Friday, January 18, 2019

two docs, one fyre

There are two things I really enjoy in my entertainment life... pop culture and pop culture documentaries.  So when I got the word that Netflix was doing a documentary on Fyre Fest, I was hooked before I saw the first shot.

I checked my Just Watch app on Tuesday and was totally confused, as Hulu showed a documentary called "Fyre Fraud". I wondered if Netflix had loaned it's doc to Hulu for some reason, or maybe I misunderstood which streaming service would have it... nope, turns out, Hulu undercut Netflix and released their own doc a few days before Netflix could.  All's fair in love and docs, I guess (after Netflix bragged on Hulu during the Golden Globes!  Shade!)

Two docs about an event that most people had forgotten about
Here's the set up... In 2017, Fyre Fest was this massive paradise event down on a Bahamian island where thousands of people would converge for two weekends, see musical artists like Blink 182 and Ja Rule, hang out in cabanas and yachts and possibly meet up with the celebs and see lots of "social media influencers".  I am not sure that job existed 10 years ago, but apparently its a thing now.

Influencers like Bella Hadid and hundreds of others posted and promoted, including posting up a simple orange square, then telling people that Fyre Fest was the place to be.  In fact, Kendall Jenner was paid $250K just for posting said square.

But the event itself was a complete fiasco of the highest proportions.  Nothing was built, no musical acts were there, the infrastructure of the island wasn't stable, there was no food and water, barely any plumbing, and those yachts and cabanas turned out to be wet mattresses inside of FEMA tents that were left from Hurricane Matthew. Hundreds of teens and millennials and up were stranded on this small island with no place to go and no way to get home. And it got ugly fast.

So I saw "Fyre Fraud", the Hulu doc, first.  And it is fantastic.  Focusing on William McFarland, who was the man behind Fyre Fest, it follows him from his early days as a scam artist up until he was making real money conning people. And it all led to promising 1000s of people that the biggest concert around would take place in the Caribbean, with all the big names and social media influencers you could imagine... and it was both sad and hilarious at the same time, watching the Fyre Fest team shake their heads about the impossible position they were put in.

This one orange square posted and reposed 1000s of times helped sell out
Fyre Fest, including selling yacht and beach home spaces that didnt exist
Hulu seems to not only point a finger at Billy McFarland, but also a few of his associates, including the Jerry Media group he partnered with, and even some to rapper Ja Rule, who was involved as well. Another thing that has some people irked with Hulu was that they paid him to appear in their doc, but to me, it was worth it to watch him look so uncomfortable on camera, and say a lot of things without saying really anything at all -- he is obviously well rehearsed in how to dance around answers and never admit to anything. In short, he is a total scumbag.

So then, Netflix releases it's documentary today (Friday Jan 18), and I'm pretty much pumped as can be for it. Officially titled "FYRE: The Greatest Party That Never Happened", it was actually made in conjunction with Jerry Media.  That did send up a red flag to me, as how unbiased can it be if the people in one documentary are helping to tell the story in the other?

Well, the Netflix doc (also fantastic) points it's Spotlight of Blame directly at Billy McFarland and doesn't let up. It jumps right into the Fyre Fest planning, starting 5 months before the festival.  Keep in mind that festivals of these size takes a year, maybe 2 years to put together, and that's likely after a plan is already in place.... McFarland thought he could do it in 5 months, and that's as he was shopping for an island to purchase.  Yes, this dude thought of the festival first, started promoting it, then went to buy an island for it. (purchasing an island once owned by Pablo Escobar. Yep. That's a true story)

Because you know it's a disaster, you watch with a sense of anticipation, knowing this house of cards that McFarland is trying to build is about to crash, but you just aren't sure exactly when... and it gets worse than you'd think. To the point where one of McFarland's assistants was instructed to go meet with a Bahama official to get a trailer full of bottled water released, and was told to... well, take one for the team and do something pretty unbelievable to get that water. It's mind blowing how many bad decisions, either knowingly or not, were made in this thing.

Both docs give you time frames of "5 months until..." and "6 weeks until...." and "5 days until..." and you just marvel at all the things that aren't done and won't be completed -- and how McFarland just keeps moving forward.

