Showing posts with label Top 20. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Top 20. Show all posts

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

20 Books and Films That Helped Shape This Baby Boomer's Life

We all have books and films that evoke something of the past in us. When we think of them we are reminded of a moment in time. 

But there are also books and films that did something more...changed us in some ways or added a new layer to our lives. 

These books and films are not necessarily on any "best lists" or necessarily highly rated.  I have different lists for that. 

These are films and books that helped shape my life or changed me in some way.
(In a somewhat chronological order)


1.  I have to start with a book that I now can't find. 

I know I was in middle school or early high school and was at my friend Linda's house.  Her parents had a book on their bookshelf called something like "100 Masterpieces of World Literature."  This would have been the late 1950's or early 1960's, so it wouldn't have any titles published beyond that.  I remember it listed "Alice Adams" by Booth TarkingtonSomerset Maugham's "Of Human Bondage" and "Not as a Stranger" by Morton Thompson, authors not much read today. 

But that book made me want to read every one of the titles listed --  so I did. 

I started at "A" and went all the way to the end, reading my way through that list. 

It was a thrill to go to the library and search in the dark stacks for the next books on my list, finding those titles and reading  "adult" books.  And some of them were quite educational!  I was already a reader and a library user, but it fueled my desire to read books I was not familiar with and to learn about the world outside of my small town in Michigan. 

I think I might have stopped when I got to "Ulysses."
(though I read that later in life.)

2.  "Gone with the Wind" by Margaret Mitchell.


I was 12 and reading my first book over 1000+ pages. 

I was already in love with Clark Gable and had seen the movie when I was really young.  Can't remember why I wanted to read the book, but all of my friends were, possibly because the movie was coming to town again. 

With all of our technology and ability to see movies on DVD only months after their release in the theatres, we forget there was a time when, if you didn't catch the movie when it came to town, it was lost forever to you.  So "Gone with the Wind" was playing again, and there I was in the theatre, reading the last few pages of the book as the lights went down and the curtain rose.  A politically incorrect book, I know, but the character of Scarlett O'Hara was a mesmerizing one and the story riveting. 

Margaret Mitchell's life was also an interesting story, and it is amazing that this was her only published novel.  When my daughter lived in Atlanta, I toured her home and an homage site outside of town.  Neither was very impressive. 

The book and movie so affected me that I thought there would be a recreation of Tara on Peachtree Street!

3.  "Marjorie Morningstar" by Herman Wouk.

I read this in high school and as a fledgling actress it spoke to me. 

It's the story of a young girl who also wanted to be an actress.  One thing I still remember vividly in it was her saying she didn't need to be a star, but she had to try to make it as an actress or she would forever wonder if she could have.  However, she ends up a housewife in some small town.  So that was my mantra. 
"I don't care if I am a big star, but I just want to be an actress so I won't wonder what could have been." 

Guess what?  Well, I didn't end up a housewife, anyway.

4.  "What Every Driver Must Know" - State of Michigan

Not exactly a book, but reading this spelled...


(I warned you that this wasn't a critically acclaimed list!)

5.  "In Cold Blood" by Truman Capote


Not sure which came first, this book or my interest in true crime. 

But when I heard about this book and that it would be published in installments in the New Yorker, I moved heaven and earth to get copies of those installments, which wasn't easy in the pre-Internet days.  My library didn't carry the New Yorker, so I had to get photocopies through interlibrary loan.   I then read it again when it was published in hardback and that book scared the crap out of me.  To think that an innocent family like the Clutters could be living their lives out in the country in Kansas and be so brutalized was just astonishing to me.  Capote's prose was sparse but dramatic and he drew you in - you were there. 

The book was so riveting I have since been a fan of true crime, but I am also now afraid to be alone at night.

6.  "Primary Philosophy" by Michael Scriven.

Philosophy 101 - Freshman year. 

Though the text was not just about the existence of God, his arguments for and against faith and beliefs affected me. He argued that faith alone was not an adequate way to prove the truth of beliefs.  

