The best American nonrequired reading 2014 edited by Daniel Handler
These pieces of fiction, a couple of graphic art pieces and non-fiction are chosen by a group of high school students and as such are highly eclectic with no underlying theme. It’s a very mixed bag, some pieces I dropped after a few paragraphs, some pieces I followed up with finding out more about the author as someone to read more from. It’s hard to choose any outstanding ones, the man who saves you from yourself and a non-fiction piece by a journalist who undertook to experience illegal immigration from the immigrants perspective are memorable. However there were, for me, just as many unappealing pieces as there were appealing and being such an eclectic mix it all felt a little arbitrary, hence the “Average” rating. However I think this is probably the books strength as well, as probably most readers would find something of interest to them in the pages.
Overall – Hit & Miss
The Moth edited by Catherine Burns
The Moth is a storytelling event, aiming to take folk back to a time before TV and radio, before mass market paperbacks, back to a time when people would gather on their porch and tell tales. The Moth refers to the moths that would fly around the lights, on said porches, when the storyteller was doing their thing. More details of the Moth can be seen on its website - http://themoth.org/ This book collects 50 of the best stories. As with all anthologies it’s a mixed bag, and these are transcribed stories, meant to be experienced out loud, so a bit odd to read occasionally. However saying that the quality is very high and there are a great many very interesting and entertaining stories within. There is a huge range from comic to tragic and since all the stories are true the tragic ones really are tragic. This is a worthwhile collection I dipped into over a period of weeks, which I think is probably the best way to approach it.
Overall – Storytelling needs an audience but this is a good selection of reading material
Screenwriting 101 by Film Crit Hulk
If you’re not familiar with Film Crit Hulk you should head on over to his website as he’s one of the most insightful film critics out there - https://filmcrithulk.wordpress.com/ and now he’s written a book. Hulk works in Hollywood and has written a great many scripts himself and has a deep understanding of cinema. This book is a screenwriting masterclass but along the way you’ll get a great grounding in what makes a good story. Hulk demolishes the three act structure and the heroes journey and sets up alternatives that make a lot more sense. Throughout are examples from films good and bad. Want to know why Cowboys and Aliens was a poor movie? Hulk explains it so that you’ll find yourself nodding and thinking “oh yeah, of course”. If you’re interested in film, and don’t necessarily want to be a scriptwriter, there is a lot in here for you anyway, if you are a writer of any format then there’s a lot in here for you and if you are an aspiring scriptwriter this should be essential reading.
Overall – Hulk is one of those smart people you read and wish to be like.