New York City
Senor was looking for a book recommendation. I recommended Wolf of Wall Street last month and he quickly finished it. He wanted a couple new suggestions. I told him to pick up American Desperado (written by Evan Wright) about a former mob hitman who became one of the notorious cocaine cowboys in Miami in the 1980s.
I had a few other ideas but asked the Twitterverse what they were reading. My bud Jesse send me a an amazing list of books that Matt Matros read in 2013. Matros, a writer/poker pro from New York, wanted to read one book a week, an ambitious yet inspiring pursuit.
That list got me thinking about generating a similar list. Several books crossed my path in 2013. Most of those books come in two categories: finished or start-stop. I also re-read a few books for different reasons. Both work and pleasure.
When I tallied it up, it came out to be... 52.
Wow... one a week. Benefits of an insomniac.
I started the year on a biography kick after I considered ghost-writing a book for a poker pro, so I brushed up on autobiographies and memoirs. In the last half of the year, I went on a music bender while researching a new project (screenplay that turned into a NaNo novel). In the process, I acquired several memoirs and a few books on music criticism from the 33 1/3 series.
With the exception of two e-books, which I read on my girlfriend's Kindle, everything on this list was a old-school book. Real books. I'm such an annoying Luddite, but I'll gladly accept Kindle royalties. Yes, in 2013 Kindle sales of Lost Vegas and Jack Tripper Stole My Dog crushed actual book sales.
This list of fiction and non-fiction is in chronological order. If I didn't finish a book, I made a notation...
2013 Book Consumption
The Last Shot: City Streets, Basketball Dreams by Darcy Frey -- My editor, Lance, suggested this book about four budding stars from Lincoln High School in Coney Island who desperately wanted to get out of the Brooklyn projects by earning scholarships to play basketball. One of them was Stephon Marbury.
Although Of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself: A Road Trip with David Foster Wallace by David Lipsky -- Author gets commissioned by Rolling Stone to interview DFW and follow him around while he does a press junket for Infinite Jest. Due to bad weather, the two rent a car to attend a few stops on the tour. DFW reveals some very candid moments in the author's presence. Lipsky never finished the article. DFW killed himself. Lipsky decided to assemble the majority of the interview's audio clips into book form.
Shoplifting from American Apparel by Tao Lin -- Novella by postmodern minimalist and uber-hipster Tao Lin. Shortest book I read all year. Finished it in under an hour. Couldn't tell if this was pure genius for the economy of words or utter laziness. I dig Lin's overall sparse style.
Like Life: Stories by Lorrie Moore -- Short story collection. DFW thought Lorrie Moore was one of the greatest American short story writers. I read an interview with Tao Lin, who also sung Moore's praises. I was familiar with her style, but never read this collection.
The Broom of the System by David Foster Wallace -- Re-read. I first picked it up in the late 90s. Decided to check it out since it was DFW's debut novel.
Seven Seconds or Less: My Season on the Bench with the Runnin' and Gunnin' Phoenix Suns by Jack McCallum -- I got this used for a penny. Funny that the Lakers would end up firing their head coach and hiring Mike D'Antoni, the offensive guru who helped transform the landscape of the NBA with his spread offense philosophy.Legendary sportswriter Jack McCallum hung out in coaches meetings, and logged time with the team during down time, at practices, and on the road.
The Holographic Universe by Michael Talbot -- Some scientists believe that reality is just a hologram and that the entire universe is nothing more than a hologram. Heavy stuff. Does not require mushrooms or other psychedelics to read, but it is heavy on the science stuff. I never finished it, but skimmed the second half.
Pain Killers: A Novel by Jerry Stahl -- Everyone knows Stahl as a former-junkie-TV writer from his memoir Permanent Midnight (in the film version he was played by Ben Stiller). One of his most recent novels is about trying to find a notorious Nazi criminal, Josef Mengele, inside of a California prison. I never finished it. I went on a trip and by time I returned I had a new pile of books to read.
A Tiny Space to Move and Breathe: Notes from the Fall, 1997 by Walter G. Holland -- Also known in music circles as Wax Banks, the author shared his thoughts about Phish's entire Fall 1997 tour when the band delved into serious funk jamming.
Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly by Anthony Bourdain -- I reread this. Almost reads like a junkie-drunken novel. I originally read it in Barnes and Nobles spread out over a couple of weeks in the early 00s. I picked it up again because I wanted to refresh myself before I read his newer book.
Medium Raw by Anthony Bourdain -- His first book read more like a novel, this read more like a collection of unrelated blog posts. Didn't dig it as much as K.C.
Damascus by Joshua Mohr -- Hipster lit. Takes place in San Francisco's Mission neighborhood. Not the best story, but I like Mohr's style.
Criminal Enterprise (A Stevens and Windermere Novel) by Owen Laukkanen -- This is the second novel by Owen. We used to work together so I'm biased. But this is a great page-turner thriller.
