onversations With Woody Allen by Eric Lax (Knopf, $25). I recently worked with Woody on his one-act play Honeymoon Motel, but I've been a fan of his movies for years. This book has just the most revealing interviews with him imaginable. His thoughts and insights about drama and structure, ideas and writing are immeasurably wise. A must for filmmakers.
The Last Boy by Jane Leavy (Harper, $17). Leavy, who's also written about Sandy Koufax, interviewed more than 500 people to craft this wonderful biography of Mickey Mantle. The Mick's upbringing in tiny Commerce, Okla.; his early years; the "tape-measure" 565-foot home run; and the alcoholism that killed him are all illuminated in this account of what it is like to be the best, and to have a mind full of contradictions. Not for everybody, just the serious baseball fan.
The Complete Poetry of John Milton (Anchor, $17). Everything you wanted to know about the English poet but were too staid to ask. This is a book that you can just keep going back to time and again. Can we ever get enough Paradise Lost? Milton's sonnets are equally magnificent. Pure nectar.
Mailer by Peter Manso (Washington Square, $20). Manso's oral history of the life and times of Norman Mailer reveals the great author as you've never seen him. Though it was authorized, the book earned Mailer's enmity when it was published, in 1985. If anything, Mailer's standing as a hard-living, brilliant, and outspoken writer is enhanced by Manso's rounded work.
Shane by Jack Schaefer (Bantam, $7). My favorite cowboy book ever, and worth reading even if you've seen the 1953 film. A better story about an anti-hero has never been written.
Loving Frank by Nancy Horan (Ballantine, $15). A historical novel told from the perspective of Mamah Borthwick Cheney, who had an affair with Frank Lloyd Wright in the early 1900s before she was murdered on one of Wright's estates. Horan's portrayal of Wright and his spectacular architecture stirs the imagination. You'll never look at the Guggenheim the same way again.
— Steve Guttenberg's memoir, The Guttenberg Bible, is a tour through his unlikely career. Labeled by an agent as 'the last guy I would ever pick' to make it in film, the actor starred in such touchstone '80s movies as Diner and Three Men and a Baby.
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