Archives For Books

Four years ago when I first read the highly acclaimed book, Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand (Seabiscuit), I thought, this was an important book that was going to fly because of how strong the story was in the life of Louis Zamperini. Working in the publishing industry, it has been so encouraging to see people from all types of backgrounds read this story and enthusiastically recommend it to others.

I have since given the book as presents to numerous people. I seek out those who haven’t read it because Zamperini’s story is so inspiring. You don’t need to be a World War II enthusiast to appreciate it. It is a beautiful story of endurance and redemption.

A few years ago I read that the movie was quickly optioned to be adapted into a movie. It would be created by multiple Oscar winners; directed by Angelina Jolie and the screenplay would be adapted by Joel and Ethan Coen and a few others.

It was hard to not be excited about the possibility of how great this movie could be.

I waited in anticipation to see the movie and finally was able to this past week. The movie suffered what happens to so many great books.

unbrokenUnbroken the movie was good, but not great.

And I’m mad.

I’m mad because good movies don’t get shared by word of mouth. Great movies do and this just was not a great movie.

I also don’t want to hear the typical excuse from people, “the book is always better than the book.” That is an ignorant statement because movies and books are just different mediums of telling story.

I knew the film would not match the book and I was okay with it only because I read the full story of Zamperini’s life told so well by Hillenbrand. I was disappointed because so many people have gone to see the film, left disappointed, and probably did not know why. Sure they were impressed with his incredible life and enduring so much.

So, why did the movie fall flat?

According to authority on story told through film, Robert McKee, the first principle of adaptation is the following: The purer the novel, the purer the play, the worse the film.

All this means is that because Unbroken was a great book, it was much more difficult to transfer its greatness to film. But, it could be done.

Also, when a lesser talent (writer or director) attempt to adapt genius, the genius of the original writing will most likely be dragged down to the level of the adaptor.

Now, a lot of people will point out that Angelina Jolie is still a young director but I felt she did a fine job with the film for only her second time directing a feature film. There are many things in the movie that just felt awkward and disrupted the story. For example, why would you do a flashback in the middle of an intense air battle? The ending is also what fell flat because it is too abrupt. Finally, the core of an epic movie is the soundtrack and it just did not match the dramatic story being told. Finally, the key ingredient missing was the movie not being able to show the full transformation of Louie Zamperini. I don’t want to ruin the story for you but the final act of the book is what makes the first part of his dramatic story more meaningful; following Zamperini’s troubled youth, running in the 1936 Olympics, watching his life as a WWII bombardier, crashing in the Pacific and drifting for 47 days, and enduring over two years in a Japanese prisoner of war camp.

unbroken-cover_custom-s6-c10McKee also writes, “The unique power and splendor of the cinema is the dramatization of extra-personal conflict, huge and vivid images of human beings wrapped inside their society and environment, striving with life.” He goes on. “This is what film does best, better than play or novel.”

The movie could have been great like the book but also different.

The filmmakers failed to show the full transformation of Zamperini’s life, which is where we witness true greatness.

Despite everything, I am thankful for this movie because Louis Zamperini got to spend in-depth time with Angelina Jolie, arguably one of the most populate entertainment stars in the world. Zamperini had the opportunity to share who he truly was to her, a man who lived an extraordinary life and one saved only by grace in Jesus.

In summary, if you are dissatisfied with the movie, turn back to the book. Read it. Then re-read it.

After all, good story always wins. Go read Unbroken. Go read good stories. 

 

Here are a few great movie adaptations to consider after you read and see Unbroken

To Kill a Mockingbird: It is rare that a great book can become a great film as well but it was done. I can’t imagine Atticus Finch better than how well Gregory Peck played him.

Gone Girl: I read the book last year and was mesmerized by its plot twists and turns. I couldn’t imagine how Gone Girl could be turned into such a great thriller of a movie but David Fincher did an excellent job

Lone Survivor: I read the book by Marcus Luttrell right after it came out in 2007. Director Peter Berg fought hard to make sure the movie was told well and did an excellent job adapting this true story to film.

World War Z: I loved the book, which serves as a first hand account of a fictional zombie war. When Brad Pitt led this great book to film, it was very different and faster as a movie but it had to be different. This is a rare movie that did a fabulous job to preserve the spirit of the book but also recognized that it had to be different to work well on-screen.

The Hobbit vs. Lord of the Rings: No doubt that LOTR and Hobbit are classic pieces of literature from J.R.R. Tolkien. LOTR the movies are treasures of bringing the books to life on film but The Hobbit falls very flat in its adaptation.

American Sniper: The book is highly acclaimed and I can only imagine how well Clint Eastwood will do with the movie, which releases in January, 2015.

If you are looking at some other great book to movie adaptations, here is a good list.

My goal is to read about 30-40 books a year.

Since my wife and I have young children, reading is difficult to achieve in our stage of life. I remember being frustrated a couple of years ago about this and wanted to find a solution to feed my mind’s curiosity.

Then I discovered audiobooks. 

