Over on Instagram, where I hang out the most, I’ve been posting a book a week with the hashtag #garysbookofthe week. You can see what I’m reading on a weekly basis, plus my almost-daily photos by following me there. Click here to go to Instagram!
But I’d thought I’d do a monthly recap of all my books (no guarantees, though … I get lazy) here on the blog, so here’s what I read in January (sort of, kind of … I may still be reading a couple of these).
I’m trying to read a book each week in 2018, and you can follow along at home! Expect a mix of fiction, historical non-fiction, comics and graphic novels, and movies-related books over the next 52 weeks!
Week of January 1
This week’s book is The Impossible Fortress by Jason Rekulak. One review says “Stranger Things meets Halt and Catch Fire,” but that sells this little gem short. It’s a warm, funny tale of three 14-year-olds in the spring of 1987, who are on a quest to get a copy of the issue of Playboy that features Vanna White. Will, the protagonist, is also a budding computer programmer and he teams with Mary to enter a games contest. The two of them bond over Will’s game, The Impossible Fortress. As with all young teenagers, nothing comes easy. A romantic, twisty, heist novel is the gooey center of this coming-of-age story, no TV show analogies needed! The author also had a retro game created … read the book to find it online!
Week of January 8
This week’s book is The Crown, The Official Companion, Volume 1: Elizabeth II, Winston Churchill, and the Making of A Young Queen by Robert Lacey. A companion to season 1 of the Netflix series starring Claire Foy and Matt Smith, this book delves into the reality behind the TV story, written by Peter Morgan. And yes, it does differ quite a bit, its a drama series, not a documentary. It’s fascinating for an Anglophile like me and I hope they do a volume for each of the proposed six seasons of the series. Filled with both historical photos and behind-the-scenes of the series pics, my only regret is that this book is primarily in black and white.
Week of January 15
Indulge me for a short fanboy moment … because I am, in fact, a short fanboy. The Fantastic Four is my favorite comic book series of all time. Growing up in the 1960s and seeing Stan Lee and Jack Kirby’s dual imaginations run wild each month was an amazing thing. It’s sad that Marvel has put these characters on the back-burner (and that Fox keeps making crappy FF movies). This week’s book, The Little Book of Fantastic Four, is just all images and captions (by Roy Thomas) and “outtakes” from a larger Taschen book, The Marvel Age of Comics, 1961-1978 (also by Thomas). This tiny version is 192 pages long and the first 160 pages or so are all Kirby (and Lee), summoning up fond memories for me of twice a week trips to the newsstand and stacks of Marvel Comics at only 12 cents each. And oh, those yearly Anuals! Summers were so much better with Marvel Annuals (or King-Size Specials, as they called them). We all love a girl and her name is Nostalgia.
Week of January 22
This week’s book is In Such Good Company: Eleven Years of Laughter, Mayhem, and Fun in the Sandbox by Carol Burnett. I grew up watching Carol Burnett and I have fond memories of her show, especially when she was on Saturday night (yeah … I didn’t get out much). She was a particular favorite of my mom, and along with Vicki Lawrence, Harvey Korman, Lyle Waggoner, and the amazing Tim Conway, she carved out her own niche in variety shows for 11 seasons. My all-time favorite skit from her show doesn’t include her, though. It’s called “The Interrogator,” and stars Conway, Korman, and Waggoner. And I know nothing is funny about Nazis, then or now, but this sketch is hilarious. Click here to see the sketch. Fast forward to 5:30 and wait for Hitler. I’m pretty sure that nobody but Conway knew that was coming.
I miss variety shows. I can’t understand why somebody can’t come up with a variety format that would work these days for someone like Amy Poehler, but I digress. This wonderful book chronicles Carol Burnett’s great show. It’s warm, funny, and personal, and it takes me back to those cozy Saturday nights at home watching All In The Family, Mary Tyler Moore, and of course, Carol.
Week of January 29
This week’s book is Black Dahlia, Red Rose: The Crime, Corruption, and Cover-Up of America’s Greatest Unsolved Murder by Piu Eatwell. Over 70 years ago, the mutilated body of Elizabeth Short was discovered in a vacant lot in Los Angeles. The press dubbed her the “Black Dahlia,” due to her penchant for black, lacy clothing and her dark beauty. To this day, her murder remains unsolved. Except maybe now … author Piu Eatwell may have actually solved the case in her amazingly-researched book.
That’s the good news. The bad news is this book is a bit of a difficult read, or it was for me, at least. It’s brought to a screeching halt by the sheer amount of footnotes, a good number of which just tell you to read more about this particular person or thing on another page of the book, most of the time a page you’ve already read. There’s also an incredibly bad error (again, for me, at least) when she talks about James Ellroy’s LA Quartet series and “the movie, Hollywood Confidential.” Well, it’s LA Confidential, and evidently the editor went to lunch without reading that page. Ellroy is where I discovered The Black Dahlia (it’s the title of the first book in the LA Quartet), and also where I became fascinated with this era of Los Angeles history, one marked by a high level of corruption in the police force and general population (and a lot of collusion between the two). Bottom line: The LAPD had the Black Dahlia killer in custody and let him go, because he had too much knowledge of how bad the cops were. Years later he had a daughter and named her Elizabeth. Still, beyond the footnote problem (an admittedly important part of a historical non-fiction book), Eatwell puts to rest all the other half-baked theories of who killed Elizabeth Short. Maybe this troubled young woman can finally rest in peace.