Have You Seen?: A Personal Introduction to 1,000 Films

Allow an expert in his or her field to go to town on a favored subject, while keeping it all short, sweet, and accessible, and pay dirt is usually just around the corner. Fording the rivulet that divides the short essay collection and the "list" book, Have You Seen?: A Personal Introduction to 1,000 Films is the kind of brief-attention-span read that leaves one not only free of guilt for having dipped into it but edified, itchingly eager to engage a fellow cineaste in aesthetic battle. Agree with him or not on his assessment of a given film, one can?t argue with the fact that David Thomson knows his stuff and then some. Author of the equally addictive Biographical Dictionary of Film, the San Francisco–based critic and author has seen -- and evidently pondered -- more movies than most of us will likely encounter in a lifetime. Have You Seen? considers those he deems particularly essential despite any faults his spot-on prose so clearly reveals. Thomson?s taste is refreshingly broad -- he kicks off with a critique of Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein -- but far from down-and-dirty populist. Recognized Hollywood and international classics from Gone with the Wind to Persona are the norm here, sprinkled with intriguing personal choices (Went the Day Well, Rumble Fish) that reveal Thomson?s basically urbane taste -- look to his critical grandchildren to find the best in Grindhouse and the like. We turn to Thomson to pinpoint why a film works or not, ("Don?t try telling the picture business, or the audience, that The Sheltering Sky was just another version of The Sheik with a white woman swept off her feet, her camel and her existential worldview by a glorious Arab"), and for the most part, he nails it.

April 18: "[W]ould it be too bold to imagine that all warm-blooded animals have arisen from one living filament…?"

Donna Tartt's The Goldfinch is the winner of the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. James Parker calls this Dickensian coming-of-age novel "an enveloping…

Books, CDs, DVDs to know about now
Poems That Make Grown Men Cry

And women too.  Luminaries from Colin Firth to Nick Cave and Jonathan Franzen chose the poems that bring them to tears, and the result is a stunning collection of poignant verse from writers like Auden, Whitman, Bishop, Larkin, Neruda and many others.  Warning: choking-up hazard.

The King of Pain

Trapped beneath his entertainment system, reality TV mastermind Rick Salter reflects on his life and tries to piece together the events of the previous evening. Seth Kaufman’s romp is an outrageous meditation on pain and entertainment in a deranged world in which the two are often interchangeable.

The Good Inn

Frank Black, frontman for the Pixies, has written a transgressive historical fiction with shades of Thomas Pynchon (focused as it is on the history of explosives and cinematic pornography), all set in a hallucinatory Edwardian Europe.