Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris (2000)

Me Talk Pretty One Day is a series of funny essays by David Sedaris. In the first half of the book, he recounts humorous anecdotes about his life in the United States, but my favorite is an essay about his time living in France and trying to learn French with transplants from around the world. The class eagerly attempts, in very broken French, to try to describe to a Muslim woman what Easter is. It is one of the funniest things I have ever read.

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury (1953)

The first thing you will notice about this book is the excellent writing. I think Ray Bradbury could write a book about paint drying and make it come to life. Fahrenheit 451 takes place in a futuristic world where firemen exist not to put out fires, but rather to start them. In particular, all books and all literature are hunted down and burned while people mindlessly stare into television screens all day.

Until recently, Guy Montag was happy being a fireman, but when his wife attempts suicide and his neighbor disappears mysteriously, Guy secretly begins hiding books. When he is discovered, he must run for his life.
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A Fish Called Wanda (1988) R

This is a laugh-out-loud movie from start to finish. Otto (Kevin Kline) and his girlfriend Wanda (Jamie Lee Curtis) team up with Ken (Michael Palin) and Tom Georgeson to rob a jewelry store. When Tom is arrested, the others scramble to find where he has hidden the loot.

While Wanda woos Tom’s lawyer Archie (John Cleese) to find out the location of the jewels, Ken, who has an uncontrollable stutter, goes through many hilarious, botched attempts to kill the one witness to the crime. Kevin Kline steals the show, though, in his Academy Award winning role as the mindless thug, Otto. A Fish Called Wanda is a must see!
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The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster (1961)

Norton Juster’s The Phantom Tollbooth is a word lover’s paradise which both children and adults can enjoy. The story follows Milo, a boy with not much interest in anything, through a mysterious tollbooth into a magical land where he must try to reconcile the differences between the land of Dictionopolis (which holds words most dear) and Digitopolis (a kingdom ruled by numbers). Only by rescuing the princesses Rhyme and Reason can Milo end the discord dividing the kingdoms. It is a fun adventure for everyone as Milo learns to find delight in the world around him.

The Lottery by Shirley Jackson (1948)

This eerie short story will make you question your faith in any long standing traditions. The whole town has gathered for the annual lottery, but no one seems too happy about it. There is a general uneasiness about the crowd which Jackson masterfully cultivates until the final shocking moment. You will never look at your neighbors the same again. Check out The Lottery today.

Dave (1993) PG-13

When the president of the United States has a stroke while engaging in extramarital activities, his aides avoid a scandal by finding a good-natured look-alike named Dave (Kevin Kline) to take his place. Not beholden to any special interests, Dave starts doing things that are good for the country rather than doing what is politically savvy. His approval rating goes way up, and the country loves him.

Things start to go sour, though, when the president’s aides realize he will not do their evil bidding, and the first lady (Sigourney Weaver) starts to realize that Dave is not the man she married. Dave is one of those feel good movies that makes you smile for a long time after it’s over.

http://youtu.be/PTTe-rxTyh0

The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde (1895)

Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest is a ridiculously funny play that will make you laugh out loud. It starts with two English gentlemen (Jack and Algernon) discussing how they each have one identity for the city and an alias for the country. Jack uses his city alias (Ernest) to woo his true love, but he has no money to secure a marriage, and living the double life is starting to catch up with him. Jack decides he may have to “kill” off Ernest, but not before Algernon has a little fun himself. This is a masterpiece of mistaken identities and a lot of fun.
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Frankenstein by Mary Shelley (1818)

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley is one of those timeless classics that is best read on a dark night. The plot is familiar to most people thanks to television and the movies: Doctor Frankenstein works secretly in his laboratory to bring to life a slow, dim-witted monster. Imagine, if you will, that the monster is not dull, but rather a genius who can move at incredible speed and he is coming after you! Is there any place on Earth that you could hide?

