Today I’m giving thanks for books.
This is a website about movies. I love movies and I always have. But I’ve loved books a little longer. Reading makes me happy. It brings me peace. I don’t get to do it remotely as much as I’d like to. Ergo, I’m not often at peace. But I sure do accumulate these things like a motherfucker.
Here are almost all of the books I gathered to me throughout the past year. Some of them I’ve read. Most I haven’t had time yet to read. A couple I don’t even own yet. But you can trust me when I say these are worth your time.
And time is a resource. Lately I think about how I’ll never have the time to read all the books I want to read. But I love to try. And if you’re a real bibliophile, you know there’s a satisfaction in the hunt. It’s like how Batman had that giant penny and the dinosaur in his Batcave all these years. Collecting can have its joys. There’s a happiness in having a nice bookshelf to look at. Think of what follows as my bookshelf. Take your time, look it over. And use it as a shopping list, if you’re so inspired!
Please support these authors and their publishers. I included Amazon links for those who use that service.
The Bizarro Encyclopedia of Film Volume 1 by Heather Drain & John Skipp
This book is written by our friend Heather Drain, and co-authored by the renowned John Skipp. You may know Heather from her appearance on the Daily Grindhouse podcast! You may know her from her many appearances on The Projection Booth! She’s a regular contributor to Diabolique. If you see Heather’s name on a project, you can be sure it’s engaging, informative, and energetic, just like everything she does.
by Mike “McBeardo” McPadden
UPDATE! The first time I put together this list, I had it in my head that this book came out in 2018, which is not the case. Our friend McBeardo put together a monumental volume in tribute to the horny teen comedies of the 1980s. This book is informed, comprehensive, and more fun than climbing the ropes in gym class.
The Border by Don Winslow
The culmination of a years-long trilogy that began with Power Of The Dog and continued with The Cartel, this book about the failures of America’s war on drugs has the benefit of good timing but is also very much art as activism. It’s a harsh lesson, not wish fulfillment: Since there’s a character in the book named John Dennison who ends up becoming president and exacerbating all the problems in the region, I got to admit I was hoping for a little historical revisionism, Inglourious Basterds or Once Upon A Time In Hollywood style, but this book isn’t remotely that petty. That guy doesn’t matter. These problems are bigger. The chapter on “La Bestia,” the fearsome train which Central American migrants take through Mexico in hopes of getting into the States, is one of the most harrowing things I’ve ever read. And it pushed me to do the research, and to see that so much of this book isn’t fiction. It’s happening now, and people like John Dennison are doing it, but people like us are letting it happen. God help us, assuming God’s still up there.
Wasteland: The Great War and the Origins of Modern Horror by W. Scott Poole
This book came out in hardcover last year. The paperback came out in the fall. You should buy them both. Keep one and give the other to your local library. This is a striking and essential work of history, showing how World War I was the mortal wound in the world from which flowed everything we know globally to be the horror genre.
The Wild Bunch: Sam Peckinpah, a Revolution in Hollywood, and the Making of a Legendary Film by W.K. Stratton
Tremendous book about the making of one of the great American films, and surely one of my top ten.
Darkly: Black History and America’s Gothic Soul by Leila Taylor
Bought this immediately after seeing a recommendation on Twitter, and I can’t wait to read it. I have a hate/love relationship with Twitter, but every once in a while it yields a gem like this. I shall spare you my wrath another day, Twitter.
Bonus: here’s a playlist to go with it.
Monster, She Wrote: The Women Who Pioneered Horror and Speculative Fiction by Lisa Kröger & Melanie R. Anderson
You know about Mary Shelley and Shirley Jackson and maybe even Milicent Patrick, but horror history has been shaped by plenty of women who deserve to be better known and rediscovered. It’s lovely, accessible, necessary work on the part of coauthors Lisa Kröger & Melanie R. Anderson — my only complaint is that it doubled my reading list. This book is a fantastic survey of the contributions of talented women to the horror genre, many of whom you may be meeting here for the first time, and being a Quirk Books release, it’s cleverly designed and colorful and affordable and makes a perfect gift.
