In Brief— A continuation of the author’s listing of some of the books, movies and more that have helped shape the person s/he is. This is guaranteed to put your mind into high gear and keep you awake at night.
You Are the Sum Total of All Your Experiences—
It is said that that a reader lives a thousand lives before dying while the non-reader lives but one. I believe it’s necessary to add “what you have viewed” to that saying.
In Part 1, I listed several books that have helped shape the person I am today, but I suddenly remembered a few others that cry out to be added to that list. However, I must warn you that still others may follow. Right now, the books. Films will follow.
Beyond Words by Carl Safina. After you read this book, you will never again think of them as “dumb animals.” Elephants, wolves, dolphins, orcas, chimps, dogs and others not only think differently (and in some cases, better) than humans, but they have talents never before realized. Scientist Safina relates his studies of these amazing species in non-scientific language. Frans De Waal’s “Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are?” is a good follow-up.
Sweet Swan of Avon by Robin P. Williams. The subtitle says it all: “Did a Woman Write Shakespeare?” Mary Sidney Herbert, the Countess of Pembroke, was an extraordinarily educated and talented woman in the court of Elizabeth. Williams presents facts that can depose Shakespeare, about whom we know very little, as being the author. Check out the Mary Sidney Society site on the internet and see if you, too, are convinced.
Winnie-the-Pooh by A. A. Milne. This may be a story that you read to your children, but it’s not only entertaining to children, it is charming for an adult reader. Winnie, Piglet, Eeyore, Kanga, Roo and the other characters will capture everybody’s hearts.
The Presidents Club by Nancy Gibbs and Michael Duffy. Based on extensive documentation, you will learn how retiring presidents guide incoming presidents, for good or ill, to take on the task of running America. You may discover that the past and incoming men are not what you have thought. Political junkies will find a feast, but all readers will learn more than expected…some of it unpleasant.
James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl. A children’s book that tells the fantastic adventure of lonely James and his unconventional friends. You and the kids will love it. “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” is a winner, too.
Shōgun by James Clavell. This novel of feudal Japan relates the story of a British sailor who navigates an alien society to serve a feudal lord. Fascinating albeit romanticized look at early Japan.
Illusions by Richard Bach. This slim book has provided me with thought-provoking quotations and continues to do so. I highly recommend reading it. Seemingly simple, it’s anything but…and you can’t put it down.
Images on film and performances admittedly don’t allow you to create the characters and scenes in your head as books can, but they can nevertheless move you emotionally and will inevitably lodge themselves in your brain to help build the person you are. These are some of the many films that have added to the person writing these lines.
A Man for All Seasons directed by Fred Zinneman. Every frame of the film is so beautiful that all qualify as art. Superb cinematography. Paul Scofield plays Thomas More and Robert Shaw plays Henry VIII. Extraordinary performances. I was so impressed by this film that it wasn’t until recent years that I learned Thomas More was a religious fanatic responsible for numerous deaths. That said, it’s a fabulous film.
2001 directed by Stanley Kubrick. A tour de force of evolution from distant past to future. A cinematic masterpiece. Kier Dullea and Gary Lockwood travel the blackness of space bound for Jupiter. Only HAL, the computer running the ship, stands in the way. Guaranteed to make you think: What is its message? What do the images convey?
The Godfather directed by Francis Ford Coppola. One of the few films (a trilogy) that was better than the book. Marlon Brando played the godfather, Vito Corleone, with Al Pacino as the son and heir. Widely recognized as one of the best films ever made, it captured the somber tone of the genre. Powerful films that transfixed me.
Lawrence of Arabia directed by David Lean. The burning sun and barrenness of the desert provide the omnipresent background for Peter O’Toole’s performance as T. E. Lawrence in this historical recreation of the man who led the British forces to victory over the Turks but was politically betrayed. Abandoned by his allies, Lawrence returned to England where he died in an accident years later. Powerful images that will live in memory.
Remains of the Day directed by James Ivory. One of the most memorable performances I’ve ever seen. The scene between Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson regarding a book Hopkins is reading is one of the most breathtaking moments in cinema history. The electricity was palpable. This scene alone will stick in my head as long as I live. A superb film with superb performances by Hopkins and Thompson.
Being John Malkovich directed by Spike Jonze. This weird comedy written by Charley Kaufman, a comedian I don’t normally care for, gives you a glimpse of the zany part of my sense of humor. A nerdy puppeteer discovers a hidden portal into the head of actor John Malkovich. This is one of those films I recommended that was rejected as not at all funny. You can’t win ‘em all.
As noted above, these books and movies are just a few of those that captivated me. Don’t be intimidated by my selections. Remember, they’re mine and reflect my peculiarity. Your list should present those that have influenced you. Now’s your chance to share yours with us. It’s also a gold mine of tips for the rest of us. If you’re not a film-goer, no sweat, some of these may tempt you to subscribe to Netflix.
Tune in next week to see what might be featured. After that, who knows what awaits?