11/22/63 -- Via KINDLE. Stephen King's novel about a guy who stumbles upon a time warp to try to stop the JFK assassination.
Open: An Autobiography by Andre Aggasi - My colleague Brian Balsbaugh said this was one of the best books he's ever read. I concur. One of the best memoirs I've come across. I'm not into tennis at all and always thought Aggasi was a bit of a jerkoff until I read his story. Raw and honest. I hate those celeb bios that whitewash everything. But Aggasi did not pull any punches.
The Other Glass Teat by Harlan Ellison -- Surly sci-fi writer Harlan Ellison wrote about TV for a local LA newspaper in the 1960s-70s. This is a collection of some of those columns.
Nothing in This Book Is True, But It's Exactly How Things Are by Bob Frissell -- If you have never taken psychedelics, then just skip this book. If you believe in interdimensions and other hokey superstitions, then this is right up your alley.
Heaven and Hell: My Life in the Eagles (1974-2001) by Don Felder -- Felder wrote one of the most popular songs in the history of rock n roll -- Hotel California. Felder was probably the best musician in the Eagles, he was eventually booted from the band because Glen Frey is a straight-up asshole. If you enjoyed the Eagles documentary, well this book is Don Felder's account of the events. Many music writers think that this book actually inspired Frey/Henley to commission a documentary so they can tell their side of the story. Even if you hate the Eagles, this is a crazy fucking ride. Just skim the first few chapters about Felder's life growing up in Florida (although he mentions how he gave a skinny little kid named Tom Petty his first guitar lesson) and cut to the best parts about cocaine and groupies and Frey douchebaggery
Sports Guy: In Search of Corkball, Warroad Hockey, Hooters Golf, Tiger Woods, and the Big, Big Game by Charles P. Pierce -- Pierce is one of America's best sports writers and he's probably the most underrated political writers. Both industries need more journalists like Pierce.
Hello, He Lied -- and Other Tales from the Hollywood Trenches by Lynda Obst -- Nicky has had this on her shelf for years. I finally picked it up. Hollywood producer dishes on how to properly survive working in Hollywood. I wish I read this before I got into the poker industry.
The Revolution Was Televised: The Cops, Crooks, Slingers, and Slayers Who Changed TV Drama Forever by Alan Sepinwall -- Via KINDLE. This guy writes some of the best recaps of TV shows. Loved his take on The Wire, Sopranos, and even Breaking Bad.
Stories I Only Tell My Friends: An Autobiography by Rob Lowe -- Your typical whitewashed Hollywood auto-bio. But you get some great and funny stories about the making of The Outsiders along with The West Wing.
Born to Lose: Memoirs of a Compulsive Gambler by Bill Lee -- Another gambling memoir. Bill Lee grew up in the mean streets of Chinatown and was a degen gambler from an early age before he lost his fortune several times over. Amazing rollercoaster story. He also wrote a book about the gangs of SF's Chinatown and one of the mob bosses put a contract out on his life. Crazy shit, eh?
Scar Tissue by Anthony Kiedis -- Autobiography by lead singer of the Red Hot Chili Peppers. It ended up being a good primer on the LA punk scene in the late70s and early 80s. Kiedis is an admitted junkie and he had plenty of low moments during the peak of his addiction.
You Are Not a Gadget: A Manifesto by Jaron Lanier -- Tech guru dishes on how digital society is altering our future, whether we like it or not.
Laurel Canyon: The Inside Story of Rock-and-Roll's Legendary Neighborhood by Michael Walker -- Well-written, but made me want to read more stories about some of the bands and musicians he mentioned. This book only touched the surface. Trippy as fuck cover art.
Ball Four by Jim Bouton -- I re-read this. Reads like a daily blog and going back in time to the late 60s. Former NY Yankee pitcher Jim Bouton got traded to an expansion team Seattle Mariners. This is essentially his daily diary from that season. This book got Bouton in trouble with MLB suits because he mentions rampant use of greenies (speed).
I Wear the Black Hat: Grappling with Villains (Real and Imagined) by Chuck Klosterman -- The newly anticipated book by Klosterman who delves into our fascination with bad guys.
Idiot America: How Stupidity Became a Virtue in the Land of the Free by Charles P. Pierce -- Great read about the dumbification of America.
You Don't Know Me but You Don't Like Me: Phish, Insane Clown Posse, and My Misadventures with Two of Music's Most Maligned Tribes by Nathan Rabin -- The author decides to immerse himself in two diverse (yet somewhat similar) music communities -- Phisheads and Juggalos. The Phish stuff was meh, but the Juggalo stuff was fascinating.
Dynomite!: Good Times, Bad Times, Our Times--A Memoir by Jimmie Walker -- You all know comedian Jimmie Walker, most known as JJ from Good Times. He pulls no punches in this memoir about breaking into the entertainment industry and has crazy stories about coming up through LA's comedy circuit.
