Friday, January 16, 2009

At the beginning of last year, I realized that I probably wasn’t reading enough books. I reckoned that now that I wrote a few, I should start reading them again too. Now don’t get me wrong, it’s not like I had stopped reading altogether. I still devour about a dozen magazines every month (including Mojo, which I read from cover to cover no matter how little I care about bands like Fairport Convention, et al) but books, not so much. So I decided to read at least one book a month, and by years end I actually overachieved a bit, as the final number was 13. Yes gentle reader, I also see the gaping hole representing the absence of titles that have anything to do with cars or even car culture, but I promise I’ll right that ship in 2009. My choices may shock some of you, but for those who know me best, I’m sure that the books listed below are par for the course, such as it is.

1) Good Grief: The Story of Charles M. Schulz by Rheta Grimsley Johnson
My mom actually purchased this book for me on a visit to San Francisco back in 1989, I dunno why it took me almost 20 years to pick it up. I’m glad I did though, as Miss Johnson pulls no punches in her Schulz-approved biography of a very complicated man who preferred playing hockey with his friends to jet setting.

2) A Paper Life by Tatum O’Neil
Let me just say that I freakin’ love Tatum O’Neil. Paper Moon, The Bad New Bears and Little Darlings practically shaped my adolescence, and it was really interesting to read about the making of those films from her point of view. Her childhood however, despite winning an Oscar and whatnot, was far from idyllic, as the reader soon figures out. I dare you to read this and not want to punch John McEnroe in the face.

3) Boy Wonder: My Life in Tights by Burt Ward
Holy (insert expletive) readers! This book tried my patience more than most, as Burt Ward, a.k.a. Robin from the mid-60’s Batman TV Series takes you though his life, with much emphasis on his numerous sexual exploits and conquests. He somehow manages to end EVERY GODDAMNED PARAGRAPH with a "Holy (insert adjective or noun)!" that will have you wanting to punch him in the face (or nuts) as well. Somehow this is still worth reading though, if only to better understand the love/hate dynamic between he and co-star Adam West. Holy Hepatitis Batman!

4) That Girl and Phil by Desmond Atholl
Pure campy trash, but if you ever wanted to know what it’s like to run a household that thinks nothing of spending $30,000 a week on fresh-cut flowers, then this is your book.

5) Woody Allen, A Biography by John Baxter
This book is often criticized as being “too ass kissing” or whatever, and it’s true that Baxter obviously holds Woody in high regard, but hey, who doesn’t? I’m reading the supposedly much more "neutral" biography by Eric Lax as we speak, so I’ll let you know what I think about it next year. You have to read at least one book about Woody Allen per year, I'm pretty sure that's even a law in New York state.

6) Diary of a Punk by Mike Hudson
This was a pretty Goddamned-amazing read; in fact I liked it so much that I did a little piece on it in the upcoming Gearhead #18. I set out to seriously interview the ex-Pagans singer, but it ended up more like a conversation between old friends, which was nice. Recommended reading for all aging punk rockers, and autographed copies are available right here.

7) The Replacements: All Over But The Shouting by Jim Walsh
In this Please Kill Me-style tell all, I learned more about The Replacements than I would have thought possible, but I must admit that I enjoyed it thoroughly. Also recommended.

8) Charles Kuralt’s America by Charles Kuralt
I’m a huge fan of the old CBS News “On the Road with Charles Kuralt” segments, and after he died, I read the book of the same name and enjoyed it immensely. That lead to me seek out his other books, most of which can be purchased for a dollar, no kidding. This particular book is especially engaging, because it takes place after he left CBS, and he obviously feels much more comfortable giving his honest opinions about things, and even drops a few “F bombs” along the way for good measure. This definitely left me wanting to read much more about Kuralt and his travels, which, as you can see from the next few books on the list, I did.

9) Charles Kuralt’s American Moments by Charles Kuralt w/ Peter Freundlich
This book, published posthumously, is a collection of short television spots called "An American Moment with Charles Kuralt" that he was working on with Freundlich right before his death in 1997. Some cool and off-the-beaten-path subject matter is explored here, but if you are only going to read one Charles Kuralt book in your life, you should probably start elsewhere.

10) A Life On The Road by Charles Kuralt
The book was fascinating in that it largely dealt with Kuralt’s life before he settled into his “drivin’ a camper around the USA” gig that most people knew him for. War zones, luxury liner hi-jackings and countries under bizarre dictatorships were just a few of the places that CBS sent a young Charles off to report from, and despite the fact that it reads almost like a quixotic spy novel at times, I believe that every word of it is true. This really made the job of being a reporter during the Cold War era seem romantic, as I always suspected that it was.

11) Creem: America’s Only Rock ‘N’ Roll Magazine by Robert Matheu and Brian J. Bowe
What can I say? In many ways, no magazine has inspired Gearhead more than Creem did. Looking back, it’s hard to believe that I had a subscription in 1975 (at age 11!) but I knew even then that this was the one magazine that told it like it really was, damn it. Seeing all these articles again, it gave me not only a warm nostalgic feeling, but also a whole new appreciation for artists like Bob Seger, believe it or not. It almost comes down to “if they covered it, it has to be cool” – a philosophy I pray lives in the readers of my own publication. Now in our 16th year, we have to be doing something right, and again, this was a major influence. Also very highly recommended.

12) Stuff White People Like: A Definitive Guide to the Unique Taste of Millions by Christian Lander
Yes, I actually succumbed to reading a book that was on the New York Times best seller list while I was reading it, but hey, this had more “it’s funny because it’s true” moments than I care to admit. My only criticism is that it is so timely that it will only be relevant for a very short period. That is, only until the next wave of trends come along and make this seem antiquated, which they inevitably will. It will most likely retain its humor, but will serve more as a time capsule for pre-Obama America than anything else.

13) Here’s the Story by Maureen McCormick
Start the year with a trashy biography, end the year with a trashy biography I always say. Wow, about all I can tell you about this is that the empty sex and drug abuse that went on in McCormick’s life made her onscreen Brady Bunch brother Barry Williams’ book Growing Up Brady read like Laura Ingalls Wilder. Damn girl!


Post a Comment