We’re readers around here – in fact, we were those kids who always did the summer reading between school years. Our interests span a pretty wide range of genres, fiction and nonfiction, print, digital, and audiobooks. If you’re like us, and looking a good book to read for the summer – whether for business pursuits or a beach getaway – here’s a list we highly recommend.
Books We’ve Read
Directing: Film Techniques and Aesthetics by Michael Rabiger and Mick Hurbis-Cherrier
“Directing covers the methods, technologies, thought processes, and judgments that a director must use throughout the fascinating process of making a film. The core of the book is the human, psychological, and technical knowledge that every director needs, the enduring elements of the craft that remain vital. Directing also provides an unusually clear view of the artistic process, particularly in working with actors and principle crew to achieve personally expressive storytelling and professionalism on any budget…“
Brian’s desire to keep learning led him to this book. This book appears on multiple college course lists, as well it should. Now in its fifth edition, Directing: Techniques and Aesthetics presents a very straightforward, textbook format. Throughout the book, the reader is encouraged to discover his or her own unique style and voice, all while maintaining a solid and simple grounding in the fundamental basics of the craft. An introductory passage in particular resounded with Brian, which declared the book to not be another avenue to discuss latest technology and gear; there are plenty of other resources for that. Rather, Directing: Techniques and Aesthetics discusses timeless practices and techniques, which will always be relevant and worthy of study.
Basic Economics: A Citizen’s Guide to the Economy by Thomas Sowell
“A new kind of introduction to economics for the general public – without graphs, statistics, or jargon. Basic Economics has … become more internationalized by including economic problems from more countries around the world, because the basic principles of economics are not confined by national borders…”
Economics bleeds into absolutely everything in life; expectations versus reality. Any business or service wants for three main points – fast, good, and cheap – but the reality is, you most often can only ever attain two of those. Video production is no exception. In our industry, we are always debating price; breaking down the value and cost of our services, gear, and our time. This book – and the resulting understanding of economics – helps us do our work more efficiently, but also helps us relate to the industries with whom we liaise and work; i.e. our clients.
Sounds Like Me by Sara Bareilles
“Sara Bareilles shot to fame in 2007 with her hit single, Love Song … In this candid book of essays, Sara pulls back the curtain to expose her songwriting process, revealing all the struggle and joy inherent in creating great work while staying true to yourself. Showcasing her stripped down and confessional writing style, Sara’s entertaining and inspirational book tells the inside stories behind her most popular songs and offers insights into finding balance between making art for herself and commercial music for her listeners.”
Sara Bareilles has always been a big inspiration for Robin. This book is a fabulous journey through an artist’s creative process, especially one so talented and smart as Ms. Bareilles. The essays track the singer/songwriter’s career from early influences of childhood, to her most recent turn crafting the music for the Tony-nominated musical, Waitress. This is one you absolutely MUST get in audiobook form as well; narrated by the author, it’s a delight and gives much more insight into Bareilles’ experiences.
The Mysterious Island by Jules Verne
“Five Union prisoners escape from the siege of Richmond in a balloon, are blown off course and crash on an uncharted island. They must learn to rebuild a society for themselves while awaiting rescue.”
Jim’s all-time favorite book. He’s not much of a reader, but has read through this one a number of times. Verne is his favorite author, and this stands tall among the many classics of the French visionary. Jim’s goal is to one day produce a movie that does the book justice. Spoiler alert…. there are no giant crabs or giant chickens in the book! A classic adventure, this makes you wish you’d paid more attention during engineering, chemistry and other science courses. Cyrus Harding, the engineer, is a hero among heroes.
Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe
“A compelling adventure story with richly drawn characters and has earned a place in both literary and American history. Stowe’s puritanical religious beliefs show up in the novel’s final, overarching theme — the exploration of the nature of Christianity and how Christian theology is fundamentally incompatible with slavery.“
Karen loves to read classic books and this one surprised her. It has more suspenseful action than you might expect from a book written in the mid 19th century. It’s heart-wrenching as you would expect a book about slavery to be, but it is also hopeful.
The Myst Reader by Robyn Miller, Rand Miller, David Wingrove
“The award-winning Myst series is one of the most successful interactive CD-ROM computer games in history with sales of more than 12 million copies worldwide … Its extraordinary success has gone on to spawn [three sequels] … The Myst Reader is a literary companion to the CD-ROM games and a compendium of the bestselling official Myst trilogy.“
The Myst universe delivers a powerful tale wrapped in strategy and riddle-solving. However, in spite of a sparse storyline and spending most of the gameplay alone, Myst exemplifies the power of unconventional narrative as well as world-building; to make something so otherworldly seem so familiar. While the game was solitary and spooky, the novel(s) are laser-focused and very personal, which adds a distinctly human element. Like all great stories, it’s about people and that’s what we love about it.