Taipei by Tao Lin -- Minimalist hipster writer penned a long-form novel. Hit a little too close to home as the Adderall-chomping author eats mushrooms in Vegas.
Childhood's End by Arthur C. Clarke -- Javier and Josh told me that this was one of their all-time favorite books. I know it had inspired other sci-fi films (like V) but I had never read it before. Arthur C. Clarke is most known as the guy who wrote the book 2001, that inspired the controversial Stanley Kubrick films.
Hotel California: The True-Life Adventures of Crosby, Stills, Nash, Young, Mitchell, Taylor, Browne, Ronstadt, Geffen, the Eagles, and Their Many Friends by Barney Hoskyns -- Long ass title. I originally had this a few years ago but never finished it. I'm a time of my life when I appreciate that era much more so it was a fun read on that account.
The True Adventures of the "Rolling Stones" by Stanley Booth -- Took almost two decades to write, but this is one of the best books ever written about the Stones and one of the best "on tour with the band" books ever published.
Chronicles: Volume One by Bob Dylan -- Always a great re-read. Dylan gives you the straight dope on some of the earliest parts of his career. Reminded me of Llewlyn Davis.
Eminent Hipsters by Donald Fagen -- Anticipated memoir by co-founder of Steely Dan. Half of the book is a collection of essays on art/music and the other half is a tour journal (but not in Steely Dan, but a side project with Micheal McDonald and Boz Skaggs). Fagen is an exquisite writer with a knack for storytelling. Short book. Wanted to hear more road stories and hijinks.
Candy by Luke Davies -- Johnnie W sent me this book from an Aussie writer. More junkie lit. This one is a love story.
Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs: A Low Culture Manifesto by Chuck Klosterman -- I re-read this because I wanted to get familiar with Klosterman's original book before I participated in a Klosterman email exchange about his new book with my friend Jess (that we still have yet to do!).
Bleeding Edge by Thomas Pynchon -- One of my favorite authors with a new book that takes place around 9/11. My brother gave me this book for my birthday.
The Rolling Stones' Exile on Main St. (33 1/3) by Bill Janovitz -- This was one of the first books from the 33 1/3 series that I read. Basically authors write about their favorite albums. Janovitz gave a little background behind the Stones double album Exile on Main Street.
They Live! (Deep Focus) by Jonathan Lethem -- Brooklyn novelist Lethem sheds some insight into the cult film They Live! by John Carpenter.
Drinking With Strangers by Butch Walker -- I re-read this one. Former musician turned producer turned songwriter shared this fun memoir about the music industry. He tried to make it big in the 80s with hair metal bands, reinvented himself as a pop-punk band, then eventually became a bona fide hitmaker as a song writer.
The Beastie Boys' Paul's Boutique (33 1/3) by Dan LeRoy -- Great tales about the making of the Beastie Boys second album, which they produced in LA. One of my favorites from the 33 1/3 series.
Slow Getting Up: A Story of NFL Survival from the Bottom of the Pile by Nate Jackson -- Former journeyman NFL player gives you a hard-hitting behind the scenes look into the modern game. And painkillers. Lots of painkillers, that he often had to get on the street because team doctors would only dispatch enough pain meds for one day.
Attempting Normal by Marc Maron -- Comedia and podcaster Marc Maron lets you inside his twisted mind in this cantankerous memoir of sorts.
Murder City: Ciudad Juarez and the Global Economy's New Killing Fields by Charles Bowden -- Haunting book on rampant violence in Mexican border town Juarez. Long-time journalist Chuck Bowden digs deep into the rash of murders that plague the city across the border from El Paso, TX. This book inspired part of a screenplay I'm developing with Joe Dubs.
Nirvana's in Utero (33 1/3) by Gillian G. Gaar -- Nirvana's last album was recorded in seclusion in Minnesota in order to keep away the parasites and Courtney Love. Some Nirvana fans will say this is their best album (of three). I'm indifferent about the album but fascinated to hear the stories behind its production.
The Wolf of Wall Street by Jordan Belfort -- Hookers and blow. Better than the movie (in which he's played by Leo). The crimes admitted in this book occurred just before I headed to Wall Street. Crazy shit. Lots of cocaine and high-priced hookers. Did I mention hookers and blow?
Killing Yourself to Live: 85% A True Story by Chuck Klosterman -- I re-read this over Christmas when I couldn't sleep. I didn't like it at the time because it was more about Klosterman's previous relationships than about the death of rock stars.
The Tools: 5 Tools to Help You Find Courage, Creativity, and Willpower--and Inspire You to Live Life in Forward Motion by Phil Stutz -- Christmas gift. I'm not one to read self-help books, but this one had some interesting advice on breaking out of creative ruts.
AJA (33 1/3) by Don Breithaupt -- One of the more complex books in the 33 1/3 series, mainly because the music of Steely Dan is rather complex. Read this twice because it was short but very challenging because I'm not a musician.
That's it for now. I read a bunch of fun books in 2013. Already began a new pile thus far.