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Saturday, March 7, 2015

MY TOP 10 GREATEST BOOKS OF ALL TIME

MY TOP 10 GREATEST BOOKS
OF ALL TIME


BY
John "THE MEGO STRETCH HULK" Cimino


 “Books are a uniquely portable magic.”
― Stephen King


Everyone knows that reading is important (especially when we read our precious little comic books), but have you ever asked yourself why that is? Through reading, you expose yourself to new things, new information, new ways to solve problems, and new ways to achieve things you desire. Anybody, whether rich or poor, smart or dumb, young or old can access this knowledge at their fingertips simply by opening a book and reading it. No matter what the nationality, the belief or the skill level a person might be at, the playing field is always even when a book is absorbed into their mind's eye. It opens up the world and we begin to understand it more.

When you read, you will begin to have a greater understanding on a topic that interests you; for example: how to build self confidence, how to make a plan better before taking action, how to memorize things better and how to aspire to greatness (like the superheroes we love). All of these self improvements start from the reading; through reading, you create a structured path towards better actions that you will carry into your future.

Reading increases your understanding of the rules and truths of life, in order for you to adapt, adopt and accommodate into society better. So before you take action on anything, where should you go to seek help and guidance? I would say a library where all that information you crave is absolutely free. There you can find any book on any subject that can be essential to help you with a problem. You will be able to gain the knowledge of someone who may have experienced something similar to you; all their successes and failures.

Through reading, you build a more solid foundation for communication. This is one of the most important tools we use every day to help us connect with each other. As you communicate through reading, you understand more, and thus you can communicate better with people. Whereas if you don’t read, you can’t even connect with the world and what people are talking about, including understanding what this write up is all about.

By reading, you are exploring a different angle to see things you’ve known, on how different actions lead to different results. Books are beyond imagination showing you nothing is impossible. It’s like a huge interwoven magical web, where you keep linking to more and more things you knew, and things you just learned, structuring new solutions with better answers. So the more you read, the smarter you become. It's that simple and that awesome.

For all these reasons, reading was and continues to be the most important thing I've ever done for myself. It has taught me more than any class or teacher has ever had. Our education system is designed to structure your mind for a 9 to 5 existence which became popularized in the 1950s with the rise of corporations. You go to school, then college, then get a desk job for a corporation until you retire and then die - that's the idea. Think of how most people you know live this way. Maybe it's you. If so, don't feel so bad about it because that cookie-cutter way of life seems to be the way for the majority of people. But if you look at some of the most successful dreamers that wanted more out of life like Ted Turner, Ralph Lauren, Mark Zuckerberg, Michael Dell, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and Warren Buffet (to name a few) you'll notice that they refuted that method. They dropped out of school and achieved greatness on their own terms and the "luck" they all had in common was that they were all voracious readers. The knowledge they learned from books honed their minds to carve out a path for themselves to create their realities.

Now I don't want to sound like I'm totally against school because it does teach you about math, grammar, and science (which are very important), but does it teach you how to be spiritually full-filled with life? Does it teach you how to turn your lifelong dreams into a reality? How to find your inner peace? Your inner soul? More than at any other time in history, today is the day for the self-made dreamer, the self-made entrepreneur and constantly reading books will show you the way to a better existence.

My greatest teachers and biggest influences in life came from the books that I've read and the vast knowledge that I got from them. It made me realize that reality is not what people or society shape for me, it's what I shape for me! Through the years I've gathered books, quotes, words and articles that helped me stay on a path of life that works for me (even got a few of them as tattoos). It gave me an understanding of my past, present and future and showed me my paths toward freedom. Books have always done this for me and 10 of the most important ones in my life are listed here. While each book is vastly different from the next in subject and tone, I was inspired by them during different periods of my life. Each one has an important place during my experiences and shaped me into a whole of who I am today. As I'm still alive and always exploring new avenues through life, I'm constantly reading new books (and rereading old ones) to educate myself so this list can change at any time with new entries. But as of right now here are my top 10 greatest books ever...



