No one reads books anymore, which is why giving a book as a gift these days is even more exciting and special than it used to be!
Here are 10 works delving into the arts and all the sundry personalities therein. Fortunately, none of them are that “hard,” so the non-literary crowd should be able to enjoy them without a breakdown. Go ahead, gift away!
“Icon: The Life, Times, and Films of Marilyn Monroe Volume 2: 1956 to 1962 & Beyond”
You can appreciate this tome without having read Volume 1, I swear. Author Gary Vitacco-Robles happens to be a psychotherapist who’s picked through Marilyn’s interviews and diaries, among other paraphernalia, to dig into the psyche of movieland’s most blazing yet troubled star. The last six years of her life are the focus of the book, which details the distinction between all the things Marilyn profoundly desired, and what she ended up with. $35.96-$43.78.*
“Is That All There Is? The Strange Life of Peggy Lee”
The great singer with the sultry approach gets a thorough treatment in this book by James Gavin, which even includes references to reporting by yours truly. In fact, it discusses my review of Peggy’s 1980s memoir, which I wrote contained “nothing about how she digs into her soul and comes up with a singing style that’s sexy and chilling at the same time.” But that kind of willful vagueness only added to Peg’s mysterious allure. Gavin is here to puncture through that with lots of research. $22.74.
“Caravan to Oz: A Family Reinvents Itself Off-Off-Broadway”
The Harrises are a sprawling, free-spirited group of avant-garde performers and writers, and this book, co-authored by Ann Harris, Walter Michael Harris, Jayne Anne Harris-Kelley, Eloise Harris-Damone and Mary Lou Harris-Pietsch, is basically the scrapbook they’ve compiled of their lives, loves and credits. Featured heavily is George Harris, who was known as Hibiscus, the drag star from the San Francisco group the Cockettes. He came to New York to make a splash on the cabaret scene, and though he did so, he was one of the first names to die of AIDS — in 1982 — making him all the more legendary. $14.52.
“Dr.a.g.” (bookthefilm edition)
This coffee-table book by Christopher Logan presents a succession of gorgeous two-page photo spreads featuring some of the best-looking drag stars in the world. Sweetie, Jeffree Starr, Krystal Something-Something, Miss Barbie-Q, Jimmy James and many more are shown in elaborate finery, going for full Hollywood glamour as if in their (and our) wildest dreams. There are old drag queens, new ones, legendary ones and up-and-coming ones. And they’re all given the supermodel treatment, which makes the book both delicious and touching. $32.85.
“The Ear of the Heart: An Actress’ Journey From Hollywood to Holy Vows”
I met Dolores Hart at a 2011 autograph show and asked her why she left Hollywood, where she starred in “Where The Boys Are” and two Elvis movies, to become a nun. “It was God’s idea, not mine,” she responded, with solemnity. “I do not understand God’s decisions. I never have. I only know it was a calling. I loved Hollywood. It was the greatest gift of my life. But I knew I had a calling from the Lord, and it was devastating to realize that was the fact.” Fortunately, she also had a calling to write a 2013 memoir with Richard DeNeut in which she goes into a little bit more detail. In the book, it’s revealed that Dolores told people she’d turned down a costarring role with Marlon Brando because she was getting married. If you asked her to whom, she replied, “Christ!” $21.04.
I read a bad review of this book by Amy Poehler, which said there’s a lot of filler in it and even the jokes aren’t very good. And that made me want it all the more. Not everyone can be as profoundly multifaceted as “Bossypants” Tina Fey. Besides, I like Amy, and even a wan version of her is better than most of the show biz tell-alls making the rounds out there. So I’m going to make someone get me a discounted copy of this for Christmas. I’ll chip in on the postage. $14.50.
“Blue-Collar Broadway: The Craft and Industry of American Theater”
The flap copy explains it: “Blue-Collar Broadway tells a rich story of the history of craft and industry in American heater nationwide.” In other words, Timothy R. White tells the back story of Broadway’s costumes, lights and scenery and how the people who work on those crafts have had to ride the economic ups and down of the changing theater scene. You have to admit this is far from your typical Broadway book — or typical anything. $37.45.
“Not My Father’s Son” & “Choose Your Own Autobiography” (TIE)
The first is Alan Cumming’s look at his complicated family ties and the lingering effect they’ve had on him, while the latter is an irreverent Neil Patrick Harris adventure story sprinkled with all manner of songs and recipes. You decide which gay you want to take home for Christmas. “Not My Father’s Son,” $12.23-$16.37; “Choose Your Own Autobiography,” $15.60.
“The Ten, Make That Nine, Habits of Very Organized People. Make That Ten”
Ever since it came out two years ago, this has been the perfect light, slender gift for those who like Steve Martin’s existential humor and want to engorge themselves with bite-sized bits of it. Examples: “Report from jury duty: Other jurors are stupid. They don’t believe in hexes. Plus, they want me to put my magazines away.” Also: “Running low on Twitter feed. Going to store to get more.” Of course, I might realistically say, “Why not just follow Steve on Twitter and read his tweets for free?” but then again, I’ve put out two collections of my Google-able articles, so who am I to talk? By the way, feel free to buy those books, too. $5.35.
Frank Langella’s newest book
All right, it hasn’t come out yet. He hasn’t even finished it. But I hear the Tony-winning, Oscar-nominated actor is indeed working on a followup to his 2012 memoir, “Dropped Names: Famous Men and Women As I Knew Them,” and I have a gut feeling it’ll be wildly readable and insightful like the last one. Hopefully, Santa will have it ready for me by next Christmas. Hurry, fatso!