Category Archives: books
The Cubs Fan’s Guide To Happiness
by George Ellis
Triumph Books, 2014
One might expect this to be the shortest book ever written. Or a book full of blank pages. But no, author George Ellis exercises his wit to entertain readers—especially non-Cubs fans. While the author claims to be a Cubs fan, the jabs he takes against his own kind are relentless and hilarious.
This is a “revised and updated version” of the book originally published in 2007. With the addition of Theo Epstein to the Cubs’ front office, Ellis thought it appropriate to include the man who turned around the Red Sox franchise. After all, if anyone could turn this team around, it’s the brilliant mind of Epstein. He hasn’t done it yet, but there’s always next year.
Seriously, The Cubs Fan’s Guide To Happiness is sure to bring a smile to any baseball fan’s face.
Get The Led Out:
How Led Zeppelin Became the Biggest Band in the World
by Denny Somach
So much has been written about Led Zeppelin since the group disbanded, it is difficult to imagine anything more could be said. Yet Denny Somach has put together an informative guide of Zeppelin’s touring itinerary, interviews with those who knew the band and all four members themselves, and a record-by-record breakdown of Zepplin’s discography in Get The Led Out: How Led Zeppelin Became the Biggest Band in the World. Filled with images of ticket stubs and concert bills along with a number of illustrations by the legendary Ioannis specifically commissioned for this book, there is little lacking from Somach’s tome to the greatest rock and roll band in history.
Of special note is the interview with Mick Wall, the author of 2008’s When Giants Walked the Earth: A Biography of Led Zeppelin. It is clear that Wall is a fan, yet refuses to pull any punches. His treatment of the group’s musical influences and Jimmy Page’s appropriation (or outright theft) of songs from other artists is blunt but truthful. Also interesting is Robert Plant’s interview, conducted in 1982 after the release of his debut solo album.
Originally published in 2012, this new printing of Get The Led Out is a wonderful addition to any classic rock lover’s library.
Minnesota Twins Baseball: Hardball History on the Prairie
by Stew Thornley
The History Press, 2014
There are certain names that immediately come to mind when one thinks of the Minnesota Twins: Rod Carew, Harmon Killebrew, Kirby Puckett, Joe Mauer. The franchise’s history reaches much deeper than its Hall of Famers, though. Before the Twins came to town, Minnesotans were entertained by Ollie Bejma of the St. Paul Saints and Willie Mays of the Minneapolis Millers, and the franchise that eventually became the Twins had its own roster of greats, most notably Walter Johnson. After fifty years in Minnesota, however, the Twins no longer have to rely on those stories to thrill baseball fans. They have their own.
Author Stew Thornley has done an excellent job of tracing the Twins’ roots in Minnesota Twins Baseball: Hardball History on the Prairie. Recalling anecdotes of Killebrew and Vic Power, Jim Kaat and Jim Perry, and more recently Mauer and Justin Morneau, the author presents an informative look into this underappreciated franchise. While the chapters are packed with details, the most entertaining part of this book are the asides about the All-Star Games, in-season exhibition matches, and the pine tar incident that occurred years before George Brett’s infamous blow-up.
Minnesota Twins Baseball: Hardball History on the Prairie is a nice primer at only 128 pages to help one start to learn about the Twins baseball club.
The Haunted Life and Other Writings
by Jack Kerouac
Da Capo Press, 2014
The long-lost story written by the late Beat Generation legend Jack Kerouac finally sees the light of day thanks to the vision of editor Todd F. Tietchen and Da Capo Press. The work was lost in 1944 and did not reappear for nearly 60 years when it was sold at auction. The Haunted Life was written during Kerouac’s formative years, when the author had not yet fully found his voice, and as such it suffers in comparison to his later writings.
The novella is incomplete; that should be kept in mind when reading. Even so, there are moments of pretension that surely would have been edited in later drafts had the manuscript not been misplaced. Kerouac once asserted that he had left it in the backseat of a taxicab in New York; it is more likely that it was lost in Allen Ginsberg’s dorm room at Columbia, later discovered by another resident, though never returned to Kerouac. When one finishes reading The Haunted Life, there is the desire for more, but not in the sense of craving it; rather, there is that absence of completion that haunts the book itself.