10.) PATTON: A GENIUS FOR WAR (1995)
CARLO D'ESTE


Carlo D'Este, a military historian and a retired U.S. Army lieutenant colonel, has written an amazing study of an important charismatic American war hero. You will not only learn about military developments that led to the allied victory, but you will also get a real feel for the amazing personality that was George S. Patton, Jr. While there are many biographies of Patton on the market, none are informative and delve straight into the facts like this one (and I know because I read just about all of them).

When most people think of Patton, they think of the 1970 film starring George C. Scott. D'Este knows this and begins with a chapter setting up this movie as a straw man. The film was extremely powerful, but it was ultimately a work of fiction and Omar Bradley, a general who despised Patton, played a large role in its production. D'Este also asks the simple but difficult questions about: who was Patton? We learn that the harsh, profane image he presented to his troops and the public was just that, an image. He was deeply religious, extremely sensitive, loved poetry, understood what it took to send men into combat and was deeply troubled that soldiers under his command would die because of orders he gave. He was one of the best generals the allied coalition had and it was by no accident. He had ability and worked hard at doing an extremely difficult job: killing.

D'Este covers familiar ground during the war years: the campaign in North Africa, Sicily, Italy, the slapping of two enlisted men, the Knutsford incident, exile, and his drive across France, the Battle of the Bulge, and his removal from command. He also shoots down a number of myths of the Patton legend during the war (which is refreshing). The circumstance of Patton's death and the services honoring him (which are moving). Discussions of Patton's cowardly bull terrier, Willie, along with the relationship he had with the officers and enlisted men on his staff. And D'Este's own military experiences help him with this study. He pays attention to details that might have escaped an author with less expertise: Patton's use of maps, his organizational ability, and how he effectively employed assets such as intelligence. Let's just say, D'Este would have made Patton himself proud with this book.


9.) MORIGU: THE DESECRATION (1986)
MORIGU: THE DEAD (1990)
MARK C. PERRY



I was first introduced to the Morigu books in the mid-80s when I was deep into Dungeons and Dragons and fantasy. I would go to stores and buy the fantasy novels that had the best covers on them (also had a bad habit of stealing all the Conan covers that had Frank Ferzetta paintings on them... D'oh!). At this time, I had read close to 50 fantasy novels, including J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings trilogy, so I was familiar with what good fantasy was all about. But never was I sucked into a fantasy novel right off the bat like I was with Morigu: The Desecration. From beginning to end this book never let up containing deep complex characters along with constant action, drama and death.

Then getting the second book years later; Morigu: The Dead was more of the same (I couldn't tell you which book I like better). You would get invested in certain characters and soon enough they would die. I was constantly shocked by this and it was something that didn't happen very often in other fantasy novels. It totally added to the experience as you didn't know what was going to happen. Since then I have let many friends borrow my copies to read them. The majority of them had to buy copies for themselves. Yes, this story is that good!

Even today I consider these books to be the greatest fantasy epic of all time. But what hurts them in the eyes of most readers (and my ranking) is that the story of the Morigu was never finished. Yup, you heard that right. The story ends in a major cliffhanger and it ends there forever. Period. This adventure was supposed to be 4 novels long, but sadly, the writer, Mark C. Perry only finished 2 of them. To make matters worse, Mark passed away in 2013 so fans are left with only a glimpse of the greatness of what this epic could've been. It's really a tragedy because you will never know how the story ends. While this might detract some of you from giving these novels a try, I completely understand. But if you do give them a chance, be prepared for a fantasy adventure to which you've never known.


8.) NO ONE HERE GETS OUT ALIVE (1980)
JERRY HOPKINS AND DANNY SUGERMAN 


This was the first and greatest biography of Jim Morrison, lead singer and lyricist of the L.A. rock band the Doors. Written by journalist Jerry Hopkins and Danny Sugerman who began working as an assistant in the Doors office at the age of 13 and eventually managed them after Morrion's death. Hopkins' first manuscript was rejected by major publishers (a biography on a rock star was a hard sell and very uncommon at the time). It wasn't until Sugerman got involved with "insider" information that sent this book into the rock 'n' roll stratosphere and once released, the legend of Jim Morrison was embraced by the rest of the world. What most people don't realize is that Jim Morrison wasn't a Counterculture icon before 1980. This book is what helped rekindle interest into "The Lizard King" and all his creative complexity as a poet, rock star, philosopher, shaman, artist and drunken fool. He was a man who tested the bounds of reality and became one of the most iconic and influential singers in rock. Living life by his own rules he leads the Doors down some dangerous and uncharted roads which ultimately consumed and killed him at the age of 27.

