As much as I have enjoyed a few novels over the years, I must confess that I find real people more interesting than made up people. Most of my reading since I left school and was able to freely choose has been confined to biographies, autobiographies and books of essays. Here are some of my favorite favorites:
by Barry Paris
Brooks is one of the most fascinating, iconic figures of the 20th century and Paris does her extreme justice in this riveting cautionary tale of a life recklessly lead. Since Brooks was a writer herself, as well as a devoted diarist, he has a wealth of information to work with and he doesn't miss a beat. A silent film star who was lost in the transition to sound but never left the hearts and minds of generations of devoted fans, Brooks is funny and frustrating, honest and real. A must have.
by Beryl Markham
When I really like someone, this is the book I gift to them. Growing up in Africa, working as a horse trainer and then ultimately a pilot, Beryl writes so beautifully about her continent and the rich characters she meets along the way, you'll never want to put it down. It is a book of adventure that makes you want to get on a plane or into a time machine. If you can resist the urge to read her elephant hunt story aloud around a campfire, you are a better person than me.
by Gore Vidal
One of my favorite people (and writers) is Gore Vidal. He has written dozens of books and any one of them could be recommended (and probably already has). But if you are new to Gore or want the ultimate glimpse of his genius, don't miss this monster collection. If it happened in the last 100 years, he was either there or has a strong opinion about it. This is a book you find yourself talking out loud to and his recollection of his friend Orson Welles is surprisingly tender.
by Jeff Kahn, Annabelle Gurwitch
In this century, I fell in love with this hilarious and heartbreaking he said/she said story of comedians meeting, falling eventually in love and having a son. It is an emotional tennis match that will make you laugh and cry. The bare bones honesty is matched pound for pound by wit and humor. Swift and delightful and touching.
by Nora Ephron
I found myself relating to this book more than I wanted to. But Nora Ephron has proven herself over the years to be both a great wit and incredibly accessible. She does not disappoint in this latest exploration of aging in New York City. I ordered a copy for my mom and she loved it too. It will make you laugh and worry about being sixty. But mostly laugh.
by Carrie Fisher
I flew to Los Angeles just to see Carrie Fisher do this show at the Geffen Playhouse when it was first getting started and she did not disappoint. It is now an HBO documentary and presented here in book form. Even though my favorite witticism from her grandmother Maxine didn't make the final cut ("It's not what you want that makes you fat, it's what you get."), Fisher's humor about herself, her family and Hollywood is constant and surprising and wonderful.
by Shelley Winters
Actors write autobiographies all the time (or someone writes one for them). This is the gold standard by which all others are judged. A two-time Oscar winner, Shelley never forgets a sex partner or a meal in back-to-back Hollywood adventures. An utterly entertaining beach read filled with big stars and big struggles.
by Shelley Winters
Part two of Shelley's Hollywood adventures — just as good as her first book (above). You'll love them both!
Recommending books so good, they'll keep you up past your bedtime. more...
About Derek Hartley
Since April 2003, Derek Hartley has been one half of the Sirius XM Radio duo Derek and Romaine on the OutQ Channel. Prior to the launch of Derek and Romaine, Derek had been a syndicated columnist for nearly a decade. His widely-read columns have appeared online and in print across the U.S. and around the world. His first book, Colonnade: A Life In Columns, juxtaposes his first two years in NYC in 2001 and 2002, and his latest work is When Nightlife Falls.
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