The story is easy enough to understand and follow, and the dialogue flows naturally even if the pretension distracts at times. If only Kerouac had finished it, edited it, and given it more meat. The “Other Writings” refer to preparatory notes made for The Haunted Life, as well as essays written by Kerouac about his later work, The Town and the City. Also included are letters written between Jack and his father, Leo Kerouac.
While it is a treat to see such an early work by one of America’s truly great writers, The Haunted Life and Other Writings is not an essential addition to one’s personal library. It is frankly more of a curiosity that a literary gem.
Baseball Road Trips: The Midwest and Great Lakes
by Timothy M. Mullin
Triumph Books, 2014
As a teenager, my dad took me to a lot of baseball games for summer vacation. That’s the way I preferred it; I wasn’t much of a beach bum. We visited several major and minor league parks within reasonable driving distance from the Cincinnati area, from Chicago to Boston. Alright, so Boston might not have been considered reasonable by some, but for a Fenway visit? Definitely reasonable. It was not difficult to figure out the schedule; we just had to write the team ahead of time and request one. This was before the days of the internet and looking up the website or even e-mailing a team representative. But for other activities in the area, we were on our own to figure out.
That’s where a guide similar to Timothy M. Mullin’s Baseball Road Trips: The Midwest and Great Lakes could have come in handy. The book covers nine states: Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio, and Wisconsin. All the major league and minor league stadiums are profiled, complete with quirks at the concessions, advice on parking, and even general safety tips in the surrounding area. Brief profiles are given for other baseball attractions, such as the Field of Dreams movie site, the Louisville Slugger Museum, and even Chicago cemeteries where Hall of Famers such as Ray Schalk and Kenesaw Mountain Landis are buried. Hotel options are listed, as well as local restaurants for those who want to taste the city they are visiting.
As a frequent attendee of Reds games at Great American Ballpark, I was curious to see what Mullin had to write about my hometown team. While he seems more critical of Cincinnati than other cities, I cannot disagree with much of what he writes. However, I must take issue with his advice when it comes to the Reds Hall of Fame. Mullin says, “Don’t go,” but how can you skip the historical significance that is found inside? True baseball fans need to experience as much of the team as possible, especially when visiting for a short time during a road trip. While it is true that the Reds have many inductees, the room that houses those plaques is a very small part of the museum itself. There are rotating exhibits and interactive displays as well as beautiful statues located throughout the museum. To skip this part of Reds baseball is to miss out on what makes baseball so important to Cincinnatians.
Mullin’s book is useful, to be sure, and I intend to use it when making a trek to Chicago (and maybe Milwaukee or St. Louis) later this year. But I will think twice before skipping any baseball-related activities on the author’s suggestion.
The Tigers of ’68: Baseball’s Last Real Champions
by George Cantor
Taylor Trade Publishing, 2014
Every franchise has that special season that is forever ingrained in the minds of the fans. For the Detroit Tigers, that season was 1968. Journalist George Cantor, who covered the team for Detroit Free Press, brought the season back to life in his 1997 book The Tigers of ’68: Baseball’s Last Real Champions, recently reprinted in paperback by Taylor Trade Publishing.
The late Cantor entertains readers with interviews and profiles of the team’s biggest stars: hometown hero Willie Horton, former convict Gates Brown, and thirty-game winner Denny McLain. The book begins at the end of the disappointing 1967 season and the riots that marred the city, but quickly turns to the hope of spring 1968 and the magic of the season, including the memories of the players themselves collected many years later.
The Tigers of ’68 is an entertaining book and offers a glimpse into one of the great championship teams in baseball history.
The Athlete’s Cookbook
by Corey Irwin and Brett Stewart
Ulysses Press, 2014
Eating right and exercising is a constant struggle for many Americans, and the products on the market to help people trying to do those things are abundant. The Athlete’s Cookbook by Corey Irwin and Brett Stewart teaches readers not only what to eat but when to eat it for maximum benefit. The program you use depends on your goal; do you want to lose body fat, increase endurance, or build muscle? Each objective calls for different types of foods at different times, and following Irwin and Stewart’s guide will help to maximize your results.
The cookbook section is full of dishes for every meal, as well as appetizers, snacks, desserts, and beverages. Reading through the ingredients one will notice several international recipes rather than American cuisine. The authors felt there was no need for another recipe book featuring traditional American dishes and desired to “celebrate America’s culinary evolution.”
