'' Reading books as filmmaker can be tricky,'' says the author of '' Hits, Flops and other Illusions : My Forty something Years in Hollywood. '' There's always a ... voice whispering, '' Is there a movie in it?' ''

.-  What books are on your night stand?

A night stand couldn't possibly hold them. Piles of hardcovers gather dust on the floor by my bed. Some I'll read, others I'll never get around to as they're buried under newer, shinier ones.

That said, I just finished '' The Letters of John Le Carre.'' David Cornwell's private life turns out to be as engrossing as his spy fiction.

Today, I'm lost in Jonathan Rosen's ''The Best Minds'' a moving account of a brilliant young man's schizophrenia and his childhood's friendship with the author - that's also a lament for the struggle toward mental health reform.

.-  What's your favorite book no one else has heard of ?

'' Home Fires '' [1992] by Donald Katz. With a gimlet eye for observed behavior, painstaking period detail and a generous embrace of a family's love and failings.

Katz follows a long marriage of and the odysseys of its four offspring, becoming by the end nothing less than a novelistic social history of America from the '40s through the '80s [ Then he stopped writing and created Audible.com ]

.-  Which books [ fiction or nonfiction ] best capture Hollywood as you know it ?

William Goldman's '' Adventures in the Screen trade '' is a accepted gold standard, while Mark Harris is, by my lights, the most switched-on sympathetic writer in today's Hollywood.

From days of yore, Christopher Isherwood's '' Prater Violet '' - a romantic yet stinging mix of the personal and the professional - is a favorite.

Maurice Zolotow's biography, Billy Wilder in Hollywood, '' despises the man while admitting the artist and overlaps with Otto Friedrich's '' City of Nets,'' about German and Austrian emigres lost and disoriented in 1940s L.A.

Most recently, Sam Wasson's '' The Big Goodbye '' rivals Lillian Ross's ''Picture'' in its detailed account of the making of a single movie, while David Niven's  

'' The Moon's a Balloon'' remains an innocent celebration of the sheer joy and privilege of moviemaking.

.-  What book would you most like to see that hasn't already been adapted ?

Two come to mind. Years ago, I worked with Robert Getchell [ '' Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore''] on an adaptation of Geoffrey Wolff's '' The Duke of Deception,'' a bittersweet memoir about his ne'er-do-well con artist father. I'm usually crying by Page 2.

Speaking of tears. Barry Unsworth's '' Sacred Hunger '' - about a rebellion aboard an 18th-century English slave ship and the creation of a Black and white utopian colony on an island of Florida - is an epic tragedy about an unthinkable moment that's magnificently compassionate in the telling.

Reading books as a filmmaker can be tricky. Am I experiencing them as an artist or a businessman? Is there a part for a movie star ?'' 

These days, my favorites tend to be those with no possibility of adaptation. Only then can I surrender to the spell and turn the pages one by one.

The World Students Society thanks The New York Times.


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