He wasn't featured in the Netflix doc, but his partners were, and they all tell the tale of how promising it sounded but how it quickly became unfathomable that it would happen. Netflix's "Fyre" is much more in depth than Hulu's "Fire Fest", not only in what happened on that island...

(one attendee talked about how when the sun went down, "the camaraderie was over", the looting began, tents on fire and so on. And honestly, I am shocked that neither documentary mentioned anything about sexual assault... either it didn't happen, or they just didn't report that)

...but also what happened legally when it call came crashing down .

(cut to Billy sitting in a massive NYC penthouse, with a small staff, sending out emails to people to sell them VIP passes to things like MET Gala, Victoria's Secret fashion ship, and meet n greets with Taylor Swift... it's important to note that the MET Gala is invite only, Victoria's never has VIP passes and TayTay doesn't do meet n greets.)

Someone in the Netflix doc makes the point
that it took 100s of models and celebs posting
an orange square to build Fyre Fest, but only
one picture of a cheese sandwich to bring it
all crashing down. 
After discussion the documentary on social media, I'm a little surprised on how many people have never heard of Fyre Fest, as it was a massive story in 2017.

Admittedly, I knew little about it as it led up to the event, because I didn't pay any attention to Bella Hadid or any Jenner or Kardashian or anyone else you could call a Social Media Influencer, so both of these movies really helped tell the story, both in their own way.  You could layer them atop one another and you'd get mostly different interviews with much of the same perspective. Hulu has one of the island workers who was trying to spearhead construction, while Netflix talks to one of the local restaurant owners.  The owner of the now infamous Twitter account @FyreFraud (his name escapes me) was in both movies, telling the same type of tales.

Both movies also show you the sheer power of social media, and the power of its users... when reports began to leak out about Fyre Fest, including the infamous picture of the cheese on toast, which really solidified everyone's fears and suspicions that Fyre Fest was truly a fraud.

Plus the ugly side of social media comes out when post after post is shown of people reveling in the misery of "rich kids", some of which sold all of their possessions,  their cars, quit their jobs and cashing out college funds  to come to the Bahamas.  As comedian Ron Funches says, "If you had $1000s of dollars to go on a trip to see Blink 182, that's on you.  That's Darwinism at it's finest." Indeed.

If I had a preference, I'd pick Netflix's version, only because it is deeper and more in-depth about the festival itself, but I loved how Hulu gave you the backstory on McFarland's previous scams, including the creation of Magnesis, which Netflix barely touches on.

See the both if you can.

Sunday, January 13, 2019

top ten books of 2018 (the final four)

Okay, so in this two blog posts that turned into four blog posts somehow (because why say in 500 words what we can say in 2400?), here are the final four books in my list of 2018's favorites.

But first... the links to previous stuff...

The Not Top Ten Books of 2018
Top Ten of 2018, Part 1 
Top Ten of 2018, Part 2 (review of "The Six")

The 4th Best Book I Read for the First Time in 2018

Excuse makers seem to put more time into crafting the perfect justification for their actions (or inactions) that into working and succeeding. We all do it. And it's time for us to stop. Excuses are the common denominator of failure. - Jon Taffer 

So, I'm a big fan of the Spike TV now Paramount TV show "Bar Rescue"...

First, does anyone else remember The Nashville Network?  America's country home? I remember watching  the nightly show "Nashville Now" hosted by Ralph Emery, featuring some puppet named Shotgun, while the country stars of the 80s and early 90s appeared, stars like Marie Osmond and Dan Seals and Alabama and Vern Gosdin and so on. This sounds like a blog post on it's own, so we'll come back to this later.

Anyway, "Bar Rescue" is this reality show that features business man and bar expert Jon Taffer who goes into failing bars and restaurants and helps turn them around with what can only be described as tough love. Usually, the bars are nearly bankrupt because of poor management, so Jon yells at them to get their act together, has his compatriots teach them bartending and cooking skills, and overhauls the bars.  The level of success is debateable, as I've read stories of how some of the rescued bars still fail, but overall, the show is awesome.

