Result #27: I successfully read some books, read some books, read some mutha fuckin books!!!

#27 Every day get at least a half hours worth of book reading in.

Date: 1-27-2014

Due Date: 1-27-2015

Resolution: A while back I read this article about how book reading in America is on the decline, whether it's a physical book, any form of e-book, even audiobooks, book reading is dying.

I felt this was a sad fact but justified it by thinking of how non-book reading must be going through the roof. Between text, social media, email, online articles, etc. the average American probably fits in way more overall reading than ever before.

I could easily do a search to see if I'm correct, but I'm too busy not reading books to do any sort of research.

I'm actually good for reading at least one or two books a year, but rarely for the purpose of entertainment or leisure. I usually only read books when I want to learn how to do something or hone my skills for things that I already know how to do.

This year I'm going to change that. This year I'm going to turn book reading into a leisure time activity and fit in at least a half hours’ worth a day. I will count books that I read for research for any of these resolutions, but I won't count training manuals or how to books that I plan to read to learn the skills needed to fulfill any of these resolutions.

I'll provide updates with the books that I'm going to read followed by updates with reviews of the books as I complete them.

I'm going to start with a book written by Chris Elliott entitled The Shroud of the Thwacker, a book that I bought years ago because I'm a Chris Elliot fan so I figure his book had to be up my alley. I still have yet to open the book, but I talk about it a lot and how I want to finally get around to reading it.

So, here I go...

Book #1: The Shroud of the Thwacker.

Date: 2-29-2014 (AKA 3-1-2014)

I am a self admitted slow reader. I haven't missed a day and have read exactly 30 minutes a session. It's taken a little over a month, but I've finally finished reading my first book since starting this resolution. I also have to admit that my reading retention isn't all that great so when I say that I liked this book I don't really have many example to prove it.

If you are a fan of Chris Elliott's sense of humor you will like this book.

First you take the historical inaccuracy of Elliot's one man show about FDR:

Throw in the quirky humor that created Cabin Boy:

Top it off with with some time travel and a DaVinci Code-esque quest to find America's first Jack the Ripper type serial killer and you've got yourself The Shroud of the Thwacker.

If you've made it this far and are still interested I'd say give it a read, but you do have to be a fan of Chris Elliott. This book is totally written in his comedic voice. He even makes his way into the story and goes on to play a pretty big part. 

If you need one more piece of evidence as to whether or not you will like this book, maybe this slideshow made up of the illustrations found throughout The Shroud of the Twacker will help you make your final decision. 

Book #2: Black Sun

Date: 3-30-2014

I met Kyle a couple years back while working on a short film. It was just a weekend shoot and he seemed like a cool enough person. I haven't worked with him since. A little over a year ago I decided that I wanted to start blobbing. I was trying to think of a weekly experiment to get readers to come back to The Wicker Breaker to see what I had to say.

I thought of do movie reviews but then I remembered the review I wrote while attending film school. This review was about how it took me three viewings to finally appreciate the humor of Napoleon Dynamite. It had nothing to do with the movie but was about me and my experience with it. Kind of like what I'm doing right now.

Anyways I determined that I wanted to watch and review the same movie once a week for an entire year. I figured I'd keep up this trend and write more about my experience than the actual movie. Since I was going into this experiment with a narcissistic approach, I didn't want any say as to what movie I was going to watch because to me it didn’t matter. That when I heard from Kyle again. He suggested Southland Tales and I accepted the challenge.

Kyle was one of the few people that followed the progress of my repetitive journey through the convoluted tales of the Southland. A while back he posted that he was interested in sharing a novel that he wrote. The timing was perfect because I just finished reading the first book of my daily reading challenge.

I asked him if he would share it to be the second book of this challenge and here we are today.

Whenever you accept to read anything of significance by someone you actually know there's instant fear of, "What do I say if I hate it?" Though this is the first novel that I've ever read by someone I know, I've read plenty of screenplays and have been stuck in the situation of trying to figure out how to break the news that they're work is flawed.

I've been writing for years and had my fair share of negative reviews from people I know and respect so I've gotten past the cowardly review of, "It was... pretty good. I mean... I liked it." I now figure if you are a writer and are willing to share your work for feedback is to get blatantly honest input.

That said, Black Sun was pretty good. I liked it.

Part of me wants to end this review right here as a joke, but my better judgment is telling me to complete the review.

