My 2019 Reading List

It’s strange how you can love something and yet completely neglect it. After spending most of my formative years playing music, I dropped it completely for some time before picking it back up. I’m not sure why I did it, although the excuses more than likely revolved around a lack of time, lack of space, and not having a reason to practice. All completely wrong, of course.

Same with reading, which is why I began setting a yearly reading goal a few years ago. It’s not so much about the number of books as it is a way to keep me motivated and aware of reading as always being an option. I could sit on my phone… or I could read. I could pop in this movie I’ve watched 100 times… or I could read.

So here’s a list of what I read in 2019. Maybe you’ll find something interesting or see an old friend.

  1. STEAL LIKE AN ARTIST by Austin Kleon (non-fiction – creativity)
  2. BEASTIE BOYS BOOK by Michael Diamond & Adam Horovitz (non-fiction – music)
  3. STILL LIFE WITH WOODPECKER by Tom Robbins (fiction) **
  4. ART & FEAR: OBSERVATIONS ON THE PERILS (AND REWARDS) OF ARTMAKING by David Bayles & Ted Orland (nonfiction – art)
  5. GENTLEMEN OF THE ROAD by Michael Chabon (fiction)
  6. LUKA AND THE FIRE OF LIFE by Salman Rushdie (fiction)
  7. FAHRENHEIT 451 by Ray Bradbury (sci-fi)
  8. ON WRITING by Stephen King (non-fiction – biography – writing) **
  9. THE SOUND AND THE FURY by William Faulkner (fiction) *
  10. B IS FOR BEER by Tom Robbins (fiction) 
  11. ANANSI BOYS by Neil Gaiman (fiction)
  12. EE CUMMINGS: A LIFE by Susan Cheever (biography)
  13. THE OCEAN AT THE END OF THE LANE by Neil Gaiman (fiction)
  14. GET SHORTY by Elmore Leonard (fiction)
  15. WHEN THE WOMEN COME OUT TO DANCE by Elmore Leonard (short stories – fiction)
  16. DEATH IN THE AFTERNOON by Ernest Hemingway (non-fiction)
  17. THE SUN ALSO RISES by Ernest Hemingway (fiction)
  18. TIETAM BROWN by Mick Foley (fiction)
  19. SHAME by Salman Rushie (fiction)
  20. THE MYSTERIES OF PITTSBURGH by Michael Chabon (fiction)
  21. WONDER BOYS by Michael Chabon (fiction)
  22. NO WALLS AND THE RECURRING DREAM by Ani DiFranco (autobiography)
  23. COLLECTED POEMS by ee cummings (poetry)
  24. ADJUSTMENT DAY by Chuck Palahniuk (fiction)
  25. THE PARTLY CLOUDY PATRIOT by Sarah Vowell (non-fiction / essay)
  26. THE FOUR HOUR WORK WEEK by Tim Ferriss (non-fiction / self-improvement)
  27. THE ALCHEMIST by Paolo Coelho (fiction)
  28. A SLIP OF THE KEYBOARD by Terry Pratchett (non-fiction / essay)
  29. GOOD OMENS by Neil Gaiman & Terry Pratchett (fiction)
  30. THE AUTOGRAPH MAN by Zadie Smith (fiction)
  31. AMERICAN GODS by Neil Gaiman (fiction)
  32. ALL YOU NEED IS KILL by Hiroshi Sakurazaka (fiction / manga)
  33. MANHOOD FOR AMATEURS by Michael Chabon (non-fiction / essay)

* = partial read    ** = re-read

Is There Something On My Face?

After my post about All You Need Is Kill the other day, it only seemed appropriate last night to give Edge Of Tomorrow another watch for a little compare and contrast action to see if my preference for the movie over the book would hold up.

Overall, it did. To me, a movie is the superior way to tell this story. The repetition of the same sequence comes across better and does the job more quickly than it can be done in print – there’s less heavy lifting to convey the point. As a bonus, it also allows for some moments of humor that don’t come across in the book as well for me – Cage getting taken out by the truck on the battlefield and then on the base before correcting his timing. Let’s the pressure off just enough while also communicating the repetitive nature of his situation.

More than that, the change in the main character comes across much better visually than in the book. The accumulation of all those reps through the day begin to hang on Cage like an extra layer of grime and the look in his eyes changes from the salesman at the beginning of the flick to the hardened veteran by the end. Maybe other people got that from the book, but it works better for me visually.

Then there’s all the things that were changed from book to movie… which is just about everything. I like the idea of Cage being the marketing guy who is brought low rather than just another recruit – it makes the journey that much more significant. Having the story focus on a single battle that has higher stakes works much better for me. Giving the Mimics an intelligence beyond that of a an engineered virus and adding the idea of the Omega worked better for me as well because it gave the story some kind of closure – a single goal as opposed to “we just gotta kill em all everywhere”.