Today we can read countless biographies, books and articles that flood the market on the myth and legend of Jim Morrison (some true, but most of them over-hyped, fabricated and fictitious). But all of them have to pay homage to this book which paved their way because honestly, nobody really cared before it came along. It was so influential that it became the main point of reference for Oliver Stone's movie The Doors starring Val Kilmer in 1991 (which was a horrid train-wreck... Ugh!) that continued to spread the legend of Morrison to a new generation. So if you're a fan of the Doors music or want to experience the life of a compelling, tormented, brilliant, kamikaze Dionysus, who wanted to "break on through to the other side," then look no further than this. Will you get out alive? Read the book and embrace your fears to find out.


7.) MARVEL COMICS: THE UNTOLD STORY (2012)
SEAN HOWE


Sean Howe writes an exhaustive and honest account of Marvel Comic's history that has never been done before. It's all here, with no stone left unturned, an insiders look at the business, the creative personalities, and the making of the comic book characters that took the pop culture world by storm. It's painstakingly researched and written so incredibly well that the story reads like a bunch of little stories that are interwoven together to make a whole. From the beginning when Stan Lee and Jack Kirby (along with Steve Ditko and a few others) who put their ideas together and created the modern pantheon of American superheroes. The constant rotating staff changes and personal quirks that gave Marvel a flavor much different than all their competitors. All the hardships and politics from within that almost ripped the company apart (on a few occasions). Up until the call of Hollywood that made the company what it is today. Yeah, it's almost a half-century worth of history that reads with as much action as any comic book Marvel ever produced.

Being such a crazed fanboy myself for superheroes and comic books, I love how thorough Howe did his homework because nothing is left out. He includes an amazing collection of anecdotes about the artists and writers reflecting about the eras they worked in, whether good or bad (some of these guys are more interesting than the actual superheroes). All the controversial issues about creative rights and intellectual properties, that is still prevalent in today's market. Hell, you come to realize that the comic business is truly a game of "survival of the fittest" inside a tank full of sharks -- just surviving the day to day grind is a chore.

So whether you're a casual fan or comic expert, this book is a fantastic raw look at what it's like behind the scenes of the mighty Marvel bullpen and the comic books we adore... for better or worse...


6.) WONDERLAND AVENUE: TALES OF GLAMOUR AND EXCESS (1989)
DANNY SUGERMAN


This amazing book is the personal memoir of the late author and Doors' publicist Danny Sugerman (1954-2005), who went on to manage the band after Jim Morrison's death and then Ray Manzarek's solo-career and first album. It is one of several books Sugerman wrote about the Doors including Jim Morrison's first and best biography No One Here Gets Out Alive in 1980 (which ranks on this list at number 8). But in this book, Sugerman recounts his life, beginning with his privileged but troubled childhood in Beverly Hills, which he asserts set the stage for his later self-destructive addictions and behavior. After the premature death of his adolescent friend and "teacher," Jim Morrison, Danny became friends with and then went on to manage Iggy Pop, before they both ended up in a Californian State mental hospital suffering with severely excessive drug and alcohol addiction syndrome.

Sugerman pulls no punches and covers the first eight years of his show business career, commencing with his first job at age 13 opening the Doors' fan mail, and concluding just beyond his 21st birthday, when he is a frail and severely drug-addicted mental patient who has been given less than a week to live. His exposure to the decadent music industry world of parties, groupies, and drugs at such a young age would facilitate a relentless heroin addiction that nearly killed him.

