I've been a Bond fan for over 20 years now, and though my favorite Bond is Sean Connery, I can appreciate each subsequent actor's ability to play the role and to put his own personal stamp on the history of 007. Deborah Lipp's 'The Ultimate James Bond Fan Book' is an excellent reference source for all things 007; it's an absorbing history that examines the entire Bond film series and a fun read to boot.
First, I enjoyed the layout of the book; though a great deal of it deals with lists and rankings, it's not presented in a strictly encyclopedic format (which always struck me as too random and out of context to be enjoyed). Instead, each chapter deals with each film in order of release. Each film is summarized, and then critiqued in a refreshingly subjective manner. Though I didn't always agree with the author's conclusions (She ranks On Her Majesty's Secret Service 18th out of 21 films and Diamonds Are Forever at #5) I found myself agreeing with most of her observations and criticisms, which were both astute and amusing. She then bullet points the highlights of each film, the low points, quotable quotes, noteworthy trivia, and most interesting goofs. I have to admit, the inclusion of lists that detailed the number of deaths, explosions, and what Bond eats and drinks was a little more than I needed to know, but no doubt there are fans out there that will appreciate such minutiae.
Each chapter also contains randomly presented lists or rankings of various aspects of the series as a whole. Among the many include The Ten Best/Worst Chases, Best/Worst Allies, Best/Worst Villains, Best/Worst Fights, Best/Worst locations and Best/Worst Teasers. There are also entries that discuss physical deformities as character traits and best use of establishing shots. And in all my years of watching 007 films, I never did know why he liked his Vodka martinis shaken and not stirred (I'm not a drinker). Now I know, along with how to play Chemin-de-fer.
This is the best all around reference book for the Bond films that I've seen, and even better is that it's completely up-to-date (there's a short chapter regarding the upcoming Casino Royale, but I chose not to read it yet). The only element I missed seeing was a detailed review of the musical scores for each film, as I'm an aficionado of them (my favorite composers being Bernard Herrmann, John Barry and Thomas Newman).
I highly recommend this book to all Bond fans. Entertaining and readable for the casual fan, densely populated with facts and trivia for the hardcore fan, it can appeal to all readers. I found the book to be informative and thought-provoking, and the author's wry sense of humor made me laugh numerous times throughout. A great companion to one of the greatest film series of all time.