Taffer offers the same level of pull-no-punches instructions to the readers as he does to the Bar Rescue viewers, but this time talks about the things that get in our way and keeps us from being successful -- fear, knowledge (or lack of), time, circumstances, ego, and scarcity -- and it all boils down to a simple "Stop making excuses and get your crap done."

I found the direct line of coaching to be pretty refreshing, and I think this is a great book for anyone who needs to pull a Toby Keith (put a boot in your a**, its the American way) and get their stuff done.

The 3rd Best Book I Read for the First Time in 2018
Image result for republicans buy sneakers too
"Sports united us and the games themselves entertained us. They helped to keep us sane amid an increasingly insane political and global environment. Until, that is, everything changed and ESPN, the most powerful source in sports media, decided to turn into MSESPN, the nation's most far-left-wing mix of politics and sports, and every other sports media entity followed their lead" - Clay Travis

Okay, first up, you may hate Clay Travis. And if you do, then keep scrolling, because I'm obviously going to talk about how much I liked his book. So don't @ me.  (is that what the young folk are saying? Don't at me? Only using the @ sign? Is that like a clapback?  I'm so old now)

I don't listen to Travis' morning show, but I do listen to the (mostly) daily 30 minute Outkick the Show podcast, which is a humorous take on sports and news of the day.  Travis will tell you himself, and has many times, that he worked on the Bill Clinton campaign in the 90s, and voted for Obama twice, so he's not a Republican, but he hates the hypocrisy that is all up in our politics from both sides of the aisle, and this book spells out much of that.

If you listen to him on podcasting, you'll know his take on how ESPN let Jemele Hill slide on something awful she said on Twitter, while firing Curt Schilling over something he said in private, and the media embrace of Lebron's claim that someone vandalized his home (no evidence) and Michael Bennett's claim to have been racially profiled in Vegas (evidence to the contrary) and some stuff about Trump and how ESPN has gone full-on left wing.  And a chapter on Michael vs LeBron politically, which lends to the title of the book, based on something that Michael Jordan is alledged to have said.

Think he's a punk and full of crap?  Well, Clay Travis called the ESPN ratings collapse two years ago, as we are beginning to see some of that now.  And he's made several more predictions of that kind, and they've come to fruition.

I like the guy, as he makes me laugh. I don't agree with many things he says, but some things are dead on. And if you like him, you'll enjoy the book like I did... and if you don't... well, like I said, keep scrolling.

Image result for the art of workThe 2nd Best Book I Read for the First Time in 2018

"This is not a book about miracles. It is a book about finding your calling, about how you discover what you were born to do. A calling is that thing you can't not do, an answer to the age-old question, 'What should I do with my life?'" - Jeff Goins

I've been a fan of Goins for a while, especially since I finally met the guy at The Thing conference last May. He basically writes about the creative process, including writing actually about writing, with books like "Real Artists Don't Starve" and the aptly named "You Are a Writer" (which I really enjoyed).  

This is a book about finding your calling, but more than that, finding out what you were meant to do -- including being a writer.  Each chapter is based on a theme, from Awareness to Discovery to Profession and so on, with sharing a real story from each theme.

It goes through subtle, and not so subtle, hints in life about embracing failure... when trying isn't good enough... learning from unexpected teachers... building a legacy and much more.  Ultimately, it tries to help you answer the simple question of "What were you meant to do?"

For some folks, you'll find an answer, for others, you'll be reassured of what you are doing now (like me), and maybe for some, you'll be just as lost as before, but with more wisdom and soundbites in your head.

And of course, it doesn't hurt that Goins pulls a great theme from the Michael J Fox magnum opus "The Secret of My Success" to discuss happiness and opportunity. And if you really want to know what the Secret of My Success is, then just ask the 80s band Night Ranger... "The secret to my success is working TWENTY FIVE HOURS A DAAAAAAAAAAAY"


"Marketing is the act of making change happen. Making is insufficent. You haven't made an impact until you've changed someone. You can do this by creating and then relieving tension. By establishing cultural norms. By seeing status roles and helping to change them (or maintain them). But first, you need to see it. Then you need to choose to work with human beings to help them find what they are looking for" - Seth Godin

Image result for this is marketing
Not that I have a bookshelf full of marketing books, but I've read a few here and there, and can tell you hands down, this is the best marketing book I've ever read. Without question. And that even surpasses some of Godin's other marketing books.

