Favourite books of Woody Allen

Woody Allen

The Catcher in the Rye has always had special meaning for me because I read it when I was young – 18 or so. It resonated with my fantasies about Manhattan, the Upper East Side and New York City in general. It was such a relief from the other books I was reading at the time, which all had a quality of homework to them.
Woody Allen, about reading

Heywood "Woody" Allen is an American actor, writer, director, comedian and playwright, whose career spans more than 50 years.

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Favorite books of Woody Allen:

The Catcher in the Rye has always had special meaning for me because I read it when I was young – 18 or so. It resonated with my fantasies about Manhattan, the Upper East Side, and New York City in general. It was such a relief from all the other books I was reading at the time, which all had a quality of homework about them. For me, reading Middlemarch or Sentimental Education is work, whereas The Catcher in the Rye is pure pleasure. The burden of entertainment was on the author. Salinger fulfilled that obligation from the first sentence on. When I was younger reading was something you did for school, something you did for obligation, something you did if you wanted to take out a certain kind of woman. It wasn't something I did for fun. But Catcher in the Rye was different. It was amusing, it was in my vernacular, and the atmosphere held great emotional resonance for me. I reread it on a few occasions and I always get a kick out of it.

Also recommended by: Kari Byron, Chris D'Elia, John Leguizamo, Gwyneth Paltrow, Emma Watson

The Catcher in the Rye 1951 novel J. D. Salinger. A controversial novel originally published for adults, it has since become popular with adolescent readers for its themes of teenage angst and alienation. It has been translated into almost all of the world's major languages. Around 250,000 copies are sold each year with total sales of more than 65 million books. The novel's protagonist Holden Caulfield has become an icon for teenage rebellion. The novel also deals with complex issues of identity, belonging, loss, connection, and alienation. The novel was included on Time '​s 2005 list of the 100 best English-language novels written since 1923, and it was named by Modern Library and its readers as one of the 100 best English-language novels of the 20th century. In 2003, it was listed at #15 on the BBC's survey The Big Read.

Really the Blues by Mezz Mezzrow, Bernard Wolfe

Woody Allen recommends Really the Blues

I learned over the years – by meeting legitimate jazz musicians who knew Mezzrow and the people he wrote about in the book – that this memoir was filled with apocryphal stories. But it had a great impact on me because I was learning to be a jazz clarinet player, like Mezzrow, and learning to play the idiom of music that he and Bernard Wolfe wrote about. The story, while probably just a lot of junk, was compelling for me because it was about many musicians whose work I knew and admired and the ins and outs of jazz joints that I knew about and the legendary songs that were played in the legendary nightclubs. So I had a great time reading it when my own jazz passion was forming. But I know it's not a very good or even a very honest book.

"Really The Blues" is the story of a white kid who fell in love with black culture, learning to blow clarinet in the reform schools, brothels and honky-tonks of his youth. Drawn by the revelation of the blues, he followed the music along the jazz avenues of Chicago, New Orleans, and New York, and into the heart of America's soul. Told in the jive lingo of the underground's inner circle, this classic is an unforgettable chronicle of street life, smoky clubs, roadhouse dances, and reefer culture. First published in 1946, Really the Blues was a rousing wake-up call to alienated young whites to explore black culture and the world of jazz, the first music America could call its own. Their spiritual godfather was Mezzrow, jazz cat, bootlegger, and peddler of the finest gauge in Harlem. Above all, Mezz championed the abandon available to those willing to lose their blues.

The World of S.J. Perelman by Sidney Joseph Perelman

Woody Allen recommends The World of S.J. Perelman

The funniest human being in my lifetime, in any medium – whether it's stand-up, television, theatre, prose, or movies – is SJ Perelman. The early stuff was a little wild, not nearly as subtle or as good. As he developed over the years, his stuff became relentlessly sensational. There are many collections of Perelman that are filled with great things. This one, which I wrote the foreword to, has a number of spectacular pieces. Because the editors did it chronologically, my own opinion is that the first four essays are weaker. Once you hit the fifth casual, as the New Yorker called them, he hits his stride and the rest of them are absolute comic genius. As funny as you can get. Those of us who grew up with Perelman found it impossible to avoid his influence. He had such a strong, inventive style.