My father was a Christian Scientist and my mother was a Lutheran.  I went to church every Sunday, mostly at the Christian Science Church.  My father felt he didn't ask much of us so he expected we would do that for him, get up and go to church.  So we did. 

When I went to college, I took advantage of being away from home to not have to get up on Sunday morning and go to church as I had for the last 15+ years.  But  I can't remember how fervent my beliefs were when I went to college, though I believed in God.  Reading this text, however, made me question faith and what that meant, andthink that's what college is supposed to do, make you question things. 

Years later, I was at a party far from where I went to college and somehow this subject came up.  I was talking about how affected I had been by this book, but couldn't remember the name of the textbook or the author, but when I described it, one of the people in the discussion shouted, "Scriven!"  So I was not alone.

My son-in-law is a philosophy professor and I bought him a copy for Christmas, so I had a chance to look at it again 40+ years later.  I found it as I remembered it - asking all of the right questions.

A rational look at belief and faith.

7.  "Baby and Child Care" by Benjamin Spock

Dr. Spock's advice was still relevant in 1980 when my son was born, even though his book was first published in 1946.  Since I was born in 1948, it was probably the advice my mother took as well. 

He was the first to espouse parents being more affectionate and flexible when raising their children so most of us Baby Boomers probably benefited from his advice. However, the fact that he also was a liberal who was against the war in Vietnam led critics to brand his parenting advice as permissive and entitling, that we somehow expected instant gratification, and because of that, in turn, they blamed him for young people becoming protesters during the 60's and 70's.  Kind of a leap. 

But we Baby Boomers are getting it on both ends.  The current younger generation also blames us for the world as it is now and leaving them with school loans, a bad economy and who knows what else. 

But wait, our children were also brought up on Dr. Spock.  And aren't the Millennials (most of our children) the "Me generation?

And those children born in the 1980's constitute a birth rate almost as high as the Baby Boom generation. 

Here is what USA Today said about them in 2007:  "Developing a meaningful philosophy of life" decreased the most, across generations, from 73% for Boomers to 45% for Millennials.

"Becoming involved in programs to clean up the environment" dropped from 33% for Boomers to 21% for Millennials."

But this generation also appears to be even more liberal than us Baby Boomers, supporting gay marriage and other social issues.

I wonder what their legacy will be.

8. "The Giving Tree" by Shel Silverstein

This was a favorite book for both of my children and I am now reading it to my grandsons. 

 I defy any of you parents out there to read that thing without crying. 

My god, after giving the boy everything, her fruit, her branches, her trunk, until she was reduced to a stump...the boy came back...

–”I don’t need very much now”, said the boy. “Just a quiet place to sit and rest. I am very tired”.
–”Well”, said the tree, straightening herself up as much as she could, “well, an old stump is good for sitting and resting. Come, Boy, sit down… sit down and rest”.
And the boy did.
And the tree was happy."

Geez, I'm crying right now. I can't stand it.

9.  "Wild, From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail" by Cheryl Strayed

This is a very recent book for me but it had a profound impact. 

I tend to read mostly nonfiction these days, biographies, true crime, pop culture stuff, but this book will appeal to fiction readers as much as nonfiction readers. 

After the traumatic loss of  her mother, Strayed decides to walk the Pacific Crest Trail on her own.  She describes her day-to-day journey and it goes from harrowing to exciting to insightful. 

But the bottom line, the takeaway for me was, no matter what life throws at you, keep putting one foot in front of the other.

10.  Search Inside Yourself, The Unexpected Path to Achieving Success, Happiness (and World Peace) by Chade-Meng Tan.


Here is another recent find.  The author was a trainer at Google, which might explain why Google is doing so well.

It's self-help, but it's humorous and a fun read and attempts to help you deal with triggering situations.  I found this when I became interested in meditation but this goes further. 

 My big takeaway was his mnemonic.

"Siberian North Railroad" helps you remember to Stop, Breathe, Notice, Reflect, Respond when dealing with triggering events.

Try it, it works (if you can remember the mnemonic).