Quite simply, the book is about storytelling. And being someone who sees the needs of others, those you are trying to serve, as you market to them the product or service you want to serve them with.  Its the seeing that most people miss.  According to Godin, "Marketing isn't a battle, and it's not a war. It isn't even a contest. It's the generous act of helping someone solve a problem. Their problem."

The book is a tweet factory, as I felt like I could have tweeted out 3,000 statements and one liners from the book itself, as it uses various examples from companies both big and small in marketing ideas.

I don't even know what to tell you about this book other than if you have a small business, or a large one, and your marketing scheme doesn't seem to connect -- then get it. The audio is great, as Godin reads it in his dry tone, but I'm really wanting the workbook now that will go with it.

And I want to read it again, this time to absorb more of it and try to not just read, but soak it in.

Well done, Mr. Godin. Well done.

And there you are... the best books I read for the first time in 2018...

Friday, January 11, 2019

top ten books of 2018: the six by kb hoyle

Before you hit the top five, you can check out the rundown of other books read in 2018, and the first part of my Top Ten books of 2018... and this was going to be numbers 5 through number 1, but I ended up writing 700 words on this one book, my favorite fiction book of the year, and thought it deserved to be its own blogpost.

The Fifth Best Book I Read For the First Time in 2018
This one had been a long time coming... as I mentioned before, I don't really dig on YA Fantasy.  I am only 2 books into the Chronicles of Narnia, I've made a life decision that I'll likely never read any of the Lord of the Rings books (and from all accounts, the 2.5 hour, or 14 hour directors cut, of the movies serves the purpose) and while I really enjoyed the first two Hunger Games, the third was lacking. Heck, one Divergent book and I was ready to throw myself off of a bridge -- and don't even mention the Twilight crap.

So enter K.B. Hoyle with this book series called "The Gateway Chronicles", and the lead off book, "The Six".  I resisted this for a while... I own it on Kindle, and I started it once or twice, got a few pages in and put it down. Nothing to do with the writing, as it starts with normal kids at a normal summer camp, but more of me thinking "once this gets going and dives into Narnia Divergent Maze Runner territory, can I finish it?"  And I begged KB to put this on audio, asked for it for years.  Finally, probably for me -- yes, likely because she wanted me to read it, she commissioned the audio... thank you, KB, and to the fans who wanted audio, you are welcome, glad I could get it done for you.  

So I started it, and lo and behold if I wasn't sucked right in. Darcy is your lead, a selfish 13 year old (I could have just said "13 year old") who attends a summer camp with a few kids that are friendly enough, but have a hard time accepting her... or she makes it hard for them to do so, including the chubby kid Samantha, who is the definition of a "good friend who does not give up on anyone". Darcy and Sam find a portal to another world, bring the others along and suddenly, we are in a world called Alitheia. And as you'd expect, she and her friends find themselves in a position to save Alitheia from sinister forces that wish to destroy it for bad purposes.

The book is descriptive, maybe to the point of over descriptive sometimes, but it paints a clear picture of the wonder and rich beauty of the new world; however, it's the character development that drives the story.  Darcy, Samantha, Amelia, Louis, Dean, and Perry are "The Six", and to me, its Samantha that's the linchpin of the group. When Darcy screws up and the others consider her an outcast, it's Sam that stands in the gap... the narrator, Dollcie Webb, does a great job overall, though at first, I found her interpretation of Sam annoying -- but then realized that's how KB intended for us to feel about Sam.  Annoyed, but amazed at her loyalty and friendship regardless. Without Sam, Darcy would end up alone in Alitheia and the story would stall.  We don't get enough of Louis and Dean, but I am guessing they'll have much bigger roles in the coming books.

The end of the book wrapped up a little too neatly for me, though (and this is sort of a spoiler but not really, but sort of) the book being told from Darcy's perspective, so as with Louis & Dean, it may be another case of  "a little bit now, with much more to come later".  If you read it, you'll know what I mean. 

Caution on going to KB's website... as you read a brief overview of each book, including the next in the series, "The Oracle" (which I'm told will be on audio soon), when you get to Book 3's brief description of "The White Thread", there is a major spoiler from Book 2.  Proceed with caution.

