Friday, August 22, 2008

My very own book list

I didn't like the last book list offered by some random "literary people" and I have decided to just write my own.

1. May I Bring A Friend? - Beatrice Schenk de Regniers

One day, a small boy receives a very special invitation — the King and the Queen have invited him to the castle for tea. He accepts, with one question: "May I bring a friend?"

"Any friend of our friend is welcome here," says the King. But their guest's friend turns out to be someone they never expected!

Oh how I loved this book! When I was very young, I checked it out from the library EVERY TIME I COULD. Finally I got my own copy as a gift.

Narnia Chronicles - C.S. Lewis. I had the complete series and even a map of Narnia poster on my wall. I read them once a year all the way through about 5 years in a row.

2. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
3. Prince Caspian
4. The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
5. The Silver Chair
6. The Magician's Nephew (Though this is the order they were written, I like to read it first as it is more of a pre-quel)
7. The Last Battle

8. The Complete Far Side - Gary Larson. If you haven't read it, you have no sense of humor. My favorite comic ever was never published because it was "too risque". In it, two bears are talking and the one is saying, "Is it true? Is it true? Is the Pope Catholic? Does a bear... well, I know YOU do Angelo!"

Artemis Fowl Series - Eoin Colfer. There are 6 books (so far) in the series with the most recent just being released this month.
9. Artemis Fowl (the first book)
10. Artemis Fowl - The Arctic Incident
11. Artemis Fowl - The Eternity Code
12. Artemis Fowl - The Opal Deception
13. Artemis Fowl - The Lost Colony
14. Artemis Fowl - The Time Paradox

I've read them all (except the new one) and yes, I know they are primarily children's books but that doesn't stop me one bit.

15. The Phantom Of The Opera - Gaston Leroux. I read this book on my way to Paris for the first time. I don't normally seek out classics or anything remotely not a comedy. I thought this would be a great introduction to Paris. Some history, some intrigue. I can't believe how engrossed I became in it. I can read quite quickly and I had to force myself to slow down and absorb the book more fully.

16. A Year In The Merde - Stephen Clarke. This comedy takes place in France. What's not to like? And there is a follow up called
17. In the Merde For Love, and
18. Merde Happens. I haven't read that last one yet.

19. The Preppy Handbook - edited by Lisa Birnbach. I once lived my life by this book. Now it's more of a guideline.

20. Letting It All Hang Out - RuPaul. I once lived my life by this book, oh wait I already said that. Sorry, but I do love this book. I have a strong affinity for trashy biographies and trashy auto biographies. The funny part of this book is from when it came out. I was in love with the Mac Cosmetics poster featuring RuPaul. RuPaul was doing a book signing. I had to have a signed poster. I also had to work that night. So I BEGGED Lyle to go to the Mac Cosmetic flagship store (then located on Santa Monica Blvd in WeHo), get a poster and then go to Book Soup for the book signing and get it signed for me.

Lyle is not a fan of drag queens. Lyle avoids all contact with drag queens. But somehow I had to convince him that any feelings he had about fearing drag queens had to be overshadowed by his love for me. That didn't work. So I told him if he didn't do what I said he'd regret it for the rest of his life. That didn't work either. So I told him if he didn't PLEASE go and do me this one little favor I would never shut up about it for as long as I lived. Strangely that did the trick and he got the poster (last one in the store) and went to the signing. When he approached the counter and offered the book and poster up for signing, RuPaul stood up and said loudly, "Well aren't you just the cutest thing! Come over here and give me a hug!" And there was RuPaul towering over Lyle by a least a foot. He signed the poster "Jim, Love ya - RuPaul".

Lyle tells me all of this story when I get home and I ask (somewhat franticly) where is my book? Where is my signed book!? "Uh, yeah about that..." and Lyle hands over the book to me which reads across the entire front page, "RUPAUL LOVES LYLE".

I was so bitter.

21. Valley Of The Dolls - Jacqueline Susann. You've got to climb Mount Everest to reach the Valley of the Dolls. But don't pack this book all the way up the mountain because its heavy and trashy. Great for the beach however.