What I love most about this book is Sugerman's close personal friendship throughout his adolescence with Jim Morrison. It really took Morrison out from his "godlike" image that he is perceived as today and we see a real flesh and blood, flawed human that wants to mentor a kid (albeit in his own way) that idolizes him. In all the books I've ever read about Jim Morrison, never had he felt so real (it was quite refreshing). Also Sugerman's activities in L.A. attempting to manage the flagging career (and supervise the behavior of) an increasingly unstable Iggy Pop was hilarious. With all the problems Sugerman had to deal with himself, it was like "the blind leading the blind."

This book was so highly entertaining and truthful that it remains my absolute favorite biography ever (I've reread it more than 20 times). I love how it chronicles, in graphic detail, the decadence of the L.A. rock and roll lifestyle, lived to its most degrading and shocking extremes, in the early to mid-1970s. Danny Sugerman's life started with a dream and once he got that dream (with some lucky breaks in-between) his life went totally out of control, and the funny thing is, he loved every minute of it.


5.) ME, INC. BUILD AN ARMY OF ONE, UNLEASH YOUR INNER ROCK GOD, WIN IN LIFE AND BUSINESS (2014)
GENE SIMMONS


I have been a fan of KISS and Gene Simmons (we are born on the same day) since I was a little kid. Following his career through the years I've always respected what he had to say. No matter how harsh, or how outlandish, there was always brutal honesty. Did Simmons have a huge out of control ego? Of course he did. But that's almost delusional belief he had of himself got him to where he always wanted to be; the center of attention, loved by women, filthy stinkin' rich and a legend of rock 'n' roll that will live on forever. He practiced what he preached and he did it without any regrets. I couldn't help but respect that. So when it was time to read a book on business and self-empowerment, I would look no further than to one of my childhood heroes. And I have to say, it was everything I expected it to be.

ME, INC. is a well-written, hard-hitting discussion on how to make lots of money. Simmons, of course, has the answer, and it's very clear: Focus 100% on ME. Not your wife, not your children, not your friends. Just ME. And, once your goals are met, then everything else will fall into place. It's a great philosophy.

The first part is a biography of Simmons, and what he did to achieve world fame in heavy metal rock. This was interesting, and illustrates his point about the opportunities to achieve great success in America. Simmons (real name Chaim Weitz) came to the U.S. with his mother, dirt poor and not knowing the language. He survived through much adversity and worked hard, saved his money, got an education, and figured out how to create a brand.

The second part contains Simmons' recipes for success. He calls these many tips the "Art of More." These principles are pretty good ideas. The tips are practical, and many of them are variations of the American work ethic. Work diligently, stop looking for excuses, don't give up, save money, watch your spending, educate yourself, etc. He admits that you might have some unusual obstacles to overcome, but so what - life isn't fair. Get over it and stop whining. Simmons hammers home repeatedly the central theme: Pursue your dream with absolute ruthless passion. Build your brand, and do whatever it takes. However hard you have to work, whatever you have to sacrifice. The reader will have to decide whether that is a worthy goal; however, if your dream is in fact the rainbow of big money, then this is the right book to find that treasure.


4.) ON THE ROAD (1957)
JACK KEROUAC


This is a novel based on the travels of the author Jack Kerouac and his friends across America. 
It is considered a defining work of the postwar "Beat" and "Counterculture" generations, with its 
protagonists living life against a backdrop of jazz, poetry and drug use. Many of the key figures 
in the Beat movement, such as William S. Burroughs (Old Bull Lee) and Allen Ginsberg (Carlo Marx) are represented by characters in the book, including Kerouac himself, as the narrator Sal Paradise.

I got into this book when I became obsessed with Jim Morrison of the Doors. I was eager to read all the books that he did, especially during his formative years. With Morrison being such a voracious reader throughout his life, there were many books to read. But one of the most influential books for him was On the Road. And after I read it, I realized why. It's a story about forgetting what society dictates and living your life on your terms for better or for worse. Sure, many people today who read this may think Kerouac's work is self-centered or pretentious. But during the late 1950s when this book was first released you have to understand the impact it made on the dull and shallow world teens lived in. They didn't know how to experience life the way they wanted and it was wrong to give into their impulses. This book brought a whole new perspective to the world they thought they knew and to everything their parents taught them. It opened their minds on an experimental creative level that they wanted to experience but might have been too afraid to ask about. This book got them talking, got them experimenting and got them challenging the system as it was. Living became about dynamism, not passivity. It was about a river of activity, not a stream of consciousness. It was about "white light, white heat" not "white picket fences."