1.  "Gone with the Wind"

The movie had even more of an impact on me than the book. 

The film was released in 1939, but its popularity was such that it would be re-released from time to time.  My mother took me to see it when I was five and it is one of the few memories I have that far back. But it's a vivid one.  Then I saw it again in 1960 and then several times after that.

That was when I decided I wanted to be an actress and it was probably because Scarlett O'Hara got to wear so many beautiful clothes.  But hey, we all have our reasons.

2.  "Hard Day's Night"

If you have been reading my blogs, you know I am not only a huge Beatles fan but that I also feel they have great significance to the popular culture of Baby Boomers.  

In case you missed it, here is the link. 

I have probably seen this film 10 times or more.  In my youth, all I cared about was that it was about my idols.  But now, of course, it is recognized as a brilliant little film directed by acclaimed director Richard Lester. 

I think the Beatles and this film spoke to me and other Baby Boomers, because as the Wilson sisters ("Heart) said in their recent oral history with Charles Cross, "Kicking and Dreaming" , they didn't want to marry the Beatles, they wanted to BE the Beatles.  I so get that.

Though I have to say I did want to marry Paul, this film also made me want to be them, to be there (in England) and do what they did. 

3. "West Side Story"


This film changed the face of musical theatre and musical films forever.  

It was such a big event that it played in the theatres like a stage play.  My friend Linda's parents took me to Chicago with them and we saw it there.  It was the first time I had sat in a movie theatre while an overture was played, with the skyline of New York City superimposed on the movie curtain.

Of course, "West Side Story" had already taken Broadway by storm, but for a girl of 12 from Michigan who didn't have a prayer in hell to get to New York City, seeing this movie was a revelation. It took on social issues, combined those with a classic story, and a sublime score and lyrics by Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim.  It was gritty, beautiful and sad and changed my little 12-year-old self forever. 

I must have played that soundtrack thousands of times in my room, and when I die, I want "There's a Place For Us" sung at my funeral.

4.  "Citizen Kane"

Orson Welles was just too much of a genius to play the Hollywood game.  That's my theory anyway, because all of his films are classics but he didn't get to make very many, and he didn't make much money.

Citizen Kane" gave me a tutorial in the art of innovative filmmaking.  He was the first to shoot a camera looking up from below and his scenes at the breakfast table between Charles Foster Kane and his wife show the disintegration of a marriage in six short vignettes all within two and a half minutes.

Here it is.

Brilliant just brilliant.

5.  "Rebel Without a Cause"

James Dean.  Natalie Wood.  Sal Mineo.  Teenage angst.  Drag racing.  Sounds like teen spirit. What could be better when you are a teenager yourself in the late 50's and early 60's?  And then Dean was killed in a car crash. 

I was agog.

6.  Easy Rider"

And then came the 1960's version of "rebel." 

I literally let out a yell in the movie theatre at the final scene.

7"Up Series"

This incredible series of films has followed 16 British children every seven years since 1964 when they were all seven.  The first film was titled "7 Up," followed by "14 Up," "21 Up," etc.  The most recent, "56 Up," was just released this year. 

It began as a study in class where the assumption was that each child's class would predict his or her future.   The premise of the film was taken from the Jesuit motto "Give me a child until he is seven and I will give you the man", which is based on a quotation by Francis Xavier.

The aim of the series is stated at the beginning of 7 Up as: "Why do we bring these children together? Because we want to get a glimpse of England in the year 2000. The shop steward and the executive of the year 2000 are now seven years old." 

But it is a study in realism, dreams realized, dreams dashed.  We see these kids grow up before our very eyes.

Director Michael Apted has been chronicling these children's lives since the second installment for an incredible 42 years.  What a feat!

This is probably the documentary that inspired my life-long love of this genre (and why, dare I say it?  I love reality TV). 

8.  "Night and Fog"

This is also a documentary - a shocking depiction of the Nazi concentration camps shortly after the war. 

If you have any doubt the holocaust happened, you need to see this film.







