Ask The Dust by John Fante
This is the book. One of the best I've ever read. It's hard to describe the way Fante writes. It is funny, insightful, introspective and extremely honest. Fante writes from the gut. He is Charles Bukowski's favorite writer and his influence is obvious. The story is an autobiographical tale of a young man living alone in downtown Los Angles in the 1930's. It's about his adventures trying to become a published writer and his experiences with women, poverty, money, and life on Bunker Hill. Out of all the books here, I recommend this the most. Arturo Bandini is my idol.
A Long Strange Trip by Dennis McNally
So this is the official biography of the Grateful Dead. At first I wasn't sure if I wanted to read another book about them, I had read all the others years ago, but I went ahead and did. It was a good call. This is an amazingly detailed saga. McNally was appointed biographer and publicist by Garcia in the 80's. He breaks the band history down month by month, but skips a few years when the shows got monotonous in the early 80's. Besides that, every show and everything that ever happened to them is documented in this 700 page book. The first 100 pages alone are on Jerry's career before the Dead. McNally is extremely intelligent and an excellent writer. His chapter on LSD is one of the best pieces of writing on the subject I've read, and I've read a lot. His chapter on the importance and influence of Neal Cassady is incredible. My only complaint would be that he skips over discussing the subtleties in the performance of the last show. And sometimes he interjects his opinion to much (Apocalypse Now, which Mickey Hart did some music for and Bill Graham was in, was 'deeply flawed'??). One of the enemies later in the story is Jerry's last wife, Deborah. Did you know she banned Mountain Girl (Jerry's ex and one of his lifelong best friends) from his funeral and the scattering of his ashes? What a bitch! Anyway, if you are new to the Dead, this is a good place to start, and if you've already read the other books this is still crucial reading.
God Is Not Great, How Religion Poisons Everything by Christopher Hitchens
An excellent argument for Atheism. The first chapter is amazing, I recommend going to a bookstore and just reading that. The rest of the book has it's moments but gets bogged down in the details of various religious wars and jargon. But Hitchens makes his points well and I'm glad a book like this is available in every library and major bookstore chain in America.
Trier on Von Trier edited by Stig Bjorkman
This series of interviews with Danish filmmaker Lars Von Trier. It is a very detailed account of his work thus far. He comes across as a strange but intelligent man with a lot of anxiety. Some of his movies are brilliant, others not so much. But he is always trying new ideas and images. His early work like The Element of Crime is very stylized. Then he created the Dogme 95 style of filmmaking with Thomas Vintenburg. Their films Idioterne (Trier) and Festen (Vintenburg) are two of my all time favorites.
All his other major works are discussed here including Breaking the Waves, Dancer in the Dark, and the first in his new trilogy about the USA, Dogville. Check out the other two in the trilogy he has done since: Manderlay and Wasington.
Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser
Whoa, this is throughly fucked up. I was being sent for Jamba Juice a lot when I was working for a director on an all juice diet and they sell this book there. I started reading the chapter on slaughterhouses while waiting and I couldn’t put it down. It paints a dark, dark picture of what slaughterhouses have done to the towns in “Americas heartland.” Even darker is the way the workers are treated. Absolutely crazy. The rest of the book goes on to discuss disease, the history of fast food, what its like to work at McDonalds, and tons of other stuff. Pretty important work.
Since Then by David Crosby
This is part two of his autobiography. If you haven’t read either, skip this one and just read part one, Long Time Gone. That is a crazy story. It goes beyond shocking into inspirational. It’s all about threesomes, rock n' roll, hitting rock bottom, and a whole lot of freebasing cocaine. He ends up in jail and gets sober and that's where this book picks up. Part 2 is more about his medical problems as a result of his previous lifestyle. Throughout the book, he has children he doesn’t realize he had get in touch with him, totally out of the blue. Then there’s the whole donating his sperm to Melissa Etheridge and her partner. The rest of the book is filled with his thoughts on current issues like the music business, terrorism, and organ donation. It’s interesting but not critical reading.