Make My Day: Movie Culture in the Age of Reagan by J. Hoberman
First of all, check out that cover by Art Spiegelman. It really pays out this book’s agenda effectively, and while I may not agree with some of the assessments in here of some of the films of the 1980s (I was a child during that decade so it’s fair to say my perspective is colored differently), I don’t have to agree with criticism in order to find it rewarding. In fact I like having my assumptions challenged. Occasionally that even helps me to reconsider my own point of view. Isn’t that what good writing about films should do?
All The Answers by Michael Kupperman
This is one of my favorite books from 2018 and this is largely a 2019 list, but I didn’t do anything like this list last year and I wanted to make sure to get the word out about this book. You’ll have to spring for the hardcover, since there’s no paperback as yet, but it’s fairly affordable and worth every penny. Michael Kupperman, for my money, is the funniest cartoonist on the planet. Nobody’s comics make me laugh as much as his do. This book is something different. It’s a story of fathers and sons, and coming to terms with loving a person who may not be fully knowable. It’s only of a piece with his previous work in the way that being a master of comedy, Kupperman is also a master of timing, pacing the pages for maximum emotional effect. Some books you admire, and some books you need. For me, this is the latter.
The Uninhabitable Earth by David Wallace-Wells
As you may imagine, I read and watch a lot of horror media. This is the scariest thing I read all year. It’s all true, no matter how badly some people are committed to making you believe otherwise. I was reading this book on the subway and a guy next to me saw I was halfway through and told me, “Keep reading.” It’s dire as hell, but there are many solutions to many problems. Where there’s life there’s hope, and all that shit.
Heads of the Colored People by Nafissa Thompson-Spires
Short stories are such an art, and arguably harder to pull off than full-length novels. This is a relatively slim volume but the stories inside pack the maximum impact. One thing I love is this paperback cover has one more award label than the copy I have. This book is gonna keep winning awards until the whole cover is filled with those labels! Hurry up and get it!
Blood Standard by Laird Barron
Black Mountain by Laird Barron
Laird Barron is a phenomenal horror writer but with Blood Standard, he began a series of crime novels featuring a character named Isaiah Coleridge, a former mob enforcer turned private detective. Black Mountain is the follow-up — surprise! Coleridge survived the first book (if you’ve read it you know that didn’t always feel like a sure thing). I started reading this one immediately after the first. They’re that good. I’d compare Barron’s crime writing to Joe Lansdale’s, in the way that every single sentence is a joy to read. As a writer it’s humbling. As a reader it’s a treat.
Once Upon a Time in the West: Shooting a Masterpiece by Sir Christopher Frayling
My sister got this beautiful book for me for my birthday. Actual best person.
The Beautiful Ones by Prince
It’s wild that there’s a posthumous Prince autobiography out and there’s still one I picked up quicker. See directly below.
On Time: A Princely Life in Funk by Morris Day
I haven’t been this excited to read an autobiography since Burt Reynolds did his. No joke.
Face It by Debbie Harry
Debbie Harry is one of the coolest human beings on the planet. One neat thing about her book is how it’s filled with artwork from fans, which not only shows how much she means to so many people but also indicates how much that means to her.
‘Til Wrong Feels Right by Iggy Pop
So while I’m in the store to get the Debbie Harry book, there’s this thing sitting there. Neither book is tiny but I needed to get them both. That was a lot of schlepping that day. This one isn’t so much a memoir as an illustrated compilation of Iggy’s lyrics, a coffee-table-type book but so compelling and vivid and really striking as far as charting how Iggy’s art has trended over the years.
A Friend Is a Gift You Give Yourself: A Novel by William Boyle
This is a crime story, tough but a caper, kind of Goodfellas meets Golden Girls. It’s so much fun and I couldn’t be more excited to read William Boyle’s next book.