I had no idea what to expect when I prepared to read the first age. All I knew was the title and the author. If you're following my other resolutions you know that I'm taking a free Computer Science class available through Harvard’s website, so when I read the first page of the prologue I was hooked.

We start out with not only an introduction to our main character, but an introduction to his perspectives on the evolution of technology and computer science. This felt almost like an written documentary and was a cool way to share this characters outlook on life as he explains his passion. Between the bits and pieces I’ve picked up from class and the confidence that our main character divulges this information, it felt very real.

The information given could’ve been completely made up or fact but it wouldn't matter. The way it is shared lead me to believe it was fact in the world of the story. Either way I saw this introduction as a sign of good writing because story was either created via great research, lived by the author, or completely made up. Whichever approach was used was executed very well.

The first day I read more than the "mandatory" half hour of reading, which never happened during my reading of Shroud of the Thwacker. I could tell instantly that I was going to like this story.

Kyle tapped into many topics that I'm very interested in and to top it off his characters even end up on the same road trip I took when I drove from Seattle to Delaware back in 1998. I'm not sure whether or not what I’m about to say has to do with daily reading become a habit vs. being a chore, but I found myself looking forward to my time with this book to see where it was going to take me next.

Black Sun has its ups and its downs and seems to meander a bit at time, but not in a way that's flawed. The moments where we do break away for a history lesson, whether it’s the history of the main characters relationship with his wife, or actual history, these segments always conclude by tying into the main story.

The only issue I have is that some of the obstacles toward the end where resolved too quickly. We get introduced to a pretty interesting character toward the end of the story that I would've liked to have spent more time with as her and our hero as they worked through the hurdles to get to the climax.

Though I have this issue I see it as a good thing because it means I wanted to spend more time with these characters in this story.

If you’re interested in reading the story for yourself you can do so by clicking here. I highly recommend it!

Book #3: Meta

Date: 4-21-2014

It was actually two days ago that I finished reading Meta by Tom Reynolds, bringing my count up to three books read since starting this resolution!

This reading was interesting for a couple reasons.

The last book I read was written someone I actual know in real life. As I pointed out in the review we met on a film set and have been passive friends over the internet ever since.

It was interesting to read a novel from a person that I know at that level. It felt like I had a different level of understanding of the story because of our interactions. I was able to see pieces to a puzzle based on the type of articles he chooses to post on social media and the conversations we’ve had. This extra material wasn't required to fill in any gaps in the story or anything; I just found it to be an interesting bonus.

I couldn't point Tom Reynolds out in a crowd, unless he was unaware of this search and accidentally spoke.

Hmm... That might sound creepy... Let me explain.

For those of you who don't know, Tom Reynolds is one of the hosts of the podcast The Complete Guide to Everything, along with Your Pal...? His Pal...? Our Pal...? Some guy name Tim.

I discovered this program years ago when I first learned what a podcast was. I marathon listened to the show and have stayed caught up ever since. I find writing to be a very lonely hobby and have always listened to talk radio while I write. This makes me feel like I'm at least part of a conversation as I try to hone my craft.

As a writer I'm always interested in how/if the relationship between the writer and the reader relates to/affects the story. I'm in no way saying that I know the author more than the personality he shares on his show but when you listen to two people have a conversation for several years you get to feel you're actually there at times.

Because of this Meta was on the top of my list of books to read. I ordered the physical book through their Amazon link to support the show and let it sit on my book shelf for a couple weeks while I finish reading Black Sun by Kyle Porter.

The day finally came and I started to read Meta. It was pretty interesting because I grew up listening to Howard Stern. I feel like my relationship with the two shows is pretty similar. Similar in the feeling of really knowing strangers even though they are unaware of who I am and/or that I am.

I've read most of the books written by the members of the Stern Show, but all of their books are autobiographies. This is the first piece of pure fiction that I've read from an entertainer that I was aware of as a personality that wasn't known for writing fiction.

It felt like reading a friend's novel. It was fun to be able to hear the author’s voice as I read, fun to create links between the main character and his creator, thinking, "Jim? Don't you mean Tim?" Other than that I couldn't draw any other connections to the characters, but that was still fun.

I also really enjoyed the story. I'm not a big comic book guy, and I've never rushed out to see a super hero movie, so this is coming from someone who couldn't or wouldn't go through and look at this piece with a critical eye as far as how this story relates to other novels in the genre.

All I can say is that I liked it. I really enjoyed the world that was set up, the character who was chosen to give these special powers to and following his journey to learn how to use said powers. I liked build in conflict and following the thought process as to how to solve each new problem as well. There is also a nice balance between the non-hero and super hero moments.

