reading is fundamental

Last week, I mentioned that I’ve read a few books recently which I think many of you will enjoy. Here they are, in no particular order, with the obligatory affiliate link so I can cash in and blow it all on hats.

If you liked the underlying story in Just A Geek — that story of self-doubt, self-discovery, and (hopefully) finding the courage to do what you want to do with your life, you’re going to love this book. If you liked the behind the scenes elements of Just A Geek, you’ll also love this book. Lindasy Moran is a hell of an author, who can put the reader into exotic and mundane places with equal amounts of passionate, vivid, and totally accessible writing. She tells a brutally honest, thoughtful and hilarious tale of her short career in the CIA, from her training at the The Farm, to her assignments in the Balkans during the late 1990s. Lindsay is candid and compelling, whether she’s talking about the dual life she lived and the toll it took on her relationships with her friends and family, or the cloak and dagger stuff she did in her job. Amazon’s reviews have been unfairly freeped by people who are unhappy that she revealed some unsavory secrets about life inside the CIA, but don’t let the 3 star rating fool you. This is a great book that’s incredibly satisfying to read. I give it an A+.

Have you ever looked at a person, and immediately known you were going to be best friends? Have you ever looked at a person and immediately known that you should do whatever it takes to get the hell away from them? Have you ever wondered what goes into devloping those instincts? Blink is all about that nano-moment when our brains instantaneously process a billion little bits of information and give us an almost-always accurate first impression. This book could have been dry and boring, but Malcolm Gladwell informs and enlightens us in an easily read and entertaining book. I haven’t read The Tipping Point, but I bought it because I liked Blink so much. I give it an A.

Meh. I kept waiting for all that Star Trek stuff to happen, and it never did. Where the hell was it? I mean, it was in the Star Trek section, and the cover is all "Star Trek Enterprise Star Trek Transporter Klingon Star Trek." There was, like, one chapter about working on two days of Star Trek and all this other crap about self-discovery and self-doubt and self-what-the-fuck-ever. What a bunch of crap! Where was the gossip? Where was the real secret behind the inverted isolinear optical chip refractiontational warp matrix? And what the hell is a blog? I give it an F-.

This book and Blowing My Cover have done more to inspire me to get off my stupid lazy ass and finish my next book than anything else in the universe.  I can’t seem to sum up this story, so I’ll let Publisher’s Weekly do it for me: "Angie Neuweather, 16, has it rough: she’s fat and sort of slobby; her
mom’s horrible fiancé has just moved into their low-rent apartment; and
she’s constantly being tortured at school (the kids call her
"Lezzylard"). Spunky girlfriends help Angie weather sophomore year,
including Shelby, a spiky-haired, out-of-the-closet lesbian, and
Heather, who has just one giant breast. Angie’s a little sexually
confused herself: she’s sort of got a crush on Carrie, an anorexic
popular girl, but she also enjoys sexual fantasies that involve
penetration by a giant hairy monster. The friendship of two boys—stoner
Pike and perky Mantis—motivates her to go on a severe diet, experiment
with drugs and attend her first beer party (her mom’s so strict that
Angie isn’t even allowed to wear concealer over her zits). Eventually,
she discovers that she’s pretty, and when a rival calls her a
"manstealer," she has an epiphany."

This book isn’t for everyone, but will captivate people who enjoyed River’s Edge, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Repo Man, and SubUrbia. I give it an A-.

  • Sin City Volume I and II by Frank Miller

I am so late to the party on Sin City, I’m a little ashamed. Frank Miller does for Noir with Sin City what he did for Batman with Dark Knight Returns. The link will take you to a complete collection of Sin City graphic novels, but since I’ve only read the first two, those are the ones I can heartily endorse. Volume I is essentially what became the movie, and at times could have been used as story boards, in fact. Volume II weaves in an entirely different story, with entirely different characters, into the story Volume I. Rather than give you the details of the plots, which aren’t all that important, I can tell you that the drawings are simple but striking, and the dialogue and stories are the type of gritty, anti-hero tales that Noir fans love. If you like stories about the bad guys beating the shit out of the worse guys, and the femme fatales who drive them to do it, you’ll love Sin City. Volume I gets an A, Volume II gets an A-.

Okay, that’s all for me today. If you’ve read any of these stories and would like to add your thoughts, go for it. If you’ve read any of these books and can suggest additional books based upon them, that’s good too. If we can Long Tail Lindsay or Michelle’s books, that would be superawesome.