Herzog on Herzog edited by Paul Cronin
Werner Herzog is a true original, one of my favorite artists in any medium. This book goes through each of his 50 plus films and tells the stories of how they got made, and what they are about. I have seen 40 of his films and each one is worth tracking down to watch. The more crucial ones, I’d say, are Aguirre, Even Dwarfs Started Small, White Diamond, Strozeck, Little Dieter Needs to Fly, Bells from the Deep, and Fata Morgana. He thinks in a completely different way than anyone else and has insights that changed the way I view cinema, and life in general. Even if you’re not into his films, the adventures he went on all over the world to make his films are fascinating.
Love Saves the Day by Tim Lawernce
This is a history of America dance music culture from 1970 to 1979. It starts with David Mancuso selecting music for Timothy Learys League of Spiritual Development parties (note the initials of this and the books title). Those gatherings morphed into the first underground dance parties called the Loft. It details the diverse but heavily gay and black disco parties that sprung up in Manhatten throughout the 70's, pioneered by DJs like Francis Grasso and Steve D'Aquisto. The best part is the book has playlists of the records that the DJs were playing each year! I find them very helpful when buying old records. Lawerence seriously did his research. He writes a lot about the magic of The Sanctuary, the Continental Baths, The Gallery, and The Paradise Garage. If you're not into disco or the history of dance music, avoid this, but if you are, this is essential knowledge.
Lady Sings the Blues by Billie holiday
Wow. She had a tough life. Makes the Anthony Kedis and Motley Crue stories look like a walk in the park. Racial hatred, heroin addiction, jail, rape, death- it's all there. I wont even tell you about her deal with dead bodies. She almost always refers to women as 'bitches' and white folks as 'ofays.' There is lots of other well-used slang in there too. This book was published over 50 years ago. It's the real deal.
Scar tissue by Anthony Kedis
This book lives up to the hype. Anthony describes his entire drug history in chronological order, every detail of every bender and trip to rehab. With frightening realism, he conveys what its like to be high out of your mind or seriously fiending. Even the part about this childhood in the LA rock scene is interesting. He met Keith Moon, and Sonny Bono and Cher were his baby sitters.
Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain
This dude comes across as an egomaniacal snob but he was actually a heroin and coke addict for a long time and still smokes weed. His tone in the book is often annoying but I learnt enough about cooking and dining to make it tolerable. He breaks down the "underbelly" of the cooking world and goes into some good tips about how to size up a restaurant, and what not to order. He hates vegetarians.
The Dirt: Confessions of the Worlds Most Notorious Rock Band by Motley Crue
Good easy read. I didn't put it down. Basically Vince has had everything bad that can happen to someone, happen to him. Nikki was the most talented and fucked up, as well as the most engaging writer. Tommy's story is interesting, and Micks just a weirdo.
Imperial Ambitions by Noam Chomsky
The greatest political thinker alive breaks down what's happening with America's imperialist strategy. Enlightening. Anyone interested in global issues or the future of the world should read this. The Iraq invasion is just the beginning. Welcome to the new Dark Ages.
Who Built the Moon? By Alan butler and Christopher knight
This is some serious bullshit. My aunt's friend gave me this in Australia. I should have known this was going to be retarded when he told me he was a devout catholic. When we first discussed it, I said it might be a good exercise in thinking different ways about things so he gave me a copy. It's boring to read. The authors think humans in the future sent "chronobots" back in time to build the moon for us. Their proof is tons of measurements made using "metric yards" which they get from looking at pendulums in front of stars. Strictly for the dumb pseudo new age crowd.
Under the Banner of Heaven by Jon Krakuar
Ho. ly. Shit. This is the most disturbing book I have ever read. It's about the pedophile cults that call them selves the FLDS. You know, the fundamentalist Mormons. These guys have as many daughters as they can (they kick most the guys out of town), then start having sex with them when they hit 12(or younger), and/or trade them with their brethren, who are doing the same thing. They also commit serious welfare fraud. I went into more detail here but I erased it because it's just to twisted. These people need to be stopped.