I appreciated the hints or clues as of true identities of who the other super heroes could be and that the story resolves without ruin the fun of going back and forth in thinking, "I bet that Meta is that person behind the mask," or "No that person better not be that person, but if it was that would make sense... but no... it can't be... but then why…?"

(Does that make sense? I was hoping to avoid any spoilers but fear I may have ended up speaking in tongues.)

Since this is a super hero book I'm guessing it's not a spoiler that it ends with a nice set up for a sequel?

If it is indeed a spoiler... Oops.

Either way, I look forward to reading the next one!

Book #4: A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy

Date: 5-18-2014

Yesterday I completed reading my fourth book since starting this resolution!!!

A couple months ago I posted something about loneliness on my personal Facebook page. This led to an email back and forth with a friend of mine about life, loneliness and what it takes to be happy.

She suggested that I read A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy, a book that she found helpful in her question for happiness. I was instantly intrigued because I thought Stoic Joy was an oxymoron.

I always thought that stoic meant the lack of emotion. Being that I am a very emotional person I kind of try to be stoic as part of my public persona (at least when it comes to negative emotions.) This is another reason why I was interested in this book.

I bought it and as soon as I finished reading Meta by Tom Reynolds I started to read A Guide to the Good Life by William B. Irvine. As I read through the intro I was blown away. The way the author introduced Stoicism made me feel like I was already practicing this ancient philosophy without even knowing it.

First of all he points out that most people mistakenly interpret Stoic to mean the lack of any emotion, when in fact it's actually about mastering your negative emotions in order to live a joyful life. I instantly thought that this was going to be a life changing book.

Then I got past the intro and into the actual book. It starts with a bit of a history lesson that’s pretty interesting. Though interesting I started to lose my enthusiasm. This loss of enthusiasm is not the books fault. I just got a little too excited by how much I related to the points made in the intro. I think I was overly excited to have a new label to wear, a new group that I fit in with, a potential answer. By the time I got into the actual book I was a bit more grounded.

I continued to read and was interested in the information. After the history lesson he goes into more of the Stoic Philosophy. This got me interested again, but I was no longer looking at the philosophy as something that would potentially define me and I started to pick and choose the theories I wanted to incorporate into my life a la carte style.

I finished reading the book yesterday and am happy to have read it. Do I think I'm a Stoic? I don't know. Do I think I want to be a Stoic? As I was reading the intro I did, but now I don't know. One of the things the author points out is the problems with modern man is he doesn't live by a coherent philosophy of life. I may not immerse myself in the Stoic lifestyle but I'll definitely be adding some of these techniques and theories in my own philosophy of life.

Now I’m on to Rat Race by Dick Francis, a book that’s been sitting on my bookshelf for years that I have no idea why I own it.

Book #5: Rat Race

Date: 6-8-2014

I ended up with a copy of Rat Race by Dick Francis back when my grandmother died and the family split up my grandparents personal library. I chose this book because I liked the movie Rat Race and even though I was fully aware the two had nothing in common, I was into the idea of jokingly claiming that it's the novelization of the Cuba Gooding Jr. flop.

The copy I own doesn't have a dust cover so for all I knew it could have been a novelization of the movie. After I finished reading The Art of Stoic Joy (a nonfiction book about Stoicism) I felt the need to get back to reading fiction. I looked to book shelves and there is was, Rat Race.

I didn't look in to what the story was about. I just sat down and began to read. The story didn't seem all that exciting but it was interesting. We get introduced to a pilot and his passengers as they are about to head out for a day at the horse races. We're in the head of our hero listening to his inner monologue as he makes his way through the day.

He goes about explaining his job, current living situation and insights on the ongoing events throughout the story. While searching for a photo to use for this review I noticed words like mystery, suspense, and thriller; valid descriptions but written with punctuation that wouldn't necessarily use to describe my emotions while reading this tale.

As I said, I feel this was a well written story. I love the combination of the mundane tale of this pilot working his interesting job while this interesting story breaks around him. I'm not sure if this book was more groundbreaking when it came out and I've just grown used to many of the conventions used in the telling but I never found anything to be all that shocking or mysterious.

The scheme that's supposed to build the mystery isn't all that impressive and the author doesn't take full advantage of the potential red herrings. There were times that I thought he was setting something up only to have the moment pass and never be mentioned again. There were even a few points where the character summarizes what I thought were  important conversations in passing as if in a rush to get to the next segment.