22. Danziger's Travels - Nick Danziger. An amazing story of travelling unconventionally through Turkey, Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan and China. Written in the 1980's it is still a fascinating read today.

23. Mississippi Sissy - Kevin Sessums. Its always strange when something that is not a comedy crosses my path. This autobiography was riveting and brought me to tears a few times. I could not put it down. Well, actually I had to put it down to go get tissues and recover. But this book will compel you to make it through to the end. The hardest part of reading it is that you keep remembering this is all true and one human being lived it.

24. Princess Bride - William Goldman. In the middle of the book, the "editor" has an explanation that there was going to be a whole additional chapter but that the publisher didn't approve and they had a stalemate as to what to do. So they compromised and the publisher agreed that if any reader really wanted to know what the "editor" thought should have happened here in this section of the book that they could write and ask for a copy. The "editor" begged you, the reader, to do this as it would cost the book company money and he was still angry with them. I loved this book so much, I wrote and asked for my extra chapter. Instead, I received a very funny letter stating that the printer was broken and to please accept their apologies or some such nonsense. I wished I had tucked the letter in the book at the time... If you liked the movie, you will love the book.

25. My Blue Heaven - Joe Keenan. He has also written
26. Putting On The Ritz, and
27. My Lucky Star and was a writer for Frasier and now Desperate Housewives. But My Blue Heaven was first for me. It's hilarious. I LOVE IT. As you're reading and thinking, "well this is nearly wrapped up and yet I still have a third of the book to go... what could possibly happen..?" TWIST! And off you go!

28. Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe - Fannie Flagg. I saw the movie and liked it. I heard the book had more to it. It certainly does. Like an entire story about all the black people in the movie that you never heard about. Why look at that, they have a complete life as well! True to form, the movie and the book end differently and about 3 chapters from the end I threw the book across the room and vowed to never finish it. I finished it the next day. I have also enjoyed other books by Fannie Flagg. Who knew all that talent was sitting there on Match Game?

29. Misadventures In The 213 - Dennis Hensley. If the movie "Swingers" embodies what it was like to be young and crazy in Los Angeles for straight people, this is the gay equivalent. Dennis Hensley is a comic genius.
30. Screening Party by Dennis Hensley is great as well. It lets you sit in the room with all the funniest friends you've ever had and watch a movie with them and their catty comments. My favorite story is at the end when they go to an actual theater to see Glitter and run into Tyra Banks.

31. Auntie Mame - Patrick Dennis. Patrick Dennis, the fictional narrator of Auntie Mame and Little Me, was the pen name of Edward Everett Tanner III (1921–1976). Even better than the movie.

32. James And The Giant Peach - Roald Dahl. When I was in grade 4, every afternoon we had a half hour book sharing time. During this time a student would be called upon to share his or her favorite or current book that they were enjoying. When my turn came I chose James and the Giant Peach. I loved this book and it had my name in the title. The next day the teacher asked if I would read the next chapter instead of moving on to another student. I read every day for that week. James and the Giant Peach was a definite hit!

33. My Uncle Oswald - Roald Dahl. This is no James and the Giant Peach. This book is the story of "the greatest fornicator of all time." Uncle Oswald leads The life of a commercial sperm broker and it is a very adult tale indeed.

34. Six of One - Rita Mae Brown. I don't even know how I got this. But I did and I am glad. Juts and Julia in Runnymeade, Maryland have made many a day amusing for me.
35. Bingo - Rita Mae Brown. A sequel to Six of One
36. Loose Lips - Rita Mae Brown. Tells what happened between Six of One and Bingo but was written last.

37. Fraud - David Rakoff. In this collection of stories on his life (my favorite is when he is playing an evil modeling agent on a daytime soap opera) David Rakoff is as funny (or funnier) that David Sedaris.
I also enjoyed his second book,
38. Don't Get Too Comfortable - David Rakoff.

