Girls Like Us, by Rachel Lloyd. I just read this a few weeks ago and am still reeling from it. Lloyd was a commercially sexually exploited teenager who managed to break free from the life. She came to NYC and started her own non-profit group called GEMS (Girls Education & Mentoring Services). Her account of her experience is so clear and honest it takes your breath away.
I was unaware before reading that the book addresses some of the themes underscoring many of my films. Most, if not all of the girls Lloyd writes about (primarily pre-teenagers) came from horrifically dysfunctional homes where their sense of self-value was almost completely annihilated. Hearing a 12 year old describe how she “just knows her pimp loves her” because when he hits her he only uses the flat part of his hand, not the fist like he does on the other girls, gives you a startling insight into this complex relationship–one that could only have come from Lloyd’s unflinching commitment to the truth.
A Life, The Autobiography of Elia Kazan.
This book is a must read for anyone contemplating entering the film business. No matter what your opinion of Kazan’s actions during the AmeriCommie/Blacklist era of the 50’s there is no denying Kazan’s tremendous impact on American cinema. He bares his soul in this massive volume. I literally had to cut it in half with a serrated kitchen knife in order to hold it without my wrists going numb.
It is informative, insightful, revelatory and relentlessly honest. Read it and don’t judge. Or read it and see how close we are now to the same frantically slobbering idiocy that Joseph McCarthy and his drones infected this country with.
Life: The Movie by Neal Gabler.
Winchell: Gossip, Power and the Culture of Celebrity by Neal Gabler.
A Massive Swelling by Cintra Wilson. These three are fascinating studies of the cult of celebrity. Wilson’s book is full of hilarious venom. The two by Gabler are more reasoned and truly informative. Read Winchell and then see Sweet Smell of Success (listed under recommended films).
Roughing It, by Mark Twain.
God Is Not Great, by Christopher Hitchens. This is a phenomenal book for both theists and atheists. It is clear, eloquent and as cleansingly refreshing as a mountain stream.
The Stories of John Cheever, John Cheever.
The Motorcycle Diaries, by Che Guevara.
Collected Stories, Guy du Maupassant.
Collected Stories, Chester Himes.
My Last Sigh, The Autobiography of Luis Bunuel, Luis Bunuel.
Revolutionary Road, by Richard Yates.
A Special Providence, by Richard Yates.
A Good School, by Richard Yates.