9.  "Taste of Honey"

This 1961 British film, directed by Tony Richardson, father of Natasha and Joely, is part of the "kitchen sink realism" that changed the face of film.  Speaking of faces, this is when actors and actresses started to look like real people, you and me.

There was one "art house" in town and my friends and I were able to get into see the films there, even though you were supposed to be 18 (and we weren't).  I  think we had fake ID's.

Rita Tushingham starred and I related to her because it was the first time I saw a movie where the lead actress wasn't classically beautiful.  She had an odd look.  Since I wanted to be an actress but was insecure about my looks, it heartened me to see a successful actress who didn't have the classic Hollywood face.

10.  "51 Birch Street"

A son discovers the secrets of his parent's marriage after his mother dies in this documentary about  the more subtle forms of repression, secrecy and denial within a family, and the complexity of marriage. 

I remember sitting on the edge of the bed with my Dad when I was about 12 and asking him why I knew my friends better than I knew my mother and him.  He said something about parents not wanting to worry their children.  But even as a young girl, I wanted to "know" and "be known." 

As humans, I think our deepest desire is to be known by others, but we don't know how to do it. 

That's what this movie is about. Cinema verite at its best.

What books and films shaped your life? 

Let's get a discussion going!


***Rosy the Reviewer's Week in Review***


A great week for movies.


This French film was not only nominated for an Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film (which it won), but for Best Picture and Best Screenplay as well and there is a reason. 

It's a wonderful story about the love between an old couple and what happens after the wife has a stroke.  It's all about dying with dignity and what we are willing to do to make that happen. 

 I have thought about this very thing when I think about my Dad, who died at home with his loved ones around him, and my mother, who died alone in a nursing home.

Rosy the Reviewer says...a must see.  I know, you have to read subtitles but do it,  it's worth it.


This psychological thriller directed by Danny Boyle ("Slumdog Millionaire") reminded me of "Inception," with it's "is this real or imagined?" scenes.

Rosy the Reviewer says...despite some "huh?" moments, James McAvoy and Rosario Dawson are outstanding.

"Shadow Dancer"

This British-Irish drama is about Colette, a young IRA member who is arrested and given the choice of working undercover or losing her son.  Andrea Riseborough as Colette is amazing and Clive Owen is always good.

Rosy the Reviewer says...Taut thriller and I didn't see the end coming at all.


Took a break from the Bumbershoot Music Festival to have a lovely meal at the Tilikum Place Café in Seattle.  Had the most delicious hand-cut pasta in sage butter as a starter, followed by pork tenderloin on a bed of creamed corn.  Hubby had a wonderful New York steak with onion rings.  And the onion rings were done right.  Don't you hate it when you eat onion rings and when you bite into them, the onion comes out of the coating?  These didn't do that.  They were perfect.

Rosy the Reviewer says...Seattlites and visitors - this is a special place.  Don't miss it!


According to Elle Magazine, fall is all about polka dots, nautical-meets-military and surrealism.  Colors include bedazzled black, navy and pastels. 

Rosy the Reviewer dress accordingly.


I think I can manage the black and bedazzled thing.


This week it was all about Bumbershoot, the three day music and arts festival that takes over Seattle every year over the Labor Day weekend.  We attended on Saturday with the express purpose of seeing Heart but also found some other up and coming acts.

Diamond Rings

Davidson Hart Kingsbury

Lake Street Dive

The Jason Bonham Experience opened for Heart on the main stage.  Jason is John Bonham's son, John of Led Zeppelin fame.  So it was all about paying homage to Led Zeppelin.  Heart followed with all of their hits.  Both Nancy and Ann were in fine voice.  Mike McCready of Pearl Jam came out to play with them on "Crazy on You" and the encore included six Led Zeppelin songs accompanied by Jason Bonham and his band.  Ann Wilson sang Robert Plant better than Robert Plant!  Gorgeous Pacific NW day.  Fabulous concert.

Rosy the Reviewer says...Bumbershoot is an annual event I look forward to and a great way to support new, young talent.

See you next week!