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Holiday Gift Guide: Books and Graphic Novels

Christmas is drawing ever closer. With that in mind, I thought I would try and do a series of gift guides to inspire you and point out some bits and pieces you may not be aware of.

Instead of lumping them all into one huge post, I am going to break them down into different groups – board games, roleplaying games, books, film and then one with all the things that didn’t fit into any of them. You can also order film-themed T-Shirts, mugs, hoodies and the like over at the Live for Films store.

This time I will be recommending books. Some will be film related, some will be ones I have just enjoyed.

Thank you for supporting Live for Films (LFF) when you order using any of the Amazon links below. As an Amazon Associate LFF earns from qualifying purchases. If you are using an adblocker you will not see the link.

Two Weeks in the Midday Sun: A Cannes Notebook by Roger Ebert

I love this book and read it during a lovely walk this summer when I went to various pubs and read a few chapters at each one. A lovely slice of what it was like to be at the Canne Film Festival.

More about people than movies, this book is an intimate, quirky, and witty account of the parade of personalities attending the 1987 festival—Ebert’s twelfth, and the fortieth anniversary of the event. A wonderful raconteur with an excellent sense of pacing, Ebert presents lighthearted ruminations on his daily routine and computer troubles alongside more serious reflection on directors such as Fellini and Coppola, screenwriters like Charles Bukowski, actors such as Isabella Rossellini and John Malkovich, the very American press agent and social maverick Billy “Silver Dollar” Baxter, and the stylishly plunging necklines of yore. He also comments on the trajectory of the festival itself and the “enormous happiness” of sitting, anonymous and quiet, in an ordinary French café. And, of course, he talks movies.

Illustrated with Ebert’s charming sketches of the festival and featuring both a new foreword by Martin Scorsese and a new postscript by Ebert about an eventful 1997 dinner with Scorsese at Cannes, Two Weeks in the Midday Sun is a small treasure, a window onto the mind of this connoisseur of criticism and satire, a man always so funny, so un-phony, so completely, unabashedly himself.


Garth Marenghi’s TerrorTome

The true master of horror has returned! I always loved Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace TV show so when this new book came out I had to get it. I was not disappointed. Absolutely hilarious.

When horror writer Nick Steen gets sucked into a cursed typewriter by the terrifying Type-Face, Dark Lord of the Prolix, the hellish visions inside his head are unleashed for real. Forced to fight his escaping imagination – now leaking out of his own brain – Nick must defend the town of Stalkford from his own fictional horrors, including avascular-necrosis-obsessed serial killer Nelson Strain and Nick’s dreaded throppleganger, the Dark Third.

Can he and Roz, his frequently incorrect female editor, hunt down these incarnate denizens of Nick’s rampaging imaginata before they destroy Stalkford, outer Stalkford and possibly slightly further?

From the twisted genius of horror master Garth Marenghi – Frighternerman, Darkscribe, Doomsage (plus Man-Shee) – come three dark tales from his long-lost multi-volume epic: TerrorTome.

Can a brain leak?
(Yes, it can)


Cinema Speculation by Quentin Tarantino

I enjoyed Tarantino’s novel of Once Upon A Time In Hollywood, but this new book is his first work of nonfiction.

In addition to being among the most celebrated of contemporary filmmakers, Quentin Tarantino is possibly the most joyously infectious movie lover alive. For years he has touted in interviews his eventual turn to writing books about films.

Now, with CINEMA SPECULATION, the time has come, and the results are everything his passionate fans – and all movie lovers – could have hoped for.

Organized around key American films from the 1970s, all of which he first saw as a young moviegoer at the time, this book is as intellectually rigorous and insightful as it is rollicking and entertaining.

At once film criticism, film theory, a feat of reporting, and wonderful personal history, it is all written in the singular voice recognizable immediately as QT’s and with the rare perspective about cinema possible only from one of the greatest practitioners of the artform ever.


We Are the Mutants: The Battle for Hollywood from Rosemary’s Baby to Lethal Weapon by Kelly Roberts, Michael Grasso, Richard McKenna.

A fascinating dive into the history of America and how events can influence films and vice versa.

An offbeat odyssey through the most daring and disruptive phase of American cinema since the advent of sound ― during the most transformative and tumultuous period of American history since the Civil War.

We Are the Mutants is a critical reassessment of what is arguably the most discussed and beloved stretch of movies in Hollywood history.

Documenting the period between the arrival of US combat troops in Vietnam and the end of President Ronald Reagan’s second term, the book forgoes the usual and restrictive exemplars of “auteur cinema,” and instead focuses on an eclectic selection of films and genres ― horror, documentary, disaster, vigilante action, neo-noir, post-apocalyptic sci-fi ― to track this period’s tumultuous transformation in American life, culture, and politics.

