In 2018 I decided to keep track of the books I read. Not sure exactly why. I guess it’s because I’m a stats guy from way back. Anyways, I read 21 books; 20 I’d never read before, 7 novels, 8 non-fiction books, 6 biographical books. Every January I read an Elvis book and last year’s was Jerry Schilling’s “Me and a Guy Named Elvis”. Every summer I read one of the really long novels I own and in 2018 it was “Kings Row” (536 pages). My favourite of the books I read was Joseph Lanza’s book “Elevator Music”; a really interesting look at the history of easy listening music. I also really enjoyed the Perry Mason book I read. Every year I try to read one of these vintage paperbacks from Erle Stanley Gardner and I read this year’s in two afternoons. It was thrilling to get through a book in such a short time.
I had three really disappointing reads. I often try to read a really long book in the winter. I just feel like it’s an old-fashioned thing to do; a sizeable novel that tells an in-depth story that takes you several winter evenings to read, curled up with a hot beverage. Last February I grabbed a book I’ve owned for awhile: Nelson Algren’s “The Man With the Golden Arm”. Those who know will know that this book was made into a significant film starring Frank Sinatra as Frankie Machine, a jazz drummer trying to kick a drug habit. The novel – from the get-go – was inaccessible to me. Algren adopted a lingo that, I assume, he pulled from the streets but it proved challenging to read – like, for some, Shakespeare is challenging because the English he uses is not today’s every day language. This is the same issue with Algren’s book. I pulled the plug after 4 days – something I almost never do.
The next disappointment happened with a book a read in September. I was eagerly anticipating reading Guillem Balague’s much-heralded book “Brave New World: Inside Pochettino’s Spurs”. This book is unique as it offers a first-person account of a English Premier League football season through the eyes of Tottenham Hotspur’s innovative manager, Mauricio Pochettino. I can’t say the book was bad, exactly; it just wasn’t what I expected – which is MY problem, not the book’s. Nevertheless, I finished the book with a much stronger love for Poch and for my Spurs.
The Poch book was a rare instance of me reading a new book. Another new book I read during the year was (2017’s) “Black Dahlia, Red Rose” by Piu Eatwell. Fascinating.
Another disappointment was what I call a “business read”. Visiting Florida several times in my life has helped me to forge a love for the music of Jimmy Buffett. Buffett also brings his tropical flair to a handful of novels he has written, all of which I have read. He also wrote what amounts to a children’s book called “Swine Not”. It’s about a family that keeps a pig as a pet in a swanky apartment building in the heart of New York City. I felt like I HAD to read it so I battled through it but got NOTHING out of it and disliked the whole experience. Reading is supposed to be fun so why on earth did I read this book? Good question. Sometimes I make myself follow stupid, self-imposed rules.
The final disappointment was also a sort of “business read”. I’d owned this cheap-o biography of Marlon Brando, imaginatively titled “Brando!”, for literally 15-20 years. I thought I would read it just to have done with it and then get rid of it – or “pass it on”, as I like to say. The book was so second-rate that it was unbearable. The author’s “research” I think was done by going through the tabloids. I shared my disdain for the book in a Facebook group and someone from Illinois said they would take it off my hands. So, I put it in the mail for him which was kind of a happy ending.
My “post-Florida/tropical” book that I try to read after returning from our annual visit to the south in March was “Mr. Christian!” by Stanley Miller. This is a condensed and amalgamated retelling of the events of the mutiny on HMS Bounty. A little silly, this book, but I felt it was OK to read having already read the actual Bounty trilogy.
During the Christmas season, I always read “Christmas with Ed Sullivan”. From 1959 (my copy is from 1967), it is a collection of Christmas stories and personal recollections from Sullivan, Bing Crosby, Jack Benny and many others. I love it dearly but I wish I had kept track of how many times I’ve read it. Between 10 and 15 I’d say. I’ve also read Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” every Christmas for years but a few years ago I bought his “The Christmas Books Vol. 2”. In 2017 I read “The Cricket on the Hearth” instead and it was a major disappointment. I have to say the same for last year’s Dickens story “The Battle of Life”. This year I guess I’ll read “The Haunted Man” and – unless that story is fantastic – I’ll pass this book along. The last couple years I have been reading my “The Annotated ‘A Christmas Carol'”, a great book that puts a lot of meat on the things that happen in the story.
I finally read the Doris Day autobiography I’ve owned for years and I also really enjoyed Bill O’Reilly’s “Killing Reagan”. All in all it was good year for reading. I’ve gone ahead and rated the books out of 5 stars. The rating reflects my overall feeling for and experience with the book.
“Me and a Guy Named Elvis” – Jerry Schilling ****
“Going My Own Way” – Gary Crosby **
“Chancy” – Louis L’Amour ****
“Elevator Music: A Surreal History of Muzak, Easy Listening and Other Mood Song” – Joseph Lanza ****
“Mr. Christian!” – Stanley Miller ***
“A Life Well Played: My Stories” – Arnold Palmer ***
“The Case of the Stepdaughters Secret” – Erle Stanley Gardner ****
“You Must Remember This: Life and Style in Hollywood’s Golden Age” – Robert Wagner ****
“Line of Fire” – Donald Hamilton ***
“Seven Days in May” – Fletcher Knebel and Charles W. Bailey II ***
“L.A. Noir: The Struggle for the Soul of America’s Most Seductive City” – John Buntin ***
“Doris Day: Her Own Story” – Doris Day with A.E. Hotchner ***
“Black Dahlia, Red Rose” – Piu Eatwell ****
“Kings Row” – Henry Bellamann ****
“Swine Not” – Jimmy Buffett *
“No Regrets: the Life of Edith Piaf” – Carolyn Burke ***
“Brave New World: Inside Pochettino’s Spurs” – Guillem Balague ***
“Good Grief: the Story of Charles M. Schulz” – Rheta Grimsley Johnson ***
“Killing Reagan: the Violent Assault That Changed a Presidency” – Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard ****
“Brando!” – Gary Carey *
“Christmas with Ed Sullivan” – ed. by Ed Sullivan *****