People learn in different ways. I have friends who can read 50 or 60 books a year without breaking a sweat. I wish I could get to that point as a reader but I’ve discovered that I absorb information better through from the spoken word of an audiobook.

Book with HeadphonesBefore there were books, there was the beauty of the spoken word.

For thousands of years, stories were passed down from word of mouth, primarily because literacy was reserved for the elite and books were difficult to reproduce. Human history tells us that we are designed as humans to listen to others tell stories and share with the next person.

The reading purist may think I’m a heretic but my goal here is to help people discover more books through the way they can get the most out of them. I still read about 15 to 25 books a year in addition to audiobooks and I believe balance in reading is important.

I listen to audiobooks in the car on my drive to work, on long road trips, and when I work out during the week. I have hours of time that would go wasted without audiobooks, which makes me very thankful for them.

I’ve listened to many audiobooks and to be honest some are recorded with poor quality or are read by a voice that I don’t like. In those times, I stop listening and move on to the next. It’s okay to ditch one if it doesn’t work for you.

But, there are some excellent ones to choose from.

Here are five great audiobooks

Where Men Win Glory: The Odyssey of Pat Tillman by Jon Krakauer (read by award-winning voice talent, Scott Brick)

I loved this because I was always. As the author Krakauer makes a point in his book about Pat Tillman, he seems like a Greek athlete and personality of old.

WAR by Sebastian Junger (read by the author)

I thought this book had an important story to understand, especially from the words read by author Sebastian Junger. Since he was embedded with an Army Ranger company in Afghanistan for over a year, his words would have more passion and meaning than another voice.

Flyboys: A True Story of Courage by James D. Bradley (read by the author)

You all probably know that I love history books and this is one read by author James Bradley is a harrowing tale of Navy flyboys during World War II in the Pacific. With his Wisconsin accent, Bradley shares harrowing stories of these men in one of the most tragic stories you’ve never heard of from World War II.

Young Titan: The Making of Winston Churchill by Michael Shelden (read by John Curless)

Although written by an American, it is read by an English voice talent, John Curless, who reads the book with an Edwardian pomposity. I love listening to books written about British people. Don’t we all?

Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell (read by the author)

There is a cadence to the voice of Malcolm Gladwell and his soft tone brings curiosity to the listener and releases the spirit of the author’s ideas. I think business books are great to listen to for the business traveler, who is traditionally on the run.

Notice how I did not mention fiction audiobooks. I have nothing against them except for idea that I believe fiction books are meant to stretch the imagination of the reader. Last year, I listened to a few and felt like the experience would be better by traditionally reading them. I can’t imagine listening to The Lord of the Rings, Huckleberry Finn, A Wrinkle in Time, or The Chronicles of Narnia for that reason. If you find some good ones to listen to, I’d love to hear your recommendations.

Questions consider before picking the right audiobook

  • How long do you have to listen to an audiobook?
  • Do you have a road trip coming up?
  • Do you have a long commute to work?
  • Do you work out multiple times a week?
  • Do you want to listen to the author or a professional reader? Would either make it a better listening experience?
  • Is a physical CD or digital version preferable for you?

Where to get audiobooks

Physically buy them at a store:  These are often the most expensive ($20-50)

Digital editions:  Choose from iTunes, Amazon.com, ChristianBook.com, AudioBooks.com, or Audible.com ($10-$30)

Public Library: This is where I get 90% of my audiobooks because yes, they are FREE. I don’t mind owning an audiobook because I can always  check it out again.

Free audiobooks: You can download classic audiobooks Charles Dickens, Jane Austin, Joseph Conrad, and Fyodor Dostoyevsky. Here are two great places to download classic books free. Librivox and Open Culture.

Caution: I don’t recommend listening to a comedy audiobook while working out. I literally dropped a dumbbell on my head when working out listening to Stephen Colbert read and act out America Again.

Do you like audiobooks? 
If so, which ones have you enjoyed most and why? 

I credit my mother and grandmother for giving me such a great love for books when I was young. I didn’t get into reading for pleasure fully until after college when it was evident that no one was forcing me to read something anymore. I was free and read primarily history books, which are my first love. As I have grown in reading, I have realized that I need to expand my reading lists to become a better reader and thinker.

I was always amused in the movie You’ve Got Mail, when Tom Hank’s character Joe Fox is asked to read Pride and Prejudice while Meg Ryan’s character Kathleen Kelly reads his favorite, The Godfather. Despite their best attempts, they still were able to read each other’s books and discuss them together. If they didn’t ask each other to get out of their comfort zone, they would otherwise not be able to discover and be challenged by a new read.

I divide my reading lists up in the following genres:

Fiction, Classic Literature, History & Biography, and Motivational/Faith.

This past vacation, here are four books that I thoroughly enjoyed and have stirred me in one way or another.

