Saturday morning cartoon, "Super Friends". 
    • Wonder Woman began as a real feminist and was completely watered down after her creator died. In the 1940s Wonder Woman became part of the Justice Society but only as the secretary who stayed behind while the men went on the missions. This was because those stories were written by men who did not write her as a feminist.
    • Amazingly, Wonder Woman has NEVER been portrayed in a feature film. This will change in 2016 when the character will appear in "Batman v. Superman" as a supporting character.
  • Cult Horror Movies by Danny Peary
  • Cult Midnight Movies by Danny Peary
    • Danny Peary wrote my absolute favorite book about movies called The Guide for the Film Fanatic which was published in 1986. I also read these two books in the 1980s and was happy to get them cheap for my Kindle.
    • I thought they were updated but they really weren't except for an occasional comment here and there. The movies included only go up to the mid 1980s which means so much has changed since then. The books were fine for reading in 1985 but it's as if movie history stopped almost 30 years ago. Are midnight movies even a thing anymore?
    • I keep holding out hope that Mr. Peary will update The Guide for the Film Fanatic but I don't think that will happen. Oh well. Good reads if you can pretend that the last 30 years of films don't exist.
  • Much Ado About Nothing by William Shakespeare: Screenplay, Introduction, and Notes on the Making of the Motion Picture by Kenneth Branagh
    • I am the kind of person who, if I really like something, I will try to learn everything I can about a topic. Thus, over the years I had amassed a large collection of books related to the making of various movies and TV shows. I am in the process of purging a bunch of these books but giving them a reread first.
    • I adore this film and I love Shakespeare's play too but I don't need the book anymore!
  • Four Weddings and a Funeral: The Screenplay for the Smash Hit Comedy by Richard Curtis
    • Like the book above I am purging this one too. I had recently re-watched the film and it was fun to skim the script and the behind the scenes info but I am no longer as obsessed with Hugh Grant as I once was!
  • A History of Britain: At the Edge of the World? 3500 BC - AD 1603 by Simon Schama
  • A History of Britain: The Wars of the British 1603-1776 by Simon Schama
    • For the record, I still have volume 3 to tackle in the series!
    • These books are great for the history layman. They are not what you would call scholarly but they are very entertaining because they tell the stories and explain how events matter.
    • I was dreading getting to the whole War of the Roses section because I can never keep those people straight. Who's a York? Who's a Lancaster? They all have the same names! Too many Henrys, Richards and Edwards, too many Annes, Elizabeths and Margarets!
    • I adore British history and know quite a bit of it but for some reason I can't seem to get the Plantagenet saga to stick in my head. Mr. Schama basically dispensed with the whole thing and just spent time explaining its importance. Hooray!
    • But I gotta say, the other period of British history that bores me to death is that of Oliver Cromwell. Snore. It is covered in quite a bit of detail because it mattered quite a bit but I was glad to get past it, let me tell you!
  • The B-Side: The Death of Tin Pan Alley and the Rebirth of the Great American Song by Ben Yagoda
    • There was definite flowering in American music from the 1920s to the 1940s. Some of that is related to timing: the rise of motion pictures and Broadway musicals. 
    • But the author says music quality tumbled in the 1950s (citing lesser songs such as "How Much is That Doggie in the Window" and "Come on-a My House" as the most egregious examples) and then was gone with the advent of rock and roll music. Thanks to rival music publishing groups and several other factors lead to the downturn in quality.
    • The book also explains the rise of the great composers, including Irving Berlin, Cole Porter, the Gershwins, and so many others, along with the revival of what we now call The Great American Songbook.
  • Downton Abbey: The Complete Scripts, Season Three by Julian Fellowes
    • The best part of the book is that it is completely footnoted and Julian Fellowes explains many of his character choices. If you have no interest in "Downton Abbey" then it is not worth reading but Downton fans will enjoy it immensely.
  • Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant?: A Memoir by Roz Chast
    • This book, written and drawn by The New Yorker cartoonist Roz Chast, is simultaneously funny and heart-breaking. It details her experience dealing with her elderly parents (both died in their 90s). The blurb says, "Chast's memoir is both comfort and comic relief for anyone experiencing the life-altering loss of elderly parents."
    • I loved it and hope to check out more of her work. 
    • PS: This is probably NOT the book for you right now, Lady Chardonnay.
  • The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
    • I didn't like this book at all though many book readers are raving about it. It comes under the category, "If you loved Gone Girl you'll love this!" I enjoyed Gone Girl (until the last few paragraphs at least) and I have read the other 2 Gillian Flynn books too but this one annoyed me. I guess I am not in the mood for a depressing story told by an obviously unreliable narrator.
    • The main character, an alcoholic with a failed marriage, sees people in their homes every day as she commutes to work on the train. Then one of the women she watches goes missing and she is thrust right in the middle of the whole thing.
    • This seems like a book that might have ended up an Oprah's Book Club pick, which is to say, beloved by the people who read what others tell them to read.
  • Etiquette & Espionage by Gail Carriger
  • Curtsies & Conspiracies by Gail Carriger
  • Waistcoats & Weaponry by Gail Carriger
    • The first three books of a four-part series and the final book comes out later this year so one more series checked off my list!
    • I read the first book a few years ago and I wanted to refresh my memory to read the other two.
    • This is a young adult steampunk series. It takes place in the 1850s Great Britain, where vampires and werewolves are real and most machinery runs on steam power.
    • Sophronia is a student at a finishing school that teaches its pupils to be spies and assassins (the boys' school teaches them to become evil geniuses). The school is located on a set of connected dirigibles.
    • Anyway, it's not for everyone but I love this author's books so it's obviously for me!
  • Hold Me Closer: The Tiny Cooper Story by David Levithan
    • A few years ago I read a young adult book called Will Grayson, will grayson written by David Levithan and John Green (he of The Fault in Our Stars fame). I LOVED it! One of the supporting characters, the best friend of one of the Wills, was Tiny Cooper, a very large, very gay football player. 
    • In the course of that book Tiny writes a musical based on his life, some of which is performed and included in the plot.
    • This book is the entire musical with notes by Tiny included in the stage directions. I really hope someone eventually makes a movie version of Will Grayson, will grayson so we can see some of this musical brought to life.
    • In the original book, one Will Grayson uses appropriate alphabetization and the other doesn't so the lower-cased name is not a typo!
  • X-Men: God Loves, Man Kills by Chris Claremont
    • A graphic novel from 1990 featuring the X-Men as they are targeted by an extremist who wants to rid the world of mutants. Pretty standard X-Men plot. (Spoiler: They win.)

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the heads-up re: Roz Chast book -- it was on my list, but I will not rush to it. She is awesome, though.

    Did you like the Tiny Cooper book?

    I am working so much lately that every time I pick up a book to read, I fall asleep -- my brain can't take in another word. But I'm loving what I'm reading right now ("Hollywood Gays" by Boze Hadleigh, I think) -- so gossipy and fun.