The true value in this book is the nutritional programs, though, teaching readers which types of foods to eat and which ones to avoid, giving specific examples of each, and how to eat them properly. Even if one never prepares a single dish from the recipe section, he will learn why carbohydrates are good on certain days and essential on others.
Man Versus Ball
by Jon Hart
Potomac Books, 2013
Bookstores are full of books written by athletes and about athletes. We have been told what it is like to play professional sports, the pressures athletes face, the challenges of living life in the public’s eye on the ballfield. However, I cannot remember ever reading a book written by a vendor before.
Jon Hart’s Man Versus Ball is a brief glimpse inside the life of those other guys working in major league stadiums. Hart accepted the undercover assignment as a journalist, but was so enthralled with the life of a vendor that he worked an entire season at Yankee Stadium, another at Shea, and still another at Citi Field. And that wasn’t enough; Hart spent time in Spring Training as well. Add to that a job as a U.S. Open ball person, an amateur caddie during a PGA tournament, a year in semi-pro football and a couple of seasons as an inline skating basketball player, and you have the highly entertaining Man Versus Ball.
This is not a book for kids, as Hart does not sugarcoat the language heard in the depths of the sports world, but there are several laugh-out-loud passages for the mature reader. As a former vendor myself (ten games at the old Riverfront Stadium in Cincinnati), I particularly enjoyed the chapters that followed Hart’s adventures slinging sodas and hawking hot dogs, almost so much that I am thinking about applying for the job at Great American Ballpark this summer. It sounds foolish, but the thought has crossed my mind.
Hart’s book is a reminder to live life to the fullest, no matter what your station in life. Whether you are on the field chasing fly balls or in the stands pushing peanuts, do it with all your might and enjoy it. There is no sense of regret in Man Versus Ball, and there should be no regret in life either.
Getting It Write: An Insider’s Guide To A Screenwriting Career
by Lee Zahavi Jessup
Michael Wiese Productions, 2014
There are hundreds of books about screenwriting, and nearly all of them focus on the process of writing itself. That’s good, since someone who wants to be a screenwriter needs to know how to write. But there is so much more to being a screenwriter than the writing process; that’s where Lee Zahavi Jessup’s book Getting It Write: An Insider’s Guide To A Screenwriting Career comes into play.
Jessup lays it all out there, basically telling her readers not to aspire to a screenwriting career unless you’re willing to do a lot of non-writing work. This book contains a plethora of information about networking, contests, representation, queries, and much more. Jessup does not touch the actual writing process; she assumes that if you pick up a book on screenwriting careers, you have already learned the basics of the craft.
Jessup’s honesty is refreshing, and every time you turn the page you will find a new reason to give up. However, that is not her aim. Rather she simply wants aspiring screenwriters to know how much more is expected than just the script. Her tips on professionalism and selling yourself are priceless, and those who are looking to break into the industry need to read Getting It Write to get it right.
Brooks: The Biography of Brooks Robinson
by Doug Wilson
Thomas Dunne Books, 2014
One of the greatest all-around third baseman, and arguably the greatest defensive player at the hot corner, Brooks Robinson played his entire major league career with the Baltimore Orioles. He was raised well, got along with both teammates and management, and steered clear of controversy during and after his career. Sounds like there is not much to write about, but biographer Doug Wilson does an outstanding job of bringing the Hall of Famer’s story to life; it is quite refreshing to read a positive account of a ballplayer’s life.
The chronicle of Robinson’s life includes his upbringing and the very minor shenanigans he got into—nothing that would garner major headlines anywhere. His early struggles at the plate are discussed, though his glovework was never doubted. The author also talks about Robinson’s relationship with his teammates, both white and black, when racial tensions were still out in the open; Brooks never fell prey to racism. When the Reds traded Frank Robinson, and the Baltimore media tried to make a controversy about the leadership roles the two Robinsons would have on the team; Brooks made it clear that there was never any controversy.
Brooks Robinson was a man who understood that he was a role model, and lived his life in such a way that his reputation would not be damaged by immoral or unethical actions. Wilson’s book captures that attitude wonderfully and would be an excellent addition to any baseball library.