The Stranger written and illustrated by Chris Van Allsburg
No, we’re not talking about the existential French novel, but the children’s book. From Goodreads:
“The enigmatic origins of the stranger that Farmer Bailey hits with his truck and brings home to recuperate seem to have a mysterious relation to the weather…“
Robin first read this book in second grade and it made such an impact that it became the basis for her first short film of the same title. As a child, this was the first book that prompted Robin to start really thinking about the craft of storytelling. The way in which the narrative is woven, posing questions and deeper inspection of surface details, still stands as a benchmark in children’s literature. Most of Chris Van Allsburg’s books radiate with a quiet power – compared to many of their big-screen adaptations (i.e. Jumanji, The Polar Express) but this is our personal favorite. Watch the short film here!
Life of Pi by Yann Martel
“The protagonist, Piscine Molitor ‘Pi’ Patel, a Tamil boy from Pondicherry, explores issues of spirituality and practicality from an early age. He survives 227 days after a shipwreck while stranded on a boat in the Pacific Ocean with a Bengal tiger named Richard Parker.”
Everyone has their own opinions about the ending of this book, but the journey through the story of Pi’s life and being lost at sea, is as beautiful as it is unique. The film adaptation, released in 2012, depicts the shipwreck sequence in one of the most eerily breathtaking scenes ever portrayed on screen…but read the book first. It is a must. And a sea-faring adventure is the perfect escape for summer!
The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
“Through the urgings of the enigmatic wizard Gandalf, young hobbit Frodo Baggins embarks on an urgent, incredibly treacherous journey to destroy the One Ring. This ring – created and then lost by the Dark Lord, Sauron, centuries earlier – is a weapon of evil, one that Sauron desperately wants returned to him. With the power of the ring once again his own, the Dark Lord will unleash his wrath upon all of Middle-earth. The only way to prevent this horrible fate from becoming reality is to return the Ring to Mordor, the only place it can be destroyed. Unfortunately for our heroes, Mordor is also Sauron’s lair…”
We are huge fans of Tolkien. We’re also big fans of the unabridged audiobook, narrated by by Rob Inglis. When you’ve lived with a book for a long time (years) and see how the adaptation is so much more difficult than you’d expect; also, how themes evolve over the time you live with the story. Adaptations are a good way for a viewing audience to see all of the challenges that go into making a visual production.
The power of vision and style (i.e. the director and filmmaking team) is on gorgeous display here, and how influential that is over the final product.
On Our List
Rise of the Creative Class by Richard Florida
“A path-breaking book about the forces that were reshaping our economy, our geography, our work, and our whole way of life … the growing role of creativity … we have endured a series of world shattering events — from the collapse of the tech bubble to 9/11 to the economic meltdown of 2008 — any one of which might have been sufficient to derail the forces he described Instead, the drive towards creativity as only intensified, both in the US and across the globe. In late 2011, the social media site LinkedIn reported that the word most used by its members to describe themselves was “Creative” . . .“
Robin first heard about this book at a local business economy meeting in our hometown of Frederick, MD. The speaker, Richard Jefferies, discussed how this book reflects a change in the market and how the consumption of media and creative content has gone from the stereotypical “starving artist” mold, to a sustainable industry. It’s been at the top of our reading lists for some time now and we can’t wait to dive in.
Making Movies by Sidney Lumet
“From one of America’s most acclaimed directors comes a book that is both a professional memoir and a definitive guide to the art, craft, and business of the motion picture. Drawing on 40 years of experience on movies ranging from Long Day’s Journey Into Night to The Verdict, Lumet explains the painstaking labor that results in two hours of screen magic.“
Taken directly from a list in No Film School‘s article: Werner Herzog and Darren Aronofsky Think You Should Read These Ten Books. In addition to this title, there’s also The Writers Journey by Christopher Vogler and Easy Riders, Raging Bulls by Peter Biskind, both of which have been on Robin’s reading list since college! Like Brian, we’re all eager to keep learning and to learn from the experts!
The Space Trilogy by C.S. Lewis
“Out of the Silent Planet begins the adventures of the remarkable Dr. Ransom. Here, that estimable man is abducted by a megalomaniacal physicist and his accomplice and taken via spaceship to the red planet of Malacandra. The two men are in need of a human sacrifice, and Dr. Ransom would seem to fit the bill. Once on the planet, however, Ransom eludes his captors, risking his life and his chances of returning to Earth, becoming a stranger in a land that is enchanting in its difference from Earth and instructive in its similarity. First published in 1943, Out of the Silent Planet remains a mysterious and suspenseful tour de force.“
Karen has read the first book, and is halfway through the second. C.S. Lewis is a favorite author and the journey through this series has been a good one so far…here’s hoping for more time to keep reading!
Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson
“Treasure Island has been happily devoured by several generations of boys — and girls — and grownups. Its unforgettable characters include: young Jim Hawkins, who finds himself owner of a map to Treasure Island, where the fabled pirate booty is buried … and, of course, garrulous, affable, ambiguous Long John Silver, who is one moment a friendly, laughing, one-legged sea-cook … and the next a dangerous pirate leader! The unexpected and complex relationship that develops between Silver and Jim helps transform what seems at first to be a simple, rip-roaring adventure story into a deeply moving study of a boy’s growth into manhood, as he learns hard lessons about friendship, loyalty, courage and honor — and the uncertain meaning of good and evil.”
We’ve read this one before, but it remains an superb summer escape. If you’ve never cracked this cover, give it a shot. It’s the perfect companion for a beachside excursion.