22 thoughts on “reading is fundamental”

  1. Yo, Wil. I listened to the audiobook of Blink on a car trip to see my sister, and liked the audiobook so much that I bought Tipping Point (not the audiobook, which is abridged). Also, Rodriguez did use the Sin City graphic novel as a storyboard for the movie; he’s said explicitly that his intent was to make a movie that looked exactly like Miller’s work.

  2. hey Wil, off topic a little but I was wondering since you graded your book a F. Are you able to watch yourself in a movie without criticizing your performance? Just something I was wondering about you since alot of actors and actresses find it very difficult watching themselves.

  3. William – I was just joking. I actually give my book an A+++ with a gold star, two checks and a stamp that says, “Great Job!”
    I used . . .sarcasm, sir.
    Regarding acting: part of growing as an actor and developing stronger performances and commiting to choices is watching my shows with a critical eye. It doesn’t mean that I can’t relax and just enjoy them as entertainment, but it’s more difficult to enjoy the magic show when you know how all the tricks work, you know?

  4. As far as self-discovery goes – try Rian Malan’s “My Traitor’s Heart.” It’s not for the faint hearted but an amazing read. Where Wil is ashamed to be late to the Sin City party, I’m even more ashamed to have arrived at the WWdN party REALLY late – however I’m glad I came!

  5. I also liked Blink but would only give it a B. It had really great stories to illustrate his ideas, but I was expecting some kind of conclusion. Something to help you identify and get back at it, but the book just sort of ended without that. Otherwise, very good.
    I’ll have to agree with you on “Just A Geek”. Man, what a tool… :)
    Saw your link to Anansi Boys on this page’s sidebar. Have you read it? What do you think? I read it at the end of last year and really liked it.

  6. Wil, thanks for the insight on acting.
    I figured you were just being sarcastic, I thought it was very funny how you wrote “by That Guy Who Played Wesley Crusher or something”.
    I do certainly agree with you. Your book was excellent it should be give 4/4 Mark VI photon torpedo’s. Great job and keep writing.

  7. My favorite books:
    Chain of Command: The Road From 9/11 to Abu Graib by Seymour Hersh
    The 9/11 Commission Report: Omissions & Distortions by David Ray Griffin
    The Pact by Jodi Picoult (a modern day version of Romeo & Juliet, yet much more gripping)
    Virgin or Vamp: How the Press Covers Sex Crimes by Helen Benedict
    No Easy Answers: The Truth Behind Death at Columbine by Brooks Brown & Rob Merritt
    Dear America: Letters Home from Vietnam by Bernard Edelman
    Winter Season: A Dancer’s Journal by Toni Bentley
    Too Close to Call: The 36-Day Battle to Decide the 2000 Election by Jeffrey Toobin
    Nine and a Half Weeks by Elizabeth McNeill (the movie is Disney material compared to the content in the book)
    Sisters of Salome by Toni Bentley (the origins of exotic dancing. To all the guys out there, I thought this would get your attention!)
    One L by Scott Turow (fascinating book about the author’s events as a 1st-year student at Harvard Law)
    The Basketball Diaries by Jim Carroll (way way better than the film)
    Forced Entries: The Downtown Diaries: 1971-1973 by Jim Carroll

  8. At the moment I’m completely obsessed with The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger, but I welcome book recommendations that might distract me from my obsession.
    I’m also wild about anything by Laurell K. Hamilton and since there’s still another month before her next book comes out I need something to kill the time. :P
    And all of that is just to help me wait patiently for your next book, Wil.

  9. >>
    The first three films are among my favorites, & ‘SubUrbia’ rang a bell, so I looked it up.
    For anyone else who might go looking, it’s
    ‘SubUrbia’ (1996) http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0120238/
    directed by Richard Linklater & written by Eric Bogosian. And yes, the capital ‘U’ in the middle makes a difference: it’s not to be confused with
    ‘Suburbia’ (1983) http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0086589/
    directed by Penelope Spheeris.
    Unfortunately, ‘SubUrbia’ (1996) has apparently not been released on DVD (& not available at Netflix).
    Richard Linklater’s ‘Slacker’ is also one of my all-time favorite films, & I’m not sure how I’ve missed this one. Linklater & Eric Bogosian sounds like a potent combo.
    I’ll have to go find a VHS copy to rent.
    BTW, Wil, it’s interesting that you only compared ‘Manstealing for Fat Girls’ to films. Do you think it would make a good film?

