Weekend Roundtable: Books Recently Read

While this blog may be primarily focused on movies, TV and videogames, we don’t want to leave the impression that we’re totally uncultured in literary matters here. We read books too, you know. (Well, some of us, anyway.) For this week’s Roundtable, let’s discuss what we’ve been reading lately.

Mike Attebery

I just finished Nora Ephron’s ‘Heartburn‘, which I had been wanting to read for a while in order to compare it to the Mike Nichols film starring Meryl Streep and Jack Nicholson, which was based on Ephron’s own screenplay. It had some great lines, and a few bits that she later sprinkled throughout ‘When Harry Met Sally‘ and ‘Julie & Julia‘, but in the end, I’d only give it a 5/10.

The week before that, I read Gillian Flynn’s ‘Gone Girl‘, which I’d give an 8.5/10. I couldn’t put that book down. If Reese Witherspoon is indeed starring in the film version, it will be the perfect counterpoint to her Tracy Flick character. I lost a lot of sleep staying up to finish that book in about three days. I’m still not sold on the ending, though. I’m curious to hear what other people think (without spoiling anything).

Aaron Peck

The last book I read was ‘Under the Dome‘, which was kindly given to me by High-Def Digest reader Randall G. because he’s apparently really awesome and will mail books to you for free. I had mentioned that I loved Stephen King’s ’11/22/63′ (the book I read right before ‘Dome’), and Randall offered to send me ‘Dome’ free of charge. He’s a stand up guy.

Anyway, I really love the way that King writes, and I especially love his ideas and the scope that he brings to his books. ‘Dome’ is an audaciously big undertaking. One day, a giant invisible dome cuts off a tiny rural Maine town from the outside world. It only takes a few days before religious zealots and hicks with guns start trying to take over the town with fear. The baddie in it is a man called Big Jim Rennie, who as far as I’m concerned, could only be played by John Goodman if the book ever gets adapted for the screen.

Speaking of adapting this book, if it was to be done right, I think that it should be made as an HBO-type mini-series. That’s really the only way to fit in all the characters and the scope of the book. (Same thing goes with ’11/22/63′, but Jonathon Demme is already adapting that book into a screenplay. We’ll have to see how that goes). Now that I finished with ‘Dome’ a month or so ago, I’ve started George R. R. Martin’s ‘A Song of Fire and Ice’ series. After watching the greatness that is ‘Game of Thrones’, I simply have to read the source material.

Brian Hoss

I just finished ‘Child of God‘ by Cormac McCarthy. For much of the time that I was reading it, I was thankful that the disturbing story of Lester Ballard, a perverse and isolated individual, was mercifully short. Cormac McCarthy, known recently for ‘The Road’ and ‘No Country for Old Men’, has a writing style that eschews most punctuation and italics usage, which takes some adjustment, especially with regard to dialogue. He’s a superb writer, though. Otherwise, I might not have gotten very far through the book. I picked ‘Child of God’ at random from the author’s other works. It wasn’t until after I read it that I saw it had been published in 1973, where stories like this in the vein of ‘Taxi Driver’ and ‘American Psycho’ were somewhat groundbreaking. I really can’t recommend the book, but the writing is vivid and Lester’s corrosion as a human being is unlikely to be forgotten anytime soon.

Adam Tyner (DVDTalk)

If you count comics, the last book I read was the fourth collection of Jeff Smith’s ‘RASL‘. This head-on collision of sci-fi and noir isn’t the easiest series on the planet to describe. It’s about an art thief who bounds back and forth between alternate realities to steal legendary paintings, but that barely scratches the surface. Sex, deception, murder, Nicolas Tesla, the truth about the Philadelphia Experiment, the Tunguska Event, alternate Bob Dylans, the death knell of every plane of existence: ‘RASL’ is a phenomenal series that indulges a dark side that had only been hinted at in Smith’s other work to date.

Okay, okay, if you want me to ramble on for a few sentences about a book-book, the last one I read would probably be Patton Oswalt’s ‘Zombie Spaceship Wasteland‘. At its core, this is a non-linear memoir about Oswalt’s childhood and his early years as a comedian. As anyone who’s caught one of Oswalt’s stand-up sets surely knows, he’s a brilliant storyteller, and that translates every bit as well to the printed page as you’d expect. He’s also not one to settle for convention. Along with the familiar approach of a comedian looking back on his earlier years, he’ll mix several pages of narration over a fake wine list, or summarize hack comedians with parodies of Janet Jackson and Billy Joel songs. Being Patton Oswalt and all, it kind of goes without saying that he drops references to everything from ‘D&D’ sourcebooks to movies as hopelessly obscure as ‘Chato’s Land’. Yeah, I loved it.

Tom Landy

Back in April at the 2012 Calgary Expo I had a chance to meet Freddy Krueger himself, Robert Englund. While I was there, I picked up a copy of his memoir, ‘Hollywood Monster: A Walk Down Elm Street with the Man of Your Dreams‘. It’s a smart, witty and incredibly personal look beneath the mask of one of the greatest cult icons of all-time. From his early theater career to the birth of the legendary bogeyman and beyond, this book is a must for any film fan. Just be sure not to doze off while reading it.

