5 Books Worth Reading – Aug 2012

25 Aug

I love books that deal with the entertainment industry. I particularly “hold high” books that pertain to the history of Hollywood, and the people that helped form what we today refer to as the “Golden Age” of Hollywood. To witness the drive, the passion, and the sacrifice many of the “founding fathers” of this business which people throughout the world appreciate and use as a means of escape from the doldrums of everyday life inspires me to sit down and write, to create, and to foster other worlds for future generations to escape to.

I recently read a number of books, some of which fall into this category. I am just finishing one book in particular that I simply can’t stand the thought of ending. It is a page turner in every sense. In fact, it is such a wonderful biography of perhaps the most influential person in entertainment history, that I wanted to let you all know that if you’ve passed this one by in your visits to the local bankrupt mega book-mart, get your wallet out and find the nearest emporium that specializes in bound dead trees and get yourself a copy.

Not all of the books in today’s post pertain to Hollywood, but nonetheless, they are books I’ve recently read. It is because of this, that I now, without further ado, give a brief review here for your perusal. Enter at your own peril!

Walt Disney
by Neal Gabler
format: Audiobook
length: 33h 24m
narrator: Arthur Morey
rating: ★★★★★

I’ve been a fan of Gabler’s for many years, and his outing meticulously documenting and detailing the life of Disney doesn’t disappoint. Upon the first words spoken by the excellent narrator, I knew that I would be hooked.

I had mistakenly always assumed that Disney was a warm, gentle, grandfatherly spirit. It should have been obvious, however, that a major successful company is rarely built on the back of a meek and mild gentleman. I instantly found relatable Gabler’s accounts of betrayal that Walt was victim to early in his career. I easily found understandable Gabler’s later descriptions of how this formed Walt’s later refusal to allow anyone to betray him ever again.

Most interesting was the way Gabler cleared any previous misconceptions of who Walt was, how the shorts and features that globally are recognized as masterworks came to be, and what the machinations were behind closed doors of the hallowed Disney studios.

I am certain any person reading this book will equally be surprised, intrigued, and amazed at the wonderfully written prose on the “man behind the mouse”.

Live From New York
by Tom Shales & James Andrew Miller
format: audiobook
length: 8h 37m
narrator: Christopher Burns, Eric Conger
rating: ★★★

I’ll start this review by asking: why do you, book publishers, insist on releasing abridged versions of your books? Especially when it’s the only version digitally available? If you insist on continuing with this practice, please place an obvious warning label stating that the reader is about to undertake into a journey that is only half completed.

End of rant.

It wasn’t until I was preparing this review that I noticed that the version I had purchased from Audible was an abridged version, with no unabridged version available. As a side note, I originally was going to give this book a 4 star review, but changed it to its current 3 star upon learning of it being the abridged version.

The book is excellently written, with dozens of tales of sex, drugs, and everything in between. It’s a gripping expose of the behind the scenes dealings of perhaps the most influential live television program in modern history. Saturday Night Live is the brain child of Loren Michaels, and the authors spent many hours of their lives interviewing anyone and everyone associated with the blockbuster show. They take us from the founding of the small improv troupe, through the “black days” of the show, to the second “great awakening” and beyond.

We read about all the turmoil, the politics, the licentiousness, and the people who made up the cast, crew, writers, and guests that have peppered the hallways of 30 Rockefeller Plaza throughout the years.

Sadly, the narrators weren’t the best fit for this tome. The book is made mainly of quotes from those the authors interviewed. In place of the actual voices of those spinning their sorted tales, we get a very pale and bland imitation. Thankfully, the spirit of said interviews still shines through, however.

I most certainly will seek out from the local library the physical copy of this book, in order to read it unabridged. I suggest you do the same.

I Am Ozzy
by Ozzy Osbourne, Chris Ayres
format: Paperback
length: 416 pages
rating: ★★★★★

I first became aware of this excellent autobiography of the Ozzman when I’d heard about his son Jack Osbourne attempting to turn the book into a documentary/feature film. Ever since, I’d been wanting to read this peek into the prince of darkness’ life, from his own lips.

