Bookworm Interview: Jonathan Robertson

Want to get to know the BiblioSmiles contributors? Read below to find out more about Jonathan!


Q: Tell us about yourself in 100 words or less:

I’m a filmmaker in New York. I like The Rockford Files and I listen to a lot of Elvis Costello and Warren Zevon.

Q: What books did you love as a child?:

I learned to read from comic books. My grandfather owned a comic shop in New Jersey in the 80s, and when he closed it in the early 90s, he kept all of his leftover stock, which was about 5,000 books. He wanted to sell them off, but never got around to it, so throughout my childhood, there was always a basement full of comics to read, which he arranged into a mini-comic shop, just for me.


Q: What kinds of books do you love now?

I started reading Raymond Chandler when I was in high school, and that got me going on a crime fiction kick that’s never really slowed down. From Chandler, I went for Dashiell Hammett, which led to George V. Higgins and Elmore Leonard, plus Erle Stanley Gardner, Jim Thompson, Lawrence Block… Great googly moogly, the list goes on and on.

Extra special shout out to Darwyn Cooke’s adaptation of Richard Stark’s Parker books. Those are some beautiful graphic novels!

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Q: Where’s your favorite place to sit down and read?

Sitting across the couch, probably with my feet up.

Q: Do you set any goals for yourself as a reader?

I try to not read the same authors over and over again. I love finding new ones and old ones that I’ve never encountered before. Just listening to recommendations and wandering through book stores has led me to find things like The Worst Journey in the World by Apsley Cherry-Garrard and A Manual for Cleaning Women by Lucia Berlin.

Q: Have you ever met any of your favorite authors? What was that like?

I met Werner Herzog when he was signing Conquest of the Useless. He makes these awe-inspiring, bleak, and often brutal films, but he was so humble and sincere. It was a fantastic experience.

Q: How do you mark your place in a book?

Dog eared pages or the flap of a dust jacket.

Q: What books are you on your “must read” list?

52 Pickup by Elmore Leonard, A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway, The Long Goodbye by Raymond Chandler, Of Walking in Ice by Werner Herzog, Bitch Planet by Kelly Sue DeConnick and Valentine De Landro, All The Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy, Dracula by Bram Stoker, Rebel Without a Crew by Robert Rodriguez, Fatale by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips

Q: Here’s a famous question: if you could have dinner with any author, living or dead, who would you choose and why? Where would you go, and what would they order for dinner?

Tough one… Part of me says “Hemingway,” but I feel like we’d spend the whole meal drinking grappa and talking about him (and he didn’t exactly have a sense of humor, particularly about himself…).

So I think I’d have to go with Elmore Leonard. He always spoke so frankly about writing and the writing process – I’ve always admired his honesty. It’s reflected in his writing as well – there’s nothing extemporaneous in his prose.
We’d hang out, probably in Detroit, at a Tigers game, which means beer and hot dogs all around. I don’t even know if we’d talk about books, but I’m sure it’d be a nice time.

Q: What’s your favorite post you’ve written for BiblioSmiles? What’s your favorite post that someone else has written?

I wrote a piece about books not matching their cinematic counterparts, and how that should be expected and even celebrated – you can read it here.

And I’m a sucker for the Anatomy of a Bookshelf series. I love getting a glimpse into someone’s personality via their bookshelf.

Jonathan Robertson is a New York based filmmaker who will never be as cool as Steve McQueen. And that crushes him. But he still tries. Feel free to follow him on Twitter @itsjonrobertson for musings on film, literature, and occasionally Mexican food.

Anatomy of a Bookshelf: Ed Collins

For years my collections of movies and books occupied the same six shelves. When my adoration for film became my main focus and my DVD collection, at one point, required over ten shelves, I had to move my books somewhere. So these three shelves on my wall have been my spot for my books for the past few years (and some spots under my desk for the heaviest and largest books). For the last four years my collection has really only seen the influx of textbooks from my cinema courses in college.

Compiled from all the classes I have taken, with a few purchased for my own reading, this collection will only get bigger. These range from collections of film criticism, histories of French Cinema, film theory, and some books on film and psychoanalytic theory.

My next section is a collection of mostly paperbacks that I have either gotten for free or for very cheap. Some of them, I admit, are “borrowed” from my high school and have never been given back. I feel this compulsion to collect the “classics,” figuring I will read them eventually.


These range from works that are over 500 years old, including The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri and Antigone by Sophocles, to works of the 20th century such as Of Human Bondage, A Clockwork Orange, and A Farewell to Arms.


The top shelf (for the tallest books) is an odd assortment of books. On the left is the Harry Potter collection.  As cliche as it sounds, those first four books got me into reading. To the right of those books are the Chronicles of Narnia and The Complete Works of William Shakespeare; both collections were gifts from my siblings.

Blankets by Craig Thompson and Watchmen by Alan Moore are my two favorite graphic novels. On the right side of the top shelf are some larger classics. Ulysses and East of Eden I got for fifty cents apiece. There’s also the maddening House of Leaves. My few non-fiction (and non-textbook) books are at the very end of the shelf and include Cosmos by Carl Sagan and Dreams from my Father by Barack Obama.

I’ve selected 5 of my personal favorites from my bookshelves to share with you:

1. No one belongs here more than you by Miranda July

This is a collection of short stories of twisted sexual desire and longing. I read this collection in one long three-hour bus ride from Baltimore to New York City. This collection will put you in painful and perverse situations with its characters, where you will root for some and despise others.

2. Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut.

This is one of the few books I read in high school that I had a deep connection with. I didn’t read it for a class; I just took it off the shelf one day, started reading and never gave it back. This is a tale of the horrors of war, particularly the fire bombings of Dresden which Vonnegut was a witness to. This book uses science fiction themes of time travel and alien abduction to recount a harrowing POW story.

3. Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

I bought this book at Daedalus Books in Baltimore, Maryland. This was about a year before the movie came out and though I did like the movie version, Never Let Me Go’s mystery is really paced perfectly in the book. As a fan of sci-fi I found this book to be a great crossover read for those looking to branch out of their YA collection and read a sophisticated science fiction tale with a little more gravitas.

4. Before Sunrise/Before Sunset by Richard Linklater

Quite frankly one of the best love stories ever written can be found in the screenplays to the films Before Sunrise and Before Sunset by Richard Linklater. It might seem superfluous to read the screenplays when you can just watch fully-realized films, but if you ever find yourself waiting around, killing time at a cafe or on a bus before meeting someone, you won’t find a more romantically fulfilling read.

5. Our Guys by Bernard Lefkowitz

This non-fiction book chronicles the 1989 gang rape of a mentally handicapped girl in Glen Ridge, New Jersey. This is a book my brother had to read for a sociology class in college and it was left forgotten in my basement until I found it a couple years after he graduated. I read it while I was a freshman in high school and although it’s about a rape case, it also ends up being as much a study on “jock culture” and ultimately: “what is consent?” Written in 1997 about an incident in 1989, this book still painfully rings true as the high school dynamics of small towns have not changed, and things have only gotten worse with the advent of social media. With the Steubenville rape case occurring over twenty years after the case that is investigated in this book, I couldn’t recommend this book more.

With my main passion being film, my book collection has been neglected in the last few years. Every now and again I’ll yearn for the times in high school when I would find a good novel and I read it during math class.

Ed Collins is a struggling film lover who just wants to watch movies all day. His interests are the cosmos, basketball, emo music, and deactivating his OkCupid account.