1967 Red Sox: The Impossible Dream Season
by Raymond Sinibaldi
Arcadia Publishing, 2014
Featuring the Triple Crown MVP winner Carl Yastrzemski and Cy Young winner Jim Lonborg, the 1967 Boston Red Sox won the pennant by a game and played a thrilling World Series against the St. Louis Cardinals. Author Raymond Sinibaldi reminisces about that magical season through a series of over 200 photographs, many from his personal collection that have never before been published. Sinibalid begins with a chapter about the franchise and how it changed over the years, going from great to bad and then to “the impossible dream season” of 1967.
It is said that a picture is worth a thousand words; these pictures are worth much more to baseball fanatics. To relive the season in Fenway Park with Yaz and Lonnie and Tony Conigliaro and Reggie Smith and Rico Petrocelli and the many other BoSox, to see them both in the field and in more candid moments in the clubhouse, it is a treasure that Red Sox fans and baseball fans will love.
1967 Red Sox: The Impossible Dream Season, $21.99, Arcadia Publishing. Available at local retailers, online bookstores, or through Arcadia Publishing at www.arcadiapublishing.com or (888) 313-2665.
The Streak: How Joe DiMaggio Became America’s Hero by Barb Rosenstock, illustrated by Terry Widener (2014)
The Streak: How Joe DiMaggio Became America’s Hero
by Barb Rosenstock, illustrated by Terry Widener
Calkins Creek, 2014
There are baseball players that transcend the game. Ted Williams, Babe Ruth, Sandy Koufax, and the subject of Barb Rosenstock’s most recent children’s book, The Streak, Joe DiMaggio. The Yankee Clipper’s 51-game hitting streak in 1941 is regarded as one of those records that may never be broken. Rosenstock recounts the legend’s march into the record books “all started quietly, like a conversation with Joe DiMaggio himself.”
Rosenstock briefly follows DiMaggio’s season, the stress he underwent, the excitement the country felt even in the midst of war as he approached George Sisler’s 41-game record. She writes, “America pulled for Joe, prayed for Joe. This was the United States of Baseball and Joe DiMaggio was its President.” DiMaggio’s relationship with his favorite bat, Betsy Ann, is explained; the concern when she went missing in between games of a double header in Washington after tying the record is felt by the reader, even though we know the ending.
With any children’s book, the illustrations are of utmost importance. Terry Widener has illustrated several baseball books, and his work never disappoints. His portrayal of DiMaggio in The Streak shows the player’s intensity in Widener’s distinctive style.
The Streak is a great book to help educate younger generations of one of the game’s greatest legends, and the artwork can be enjoyed by all baseball fans, young and old.
Now Write! Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror
edited by Laurie Lamson
Many writing tutorials promise exercises and prompts, but fall short on delivery. The Now Write! series, however, offers multiple applicable exercises for each chapter of instruction. Dozens of contributors give their best practices to get you writing better and more often. Some of these writers are pretentious and their snobbery jumps off the page within the first few sentences of their article, but if the reader can see through the author’s ego, the exercises are still worth the time.
That said, there are some very helpful chapters in Now Write! Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror. Jessica Page Morrell’s “The Villain’s Handbook” is a primer for creating memorable monsters. Janice Hardy’s “So, What Do You Know? Deepening Your World Building Through Point of View” helps you get to know not only your characters but the world they live in, which helps you inform your audience through the character’s point of view. Jay Lake’s “Flashing Yourself” is great for warm-up writing to get your creativity flowing.
The resources in Now Write! Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror are particularly helpful to young writers still trying to find their place in the world, but also serve as good reminders to those who have been writing for decades.
Purchase Now Write! Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror edited by Laurie Lamson or explore other titles in the Now Write! series.
Tales From The Deadball Era
by Mark S. Halfon
Potomac Books, 2014
The basics of the game of baseball will never change. There will always be a pitcher throwing a ball to a batter whose goal is to hit the ball into play, reach base, and eventually score a run. But the way those basics are approached and the equipment used in the execution has changed vastly. Mark S. Halfon takes readers of Tales From The Deadball Era back to a much different game featuring some of the all-time greats like Ty Cobb and Cy Young. Though their names are still huge today, Halfon examines the obstacles they overcame to achieve greatness.
During the first two decades of the twentieth century, pitchers had many advantages over hitters. Dirty, lopsided baseballs were hard to hit because they were hard to see; they were hard to hit far because of the way they were manufactured. The dimensions of the ballparks were so vast that a batted ball rarely went over the fence; most home runs were inside-the-park incidents. Spit balls and emery balls and other “freak” pitches were allowed. Batters adjusted the way they approached the plate, choking up on a heavier bat to give them a better chance of hitting the ball where they wanted to hit it.
