I’ve been meaning to start reviewing some books and movies that I enjoy on this blog, which has so far mostly concentrated on e-book news, e-book readers, and changes in the publishing industry. While I’m still passionate about those things, I’d also like to help spread the word and review other books I’ve been reading and particularly good movies I’ve seen. Sadly, in finishing my latest book (and editing, formatting, promoting, blah blah), I haven’t had much time for reading, but I plan to get back to it soon.
Until then, I just felt like highlighting some of my all-time favorite books and movies (and a TV show thrown in for good measure). Perhaps these will give you a feel for my tastes and inspiration as a writer, or maybe they’ll just help you pick your next book or movie to rent. So, here are some of my favorite things:
- The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series, by Douglas Adams: I’ve read this series of books cover-to-cover at least 5 times. Hilarious, witty, irreverent, poignant, and sometimes just plain silly, this book always manages to make me laugh. Aside from writing about funny situations and ideas, Adams was the greatest at using language itself to make me laugh; he wrote about funny things in a funny way. Some of his dialogue was pure genius. I’m saddened that he left us far too soon.
- Lamb, by Christopher Moore: Another example of great humor writing, Lamb was so sacrilegious, it probably would have started a new round of Crusades, except it had all the zealots doubled over and howling in laughter. It chronicles “the missing years” of Jesus Christ’s young adult life, and tells the story of his childhood companion, Biff. A taste: as Moore re-tells the famous story of the adulteress (inviting “he who is without sin to cast the first stone”), Biff gallantly volunteers to see the nice lady home safely. Jesus gives Biff a disapproving look that probably only the Son of God can really pull off. As Biff sulks away from the departing woman, he laments that “it just seems like such a waste of a perfectly good adulteress.” Comedy gold.
- The Conqueror’s Trilogy, by Timothy Zahn: This series hooked me in with a stunning scene of first contact with an alien species — which served as inspiration for the start of Right Ascension — and continued to explore fascinating ideas regarding assumptions we’d make about a new species and how changes in ability or technology could radically reshape an entire civilization and their viewpoint. The first book is from the humans’ point of view, the second from the aliens’, and the third goes back and forth. Zahn’s characterization and the depth of the alien society he created made it seem as if he had visited this alien place and come back to report on it, instead of inventing it in his mind. I could just as easily recommend his Thrawn series (set in the Star Wars universe) or many of his other excellent novels.
Honorable Mentions: The Incarnations of Immortality series by Piers Anthony, Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden, and anything by Dave Barry.
- Forrest Gump: This is the movie I’ve watched more than any other. I probably saw it about 100 times in college, to the point where I could recite every line, and knew obscure trivia like dollar amounts or all the different ways you could prepare shrimp. Partially from overload, I haven’t seen it in years now, but I was still moved by the story and how the title character overcame obstacles and made his place in the world.
- The Shawshank Redemption: I was surprised to learn that this movie was based on a novella by Stephen King, Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption. I found this movie to be powerful, moving, and it contained the perfect combination of outstanding acting (Morgan Freeman and Tim Robbins), phenomenal directing, and a superb musical score. This may be the only movie I enjoyed more than in book form — which I’m sure was only possible because they fit all the essential stuff from the novella into the movie, which is impossible with longer novels.
- Gattaca: An underrated but intelligent and thought-provoking science fiction story about genetics and genetic testing gone awry. It explored questions regarding how much of our lives is determined by genetic factors, the morality of using genetics to screen for jobs or social status, and how the indomitable human spirit can overcome all obstacles (notice the parallels to Forrest Gump). Particularly relevant now as our understanding of science and genetics rapidly advances, this movie wasn’t so much sci-fi as “here’s a taste of some issues you’ll be dealing with in 5 or 10 years.”
- Serenity: Oh man, just don’t get me started on Firefly, the foundation for Serenity and the best TV show of my generation, which was cancelled in less than a season so they could squeeze in another version of Surviving the Amazing Apprentice Race with Real Kardashian Housewives. The TV series and movie were witty, well-written, and starred a great cast with phenomenal chemistry, led by Nathan Fillion, who I’m happy to see doing well on one of my favorite recent shows, Castle.
Honorable Mentions: Several of the Star Trek: The Next Generation movies (and TV series), Top Gun (hey, all males my age liked that movie when it came out!), and Rain Man.
So, there you have it, some of my all-time favorite books and movies. Please don’t read too much into the exact order, the point is just that I very much enjoyed and highly recommend everything on this list.