Anyway, if you have tween and teen readers and up looking for something clean, compelling and not corny, but actually with a good story, try The Gateway Chronicles.

And KB has written a crap ton of books, including another series called "The Breeder Cycle", which I have no clue or concept about, but apparently steers more Young Adult Dystopian.

On a more personal level, I gotta give props to KB Hoyle, who has always been willing to engage in book conversation, writing chat every now and then, and successfully pulled off something that I can only assume is very hard:  World Building in a story. She truly is one of my writing heroes. 

Wednesday, January 09, 2019

top ten books of 2018 (the first part)

If you haven't read the 2018 book recap, then you can click here. If you have read it, or haven't and don't care, then please proceed...

So, while I didn't hit my goal of 50 books in 2018, I did manage 42.  So while making the top ten out of 42 books seem easier than out of 50, it's still an honor that authors should be proud of.  They should print out this particular blog and frame it, putting it on the wall above the mantle, next to the pics of the kids, bride in the wedding dress, and that odd picture of the family at the lake where Uncle Jake has his eyes closed but you went with it because then-3 year old Ashley Morgan was finally looking at the camera.  Uncle Jake, deal with it.

But first... an honorable mention.

PET SEMATARY by Stephen King. The reason this isn't a top ten inclusion and actually an honorable mention is because I've read this before.  Yes, it was back circa 1988 in paperback, in anticipation of the new movie coming out with Dale Midkaff and Herman Munster, but still, I've read it.  
The original cover art, from the
hardcover book I had when I was
a member of the Stephen King book club

When I started with back in what. 2010, I started to collect Stephen King books all along, as the new were released and the old were re-released, probably on audio for the first time.  Firestarter! Christine! IT! The Stand! So many books out, and a ton I've finally read through (though I'm still trying to get into Bag of Bones...) but the one outstanding was Pet Sematary.  Why was it not on audio?  Where was it?  Cujo finally came out. Then Desperation and Insomnia.  Needful Things. All four parts of Four Past Midnight... but no Pet Sematary??  Then, in late 2017, they announced that it would be coming out in March, and was pumped.  I pre-ordered, and on the morning of March 18th, 2018, I uploaded it to my iPod and began the journey to Ludlow with the Creed family, and onto the Micmac burial ground where you can bury your deceased pet and see them again in a day or so... only, just not the same.  Michael C. Hall narrates it, and it's thrilling.  Even though I knew what was coming, and I knew what was in the last paragraph, I still had goose bumps.  

I loved this book, and its one of my all time King Favorites.

The 10th Best Book I Read for the First Time in 2018...
I have the print copy of the book, and have read some of it, but its so long, I never got through it.  They released the audio some years ago, but it contained the word that no true Audiophile wants to hear: "Abridged".  So I listened to the audio, all 8 hours of it, and it was good.  But then in June, the whole shebang came out, all 28 hours and 18 minutes of it. I dove in, and it's wonderful.  

I'm a big fan of oral history recollections, where the whole story is told in anecdotes and bits by individuals involved, and this is SNL from before the show ever started, even to the early days of Lorne Michaels, up until the 2013 season (I think), with stories and remarks from the original team, like Chevy Chase, Dan Akyroyd, Lorraine Newman and Garrett Morris to the 80s with Joe Piscapo, Charles Grodin, Martin Short, and Jeanine Garafalo, to the late 80s hey day with Dana Carvey, Jon Lovitz, and Victoria Jackson all the way through the Tina Fey, Jimmy Fallon, Will Ferrell, Molly Shannon, and beyond to modern day. Guests like Steve Martin, Tom Hanks, Peyton Manning and more are sprinkled all the way through, telling stories like Damon Wayans' infamous on-air F-Bomb to drunken drug parties to losing it on camera to the emotional broadcast after 9/11.  

Whether you like it or not, especially nowadays, you may love, like, hate or even hate-like the show, but one cannot deny the impact it had on television and entertainment history. It's long, but it's worth the ride. 