By exploring cult classics like The Texas Chain Saw Massacre and Escape from New York, as well as studio blockbusters like The Exorcist and Fatal Attraction, We Are the Mutants rewrites the history of modern American cinema and, in doing so, the history of America itself.


Predator: If It Bleeds

If you watched the recent Prey movie and thought about other times and places that the Predator could show up then this book, and Predator: Eyes of the Demon, are just what you want. Featuring tales from various authors they have the Predator showing up in the past, present and future. Many of them are also told from the viewpoint of the Predator and we get a good look at their society.

Over the centuries, extraterrestrial hunters of the Yautja race also known as the Predators have encountered (and stalked) humans on Earth and in the depths of space. Offered here are sixteen all-new stories of such hunts, written by many of today s most extraordinary authors: Kevin J. Anderson, Jennifer Brozek, Larry Correia, Mira Grant, Tim Lebbon, Jonathan Maberry, Andrew Mayne, Weston Ochse, S. D. Perry, Steve Perry, Jeremy Robinson, John Shirley, Bryan Thomas Schmidt and Holly Roberds, Peter J. Wacks and David Boop, Wendy N. Wagner, Dayton Ward.

Inspired by the events of the original Predator movies, graphic novels, and novels, these adventures pit hunter against prey in life-and-death struggles where there can be only one victor.


Harrow County Omnibus Volume 1

Beautiful artwork showing terrible things in this delightful horror themed comic from Tyler Crook and Cullen Bunn. Full of great characters, creepy monsters and an intiguing story that builds and builds. All wrapped up in painted artwork that evokes Norman Rockwell Americana.

Emmy always knew that the woods surrounding her home crawled with ghosts and monsters. But on the eve of her eighteenth birthday, she learns that she is connected to these creatures—and to the land itself—in a way she never imagined.

Collects issues 1-16 of Harrow County.

Harrow County began as a serialized prose story called Countless Haints, written by Cullen Bunn and released on his website. Countless Haints ran for ten chapters before it was retired. Later the story was repurposed as an ongoing comic with artist and co-creator Tyler Crook. The main character Madrigal was renamed Emmy, the time period was shifted from present day to the 1930s, and the location was changed from Ahmen’s Landing to Harrow County.


Dead Leaves by Andrew David Barker

Set during the era when “video nasties” were banned in the UK the book follows a group of friends trying to watch The Evil Dead. It took me back to being a kid and is a love letter to films, video shops, horror movies and friendships from long ago.

Here is what Andrew David Barker had to say about it.

This book is my love letter to the horror genre. It is about what it means to be a horror fan; about how the genre can nurture an adolescent mind; how it can be a positive force in life.This book is set during a time when horror films were vilified in the press and in parliament like never before. It is about how being a fan of so-called ‘video nasties’ made you, in the eyes of the nation, a freak, a weirdo, or worse, someone who could actually be a danger to society. I wanted to address that. Show how a love – a pure love – for a piece of art can make a young man want to better himself; how being inspired by a certain film – in this case, The Evil Dead – can propel someone to want to break out of his class, out of his town and out of his limited prospects, and be set on a path of creating a life for himself. A positive, creative, and fulfilling life.

This book is partly autobiographical, set in a time when Britain seemed to be a war with itself. It is a working class story about hope.

All writers, filmmakers, musicians, painters – artists of any kind –were first inspired to create their own work by the guiding light of another’s. The first spark that sets them on their way. This book is about that spark


Kali by Daniel Freedman and Robert Sammelin

A revenge story set in a lawless world. A mix of D.O.A., Kill Bill, Mad Max and more. A thrill ride of a graphic novel that pulls no punches and has some spectacular art.

Stabbed in the back, poisoned, and left for dead by her own biker gang, Kali sets off on a one-way road of vengeance across a war-torn desert battlefield.

With impending death coursing through her veins and a fascist army hot on her tail, Kali will stop at nothing to get her revenge, even if it’s the last thing she ever does.

A nonstop high-octane existential action spectacle from writer Daniel Freedman and artist Robert Sammelin.

I suspect this will be adapted for the big screen at some point.


Blood is on the Grass by John Bleasdale

A fascinating novel that looks at the events leading up to the Peterloo massacre.

16th August 1819: a peaceful demonstration in Manchester is attacked by armed cavalry and the local militia, killing dozens and injuring hundreds. Having fought and bled for Wellington in Belgium, Silas Paterson finds himself on the street. Traumatised by his war time experience, he slides into a life of alcoholism and beggary. Rescued by an old comrade, Silas finds work as a weaver in Oldham, but as his interest in the nascent working class movement begins, have his motives changed or is he still a loyal subject of the crown? With hope in her heart, Annie Fildes and her husband move to the new town of Manchester to escape the poverty of the village. Here, however, she will be caught in an industrial machine that grinds down her fresh, bold spirit. Will she succeed in making a life for herself or will she become one more statistic in a savage market place? From the killing fields of Waterloo to the dark heart of the industrial revolution, Blood is on the Grass is an astonishing debut novel that recounts the events leading up to the Peterloo massacre and the thrilling story of individuals caught in a turbulent period of history.