Cyrano de Bergerac (1950)

Cyrano de Bergerac is one of those great movies that combines adventure with excellent dialogue. Cyrano is a soldier in the French army in 1640 and is both feared and respected for his skill as a swordsman. Despite his military prowess and clever tongue, he is unable to win over his true love because of his misgivings about his extraordinarily long nose. Instead, he helps a young, handsome cadet woo the love of his life in his place.

The movie is at times funny, exciting, suspenseful, and ultimately tragic. It features the brilliant acting of Jose Ferrer, with his deep booming voice, who won the Academy Award for best actor for his role. The movie Roxanne (1987) with Steve Martin is a modern day remake of this classic.

Watch the original trailer (courtesy of TCM).

No Easy Day by Mark Owen and Kevin Maurer (2012)

No Easy Day is a firsthand account of the mission that killed Osama Bin Laden from the point of view of the Navy SEALs who were there. The story begins as the team is about to fast rope down into the Bin Laden compound when the helicopter starts to spin out of control headed for an inevitable crash. Mark Owen then backtracks and describes his entire training from testing to qualify as a Navy SEAL through missions in Iraq and Afghanistan. The story will capture your attention throughout, but especially at the climax as the author retraces every step of the raid that ultimately killed the most notorious terrorist of our time.
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Holes by Louis Sachar (1998)

Louis Sachar’s Holes is a young adult book with short, bite-sized chapters that make you want to read the whole thing in one sitting—and you do. It follows young Stanley Yelnats who is unjustly sent to a correctional facility in the desert, most likely on account of a 100-year-old family curse, where he is forced to dig holes to “build character.” Every detail in the book is intertwined into a well-crafted plot which bounces back and forth between the present and past. It has quickly become one of my favorite books.

After you read the book, be sure to check out the movie version of Holes.
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Sneakers (1992) PG-13

Sneakers, which has a star-studded cast, including Robert Redford, Sidney Poitier, and Ben Kingsley, is a fun thriller that will keep you stuck to your seat. College age Marty (Redford) and Cosmo (Kingsley) are computer hackers—Cosmo is caught and sent to prison, and Marty is on the run.

Fast forward to the present where Marty has become an expert at foiling security systems such as those found in banks. Marty is given the opportunity to clear his name in exchange for stealing a certain device, but by the time he finds out what it does, it could be too late to save his own life.

Check out a series of articles in Slate as they celebrated the movie's 20th anniversary.
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It Worked for Me: In Life and Leadership by Colin Powell (2012)

This collection of hundreds of anecdotes illustrates the rules and values which helped Colin Powell rise to the highest ranks of military leadership. Not merely a primer on what it means to be a good leader, It Worked for Me, is an intimate walk through the life of a military man who also helped shape a great deal of foreign policy in recent history.

With reminiscences of encounters from Reagan to Princess Diana to foreign heads of state, the book delivers a treasure trove of interesting and unique experiences which are sure to whet the palate of any political reader.

Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand (2010)

Unbroken, read by Edward Hermann, is the bestselling story of the life of Louis Zamperini, an Olympic runner who became a bombardier in World War II, was stranded on a life boat adrift in the Pacific Ocean, and eventually captured by the Japanese. Hillenbrand, author of the bestseller Seabiscuit, is a gifted story teller who meticulously details this almost unbelievable ordeal of pain and suffering. Yes, this is truly a book about resilience, and you will find yourself riveted to your seat as you listen to this well narrated, well told, true tale.

 

Freakonomics by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner (2005)

Economist Steven Levitt’s fascinating book, Freakonomics, sets out to quantify and explain topics ranging from birth control to education, with a special emphasis on crime. The CD is read by co-author and journalist Stephen Dubner, and is exploding with so many interesting statistics that it will make your mouth water.

What makes this book special is Levitt’s unique way of taking a problem, standing it on its head, and arriving at the most unexpected conclusion. The CD goes quickly and leaves the listener wanting more. I highly recommend this title.