M. Enois Duarte

Right now, I’m in the middle of Nick Cave’s ‘The Death of Bunny Munro‘. I’ve been a fan of Cave’s music for as long as I can remember, starting with “The Birthday Party,” and thoroughly enjoyed his first novel, ‘And the Ass Saw the Angel’ when it first came out. Some will recognize Cave’s name as the screenwriter of movies like ‘The Proposition’ and the upcoming ‘Lawless’. For some reason, I just never got around to reading about ‘Bunny Munro’ and his libertine gallivanting about the town of Brighton with his son. It’s a great read and I can’t wait to see what happens next.

Josh Zyber

I’ve been doing a bunch of reading in conjunction with my David Lynch film marathon. I posted earlier this week about revisiting the ‘Twin Peaks’ tie-in novel, ‘The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer‘. I’ve also recently finished the ‘Lynch on Lynch‘ interview book, and Barry Gifford’s original ‘Wild at Heart‘ novella that Lynch’s 1990 film is based on. I’m currently in the middle of ‘The Autobiography of FBI Special Agent Dale Cooper‘. I’ll try to write more about these later if I can find the time.

The thing I find interesting about ‘Wild at Heart’ specifically is that, between the movie’s final cut and the deleted scenes, it appears that Lynch literally filmed the entire book. It had been quite a long time since I’d read it last, and I’d previously had the impression that the movie was about 80% Lynch and only 20% Gifford, but it seems that Lynch made a real effort to put everything from the book into his movie, interspersed with his own original material. Yet the director poured so much of his own unique style onto the movie that even the scenes that come verbatim from Gifford feel like something Lynch must have written.

What have you read recently? Tell us in the Comments.


  1. Ryan

    @Mike Attebery
    did you read Dark Places by Gillian Flynn? Pretty good book. Haven’t gotten to Gone Girl yet though

    • Ryan

      And the last book I finished was Watchers By Dean Koontz. I really liked it. Apparently a movie “loosely” based on it came out in the 80s and starred Cory Haime….the trailer on YouTube is hilariously bad.
      Currently reading Odd Apocalypse, also by Koontz. Not very far into that one. The original Odd Thomas was fantastic….the sequels have been hit or miss for me.
      I think I’ll read Cloud Atlas next(since the movie’s coming out soon) …or maybe Gone Girl.
      Okay, bye

      • Watchers is early Koontz, and one of his best. 🙂 I loved it, when I read it as a kid. If you’ve not read them, also read Midnight and Lightning, which I reckon along with Watchers are his best three.

  2. JM

    This week I’m enjoying my favorite Irishman, Mr. Ken Bruen, author of ‘London Boulevard’ (which William Monahan completely rewrote, in a semi-interesting way). But today it’s ‘Headstone,’ the 9th in the Jack Taylor series. This is crime fiction the way it’s meant to be typed.

    Chris Scarre’s ‘Chronicle of the Roman Emperors’ is my skim, because I wanted to know more about Caligula, and now I know too much. (The pictures and sidebars are particularly historic.) The guy hosted huge dinners to honor his horse and the horse ate with them. He even threatened to make his horse consul. That is how you rule an empire.

    ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ was lent to me by my favorite Mexican, but the writing was so awful I couldn’t get past the first page. Maybe if Bret Easton Ellis nails the screenplay it will suck in a more palatable fashion.

    ‘Sarabeth’s Bakery’ gave me a recipe for Chocolate Babka to try.

    Donald Barthelme’s ‘Snow White’ I started to re-read to celebrate Kristen Stewart getting fired from the Snow White sequel. (‘The Girl Without Hands & The Huntsman’ please!) If I could legally marry a book based on the oral pleasure I receive from the language, I would marry Donald Barthelme’s ‘Snow White’ and have her babies and give them all extra Babka!

    Susan Elizabeth Phillips’s ‘What I Did For Love’ is my fluff. Chapter 16 begins… “Georgie locked herself in Bram’s bathroom and soaked in his tub…” Suffice it to say, things are about to get good.

    ‘Cloud Atlas’ I just picked up from the library. So far it’s a bit of a vegetable.

  3. William Henley

    Oh, gosh. The problem is that I read so many different books at once.

    I read “The Hunger Games” trilogy a couple of months ago. The first thing I read on my Kindle.

    I am just finishing “Harry Potter and the Sorcorer’s Stone” for like the seventh time.

    I just finished “2010” and just started “2061” in the past week.

    Finished “So Long and Thanks For All The Fish” today.

    Current reads: “The Communist Manifesto”, “Little Women”, “He Still Speaks: Embracing the Prophetic Today”, and “Mostly Harmless”.

    Got in the mail this week “Farmer Boy Goes West”, “Nellie Olsen Meets Laura Ingalls”, and “Mary Ingalls On Her Own”.

