Hi all. I’m not one of these people who likes to rate things based on a single year. The task is impossible and there are many diamonds out there hidden in the coal that will take years to resurface. But for those of you who are looking for a good book recommendation, or just an honest review of an old classic, here is my list of books I have read this year along with a simple summary. Enjoy!
“Live Long And…” by William Shatner.
Frankness is never something Bill Shatner has had trouble with. But I guess with age comes… experience? This biographical book is Bill’s musings on his long life and what he has learned… or not, as the case may be. With chapters as diverse as Health, Money, Death and more, Bill says it the way it is. Or has been for him. A superb storyteller, he kept me enraptured with his voice as he recounted hilarious and sad exploits and encounters that have shaped his life. I felt like I got a rare insight into what makes the man tick. Some of it was surprising, as when he reveals he has been very lonely all his life, some of it sad as he recounts the deaths of loved ones, and some of it bizarre, such as his brief flirtation with magic mushrooms. In all, a highly entertaining account from someone who has tons of life experience.
“Bulldog Drummond” by Sapper
Before James Bond there was Bulldog Drummond. Recently demobbed from the army after WWI and bored with civilian life, Bulldog (called due to his less than handsome looks) advertises his services as troubleshooter. He soon gets embroiled in a scheme to conquer Britain. I enjoyed this ripping yarn despite a surprisingly gory ending.
“Night Ride” by Charles Beaumont
A selection of stories by the man who wrote many Twilight Zone classics before his untimely death. These tales of (mainly) horror were superbly atmospheric and all contained a twist in the tale.
“Ivanhoe” by Walter Scott
I wanted to enjoy this book. I really did. But it was very, very long, and a bit melodramatic for my taste. The eponymous hero is onscreen for about 5 minutes. Most of the book is taken up with secondary characters. The bad guys were not really bad enough. I did like the Jewish characters, but everyone else, even Robin Hood and his Merry Men, felt flat and lifeless. Interesting though.
“The Unsettled Dust” by Robert Aickman
A superb collection of weird, surreal short stories by British horror writer Robert Aickman. These stories feel both very modern and timeless. Recommended.
“Summer Morning, Summer Night” by Ray Bradbury
This collection of legendary scifi and fantasy writer Ray Bradbury’s Green Town stories has no magic in it. And yet it is full of magic. There is beautiful prose, incredible descriptions of everyday things, and very moving and poignant snapshots of small town life. I loved it.
“The Black Dahlia” by James Ellroy
This book was looooog. But I kind of enjoyed it, even though there wasn’t much to really enjoy. A noir tale based on the notorious Los Angeles murder of a prostitute in the 1940s. Ellroy invents his own milieu and “solves” the case as we see two mismatched cops involved in a (kind of) love triangle with a damaged woman. Ellroy tries much too hard to make this a “dark” tale. Every person has a dirty secret, a selfish motive, a dark turn. Did I mention it was dark? Thankfully real life is not like this or the human race would have annihilated itself by now. I never really cared about the characters, mostly because they were all such horrible people. The hero is himself simply unaware of what is going on most of the time. If this is what life in L.A. is like, you can keep it.
“The Name Of The Rose” by Umbeto Eco
It was only after starting this book that I saw they had made a TV show out of it. After reading it, I tried the show and found it nowhere near as good. Why an Italian American was cast as an English Benedictine monk is beyond me. The Sean Connery version was much better. This whodunnit in a Medieval monastery is astonishingly detailed, although I soon forget most of what I had learned. It was very believable and convincing. I enjoyed it. Not a life changer, but a good read.
“Nancy Wake” by Peter Fitzsimons
Somebody recommend I read this book about true life French Resistance fighter Nancy Wake. And boy what a great read. Nancy is a nobody from New Zealand who relocates to Europe, uses her amazing good looks to land a rich French husband… then the Nazis invade. After witnessing their brutal atrocities she becomes an agent for Britain and takes part in incredible and daring escapades in occupied France. Moving, entertaining and astonishing, it’s a brilliant account of “The White Mouse” as she was nicknamed by Berlin for her ability to escape traps!
“The Cricket on the Hearth” by Charles Dickens
Every Christmastime I read some Dickens. It’s good for the soul. And for the writer. This rather melodramatic Victorian tale has surprisingly little Christmas magic in it except for a cricket, which doesn’t really do anything. Still, it was enjoyable enough and written by the master of English prose, so what more could you want?
So there you have it. A short list this year because I am in the middle of three books I have started at the same time, and because one book (not listed here) I ended up adapting for a prize-winning screenplay. Since then I’ve been working almost constantly, writing a new film that I have been directing. More of that soon!
So until next year….have a great New Year’s Eve. See you in 2021!