The 9th Best Book I Read for the First Time in 2018...
The book opens up with a high school coach, beloved across his town, suddenly arrested on the field -- in front of the fans, his friends, his family, arrested for a horrible, despicable crime.  Seems obvious he did it, right? Witnesses, evidence, fingerprints.  But how could such a beloved coach, father, friend do such a heinous thing?  This is so early in the book, you know there is more to come... and there is.  

The first part of the book is a tense thriller, with unknowing twists and things you know are for sure that turns out to be nothing you know at all.  It slowly morphs into a supernatural horror for the back half, though not so horror filled that it keeps you up at night.  It even includes a smart, awkward female investigator named Holly -- and if you've read King's "Mr Mercedes" trilogy, you will know all about Holly.  

Great build to the end, great climax and satisfying finish. Because it's one of his longer books, its not one I'll return to anytime soon, but "The Outsider" is a fine outing for the horror master. 

I always love a good cover, and this was
one of my faves of the year
The 8th Best Book I Read for the First Time in 2018...
"ONE OF US IS LYING" by Karen McManus
I don't read a ton of fiction, mostly because I'm more fascinated with real life stories, be it origin stories of SNL or business acumen, so if it's not Stephen King or John Grisham (I know, boring choices) or a few select others, it really has to grab me.  And this one did.

A jock, an outcast, a popular chick, an introvert, a gossip king... they all end up in detention.  And if this sounds very Breakfast Clubby, you aren't too far off, but in the movie, Bender didn't end up dead. Being the only other people in the room, the other four students are instantly suspects in the case. The story progresses, told from each student's perspective, allowing you to piece together the truth based on everything they are telling you. And though I'm someone who is pretty good at figuring out where certain stories are going, this one had me guessing until the book was nearly over (I did grasp the ending before I got to the ending, so that's a point for me).  I'll admit the ending wasn't as satisfying as I wanted it to be, but overall, I really had a good time here.

The 7th Best Book I Read For the First Time in 2018...
In addition to not reading a ton of fiction, I also don't go through a ton of true crime.  Truth be told, I love true crime (I've read every single one of Kathryn Casey's Texas murder true crime books, save for the latest which isn't on audio), but I'm picky about it. I need it to be smart, I need it to be interesting, to stay away from trashy and cheap, and keep it intelligent while breaking down things that I only know about from watching 15 seasons of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation...

(which by the way, had one of the worst endings in any series ever -- they pretty much just dumped on Gil Grissom, who made that entire show, and having him and Sara Sidle speed away in a boat? Stupid.  Where was I?)

So McNamara spent years investigating, and yeah, obsessing over a serial killer in California known as the Golden State Killer, and this entire book is that chase.  Bit by bit of evidence, discovery, interviews and all well told and well laid out.  She passed away from an illness a few years ago, and never got to see the actual arrest of Joseph DeAngelo, who committed more than 50 sexual assaults, 100+ robberies and 13 murders from 1974 to 1986.  This book is credited with helping to bring him to justice, which is pretty fantastic, and a great legacy.  Her widowed husband, comedian Patton Oswalt, gives a great afterward, filling in the blanks from the time of her death to the capture of DeAngelo.

This, plus the book mentioned in the previous book post, "Evil Has a Name", is a great 1-2 punch for the Golden State Killer case.

The 6th Best Book I Read For the First Time in 2018...
"SOMEDAY, SOMEDAY MAYBE" by Lauren "Lorelei Gilmore" Graham
I mean, I have to start off by telling you that it might take Lauren Graham writing "I hate Republicans" on a napkin 17,000 times for me to not like what she writes... so I went into this knowing I'd likely enjoy it.

Thankfully, in this debut novel from 2013, she doesn't do that... she actually writes a sweet, breezy story set in 1995, in the middle of my favorite decade.  Franny has set herself a 3 year deadline to succeed as an actress in New York City.  Well, that was 30 months ago, and she has 6 months remaining before she either finds some modicum of success or packs up her stuff and moves back home to her family.

Her roommates Jane and Dan are there to support her as she goes back and forth on what to do. Maybe she should just move home, as her ex-boyfriend is back home and would take care of her. But fellow actor James has also caught her eye.

And yes, this likely blurs the line in breezy story and Chick Book, and maybe it sorta is, but I love the quick wit and snappy delivery of the words, and I related to, and liked, the dreams and the deadlines and everything else that comes with jobs right out of college.

