Monday, October 5, 2009

27 Books of No Small Importance.


1. "EROS AND MAGIC IN THE RENAISSANCE" by IOAN P COULIANO - mindlblowing stuff. a dynamic and potent psychology of human interactions, refined over 400 years ago.

2. "NATURE'S METROPOLIS - CHICAGO AND THE GREAT WEST" by WILLIAM CRONON - an amazing story about the innovative and brutal 'resource extraction' that built both Chicago and the world we live in today.

3. "THE WORLD WITHOUT US" by ALAN WEISMAN - somewhat freeform but perspective-shaking provocation about the intrusive yet temporary human species.

4. "STRANGE ANGEL: THE OTHERWORDLY LIFE OF ROCKET SCIENTIST JOHN WHITESIDE PARSONS" by GEORGE PENDLE - a good demonstration of the hazy boundary between science and fantasy.

5. "CAPTAIN SIR RICHARD FRANCIS BURTON: A BIOGRAPHY" by EDWARD RICE - portrait of a gifted spy/chameleon obsessed with finding authentic trancendence.

6. "ALREADY DEAD" by DENIS JOHNSON - dark, wild battles between skepticism and belief on the remote Northern California coast

7. "LIVES OF THE MONSTER DOGS" by KIRSTEN BAKIS - dignified, eerie, gothic pulp.

8. "THE MAN IN THE HIGH CASTLE / THE THREE STIGMATA OF PALMER ELDRITCH / DO ANDROIDS DREAM OF ELECTRIC SHEEP? / UBIK" by PHILIP K DICK - words fail me. each of these were so potent they threatened sanity.

9. "THE MIDWICH CUCKOOS" by JOHN WYNDHAM - a good old fashioned story about a new species of freaky children and some difficult decisions.

10. "CONS, SCAMS, AND GRIFTS" by JOE GORES - colorful, vivid tales of San Francisco and its modern gypsy (Rom) underworld.

11. "THE MALTESE FALCON" by DASHIELL HAMMETT - dark, tough, and thoughtful.

12. "THE KILLER INSIDE ME" by JIM THOMPSON - psychological subtlety and blunt, rhythmic dialogue. Thompson has half a dozen others just as funny and tragic. Wounded romanticism masquerading as savagery.

13. "JAZZ AGE BEAUTIES: THE LOST COLLECTION OF ZIEGFELD PHOTOGRAPHER ALFRED CHENEY JOHNSON" by ROBERT HUDOVERNIK - a daring vision of ethereal fantasy and real women.

14. "THE CHUCKING WHATSIT" by RICHARD SALA - great noir/horror/mystery/fantasy/humor serial comic. Vivid, wild, and wide-eyed...

15. "THE DORMANT BEAST" by ENKI BILAL - a graphic novel about irrational wars and loves, infused with sadness and unbelievable drawing skills.

16. "END TIMES: TIEMPOS FINALES" by SAM HITI - cinematic, epic, humongous.

17. "MORE TREE TALK: THE PEOPLE, POLITICS, AND ECONOMICS OF TIMBER" by RAY RAPHAEL - eye-openingingly honest and informative treasure about both 'sides' of the West-coast timber debate. Actually if more people read this, I am not sure if there would be any more 'sides', only some tough and careful choices.

18. "YOU CAN'T WIN" by JACK BLACK - the words of a hyper-intelligent, retired grifter/hobo/criminal turned librarian.

19. "HOME BUILDING AND WOODWORKING IN COLONIAL AMERICA" by C KEITH WILBUR - thoroughly and entertainingly explains every traditional western hand tool and structural technology, using all hand lettering (!) and hand-drawn illustrations.

20. "PHOENIX (VOL. 1-4)" by OSAMU TEZUKA - there's more volumes but I haven't read them yet. These 1960s graphic novels are simply the most philosophically and artistically ambitious that I have ever seen. Would be exhausting, except for the strategically placed slapstick humor.

21. "THE WILD PARTY" by JOSEPH MONCURE MARCH with drawings by ART SPIEGLEMAN - it's hard to imagine the text without the drawings, but this cool 1920s era speakeasy tale manages to say a lot about human nature.

22. "HAROLD LLOYD'S HOLLYWOOD NUDES IN 3D" ed. SUZANNE LLOYD - bold, warm, sensual 1950s pinups. Is it possible that this kind of portrait will never be made again? (ironic pinups don't count.) the 3D pictures are cool too!

23. "BUILDINGS IN WOOD: THE HISTORY & TRADITIONS OF ARCHITECTURE'S OLDEST BUILDING MATERIAL" by WILL PRYCE - stunning photographs of traditional, organic buildings from around the world.

24. "FORGOTTEN MODERN: CALIFORNIA HOUSES 1940-1970" by ALAN HESS with photos by ALAN WEINTRAUB - some designs here leave me cold. But the houses that merge warm, simple wood with epic spaces are seductive.

25. "THE VISIONARY STATE: A JOURNEY THROUGH CALIFORNIA'S SPIRITUAL LANDSCAPE" by ERIK DAVIS with photos by MICHAEL RAUNER - a history of radical Californian sanctuaries that manages to be fascinating, disturbing, and level-headed.

26. "PORTS OF HELL" by JOHNNY STRIKE - ridiculously fractured vignettes that somehow tell a coherent and humorous story about hedonism and extraterrestrial conspiricies in San Francisco, Thailand, Hawaii, and Mexico.

27. "THE MOTION DEMON" by STEFAN GRABINSKI - a collection of Poe-like short stories from early-1900s Poland about speed, exhilaration, metaphysical doom, and trains.