Anno Dracula 1999: Daikaiju by Kim Newman
This is a series which basically presents an alternate history where Count Dracula took over, from an author maybe more familiar from his reviews in Empire and Sight & Sound, a guy who I can assure you knows his shit. This latest book in the series is basically DIE HARD with vampires. Just go try to resist that.
Harryhausen: The Lost Movies by John Walsh
So they opened up Ray Harryhausen’s archive to present artwork for something like seventy of the great master’s unproduced films. An unbelievable gift to the world on the part of the Harryhausen Foundation, although deep inside my pea brain I find myself wishing for a flipbook option…
Wes Craven: Interviews (Conversations with Filmmakers Series)
This is so new, I haven’t even gotten to crack it open yet. But it exists! If you’re anything like me, that’s something you’re going to want to know.
I didn’t feature too many comics on this list, but I love comics too. This one is sort of True Romance or Preacher meets Doctor Strange. It’s about a teenager whose best friend is a familiar-looking spirit named Sid. In the second volume, a guy named Joe shows up. Might not be for everybody but this is very much my shit.
FrightFest Guide to Werewolf Movies by Gavin Baddeley
Bollywood FAQ: All That’s Left to Know About the Greatest Film Story Never Told
It’s ridiculous how little I know about one of the largest film industries in the world. I know a little, but not compared to how fixated I am on American films. I have a few friends outside the country who do me the favor of busting my balls about my American-centric narcissism. There’s a whole world out there.
John Waters FAQ: All That’s Left to Know About the Provocateur of Bad Taste
It’s as much fun to read about John Waters’ movies as it is to watch them, and of course hearing him talk about movies is the best, and for those who need a primer, this is an excellent one.
Mr. Know-It-All: The Tarnished Wisdom of a Filth Elder by John Waters
Next best thing to hearing what John Waters is thinking is reading it. In this book he starts beef with 50 Cent. Do you need more?
The Far Empty by J. Todd Scott
High White Sun by J. Todd Scott
This Side of Night by J. Todd Scott
These three novels are a trilogy following Texas lawman Chris Cherry, whose area of operation is the border with Mexico. I’m only one and a half books in, and This Side Of Night is the most recent, but I’m really, really digging on these. Impressive character work on a diverse array of personalities, and the landscape is vividly rendered. With such a potent and political setting, it’s disarming and encouraging how much these books emphasize the people living out these stories and get inside each of their heads so believably. If you liked The Border — and you should like The Border — you will like these.
Victor LaValle is one of my very favorite authors (read Big Machine and then read The Devil In Silver and then read a The Changeling, etc.), and with John Joseph Adams, he’s curated a collection of short stories from some truly terrific authors about dystopia.
Wounds: Six Stories from the Border of Hell by Nathan Ballingrud
Sometimes I pay no attention to blurbs but other times a book shows up with a blurb on the cover like this one has. The book is great! WOUNDS is already a movie.
Japanese Ghost Stories by Lafcadio Hearn
Lafcadio Hearn was an expatriate writer who took a deep dive into Japanese culture. Some of the stories he told and retold were the basis of the brilliant 1964 film Kwaidan. I’ve been meaning to catch up on more of his work, and right on time, here’s a nifty collection sporting some downright perfect artwork on the cover.
The Elephant of Surprise by Joe R. Lansdale
I’m a couple Lansdale novels behind, haven’t gotten to the last couple Hap & Leonards yet, but you can be sure I will. Knowing I have Joe Lansdale books waiting to be read is like knowing I have ice cream sundaes in the fridge.
That good for a start?
I love books and I’m grateful for them. I’m also very grateful that I have a place to put them all. Not everyone is so lucky. Recognizing my good fortune is important because I need to remember to do more to help others. The good thing about books is that they can be shared. In the spirit of the holiday, allow me to suggest giving your used books to people who can put them to fresh use. A charity I like a lot and one I hope to do more to support this season and in the new year is Books Through Bars, which connects incarcerated people with the books they are most interested in reading. Follow them on Twitter and please support them if you can.
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