Of course this is a long post, so let's break it up into two... next part up tomorrow

Friday, January 04, 2019

the not top ten best books of 2018

Every year, I have full intention on reading more than the previous year... with 25 books in 2013, I knocked out 35 in 2014.  In 2015, I managed to get to 40, with 43 the next year, and 45 last year. So when I made my goal of 50, I just knew I'd get there.

In fact, I wrote this on January 1, 2018, about my new goal of 50...

...there will be a handful of graphic novels and short plays I want to read as well. I've got a handful of Neil Labute, August Wilson & David Mamet scripts at the ready. The first book of the year completed will likely be "Sleeping Beauties" by Stephen King & Owen King. Its a 25 hour audiobook, and coming into January 1, I was 11 hours in.

Well, I was sorta right. I did get through a couple of Mamet scripts, and finished "Sleeping Beauties" as well, all 25 hours of it. 

But I didn't get to 50. I did try... but I just didn't get there. And I don't feel bad about it.  See, anyone who knows me knows I do audiobooks, and I did 42 of those this year... 363 hours of listening, which equals out to just over 15 straight days of listening.  That's a ton, and I feel proud of that.

Because I'm a total nerd, I did my Excel sheet of stats to see what my totals look like... if you add in the 15 audiobooks I listened to in 2010 to 2012, plus the book totals I mentioned earlier, I'm basically looking at 237 books in 9 years.  Now, I have some friends who average anywhere from 75 to 100 books per year, so they look at my paltry 237 and think "that's nothing", but honestly, that's massive.  Averaging 26 per year, I think I did more in one year than I read from around 1995 to 2010.  I love reading, but never had time.  Thus, Audiobooks rule.

Anyway, the point here is to list the books I did read this year.  I do have a Top Ten, but I wanted to give a quick run through of the other 32... 

Image result for stephen king sleeping beauties
Great concept, great story... typical King by being very,
very long
(1) "Sleeping Beauties" by Stephen King and (his son) Owen King.  Using that knack for coming up with scenarios that you'd never even consider to be a plot, the Kings write a book about this unusual phenomenon where women all over the world go to sleep. The book partly chronicles what happens with only men in charge, and then also to this other world, where the women all end up and start their own society. Lots of subplots, lots of entanglement, and would land just outside my top ten.

Also by Stephen King, a novella called (2) "Elevation", a strange little story about a guy who starts losing weight.  Lest it sound like "Thinner", this guy also starts losing mass; this plot also wraps around a subplot about the man's neighbors, who happen to run a diner... which townsfolk don't like, because the diner-owners are lesbians. Strange ending. 

Neil Simon's (3) "Brighton Beach Memoirs"(4) "Broadway Bound" are part of the "Eugene Trilogy", which also contains "Biloxi Blues", which I loved. Eugene continues to come of age in the early to mid-1900s, filled with heartache, success, failure, crushes, family strife and more.

(5) "Your Erroneous Zone" by Dr Wayne Dyer. One of the best selling books of all time, it takes you on a journey through all areas of life that are full of errors, and how to get over those obstacles. Worth a re-read in 2019.

I read a handful of David Mamet scripts/plays as well, including (6) "American Buffalo", a dark comedy about a couple of unlikable guys plotting to steal a vintage buffalo nickel... (7) "Shorts", a collection of plays including "Bobby Gould in Hell", "Reunion" and "The Shawl", and finally, a play called (8) "Romance".  All are good, if you are a Mamet fan like I am, but nothing comes close to "Glengarry Glen Ross" (that I read in 2014). And all are full of language, so beware.

Dan Schultz's (9) "Dead Run" opens up with a cowboy in Colorado discovering the body of a dead guy in the wilderness... and then it opens up to recount the 1998 assassination of a local police officer by three gunman who went on a shooting spree, then disappeared into the mountains.  "Dead Run" looks at the (true!) story, the manhunt, the Native American trackers, and the crazy possible cover up. This almost made my Top Ten for the year. 

(10) "Mouseschawitz" is a short book by Angela Lovell giving her time as a cast member, and some of the crazy things that happened, while Chris Stuckmann's (11) "The Film Buff's Bucket List" looks at 50 movies from the 2000s that he fully recommends. 

