The Other Best Books

Best Books lists are legion at this time of year and when reading them you either smile in agreement or shake your head wondering who the idiot was who picked that stinker. So, let me add to the pile. Four of the books that I enjoyed the most this year that didn’t make LJ‘s Best list (but did make some others) are Paul Hendrickson’s Hemingway’s Boat, Jeff Guinn’s The Last Gunfight, Joe Simon & Jack Kirby’s The Simon & Kirby Library: Crime and JAWS: Memories from Martha’s Vineyard by Matt Taylor.

I’m a huge Hemingway nut and have read most of the bios that have come through here in the last 15 or so years, and they’ve been hit/miss. The man’s life has been so minutely dissected you figure there’s nothing left to say. Hendrickson’s was the most refreshing and original take on Ernesto in years. EH’s work and the events of his life have been analyzed to death, but very few of his Boswells considered what he was like as a friend, a husband, a father‚ lousy on all three counts. His tempestuous relationships with spouses and family have been well documented, but always from his perspective. Hendrickson shows what it was like on the other side. A real eye opener.

I had read other books about the OK Corral, but Jeff Guinn’s The Last Gunfight was by far the most detailed, informative, and interesting. He provides wonderful historical background on the town of Tombstone, AZ, and on the Earps and the Clantons and the other members of the Cowboys who died in the infamous shootout. His portrait of Wyatt Earp is worth the price of the book alone.

Alas, Joe Simon passed away last December, but he lived long enough to see himself on the NY Times bestseller list. Not too many other comics’ guys can match that. The fact that his and Jack Kirby’s work is held in esteem by so many fans must also have been heartening. Titan Books’s The Simon & Kirby Library series offers glorious reproductions of their comics in top-quality hardcovers. The latest addition to the series, Crime, is outstanding and a highlight of the year.

There are movie books and there are movie books. Loads of them come through here during the year, and I look through piles of them. Some are better than others, but Matt Taylor’s JAWS: Memories from Martha’s Vineyard was up here compared to the rest. It unfurls the film’s production through the eyes of all the locals who either appeared in the film as actors and extras or worked on the film as carpenters, boat wranglers, etc. All the inside stories are great, but the books also sports more than 1000 never before seen pix shot by the townspeople. Some absolute killer stuff. JAWS has a solid cult following and this book was a gift from heaven for fans.

Michael Rogers About Michael Rogers

Michael Rogers ( is Media Editor, Library Journal and Managing Editor of LJ Reviews.