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Books for Your Friends, Written by Mine
December 17, 2011  | By David Bianculli  | 2 comments

As one final push for holiday gift suggestions, this weekend I'm recommending a handful of new books (and one e-book) I like a lot. And all of these 2011 books, in addition to being excellent reads, have one other thing in common: They're all written by friends of mine. Descriptions of the books, and the friendships, follow...

Anastasia, George, and Glen Macnow. The Ultimate Book of Gangster Movies.


Published just a few months ago, this 2011 compendium is a super-smart, superbly entertaining list, and analysis, of "The 100 Greatest Gangster Films of All Time." I'm reading the entire thing in order, enjoying every word, and learning from quite a few of them -- and I'm only up to #40, Miller's Crossing.

Anastasia is a veteran crime reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer, and Macnow, who's as knowledgable about movies as he is about sports and business, is a friend of mine going back to our days together at the Fort Lauderdale News and Sun-Sentinel, back in the late 1970s. he once complimented my Dictionary of Teleliteracy, or thought he had, by calling it "the ultimate bathroom book." And that's just what I think of their book, and where I keep it. And that is intended as a compliment.

Get more information, or buy the book, HERE.


Battaglio, Stephen. From Yesterday to TODAY: Six Decades of America's Favorite Morning Show.

Battaglio and I used to work together, for a while, at the New York Daily News, where he was a TV reporter to my TV critic. He's been at TV Guide for a long time now, and this book brings his no-nonsense style and informed historical perspective to this new history of TV's most durable morning talk show.

If you're a fan of this show -- and millions are, more than flock to any of its competitors -- this book makes a great gift, and is unusually generous when it comes to pictures. From Dave Garroway to Matt Lauer, it's all right here.

Get more information, or buy the book, HERE.

Bauer, Paul J., and Mark Dawidziak. Jim Tully: American Writer, Irish Rover, Hollywood Brawler.


This book isn't about TV -- but it is, in part, about movies, and it is co-written by Mark Dawidziak, a TV critic and long-time friend, who replaced me when I left Ohio's Akron Beacon Journal in 1983.

The subject of this biography is Jim Tully, who wrote novels and magazine articles with Ernest Hemingway's brevity and honesty long before Hemingway did, whose adventures included riding the rails, boxing, and befriending everyone from Charlie Chaplin and Jack Dempsey to W.C. Fields and Damon Runyon.

Tully's books -- long-forgotten gems, each and every one -- are a great read. And so is Jim Tully, the tale of a man talented enough to attract and impress some of the greatest artists of his time, and stubborn and scrupulous enough to eventually be rejected by them. Read this biography, and you'll be driven straight to Tully's novels -- which Bauer and Dawidziak also are releasing, in newly published versions to present Tully to a new generation.

Get more information, or buy the book, HERE.


Hill, Doug, and Jeff Weingrad. Saturday Night: A Backstage History of Saturday Night Live.

This is the only book on this list that wasn't published for the first time in 2011. The original publication date for this seminal book on NBC's Saturday Night Live was in 1986, when its authoritative history of the show's first 10 years was an instant bestseller.

But this weekend, Saturday Night is being published in e-book form for the first time, so it counts. Weingrad was my first TV editor when I joined the New York Daily News in 1993 -- where my colleagues included TV critic Eric Mink, an occasional correspondent for TV WORTH WATCHING, and reporter-editor Christy Slewinski, now this site's social media guru.

In any event, the book -- or the e-book -- is worth a revisit. Hill and Weingrad did an impressive amount of reporting, and caught everyone involved, onstage and off, early enough so they would talk freely about all the inspirations, quarrels, romances and drug use. There have been plenty of books on SNL since, but there's never been a better one.

Get more information HERE -- the e-publisher, UntreedReads.com, should post links imminently on all manner of e-book platforms. On Amazon, the Kindle version is available already, and you can buy it HERE.

Holbrook, Hal. Harold.


Hal Holbrook is a friend only in the most casual sense: I've interviewed him on NPR's Fresh Air with Terry Gross and for my own Dangerously Funny book on the Smothers Brothers, attended several of his Mark Twain Tonight performances and said hello afterward, and attended some of the same Mark Twain academic conferences.

And, thanks to the aforementioned Mark Dawidziak, who IS a close friend of Holbrook's, I've had a lunch with the man, who's utterly, effortlessly charming, intelligent, passionate and honest.

All those qualities run throughout his biography, which is so detailed and deliberate that this first volume in his story ends in 1959, at the moment of his first stage triumph on the New York stage, impersonating Mark Twain in the one-man show he still performs, more than half a century later.

Holbrook wrote every word, and it's easy to tell. He lets you know exactly what he thinks, fears and wants at every turn, and it's one of the most unguarded, well-written show-business biographies I've ever read. Subtitled The Boy Who Became Mark Twain, it makes you impatient waiting for Volume 2.

Get more information, or buy the book, HERE.


Lomke, Evander, and Martin Rowe. Right Off the Bat: Baseball, Cricket, Literature, & Life.

This book's only connection to TV is when it describes, and quotes from, various boyhood and more modern broadcasts of baseball. And cricket. Because the whole idea of this clever book is to have a lover of baseball (Lomke, from the Bronx) and cricket (Rowe, from England, now in Brooklyn) try to explain their cherished sports, and what makes them exciting, to the other.

It's funny, it's informative -- and, in the hands of these two, it's wonderfully literate. When I met these two, they worked at Continuum Publishing Company in New York, which published my Teleliteracy: Taking Television Seriously in 1992 and its "bathroom book" companion, Dictionary of Teleliteracy, in 1996.

Lomke was my editor, and an invaluable guide and advisor, on both, and Rowe's contributions as a manuscript reader were equally smart. Both of them made my books better, and I didn't even have to return the favor on theirs.

It's good already.

Get more information, or buy the book, HERE.

And if it's too late to get these as holiday gifts for others, you can always get some of them for yourself...


1 Comment


Mac said:

Another thumbs up for the Gangster flick tome by George & Glen. On the interview circuit, these guys sound like a couple of guys in a good discussion at the local watering hole. Buying the book is like the reader buying a couple of rounds and getting to eavesdrop. Anastasia has covered the real mob scene (even if it has been the Philly gang that couldn't shoot straight), so he knows the truth, and it's rewarding to hear Macnow on some other subject than Philly sports. Debatable? Godfather I over II? That's part of the fun. They may get the reader to track down "Friends of Eddie Coyle" and see Peter Boyle (real Philadelphians know him as Uncle Pete's kid) steal scenes.

Comment posted on December 18, 2011 7:26 AM
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This is very educational content and written well for a change. It's nice to see that some people still understand how to write a quality post!
Jul 9, 2023   |  Reply
Hey David, I just saw your write-up of our Saturday Night Live book. Thanks so much for that -- much appreciated! I would like to send you a copy of my new book on technology (web link above is to the publisher's catalog page), coming out Oct. 15 -- send me your address if you would like one. Thanks again for the nice mention of Saturday Night.
Sep 20, 2016   |  Reply
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