A little life lesson via the military from Admiral William McRaven's (12) "Make Your Bed", which imparted to me that making the bed in the morning is one of the most important things I can do to start my day -- and I've been doing it ever since. And then I finally read Ernest Cline's (13) "Ready Player One", on the recommendation of many of my friends, including writer Chris Holmes.  I'm not a huge dystopia fan, but after the movie, I figured I'd go ahead. Here we read about Wade, a loner who escapes into this simulation game called The Oasis, where he competes in this years long contest to solve riddles and puzzles in order to finally take over the Oasis. The book is filled to the brim with 70s and 80s pop culture references, including an entire sequence that takes place in the world of Blade Runner...

SIDENOTE... While this movie was being made, so was Blade Runner 2049, and I suspect that is the reason that they didn't allow Blade Runner to be used in the Ready Player One movie. So they made that scene out of The Shining instead, which I honestly preferred. 

Y2J, the Ayatollah of Rock n Rolla Chris Jericho is back with (14) "No is a Four Letter Word", which unlike his other books, is much more motivational themed than anecdotes about his wrestling career.  Bill Carter, one of my favorite television authors, gives us (15) "Desperate Networks", which tells the tales of how American Idol was passed over by several networks before ending up on Fox, how LOST was ignored until ABC took a chance, how Survivor came to be and more... this was the abridged version, thus left out of the top ten.

Much of my summer was taken up by the (16-22) Harry Potter series, my 5th time reading through the 7 books, while (23) "Pledged" by Alexandra Robbins (a book that I bought literally 10 years ago, but just got around to it) gives a year long look at what happens in sororities - the drugs, the sex, the hazing, the spanx! Good, but uncomfortable to know this happens on campuses.  Another play, this one by Stephen Adly Guirgus, tells the tale of (24) "The Mother****** With the Hat", a basic tale about a guy who discovers his wife is cheating by finding a strange hat in the bedroom.

Darcey Bell's debut novel is called (25) "A Simple Favor", and is an intriguing tale of Stephanie, who is trying to solve the mystery of what happened to her (sort of) best friend, socialite Emily. Both the book and the 2018 Anna Kendrick/Blake Lively film adaptation are pretty parallel, until the ending. The movie is a little silly, while the book goes off the rails. 

John Grisham fan that I am, I finally read (26) "Skipping Christmas", a non legal story about a family who is trying to avoid the holidays by going on a cruise, but gets sucked back in when some random things force them to do so... I laughed a few times.  Better than the movie.

Go get this book. Seriously. Do the physical
copy, then do the audio, with all of your
lists and charts fill out.
Got my hipster college kid on by re-reading Moliere's (27) "The Misenthrope", and enjoyed it, while I finally read up on some Edgar Allen Poe in a collection called (28) "The Tell Tale Heart and other Stories", which features the title stories, as well as "The Fall of the House of Usher" and "The Black Cat".  Then, I read another of my favorite authors, Michael Lewis, in a quick memoir of raising a family and kids overseas, in a book called (29)"Home Game".

I read two books on the Golden State Killer, one of which you'll find in my Top Ten, and the other, (30) "Evil Has a Name", written by Paul Holes, Jim Clemente, and Peter McDonnell, was released by Audible. Perhaps its more an "episode" than a book, but I'm counting it. 

And finally, that brings us to (31) "Live Your List", by my friend Ryan Eller. It's sort of a motivational book, sort of a memoir, sort of a comedy book, and kind of a leadership book all wrapped in one. Ryan shares stories from his life, from where he almost died in a car crash and had to learn to walk again, from being detained in Cuba, from dancing with Miss America, and traveling the world. Do I recommend this book?  Absolutely, but I recommend reading it directly over getting the audiobook (which is how I read it, hence its not in my Top Ten).  The audio tells the story, and is narrated by Ryan himself, but there is so much to the book - pictures, charts, places to write your own lists -- that you need to experience the book for yourself and not just listen.  This is one of my goals this year... to re-read this one. 

Onward to the Top Ten Books of 2018, at least, as far as I read. Plus one honorable mention.