On the Road ultimately meant different things to different people. But it's impact on those who read it (especially during the late 50s) will never forget it. To me, this book was about living life beyond the ephemeral. The attempt to be my own personal cool. And my cool might not be your cool, and that's okay. I'm OK, you're OK. It's all cool.


3.) AMERICAN PSYCHO (1991)
BRET EASTON ELLIS


The first thing I noticed about this book was how well Brent Eston Ellis wrote it. In my opinion, it could be the best written book ever. The words were so perfectly placed together and the narration was flawless that I simply fell into the story and read it in one night without any hope of putting it down. I cannot stress this enough. If you are a wannabe writer and learning the craft, this is a must read! It was like a hypnotic trance that put me so deep into the mind of Patrick Bateman that I could totally understand his every move. I understood his motivations, and at times, I even agreed with them (which I'm not proud to admit). I fell into his world so completely that I found out things about myself that I needed to work on. After I finished this novel, it stayed in my head for weeks. I wrote down quotes in my notebook, I had dreams of it, I would fantasize about Patrick Bateman during the day and I would reread parts of the book daily just so I could hear and feel his reality (it sometimes made me cry). I became obsessed. Only a few books during my lifetime impacted me this much.

Set in Manhattan during the Wall Street boom of the late 1980s, American Psycho follows the life of wealthy young investment banker Patrick Bateman. Bateman, in his late 20s when the story begins, narrates his everyday activities, from his recreational life among the Wall Street elite of New York to his forays into murder by nightfall. Through present tense stream-of-consciousness narrative, Bateman describes his daily life, ranging from a series of Friday nights spent in nightclubs with his colleagues - where they snort cocaine, critique fellow club-goers' clothing, trade fashion advice, and question one another on proper etiquette - to his loveless engagement to fellow yuppie Evelyn and his contentious relationship with his brother and senile mother. Bateman's stream of consciousness is occasionally broken up by chapters in which he directly addresses the reader in order to critique the work of 1980s Pop music artists. The book maintains a high level of ambiguity through mistaken identity and contradictions that introduce the possibility that Bateman is an unreliable narrator. Characters are consistently introduced as people other than themselves, and people argue over the identities of others they can see in restaurants or at parties. Whether any of the crimes depicted in the book actually happened or whether they were simply the fantasies of a delusional psychotic is only perpetuated further by cinematic adaptation.


 2.) ILLUSIONS: THE ADVENTURES OF A RELUCTANT MESSIAH (1977)
RICHARD BACH


If I had to choose the one book that I've read more than any other it has to be Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah by writer and pilot Richard Bach. It's a story that questions the reader's view of reality, proposing that what we call reality is merely an illusion we create for learning and enjoyment. As I've constantly searched and questioned the meaning of life, nothing has gotten me closer to finding it more so than this book. And when questions and decisions arise today, I still go back to it to find the answers.

Donald P. Shimoda is a messiah who quits his job after deciding that people value the showbiz-like performance of his miracles and want to be entertained by those miracles more than to understand the message behind them. He meets Richard, a fellow pilot and begins to pass on his knowledge of life and the concept that the world they inhabit is an illusion and you are able to get anything you want out of life if you will it so.

The novel features quotes from the "Messiah's Handbook" (which contain some the greatest quotes in the history of literature IMHO), owned by Shimoda, which Richard later takes as his own. A most unusual aspect of this handbook is that it has no page numbers. The reason for this, as Shimoda explains to Richard, is that the book will open to the page on which the reader may find guidance or the answers to doubts and questions in his mind.

What I love about this book is that it doesn't matter what nationality you are, what you believe in or what you do, it gives you a whole new perspective at looking at life. It makes you question your approach to the world and those around you. How you handle situations and how you ultimately can be happy (but of course, it's up to you to choose the path you want to take). This book has a little something for everyone and I consider it an absolute masterpiece.