  10. Actually, WasMax, both versions of Subu[U]rbia would qualify. In fact, the 1983 film is much more apt than the 1996 film.
    I would like to see it as a film, but it would never get made in the current sociopolitical climate. It’s too frank and too real for a country that’s having a collective shitfit about “brokeback mountain” earning oscar nods.

  11. Wil,
    I assumed from the ‘U’ that you were referring to the Linklater film. Not having seen either film (or read the novel), I suppose I shouldn’t have jumped to conclusions.
    The Spheeris film sounds interesting, too. I never saw any of Penelope Spheeris’ ‘Decline of Western Civilization’ films but I’ve heard they were good. Although her career seems to be a little uneven (Beverly Hillbillies?).

  12. howdy there wil! wow I feel bad, I haven’t been reading a lot lately. BUT I just started reading your Just a Geek novel! Its great so far. :)
    I got it from Mysterious Galaxies, a signed copy! Very exciting. :)
    Anyways, I hope you are well, I’m gunna go snuggle with my cat and get a couple more chapters in before bed.
    Cheers!

  13. Ah, the woes and wonders of working in a book store. So much material so little time to read it. I’m in the middle of about 8 books right now. Here’s a sample
    Fiction: The Fuck Up by Arthur Nersesian and Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal by Christopher Moore.
    Non-fiction: Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs by Chuck Klosterman and When I Knew by Robert Trachtenberg.
    Also, for anyone who likes the Postsecret website, get the book. It’s amazing.
    I must say that I fully agree with you on that Just a Geek book Wil. I was bought it thinking I was going to hear stories of behind the scene catfights, sex, and just plain hatred. Instead all we find out is that he doesn’t like V’ger and DS9! I felt so cheated…

  14. If you haven’t read it yet, run – don’t walk – to pick up “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time” by Nick Haddon. Yeah, its one of those books that is so incredibly written that you not only want to read it again but it inspires you to write.
    Also have to go back to an old favorite, “Time’s Arrow” by Martin Amis. Okay, so maybe its a little show-offy, but still it’s a great read.

  15. Wil,
    If you liked Blink you’ll love Freakonomics, if you haven’t read it yet. It’s pretty mind-blowing and I know you’re the kind of guy who sees the world through the same sort of eyes S. Levitt does. I went the audiobook route, which is read by co-author S. Dubner and is excellent.

  16. I recently read Blink as well on a long flight and came to a similar conclusion as DarthPedro. I found the book extremely insightful and was narrated in a brilliant manner, yet leaves you hanging at the end a bit.

  17. Aww, I wanna read “Blink” it does sound really interesting and unless you like to read about girls who turn into Pirates in the 18th to escape their brutal lives…read “Pirates” by Celia Rees. I’m not sure you’d enjoy it, but hey give it a try. Haha!
    I wanted to buy your book “Just a geek” but the only thing is the closest place to get is is Glasgow and I live in Edinburgh, but I could always order it in I suppose. I have to recommend “The Twits” By Roald Dahl, I was reading it to Danny-my 5 year old cousin and we found it so utterly funny. I can’t believe I forgot how imaginative the story was, I mean who ever though off making up two slobby characters who put worms in each others spaghetti and stick bits off wood on the end of their walking sticks to make them falsely belive they are shrinking. This book is definately not just meant to be found funny by children.

  18. Wil:
    As a bookseller for 25 years, one of the things that I leanred and that you will learn very quickly is never trust publishers. Before I got into the “book biz”, I firmly believed that all the stupid and evil people in this world worked either for the post office or banks. Well, when I got into dealing with publishers I realized that all those people had just grabbed jobs with publishers! Why else would a publisher have volumes 1 and 3 of a four-book series IN print and volumes 2 and 4 OUT of print?
    It’s just like what Stephen KIng says about dealing with Hollywood…get your money up front…and kiss your work ‘good-bye’ because what will come out will not be what YOU wrote. And marketers…even worse! Agents may have black hearts, but marketing people have had their hearts removed surgically.
    If you doubt my veracity, call George Takei and ask him about Al Navis, he’ll tell you. If I can help you in any way, drop me a line

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