FICTION

World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War by Max Brooks

Mel Brooks’ son Max Brooks did a tremendous job with this book. I listened to the audiobook because I thought it would be fun to hear the first-hand stories out loud and loved it. I have not seen the movie yet but this was worth the read. A good fiction book helps your imagination develop and take you to a place to dream. It also is what my father in law refers to as “chewing gum for the mind.” Although this is an apocalyptic thriller, for me it accomplishes a lot for my imagination, is entertaining, and well-worth the read.

“Most people don’t believe something can happen until it already has. That’s not stupidity or weakness, that’s just human nature.”

worldwarz

CLASSIC LITERATURE

A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway

I remember as a high school student loving The Old Man and the Sea, Hemingway’s masterpiece that earned him a Pulitzer and Nobel Prize. Now as an adult, my fascination for Hemingway has only grown and I’m committed to reading through his classic works. I am enamored by World War I and his semi-autobiographical take on love and war was both beautiful and tragic. I’d encourage you to read through a classic from your youth as you will rediscover why it remains on a best-sellers list even 80 years later.

“Why, darling, I don’t live at all when I’m not with you.”

farewell to arms

HISTORY & BIOGRAPHY

The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, nazi Thieves and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History by Robert Edsel

My mother recommended this book as I am interested in World War II History. If you don’t usually enjoy history books, anyone who appreciates the value of fine art will appreciate this book. I am not necessarily an art history lover but I was intrigued by the reason our allied governments established this group to help save and restore some of the greatest artwork in history and protect it from Nazi Germany in their retreat during 1944 and 1945.

“There are fights that you may lose without losing your honor; what makes you lose your honor is not to fight.” -Jaques Jaujard

monuments men

MOTIVATION/FAITH

Start Something That Matters by Blake Mycoskie

I like reading a book that helps me to become a better person, a better parent, or develop a stronger faith. My wife had ordered a pair of TOMS Shoes recently and they sent their founder, Blake Mycoskie’s book about the story of TOMS, his entrepreneurial ideas, and why giving matters in a for-profit business. As a businessperson and entrepreneur at heart, I loved the book and the company’s story of “one for one”, that for each sale of a pair of shoes, they give another pair to a child in need around the world. We get behind good stories and that is what Blake and TOMS is all about. We follow greatness when it is about giving and helping to make a better world. I read the book in that way as well as trying to excavate the nuggets of wisdom from his story. I highly recommend this for any person young and old with an entrepreneurial spirit and willing to make a difference in other people’s lives.

“The easier it is for someone to understand who you are and what you stand for, the easier it will be for that person to spread the word to others.”

startsomething

Next and Currently Reading: Ken Follett’s The Pillars of the Earth, Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises, Jon Meacham’s Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power as well as The Love Dare of Parents

For your next book, take Blake Mycoskie’s advice and start something that matters.

What are you reading and why?

Recently I was driving and was stuck behind someone with the bumper sticker that said,

Save the book!

My reaction was a sigh. An independent bookstore created these bumper stickers in order to fuel passion of their customers who are clinging to the idea of a ‘physical’ book. I understand their passion because they are seeing physical bookstores disappear faster than ever before. Like a an apocalyptic movie, people are running for the hills to survive clinging to these heavy bricks. Amusingly, most of the data I read points to the fact that there are more books being read than ever before.

So why are we afraid? Let’s examine how we find out about a book’s content.

I love independent bookstores. I love  a Barnes & Noble. I quite enjoy a Christian bookstore too. I love them each in different ways but I can easily drive or walk right past them because they don’t deliver a reason to buy there.

Why does that happen?

In my journey, it is because the store’s experience is not good enough to make me want to spend time there and purchase a book.

Here is the good news for those running for the hills. The physical book won’t go away. But that isn’t the point. We should be focused on a reading experience as opposed to whether it is an ‘electronic’ or ‘physical’ book. In publishing, we like to say that we are ‘format agnostic’ and would prefer people reading in whatever way they like. It is the content that matters so can we put the customer in a place where they have a powerful book discovery and reading experience to ultimately buy a book?

By the way, the independent bookstore that created those bumper stickers is one I buy a lot of physical books. I shop there because it provides a valuable experience to help me discover great new books that I would rarely have found online or through my personal network. It is there where I buy a them as presents for people. It is there where I can sit down comfortably and enjoy a quick chapter to test if I want to purchase it or recommend to another. They even offer a way online to buy an e-book through one of their e-book partners. I am also a firm believer that I shouldn’t have to support my independent bookstore as charity. They should give me an undeniable reason to choose their store to purchase a book compared to another. I also don’t mind spending a little more for that experience.

Books

Books don’t need saving. Books need just a better environment to experience and buy them in. It is simple and thankfully with the joy of reading, the ability to find new and interesting things to explore will emerge.

The  readers and writers of today will be found in many different environments compared to Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Tolkien, or Rowling. Think about where you congregate to read books and share the great ideas that come from them. Are you in that bookstore, sitting on that airplane, in the classroom, or your local coffee shop? It is in those places where today’s books are discovered. It is also there where you will find the experience to embrace and a book can truly be saved.

What are you reading now and in what format? Did a “bookstore” experience help you to purchase that book?