1.) A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES 1492-PRESENT (1980/2005)
HOWARD ZINN


No other book that I've ever read impacted me the way A People's History of the United States has. I believe every American has to read this at least once in their lifetime. It should be mandatory in grammar school, middle school, high school and college because it simply tells what all the history books we grew up with and learned from never did... the fucking truth!! 

First published in 1980 by American historian and political scientist, the late great, Howard Zinn (who happened to live in the next town from where I grew up). In the book, Zinn seeks to present American history through the eyes of the common people rather than political and economic elites. This tells a horribly violent and bloody reality that has been covered up by American historians for years. It's impact has been so great that it has also resulted in a change in the focus of historical work, which now includes stories that previously were ignored. It has been frequently revised, with the most recent edition covering events through 2005.

In July 2007 Seven Stories Press released A Young People's History of the United States, an illustrated, two-volume adaptation of A People's History of the United States for young adult readers (ages 10–14). The new version, adapted from the original text by Rebecca Stefoff, is updated through the end of 2006. This is what I consider to be one of the best things ever done for the youth of America because they need to learn the real history of the formation of their country without anything sugarcoated. In Zinn's introduction to this edition, he writes, "It seems to me it is wrong to treat young readers as if they are not mature enough to look at their nation's policies honestly. I am not worried about disillusioning young people by pointing to the flaws in the traditional heroes." In the afterword, "Rise like lions", he asks young readers to "Imagine the American people united for the first time in a movement for fundamental change." Pure fucking genius if you ask me!!

Zinn passed away in 2010 at the age of 87 from a heart attack. In one of his last interviews he stated how he would like to be remembered:

"I would like to be remembered for introducing a different way of thinking about the world, about war, about human rights, about equality. And for getting more people to realize that the power which rests so far in the hands of people with wealth and guns, that the power ultimately rests in people themselves and that they can use it. At certain points in history, they have used it. Black people in the South used it. People in the women's movement used it. People in the anti-war movement used it. People in other countries who have overthrown tyrannies have used it. I want to be somebody who gave people a feeling of hope and power that they didn't have before."

If I can recommend any book to read before you die, it has to be this one. No other book will get you thinking the way this will. Who knows, after you read it, maybe you'll set out to change the world and make it a better place. Zinn sets the blueprint with this book in trying to open the eyes of the masses who've been fed bullshit all their lives. This masterpiece gives us the hard reality of life without any nonsense or fluff. You want the truth? This is the truth! I along with everyone else, thank you Mr. Zinn for giving the world the greatest book in the history of human literature, the real Holy Bible for mankind; A People's History of the United States!


To be continued...


Check out other Hero Envy "Top" Lists:


Top 50 Greatest Marvel Slugfests of All Time (1961-1999)

Top 10 Most Evil Villains in Comics

Top 10 Superhero Capes of All Time

Top 5 Weirdest, Wackiest, Worst and Downright Despicable Cartoons Ever Made
http://hero-envy.blogspot.com/2013/08/the-top-5-weirdest-wackiest-and.html

My Top 20 Greatest Hulk Stories Ever

Top 10 Most Badass Heroes Ever
Doctor Who: The Top 5 Greatest Doctors Ever


   John "The Mego Stretch Hulk" Cimino
John Cimino is a Silver and Bronze Age comic, cartoon and memorabilia expert that runs a business called "Saturday Morning Collectibles." He buys, sells, appraises and gives seminars on everything pop culture, so if you got something special, let him know about it. He contributes articles to ALTER EGO, BACK ISSUE and THE JACK KIRBY COLLECTOR from TwoMorrows Publishing and has appeared on the AMC reality show Comic Book Men. He also represents some of comicdoms biggest stars and brings them to a Comic Con near you. John still thinks he's really Captain Marvel, people just don't have the heart to tell him he's just an obsessed fanboy that loves to play superheroes with his daughter Bryn. Contact him at johnstretch@live.com or follow on twitter at @Elastic_Hulk and have some fun.