As I write this review I can't help but think it sounds like I hated this book but I swear is not the case. I'm more of a character person than an event person and feel Dick Francis does a great job creating interesting, believable characters that I'd be willing to follow on an average trip to the grocery store. Of course they would have to be explaining their perspective on whatever run of the mill situation that may come about as they shop but his characters are unique and interesting enough that I'd be willing to take that ride.

I doubt that I'll ever read anything else from Dick Francis and I'm sure that you'll never over hear me saying that Rat Race is a must read, but I'm happy to have read it and though it didn't trigger any real suspense in my experience, I understand the more enthusiastic reviews that I stumbled upon while searching for the image above.

This makes five books in a little over five months! My next review will be The Sirens of Titan by Kurt Vonnegut Jr. Stay tuned!!!

Book #6: The Sirens of Titan

Date: 7-6-2014

The Sirens of Titan is the third book that I've read by Kurt Vonnegut Jr. I think I've discovered my new favorite author. I only fully remember one story from Welcome to the Monkey House and I loved Breakfast of Champions.

I also started to read the book God Bless You Mr. Rosewater but never got around to finishing it. I got a new job and stopped riding the bus. When I stopped riding the bus I stopped reading. However I did like what I read of God Bless You Mr. Rosewater.

I never mentioned this officially but I'm not going to read more than one book by any given author during my "Every day get at least a half hours’ worth of book reading in" resolution. As soon as I finish this resolution I hope to continue this daily habit and once that happens I think I'm going to try to read everything written by Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

If you don't know me, I'm kind of obsessed with finding connections within my own stories. In my new writings I intentionally add connections but all of the connections in my old work are purely coincidental. Well, coincidental and the fact that these connections are my attempts to work through my issues, so my stories evolve to the same pattern as my life.

In the limited writings that I've read from Kurt Vonnegut Jr. I'm beginning to sense that he did the same thing. It was interesting to see the connections between The Sirens of Titan and the Harrison Bergeron story in Welcome to the Monkey House. I also remember there being some connections between Breakfast of Champions and God Bless You Mr. Rosewater.

This Vonnegut megaverse is probably something that is common knowledge and overly discussed amongst the literate but it's new to me and I can wait to dig deeper. If I am right, I can't wait to one day see the full picture of The Sirens of Titan.

Book #7: Wishful Drinking

Date: 7-14-2014

The closest I've ever come to really "making it" as a screenwriter was about ten years ago when I wrote a script with a specific actor in mind. This actor's management was interested leading the project to get mentioned on my favorite morning talk radio show. This mention landed me a literary agent and a scholarship to go to film school to really learn how to write.

Since then I've been a struggling dreamer trying to get by.

Sorry if I'm being repetitive but I've been writing screenplays for more than sixteen years and have recently decided to take a break in order to rethink my strategy. Up until now I've written an average of a feature and a half a year since discovering my love of the form.

A couple months ago I decided that I couldn't let this be the year that ruins my average so I came up with a story idea and made Resolution #143.

The story I have in mind is about an older female writer. I wanted to retry the technique of writing this script with a specific actress in mind to see if lightning could strike twice, but I had no actress in mind.

I turn to an old friend to see if she had any suggestion.

She listed off a couple actresses and Carrie Fisher was the first name that stood out to me. Not because of any youthful nerd fantasy of her dancing around Jabba the Hut but because for some reason I recalled hearing that she was now writing. This led me to believe that she could be a potential fit.

When I saw that she had written an autobiography called Wishful Drinking, that was hint one that I might be right. I was excited to not only have something to read, but I'd also be able to call it research.

I knew right I away that if I am in fact any good at what I do, Carrie Fisher would  be the perfect fit for the story I have in mind.

She starts the book by questioning her identity and reality from having been raised by famous parents who were just parent parents to her because that was all she knew. This questioning of identity and reality has become a big part of my writing ever since I wrote a screenplay called EST (Electric Shock Therapy or Eternal Soul Transfer, depending on whether or not you believe the character in the story is actually crazy.)

As I started to think how fitting this identity/reality connection was I turned the page and...

...BAM...

I'm reading Carrie Fisher explain how her memory is spotty because of ECT (ElectroConvulsive Therapy.) I was blown away because I had no idea.

I continued to be blown away as I read page after page how the real life Princess Leia is pretty much the female version of the Doug character that I write, who is a fictionalized version of myself.