Entering the warped world of S.J. Perelman is an experience. Written mainly for New Yorker magazine from the 1930s onwards, his sketches made reckless guerilla forays behind enemy lines to expose the absurdities of modern life and bring succour to that most persecuted minority of all: the embattled sane. A scalpel-keen satirist and parodist, he assembled a baroque range of registers and genres to lampoon the pretentions and inanities of the new language of popular culture wherever he found it - in advertising, publishing, magazines, movies, television and newspapers. But, more often than not, it is Perelman's own mock-sombre and eternally put-upon fictional persona who is the undoubted star of these sketches. While all he craves is a little peace and sanity, he is continually pushed closer to the edge by the steady stream of those sent to try him: movie moguls, the Marx brothers, Broadway impressarios, dry cleaners, house painters, insurance salesmen, au pairs, dentists and second-hand car dealers.

Epitaph of a Small Winner by Machado de Assis, William L. Grossman, Shari Frisch, Susan Sontag

Woody Allen recommends Epitaph of a Small Winner

I just got this in the mail one day. Some stranger in Brazil sent it and wrote, "You'll like this". Because it's a thin book, I read it. If it had been a thick book, I would have discarded it. I was shocked by how charming and amusing it was. I couldn't believe he lived as long ago as he did. You would've thought he wrote it yesterday. It's so modern and so amusing. It's a very, very original piece of work. It rang a bell in me, in the same way that The Catcher in the Rye did. It was about subject matter that I liked and it was treated with great wit, great originality and no sentimentality.

"In his posthumous memoirs, Braz Cubas, a wealthy nineteenth-century Brazilian, examines (from beyond the grave) his rather undistinguished life in 160 short chapters that both cover the basics of his existence and open out into philosophical explorations that sometimes follow meandering paths of thought to unexpected places, at times exuberant and hilarious, at other times cynical and utterly at odds with the world around him. In the tradition of Laurence Sterne and Jonathan Swift -- and as a clear forerunner of the works of Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Jorge Luis Borges -- Epitaph of a Small Winner, first published in 1880, is one of the wittiest self-portraits in literary history, as well as quite possibly the greatest novel you have never heard of"--P. [4] of cover.

Elia Kazan: A Biography by Richard Schickel

Woody Allen recommends Elia Kazan: A Biography

It's the best showbusiness book that I've read. It's brilliantly written and it's about a brilliant director who was very meaningful to me when I was growing up and becoming a film-maker. Schickel understands Kazan; he understands Tennessee Williams; he understands Marlon Brando; he understands A Streetcar Named Desire. He writes with great historical knowledge, insight and liveliness. Showbusiness books are usually not worth reading. They're just silly and shallow. But this is a fabulous book. Whatever you think of Kazan politically, it has nothing to do with the fact that the guy was a great director.

Few figures in film and theater history tower like Elia Kazan. Born in 1909 to Greek parents in Istanbul, Turkey, he arrived in America with incomparable vision and drive, and by the 1950s he was the most important and influential director in the nation, simultaneously dominating both theater and film. His productions of A Streetcar Named Desire and Death of a Salesman reshaped the values of the stage. His films -- most notably On the Waterfront -- brought a new realism and a new intensity of performance to the movies. Kazan's career spanned times of enormous change in his adopted country, and his work affiliated him with many of America's great artistic moments and figures, from New York City's Group Theatre of the 1930s to the rebellious forefront of 1950s Hollywood; from Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy to Marlon Brando and James Dean. Ebullient and secretive, bold and self-doubting, beloved yet reviled for "naming names" before the House Un-American Activities Committee, Kazan was an individual as complex and fascinating as any he directed. He has long deserved a biography as shrewd and sympathetic as this one. In the electrifying Elia Kazan, noted film historian and critic Richard Schickel illuminates much more than a single astonishing life and life's work: He pays discerning tribute to the power of theater and film, and casts a new light on six crucial decades of American history.

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