Butcher’s Crossing by John Williams

A stunning and bloody novel set during the time when the American West was changing. It shows how the land can change a man as he changes it.

It has been adapted into a forthcoming film starring Nicolas Cage, Xander Berkely, Fred Hechinger and Rachel Keller.

Will Andrews is no academic. He longs for wildness, freedom, hope and vigour. He leaves Harvard and sets out for the West to discover a new way of living.

In a small town called Butcher’s Crossing he meets a hunter with a story of a lost herd of buffalo in a remote Colorado valley, just waiting to be taken by a team of men brave and crazy enough to find them. Will makes up his mind to be one of those men, but the journey, the killing, harsh conditions and sheer hard luck will test his mind and body to their limits.


You’ve Got Red on You: How Shaun of the Dead Was Brought to Life by Clark Collis

A deep dive into the making of one of the many brilliant films from Edgar Wright. A great read and the book itself is just lovely.

How did a low-budget British movie about Londoners battling zombies in a pub become a beloved global pop culture phenomenon?

You’ve Got Red on You details the previously untold story of 2004’s Shaun of the Dead, the hilarious, terrifying horror-comedy whose fan base continues to grow and grow. After speaking with dozens of people involved in the creation of the film, author Clark Collis reveals how a group of friends overcame seemingly insurmountable odds to make a movie that would take bites out of both the UK and the US box office before ascending to the status of bona fide comedy classic.

Featuring in-depth interviews with director Edgar Wright, producer Nira Park, and cast members Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Kate Ashfield, Bill Nighy, Lucy Davis, and Coldplay singer Chris Martin, the book also boasts a treasure trove of storyboards, rare behind-the-scenes photos, and commentary from famous fans of the movie, including filmmakers Quentin Tarantino and Eli Roth, Walking Dead executive producer Greg Nicotero, and World War Z author Max Brooks.

As Pegg’s zombie-fighting hero Shaun would say, “How’s that for a slice of fried gold?”


Saga by Brian K Vaughan & Fiona Staples

An epic sci-fi tale of love, family, friendship, aliens, war, childhood and more. So much to see on every beautiful page in a story full of surprises, heartbreak and humour.

When two soldiers from opposite sides of a never-ending galactic war fall in love, they risk everything to bring a fragile new life into a dangerous old universe. From New York Times bestselling writer Brian K. Vaughan (Y: The Last Man, Ex Machina) and critically acclaimed artist Fiona Staples (Mystery Society, North 40), Saga is the sweeping tale of one young family fighting to find their place in the worlds. Fantasy and science fiction are wed like never before in this sexy, subversive drama for adults.

Winner of the 2013 Hugo award for Best Graphic Story. Voted one of the top graphic novels of the year by the NYT, IGN, the Examiner, and SF Weekly. Voted Best Comic of the year by MTV Geek and Best New Series by Paradox Comics. Voted a finalist in the GoodReads Best GN of 2012 contest.


Well Documented: The Essential Documentaries that Prove the Truth is More Fascinating than Fiction by by Ian Haydn Smith

One of those books you can dip into whenever you have a spare moment and learn about a new documentary that you then want to immediately sit down and watch.

This fascinating book from veteran film journalist Ian Haydn Smith, with a foreword from award-winning director Asif Kapadia, explores 100 of the most compelling documentaries, each with the power to radically change our perceptions and challenge the way we see the world.

Every so often a documentary comes along with the power to change the way you think, to share alternative perspectives, to make you furious about injustice or warm your heart.

Contained in this book are documentaries that fulfil these criteria and astound viewers around the world; real-life stories to stop you in your tracks, bring tears to your eyes and put your heart in your mouth.

From Barbara Kopple’s Oscar-winning gritty depiction of working class America in Harlan County, USA to James Marsh’s breathtaking Man on Wire, from powerful sporting tales such as Touching the Void to stories of true crimes and their repercussions such as Making a Murderer, this book delves deep into how these films were made, what makes them great, and also what other films you might like if you loved these ones.

From Oscar winners to unseen gems from the Netflix vaults, international filmmakers to true crime, sport and culture stories, every documentary featured will make you think,make you feel and make you tell people, “You NEED to see this film.”


There you have it. Just a few recommendations, but feel free to share some of the books and graphic novels you love in the comments below.

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