I’d started to read this book via audiobook. Minutes in, I started to get the impression that this version was very hurried, skipping over parts of Ozzy’s life that I would have liked to have heard more about. I felt that the narrator also was barreling through his script, only fleetingly coming up for air in between sentences. I began to wonder if I had been bamboozled a second time (see my review of “Live From New York” for more about that). Sure enough, the Audible version was abridged. Thankfully, my brother had given me a paperback version for Christmas, so I dusted off the ol’ dead tree, and started from page 1.

I didn’t stop until I’d finished. I haven’t had that kind of experience in years. Hearing the story of one John Osbourne (or as his teachers used to call him, as a play on his last name, Ozzy) and his life was insightful. I truly could hear the honesty, the heartache, the seeking for acceptance, in every written word.

In fact, after reading the book, I gained a newfound appreciation for this rocker. I felt as though I was at many of the events, right next to Ozzy, that have defined him and his career, due to his excellent recollections and detail.

I would suggest, weather you are an ardent fan or an enthusiastic critic, that after reading this memoir, you will walk away with a better understanding of this human being who once quipped “Of all the things I’ve lost I miss my mind the most”.

Mustaine: A Heavy Metal Memoir
by Dave Mustaine, Joe Layden
format: Audiobook
length: 11h 40m
narrator: Tom Weyland
rating: ★★★★★

Megadeth. Much has been said over the years about the band that hit its peak in the 1990’s with “Symphony of Destruction”, a song that warns its listeners about being led by faceless leaders into a path of war and destruction. Perhaps nothing stands out more, however, than the black cloud that has hung over lead singer Dave Mustaine since his founding and exile from the other “mega” metal band, Metallica.

In “Mustaine”, he (just as Ozzy in the other autobiography reviewed) sets the record straight, letting the reader gain full access into his life history. We get to witness the pain, the struggle, and the acceptance that he has suffered and sought his entire life. Being a fan of both Megadeth and Metallica, it is finally cathartic to hear the tales from the source, instead of the music and gossip rags.

The pain that Mustaine has felt, and his addictions that fostered many of those pains, are so clearly written that I, many times, was near tears. Internally at least.

This again is a must read for any fan of either band (as well as for anyone ever contemplating the use of drugs, or fighting demons of their own).

The Hunger Games
by Suzanne Collins
format: Audiobook
length: 11h 14m
narrator: Carolyn McCormick
rating: ★★★★

I may be a little late to the game for this one, but I hadn’t heard much about it until I heard about the movie, a few months ago. Living abroad, we still haven’t gotten the big screen version (although I did view it in a format I completely dislike: airplane), so I decided before I viewed the film to pick up the book and give it a read. Many reading this have likely already either read the trilogy (this book is followed by “Catching Fire” and “Mockingjay”, respectively) or seen the film, if not both. For those who haven’t, well, get to it!

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Granted, it is basically a rehashing of Japan’s “Battle Royale”, or thematically along the lines of “Lord of the Flies”, “Most Dangerous Game”, or “Predator” (ok, that last one is reaching…), but it is gripping, nonetheless.

I did feel that much of the dialogue was campy, especially the love story, but after watching the “Star Wars” prequels, I’ll let anything pass. There certainly, however, is tension, action, suspense, and sci-fi, all of which I enjoy. (As an aside, the narrator, I felt, did an excellent job).

I enjoyed this book to the point where I immediately, upon finishing the last page, continued on right into the next book (but that is a review for another day). I even picked up the ebook version to read, as sometimes I enjoy reading a good story in two different formats, for full effect.

I would happily recommend this book (although the film is another story yet). I assume any fan of fiction will have a wild ride. Enjoy.

Next time: A little bit of southern bite, a dalek, fire-breathing ink stains, winter is here, and a space opera.

– Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

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Posted by on August 25, 2012 in Books


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