39. I've a Feeling We're Not In Kansas Anymore: Tales from Gay Manhattan - Ethan Morden. I loved this entire series. Yep, it's about a group of gays. They live in Manhattan and one of them is a writer. I've read them all including
40. Buddies
41. Everybody Loves You: Further Adventures of Gay Manhattan
42. Some Men Are Lookers,
and the conclusion of the Buddies novels
43. How's Your Romance?.

44. The Andy Warhol Diaries - Andy Warhol and Pat Hackett. I read it cover to cover. But the great beauty of this book lies in the nuggets you can unearth while you trudge through boring detail after minute boring detail. The most efficient way to do this is to own the (now defunct) Spy Magazine Index. This handy index allows me to turn directly to page 92 and pull my favorite reference to Bianca Jagger, "...I walked over to Halston's to pick up Bianca, she was cooking like a Puerto Rican, and she had the whole house smelled up with onions and hamburgers."

45. Tales Of The City - Armistead Maupin. I didn't want to be one of "those people" who jump on a bandwagon and read these just because everyone else was. So I didn't. For a long time. Then I was finally beaten down by my friend Robb who gave me the first one. I bought the rest of the series the next day. (this is exactly how I got hooked on the Harry Potter series. Blame Robb) Of course when I bought my books they were all completed and I didn't have to wait for each one to come out the next year, or experience the horror of only being able to read a chapter a day in the newspaper as some suffered. I read one book a day. I was done in 6 days. And I've re-read them in that same fashion a couple more times since. The beauty of reading so quickly is that I can forget what happens and the next time the story seems almost new to me. But oh how I enjoy them in the moment. Oh, and it was a huge leap for me to overlook all the hideous fashion of the 70's described in the first book.

46. More Tales Of The City - Armistead Maupin
47. Further Tales Of The City - Armistead Maupin
48. Babycakes - Armistead Maupin
49. Significant Others - Armistead Maupin
50. Sure of You - Armistead Maupin

51. The Boys On The Rock - John Fox. This is required reading in my opinion for every gay guy coming out. It is incredibly accessible, touching and identifiable. I loved this book so much I wrote a fan letter (one of possibly three I have written in my life) and purchased an anthology of short stories because John Fox had one in it. I kept looking for his next novel and was saddened to see a dedication to him in a future anthology stating that he had passed away to AIDS. This book is genius. It makes me sad that we will never get another novel from this great talent.

52. Madame Secretary - Madeleine Albright. Brilliant career. Brilliant book.

53. The Object of My Affection - Stephen McCauley. I wish this had never been made into a movie. I liked the book. I read it three or four times. The movie ruined it for me. I've never read it again.

54. How to Housebreak Your Dog in 7 Days - Shirlee Kalstone. I have lived by this book. More than once.

55. Marley & Me - John Grogan. I bought this for a friend's mother for Christmas one year. She loves dogs. I love dogs. This book is about a dog. Good match, no? Then I read it. From the very first page I knew where this book would end and I knew I had to finish it. Of course this was the January just after two of our dogs had passed away in November. I cried early, I cried often. I cried at funny things and I had to take a three week break before I had enough tears built back up to finish this damnable well written book. I have since apologized to the person I gave this to as a gift. As great as this book is, I can not recommend this book. If you must read it, have a friend make a bookmark and place it between pages 236 and 237. This book mark will read STOP NOW. I TOLD YOU SO.

56. Garlic and Sapphires - Ruth Reichl. The subtitle of this book is The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise, and that really sums up the entire book. I bought this book in the airport for Lyle right after they announced we would be delayed for 3 additional hours. He read it at the beginning of the vacation. I read it on the way home.

57. Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events The Bad Beginning- by Lemony Snicket I enjoyed these quite a bit. More clever than children should be allowed to read. But by about book 10 or 11 it got a bit mundane and I only slightly enjoyed the last book. Still, Slightly enjoyed is better than hated, despised or loathed and I promise you there is a difference dear reader. You may hate bananas (and who could blame you) and you might despise the smell of bananas (they really are quite awful don't you agree?), but if you loathed bananas then most likely you are gay. Because loathe, through very similar to despise and hate, dear reader, is a totally gay way of hating and it uses up your every fiber unlike hate and despise which you may be able to do while also doing something else, like getting people to sign petitions to ban bananas from the Earth, which no one would blame you if you decided to start.
58. The Reptile Room
59. The Wide Window
60. The Miserable Mill
61. The Austere Academy
62. The Ersatz Elevator
63. The Vile Village
64. The Hostile Hospital
65. The Carnivorous Carnival
66. The Slippery Slope
67. The Grim Grotto
68. The Penultimate Peril
69. The End

70. The Dog Who Wouldn't Be - Farley Mowat. Another dog book, this time by a beloved Canadian author. I thought based on loving this book that I would enjoy other books by Mowat. Nope. And just like all stories have a beginning middle and end, this one does to (see how I danced around that?) but I read this one when I was much younger and hadn't just lost a beloved pet. The book is still good.

71. Bridget Jones Diary - Helen Fielding. I was not going to include this book. It was on that other infamous book list and everyone questioned its standing to be on the 100 best books list, including me. But then I remembered that I really enjoyed this first Bridget Jones tale. I bought in Windsor, England in a bookstore with a view of Windsor Castle. My version has an entire chapter that isn't included in the American release that is all about how Bridget and her friends feel about Princess Diana's death. The phrasing, the abbreviations, it was all so new and exciting. I deemed it v.v.g. (very very good). Then I made the mistake of buying the second book, "The Edge of Reason" and I can't tell you how much I disliked it. It was such a re-hash. The poor girl had learned nothing and advanced not one bit. She seemed stupid and selfish for having not grown from any of the lessons the first book offered her. You know like in the Harry Potter series where you just wonder why on Earth after 5 years of hearing only partial snippets of conversation and jumping to the wrong conclusions EVERY SINGLE TIME, that Harry and his friend never stopped to say, "Wait a minute, you've only heard a very small part of much larger conversation. You can't just assume you know the rest of the conversation. Remember what happened the last time? Or the time before that? Or the time before THAT? Or the time before THAT? HAVE YOU LEARNED NOTHING?!" Anyway, so I include the first book by Helen Fielding, but completely dismiss the second. The same goes for the movie adaptations. I had to delete "The Edge of Reason" from my Tivo after it sat and sat for months and though I tried repeatedly to watch it in just 10 minute sittings, I still ahd only made it 22 minutes in. Bleah.

72. Take Big Bites - Linda Ellerbee. I freely confess my crush on Linda Ellerbee from when she was a co-anchor on ABC news overnight. Her blunt style and wry wit are right up my alley. After she left ABC I continued to follow her through all sorts of incarnations. I can't go so far as to say that if she read the phone book I'd show up for it, but if she were signing the phone book at a store nearby I most likely would be in line. This book wanders. It walks the globe and gives you free recipes. It tickled me and made me cry, but mostly it pleased me over and over again like a really expensive red wine with a perfect cooked steak.

In the first chapter the tone is set that made me know I would love this book:
Our first day aboard the cruise ship, when we plunged into obligatory small talk with other passengers, all we heard was how everybody loved Singapore.
"So clean."
There was a $500 fine for littering. Josh and I had littered on principle.
"So orderly."
There was a $500 fine for chewing gum. Although neither of us was fond of gum, we had gone out of our way to find some and chew it in public.
"Such nice restrooms."
There was a $500 fine for not flushing. Josh and I had not flushed.
73. C'est La Vie: An American Woman Begins a New Life in Paris and -- Voila! --Becomes Almost French - Suzy Gershman. Here is where I indulge my fetish for the idea of living in Paris. I will read almost anything that tells me what it will be like WHEN (not if) I live in Paris. In this book the writer's husband passes away suddenly and she decides to realize their promise of some day moving to Paris to live. Note to self, bring sheets from home (cheaper).

74. Almost French - Sarah Turnbull. From Australia to Paris, she marries a Frenchman and then discovers what it is like to live on the inside of Parisian life as an outsider.