Whether or not this leads to anything, reading Wishful Drinking was an amazing experience. I don't even know how to recommend it because there's no way anyone else would be able to read it with the same thrill of experiencing uncanny connection after uncanny connection and not in a delusional crazy person kind of way.

Well, partially but it's a safe delusionally crazy.

Even though you may not experience Wishful Drinking that same way as me, I figure that you are here. If you are here then I figure that you enjoy reading a crazy person's insights on their own life and therefore would also enjoy Wishful Drinking by Carrie Fisher.

Book #8: The Year of Living Biblically

Date: 9-7-2014

Even before I started this blog I've been really into long term, immersive, experimentation. I've lived on nothing but eggs for six months, I tried to develop an underbite for about a year, I watched the same Einstein Documentary every night for a little over five years, and many more self-challenges.

I discovered The Year of Living Biblically by A.J. Jacobs in the middle of my six month long vegan experiment. I was excited to read a fellow experimenter's take on what it's like to emerge one's self into this type of long term challenge.

I think I got about 50 pages in and gave up.

I loved what I was reading but was a very lazy reader at the time.

I'm kind of glad it worked out that way because there was a lot more that I related to reading it in the midst of this resolution experiment.

First off, I really like the way that A.J. Jacobs set himself up as an atheist out of indifference instead of an antithesis ready to pick the bible apart.

He did it in a way so that I believed him.

I felt he was very open to both sides of the possible outcome. He never seems to cherry pick from the bible to prove his point. If he did he would always share the counter-argument without judgment.

I liked this book on four levels.

  1. The story of A.J.'s experience living biblically by traveling to witness first hand, some holy event.
  2. The story of the relationship between him and his wife and child.
  3. The story of the research.
  4. The behind the scenes story following the phases of acceptance and his feelings toward the experiment itself.

Because of my own experiment, #4 was my favorite storyline.

I've fully been through many of the phases he went through. The excitement at the beginning, the getting used to it, your friends finally catching on that your for real, questioning if it's really worth it to continue on, on the verge of quitting then thinking about the regret you would have quitting this late into the project, back to enthusiasm, seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, separation anxiety as you continue toward the end, then bursting through to then suffer a few months of confused depression.

What do I do now?

I think The Year of Living Biblically by A.J. Jacobs is my favorite of the books I've read so far. I really like Mr. Jacobs writing voice and can't wait for this experiment to be over so I can read his other books.

Book #9: Catch 22

Date: 1-27-2015

Several years ago I listened to the audiobook version of Catch-22 while I was at work. I found it to be a great listen, so once I determined I'd be reading on a daily basis I figured I'd read the actual book to see if there was anything I missed in the verbal telling of the story.

I mentioned in the initial reading resolution that, due to my dyslexia, I'm a bit of a slow reader. When I opened the physical book I was instantly intimidated by how dark with ink the pages seemed to be.

Being that I'm used to spacious formatting from reading screenplays I wasn't really looking forward to getting into this book. Other than the dense layout I was hoping to enjoy the story.

The problem is, I already knew the story, so this led me to lose some of the incentive needed to put in the extra time to trudge along and finish reading in a reasonable amount of time.

I admit that the half hour a day I spent with this book wasn't filled with reading. I often found myself just staring at the page taking a waking nap as I waited for the time to sound.

I wish I would have given up on this book earlier than I did, again, not that I don't like the story I just think that I could have read a couple books in the time it took me to not even make it through Catch-22 all the way once.

The Conclusion.

Date: 1-27-2015

Well, I did it! I read from a book for at least a half hour a day for an entire year. This is another one of those resolutions that I'm going to try to stick to. I doubt that it will be daily, especially minus the pressure of having this blog to answer to but I do always want to have at least one book that I'm in the process of reading from hear on out.

The next book I'm going to read is Travels With Donkey by RL Stevenson.

I'll let you know what I think when I'm done.

Matt Bunker

I started out with a goal of becoming a paid screenwriter. I had no interest in any other aspect of filmmaking. I received and scholarship to The Vancouver Film School's Writing for Film and Television program where I graduated in 2005. I fell in love with being on set during my first non-school produced short, . I loved being around all the creative people, seeing people having fun while working. The whole liking your job was a new world to me, so I decided to give it a shot. I volunteered for any project I could, doing what ever was needed. The set was my Film School this time. While working as a PA on a feature I was informed that the DP wanted the three tallest PAs to help out in the grip and electric department. That is when I found the department that felt like the best fit for me while I continued to write.