Oddly enough, some of the negatives from the movie were also present in the book. The explanation of the Mimics on Earth was never that well explained, but then again, I didn’t feel it was really that good in the book either. Bill Paxton’s SergeantFarell always seemed one-dimensional to me and I wished there’d been more of him, but reading the book and seeing a failed attempt at fleshing that character out made me realize that it makes sense for him to be exactly who he is in the movie. The ending of the movie felt a little too cute sometimes, but the book’s ending was so lackluster that I really enjoyed the ending of the movie.

So, to sum up, if you thought the movie was okay… maybe try reading the book. It’ll make you appreciate the movie some more.

All You Need Is A Good Movie Adaptation

It’s rare that I enjoy a movie more than the book. After all, taking all the details of a well-written novel and compressing them into about ninety minutes is a nearly impossible task. And that’s before taking into account the mechanisms that work really well in print which don’t translate at all into motion pictures. Throw in that the special effects inside your head are always a bit more vivid than the screen and it’s a recipe for disaster.

As with anything in life, there are always exceptions. And I ran into one this past weekend.

I was in search of coffee and something to pass the time with while waiting for my daughter’s ballet performance Friday afternoon. On a whim, I picked up Hiroshi Sakurazaka’s book All You Need Is Kill, which is the source for the Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt movie Edge of Tomorrow. Over the next two days, I devoured the book and realized about two thirds of the way through that there was no way, barring a last-minute save by the author, that I was going to like the book better than the movie.

Thinking it over, I think it’s similar to why I prefer John McTiernan’s version of The Hunt For Red October more than Tom Clancy’s book. The movie leaves out a bunch of stuff that might be interesting to the hardcore audience but that, if not outright boring, would be not as interesting to the general public. An author certainly has to worry about losing his audience, but I tend to think that readers are more patient by nature than a watcher. That’s not to say superior, it just has to do with the initial buy in. Someone going to a movie is setting aside a couple hours to be entertained and then can get on with their life. Someone picking up a novel is making a much longer commitment. Every minute on screen is precious whereas pages come a little cheaper.

There’s also the matter of inner monologue and dodgy dialogue between characters. The thoughts of a character can be incredibly valuable and inform the reader about who that person is… or they can show just how thin the character really is. Same with dialogue between characters that makes a reader roll their eyes. It happens in both mediums, but I think readers will forgive a bit more just because of the investment.

Overall, I thought the book was good and the concept was really good, but it just works better as a movie. Some of the ways that they showed the main character’s progress throughout the day was illustrated so much better on the screen than the page. Also, there was a clarity to the goal that felt lacking in the book – even when the main character succeeds, I wasn’t totally sure why. The movie had a resolution to it whereas the book says “and then we kept going”.

Maybe it has to do with seeing the movie first. Reading the book, I couldn’t help hear the sergeant speaking in Bill Paxton’s deep Kentucky accent because the book never fleshed out the character enough to make me think any differently. It also doesn’t hurt that I think Tom Cruise was perfect for the role – he pulls off the smarmy jerk that you still want to root for really well.

Which is sort of what I want from this kind of story anyways. Give me a couple interesting characters, some decent spectacle, and hang it all on an interesting premise. It’s not the book’s fault that it should’ve been a movie the whole time I guess.

2018 Reading List

One of my goals for 2018 was to read more, but I also had a numeric element as well – I wanted to read twice as many books as I did in 2017. Considering that 2017 worked out to be an even dozen, I thought 24 books wasn’t an unreasonable goal. As it turns out, I came up three shy of my goal by turning into a reading slouch for a few months towards the end of the year. My goal for 2019 is to read 25 books, but here’s a look back at what 2018 held. I’ve done a quick list and then a list with some comments after the read more if you’re interested.

  1. Starship Troopers by Richard A. Heinlein
  2. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
  3. The Adventures & The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
  4. The Great Shark Hunt by Hunter S. Thompson
  5. Mornings On Horseback by David McCullough
  6. Wool by Hugh Howey
  7. Brothas Be Yo, Like George, Ain’t That Funkin’ Kinda Hard On You? by George Clinton
  8. How To Be Good by Nick Hornby
  9. Yeager by General Chuck Yeager & Leo Janos
  10. World War Z by Max Brooks
  11. Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stephenson
  12. Two Years Eight Months And Twenty Eight Nights by Salman Rushdie
  13. Shalimar The Clown by Salman Rushdie
  14. The Tin Drum by Gunter Grass
  15. Kill ‘Em And Leave: Searching For James Brown And The American Soul by James McBride
  16. Watchmen by Alan Moore & Dave Gibbons
  17. The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy by Douglas Adams
  18. The Restaurant At The End Of The Universe by Douglas Adams
  19. Life, The Universe, & Everything by Douglas Adams
  20. So Long And Thanks For All The Fish by Douglas Adams
  21. Mostly Harmless by Douglas Adams

Continue reading →