    Also just downloaded to the Kindle “A Princess of Mars”, “Pride and Prejudice” and “Unveiled, the Transforming Power of God’s Presence and Voice”.

  4. EM

    I’ve been reading From Elvish to Klingon: Exploring Invented Languages, a nonfiction book edited and partly written by one Michael Adams. I’ve finished the main matter, but I still have some of the appendices to go through. The book was a gift from a friend who mistook an Amazon recommendation for an entry on my public wish list. But it was a fortuitous, enjoyable mistake. The same friend had already given me Arika Okrent’s delightful In the Land of Invented Languages, which actually had been on my wish list and which is referenced multiple times in From Elvish to Klingon; and I already own a copy of the same Michael Adams’ Slayer Slang: A Buffy the Vampire Slayer Lexicon. And that’s not to mention my personal library’s many other books on languages, both “invented” and “real”.

  5. Not long finished the ‘Lost Fleet’ series of six books. Basically space warfare written by an ex navy guy. There’s nothing shockingly original in them, but they’re cracking reads and he is superb at making the space combat feel realistic and plausible and the military characters feel genuine and human (If the new Galactica had been like this, it might actually have been good).

    Currently reading Sense and Sensibility and re-reading my own book constantly till I go blurry eyed due to editing!!

  6. Barsoom Bob

    Last book read “Reamde” by Neal Stephenson.

    Currently reading “How To Live Safely in a Science Fiction Universe” by Charles Wu.

    These are kind of atypical as I am really more a “pulpy” kind of guy. Started with Tom Swift Jr. adventures into Burroughs, Fleming, Tolkien, Herbert, Dick, King, Clancy and last and most definitely least, Cussler. But good friends supply good books in between the fun ones. Books like “Tinkers” and “The Brief Wonderous Life of Oscar Wao” which contains an out of nowhere shoutout to Dejah Thoris!

    “Reamde” is not as prophetic as “Snow Crash” or as daunting as “Cryptonomicon”, which was hands down the most rewarding and challenging book I have ever read. That one’s dual storylines tell the history of the invention of the computer from the WWII era’s code breaking machines through the fractured view of a morphine and sex addicted grunt, Juxtaposed with a modern story about some smarties creating the new digital Switzerland for Corporations and Governments trading in the new cash.

    “Reamde” is a more straight ahead, modern techno thriller. The world’s most popular on-line game world, T’rain, is struck by a clever virus that holds everyone infected’s files for ransom unless the ransom is paid to a Troll in the Golfgrath Mountains in the game. The virus as created by a bunch of goldmining Chinese players in Shanghai internet cafe, unfortunately runs afoul of a Russian ganster’s under the table deal which sets off a wild, fun international adventure which comments on a lot of modern technological life.

    “How to Live Safely in a Science Fiction Universe” is a stream of conciousness type narrative where the time machine repairman who is hiding out from his own life inside his time machine is searching for his lost father who first invented the practical time machine and promptly disappeared. This is not really SF but a soul searching self analysis filtered through the amusing protective guaze of the SF displacement. It is a fast, fun read, kind of similar to “Oscar Wao” but with an Asian background instead of Hispanic. It features an out of nowhere shoutout to the Gray’s Papaya Hot Dog shop on the corner of 72nd and Broadway, two blocks from my home!

  7. Alex

    I know I’m a bit behind the times here, but I’ve been going through A Song of Ice and Fire recently. Just finished up A Storm of Swords, but I’m going to take a break from Martin for a bit. Those books are just too much of an investment. I need to relax my little gray cells. Right now I’m reading “The Trinity Game” because it was being pushed by Amazon as a free-download.

  8. knuckles

    I’m nearly finished with 11/22/63, so i’m glad to hear Aaron praising Under the Dome.

    I haven’t paid much attention to king’s work since high school, so it’s been such a treat to get so immersed in the world he creates/recreates in 11/22/63. It’s compulsively readable, even when it suffers the same editorial faults some of King’s other work can be guilty of.

    I’ve been dreaded reaching the conclusion just because I imagined there wouldn’t be another King book as readable in a while… so it’s nice to hear a vote of confidence for Under the Dome. I’ll pick it up this week.

    • William Henley

      You know, its amazing the editing issues I see sometimes. I don’t know if you are refering to the same thing I am, but I actually contacted a book publisher yesterday about an issue I saw in a first edition book that came out a couple of months ago. It was something so obvious, that I can’t believe that the author, editor, publisher, or no one who has read it before, has caught it. The book takes place around 1870, and refrences North Dakota. What is really bad is that the series this book is based on actually takes place when the character (based on a real person) is older (late 1870s, and most of the 1880s), and in those other books, it is rightly refered to as the Dakota Territory.

        • William Henley

          Yes. The book takes place when the boy is 13. His daughter (In real life) was born in 1886 in Dakota Territory

        • William Henley

          BTW, I actually quoted the Wikipedia entry to the publishers. They said they would forward it on to the editors.