75. Paris to the Moon - Adam Gopnik. Two Americans move to Paris to raise their newborn. Funniest part is the horror they feel on discovering that a relative has introduced their son to Barney the dinosaur on a trip to the states, and their son LOVES it.

76. Pasquale's Nose - Michael Rips. Perhaps you've always dreamed of relocating to Italy?

77. Under the Tuscan Sun - Frances Mayes. The book is so different to the movie. Knowing how much was changed for the film, I haven't seen it (though Tivo did just get it for me this week). I loved this first book. The later books became a little bit more tried and true more of the same. But as the original that established the brand, I enjoyed this one very much. Lyle did not care for it as he felt it was a bit too flowery. So fair warning, the author used to be a poetry professor.

It was my plan to work on this until I hit 100. Are you kidding me? Though I have read many more books than appear on this list, I can't remember them all. It's not that those books weren't any good it's more likely because those books aren't on a shelf in my current library. I need a little help to jog my memory of everything I read.

There are a number of books in my library that I did not include. That doesn't make them bad. It just means that I didn't mention them here. And yes, I know there are a lot of gay themed books on the list. Guess who's gay and wrote this list?


peter said...

OMG, you're GAY?! I've read your blog for all these months and I never figured out you're Gay?! So Scooter is more than a roommate! OMG!!!

BTW, you have a great taste in books and ofcourse I knew you're Gay, I was just pulling your... ehm leg.

Rachel said...

I think you got me to read Princess Bride and Neverending Story. I didn't realize you'd read the Narnia books that much! That's like me and the Lord of the Rings!

"Just David!" said...

Tales of the City, classic, there's the latest in the series too, Michael Tolliver Lives, Mouse is 55, it's hysterical and catches up with all the characters 20+ years later. Love all the choices and made a list of some to get for myself! Have you ever read "A Confederacy of Dunces" by John Kennedy Toole? You're a funny guy, you'd love it!

jason said...

Love this list!
Love that Rupaul story even more.

tyler said...

edmund white.
a boy's story,the flaneur, my lives: an autoboagraphy...
joyce carol oates: gravediggers daughter, missing mom........
so many books to read so little time.......
i'm surrently reading andre dubus III's the garden of last days. dubus III also wrote the house of sand and fog.
great blog entry, jim.

Michael Guy said...

Oh, what a detailed list you've featured here. This post took a lot of work and is a labor of love, no doubt.

I'm hopeful that you've read my gay classic favorite: Andrew Holleran's "DANCER FROM THE DANCE." Also, Holleran's "THE BEAUTY OF MEN." It's a bummer but brilliantly written. Just saying.

Good list, Jim. FYI: I am modeling my life after 'Helen Lawson's' character from "VALLEY OF THE DOLLS," kiddo...

' you get outt'a my way..I got a man waitin' for me...'

You said...

My Blue Heaven was, hands down, the funniest book I've ever read! I heart Joe Keenan! And I literally moved to SF after reading Tales of the City. Luckily I had the good sense to move back to New York...

TheHMC said...

I loved so many of those! Now I have some more to add to my list to read.

I have to say, I'm still devistated that my Narnia collection went missing. I had the original books in hardback from when I was a kid and mom gave them to my aunt, who let them go in a garage sale.
I still get teary eyed over that one from time to time.

Tim in Italy said...

um... how many of these books have pictures? I get bored easily.

Frontier Psychiatrist said...

Fun list. Very excited at the inclusion of:

The Preppy Handbook, Auntie Mame, and Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events.

Also, my friend just gave me Blue Heaven, so it's next on my list.

Carolyn said...

I am going to the library this afternoon and check out some of the books on your list. I particularly want the essays by the guy you said is funnier than David Sedaris. You recommended him to me before and I totally forgot until I read your list. Can't wait to laugh. I'm also getting all the gay lit, just for fun. I need to broaden my literary horizons and give the woman who goes to my church who works at the circulation desk at the library something to talk about! (I hope she's working today!)