I spend more time reading book reviews than actual books because I have no time to read so-so novels. But the result? I find fantastic reads. Here are some books I’ve read and loved recently:
Book #1: An Object of Beauty by Steve Martin
“If Cubism was speaking from the intellect, and Abstract Expressionism was speaking from the psyche, then Pop was speaking from the unbrain, and just to drive home the point, its leader Warhol closely resembled a zombie.”
Plot: The narrative follows Lacie, an ambitious, cunning young woman working her way up the ranks of the art world.
Why You Should Read It: I don’t care if you hate art history like I once did, this clever little book makes art interesting through a subtle mystery, sharp dialog, and vivid characters. There’s a handful of anecdotes thrown in about Andy Warhol and other painters, and they nearly outshine the plot itself. I’m re-reading this gem because I can’t get over how talented Steve Martin is. (Actor, writer, musician– at one point does one officially win at life?)
Book #2: Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
“Sometimes I think it would be weird if there were a skyscraper that moved up and down while its elevator stayed in place. So if you wanted to go to the ninety-fifth floor, you’d just press the 95 button and the ninety-fifth floor would come to you. Also, that could be extremely useful, because if you’re on the ninety-fifth floor, and a plane hits below you, the building could take you to the ground, and everyone could be safe, even if you left your birdseed shirt at home that day.”
Plot: This book is about a boy who tries and solve the treasure hunt his dead father left for him.
Why You Should Read It: First of all, the concept is perfect, albeit different than what I gravitate toward. It’s one of those simultaneously tear jerking yet humorous books that’s told from the little boy’s point of view. It’s heartbreaking to see how he is affected by his father’s death through quotes like the one above, and how he doesn’t realize how deeply the tragedy has affected him. As writers, we’re in the emotion business, which is why books like these are gold.
Book #3: How to Cheat at Everything by Simon Lovell
“Remember kid… I’ve taught you everything you know… but not everything I know!”
About: This nonfiction book is written by a con men who spills the tricks of the trade. It’s filled with all the scams and hustles you could imagine (and a bunch you can’t!)
Why You Should Read It: I got this book for research purposes, but it turned out to be so fascinating I read it cover to cover. The anecdotes are entertaining and the cons are so inventive to the point where my next screenplay may very well be about a con artist. It’s also a great preventative read: once you know the tricks, you can’t be fooled.
Book #4: Shopgirl by Steve Martin
“She has learned that her body is precious and it mustn’t be offered carelessly ever again, as it holds a direct connection to her heart.”
Plot: It’s about a lonely girl living in LA who works at a department store and who falls in love with a man who doesn’t truly care for her. It’s a character study more than anything else, and it’s written in a way that’s painfully honest and endlessly compelling.
Why You Should Read It: I haven’t seen the movie for this book, and I’m not sure I want to. The heart of this book can’t be found in the dialog or the visuals. No, it’s the way the story is told and the motivations of the characters and the way Steve Martin depicts the inner workings of the minds of these characters as they try to find love and happiness in Los Angeles. It’s a quick read and a beautiful book and you should check it out because Steve Martin knows how to tell a simple, powerful story.
Book #5: Skywalking: The Life and Films of George Lucas by Dale Pollock
“Yet for all his success, his friends and colleagues agree that George Lucas is essentially the same person who woke up in a hospital bed in 1962 and decided to change his life. From a close encounter with death grew a fanatical commitment to hard work and artistic excellence.”
About: As a senior in high school, a young George Lucas gets into a car crash. This near fatal brush with death turns him into a man with a mission, and this biography goes on to describe how he grew as a filmmaker and as a man.
Why You Should Read It: This book is required reading for anyone who wants to get into the film industry not for hard and fast tips about breaking in, but because it paints a picture of the kind of mentality and work ethic that is required to succeed. “The only secret to my success is that I work harder than anyone else.” -George Lucas