DVD Delirium by Nathaniel Thompson (2004, Fab Press)
Movie review books are fairly common, but the DVD Delirium series (currently four volumes) is exceptional for those who are seeking unusual fare. Edited by Nathaniel Thompson, each book features hundreds of reviews centered around two criteria: they must have been released on DVD or Blu-Ray and they must have some distinctive feature which would qualify them for cult status. The result is a melange of very familiar titles (2001: A Space Odyssey, A Fistful of Dollars) and fairly obscure ones (Psychic Killer, Running Time), with all of the movies given equal space for their reviews.
Typically, some information about the basic plot and the key figures associated with the movie is provided, with care being taken to remain fairly spoiler-free. The topics the movie attempts to address (if there are any) are considered, any particularly interesting trivia about its production or showings are given, and the review ends with a comparison of different DVD/Blu-Ray releases. If you want to know that a UK edition of a movie includes an excised scene but the US edition has a stereo track instead of just a mono, this is the book series for you.
The greatest drawback is that the sheer number of movies reviewed leaves fewer titles available for successive volumes. By the time the third volume was released, the reviewers were primarily left with noir films, atrocious horror and sf movies beloved by the MST3K/Rifftrax crowd, and recent blockbusters. In the fourth, they’d been scrounging even more and were reviewing some trailer compilations and arthouse sex movies in addition to the hilariously awful straight-to-video contemporary horror.
Still, a great series that can provide hours of entertaining reading and also lead to finding enjoyable movies on the television.
Callahan’s Crosstime Saloon by Spider Robinson (1977, Ace)
This is the first book in Spider Robinson’s Callahan’s series, and it spawned a decades-strong series of stories, a web site, and a video game (among other things.)
At its core, the book is a series of bar stories, but the bar itself is very unusual. Callahan’s is full of regulars, but many visitors find their way when they need to and find support for their crises. The result is a very uplifting series of stories (in particular, the first book is a series of connected short stories, lacking the narrative cohesion one would expect in a novel.) Many of the tales include science fiction elements like talking animals and aliens, but not all of them; the focus is purely on how humanity attempts to help one another in times of difficulty.
The book is funny, thought-provoking, cheap, and easy to locate (In one way or another). It’s a very good introduction to what science fiction can offer when it’s not being bogged down by the conventional trappings.