Fox News Video: The Best Books to Give as Gifts

My first appearance as a talking head: dishing on books for Fox News. Watch out, O’Reilly.

Fox News Video: The Best Books to Give as Gifts

Here’s me on the “vanity cam,” which was clearly designed for selfies:

Fox News Selfie

Fox News Selfie

TV and Movie Character Memoirs We’d Love to Read

What if Walter White Wrote a Memoir?

What if Walter White Wrote a Memoir?

Don’t you wish you could know the full story behind your favorite film and TV characters? What was Walter White’s real endgame? How did “Twin Peaks” special agent Dale Cooper keep his cool? Why did Kenny from “South Park” have such trouble staying alive? For at least one of our favorite on-screen heroes, our curiosity has finally been satisfied with the release of “Anchorman” Ron Burgundy’s memoir, “Let Me Off at the Top! My Classy Life and Other Musings.” Inspired by Burgundy’s illuminating tell-all, we’ve put together memoir ideas for our favorite TV and film characters–plus the real-life book each should use for inspiration.

“The Heisenberg Principle: My Life in the Empire Business,” by Walter White

Model: “The Prince,” by Niccolò Machiavelli

Discovered posthumously under the floorboards of a remote New Hampshire cabin, chemistry genius and drug kingpin Walter White’s manifesto reveals the workings of a brilliant but monomaniacal mind. Handwritten in what looks to be great haste, White meticulously lays out his philosophy of family and empire–a mix of Walt Whitman, Machiavelli and Vito Corleone (turns out he loved “The Godfather” even more than “Leaves of Grass”): Master the universe, but keep it in the family at all costs.

“I Loved Lucy,” by Ethel Mertz

Model: “Here’s the Story,” by “Brady Bunch” star Maureen McCormick

Can you blame her? Suffocated by a husband as stingy with affection as he was with money and by a society that didn’t accept her, Ethel retreated into the gentle embrace of vaudeville–and of her favorite tenant, Lucy Ricardo. As she reveals in her startling memoir, “I Loved Lucy,” Ethel and Lucy carried on an illicit, steamy affair beneath the noses of unsuspecting Fred and Ricky.

 Check out the full list on Bookish.

Literature: It’s Better with Pictures

Remember trying to read “Moby-Dick” in high school? It was awful: Melville’s knotty prose and madman plotting were rendered in minuscule type in a claustrophobic paperback edition–it was like drowning in a stew of language. But I was lucky–years later, I made a discovery at my local bookstore (holler, @Powells): a stately, oversized edition with breathable type and, best of all, woodcut engravings that gave you a visual break from Melville’s insane story. I increasingly fell in love with it as I read, and nowadays, “Moby-Dick” is probably my favorite novel.

My turnaround with Melville made me wish all of those classics I resented having to read in high school would find their way back to me, complete with pictures. Artist Matt Kish has answered my call with a new edition of Joseph Conrad’s classic (also despised by my teenage self), “Heart of Darkness.” Each right-hand page bears the text of Conrad’s novel, set very readably on thick, creamy paper, and on each left-hand page is a vivid, striking image that corresponds to the text. For instance, here’s the image opposite the lines, “We had enlisted some of these chaps on the way for a crew. Fine fellows–cannibals–in their place”:

Cannibals: fine fellows

I realize that the physical shape a novel takes should not alter your experience of a story, but Kish’s edition of “Darkness” presents a counter-argument. Beyond the pleasure of reading such a well-produced book, there’s brilliance in Kish’s illustrations in that they don’t attempt realism in the slightest. Rather, they’re like the hallucinatory images from a fever dream, which have the effect of displacing you further from your physical surroundings and pulling you deeper into the story, without stage-directing your experience. “The mind of man is capable of anything,” Conrad writes, and Kish illustrates:

The mind of man is capable of anything.

Conrad’s novel has had its psychedelic afterlife. Frances Ford Coppola’s “Apocalypse Now,” a Vietnam-ized rendering of “Heart of Darkness,” has become so culturally potent that in coming back to the novel I half-expected to see Conrad’s storyteller, Charlie Marlow, hazy with opium or freaking out in a hotel room like Martin Sheen in the movie. But Marlow is no smoky-voiced burnout: He’s a vibrant raconteur, a yarn-spinner not unlike Melville’s Ishmael (though better at sticking to the point). Yet, the vision of darkness Conrad shows us is every bit as brutal as Coppola’s…. Read the rest on Bookish