Cheating and gambling were not only commonplace, such activities were often condoned so long as it was done for the benefit of the team. Attitudes changed eventually, evidenced by the handling of the Chicago “Black Sox” scandal of 1919. Speaking of the “Black Sox,” the author debunks many of the myths that have been passed down through the years by researching the news stories of that time, shedding light on some of the misconceptions of how baseball was perceived in the aftermath.
Baseball was a tougher game during the deadball era, one that would surprise and confuse and possibly appall fans of the modern game. Halfon transports his readers back to that time, giving them an inside look at the minds of the baseball legends of that day. Tales From The Deadball Era is highly recommended for baseball history buffs.
by Denise Jaden
New World Library, 2014
Books about writing are a dime a dozen, and all contain essentially the same information: identifying your characters, your setting, and your theme; formulating your plot and your scenes; bringing that all together to write a cohesive novel. The first half of Denise Jaden’s Fast Fiction is essentially just that, perhaps using some different words and ideas to get the point across, but the point ends up being the same. However, Jaden ends the first half of her instruction manual on novel writing with a challenge that may be familiar to those who have participated in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo): write your goal down in writing, with a start date and end date, along with either daily word counts or time commitments.
The true value of Jaden’s Fast Fiction, however, is found in the second half of the book. The book is named Fast Fiction because it designed to help one write the first draft of a novel fast—fifty thousand words in thirty days, or approximately 2000 words each day. Daily encouragement, with prompts for those times that the creativity isn’t quite flowing or the writing seems dry. Each day is filled with motivation and inspiration, a little push to keep you going, and a reminder of where you should be in your story.
Fast Fictionis an essential part for every writer’s arsenal, one that can be used anew with each literary project. I will begin writing my novel using Jaden’s guidance, and I encourage you to do the same.
Ask More, Get More
by Michael Alden
Emerald Book Company, 2014
If you suffer from insomnia, you have probably seen Michael Alden on an late-night television infomercial. He is the CEO and founder of Blue Vase Marketing, LLC, and is a wealthy man despite his upbringing as a poor kid in a poor neighborhood. Alden’s success came from a determination to ask more of himself from a young age, and through the pages of Ask More, Get More he encourages his readers to do the same, claiming to teach “how to earn more, save more, and live more…just by asking.”
Ask More, Get More is not a get-rich-quick scheme, nor is it a proponent of mooching off the government with no view to self-sufficiency. Rather, the book attempts to instill in the reader a determination to receive better things by doing better things. Taking advantage of the opportunities—mostly created by each individual—and asking for more of yourself in each situation. Alden tells several motivational stories from his own life, including his own failures and shortcomings. Rather than making excuses for those times that he did not immediately succeed, he takes responsibility and encourages others to prepare for bumps in the road.
Ask More, Get More is a motivational book that is full of not-so-common sense that will help you get more out of yourself and others that work with you, no matter what your lot in life. If this is something that appeals to you, I will do what the book suggests and ask if you would consider purchasing it by clicking on the “purchase” link below.
Sit & Solve Baseball Crosswords
by David J. Kahn
Puzzlewright Press, 2014
Spring training is underway and the regular season is right around the corner; baseball is on the minds of millions of fans across the country. Crossword puzzles are a great way to exercise one’s mind, and with David J. Kahn’s new series of baseball crossword puzzles, one can exercise his mind while thinking about baseball at the same time!
The forty-two never-before-published puzzles in Sit & Solve Baseball Crosswords range from medium to difficult, with an emphasis on America’s pastime. If you know who the name of the Hall of Famer with the .331 batting average, or the 1988 NL MVP, or the last player to wear uniform #42, then you can take a crack at some of these puzzles. There are general knowledge questions as well, but the baseball historian will surely be able to figure out even the most obscure non-baseball clues by filling in the answers he is sure of.
While the are not all easy, they are all fun. Sit & Solve Baseball Crosswords would make a great gift for any baseball fan, one sure to keep them entertained for hours.
At The Old Ballgame: Stories from Baseball’s Golden Era
edited by Jeff Silverman
Lyons Press, 2014
As a fan of baseball history, I love to immerse myself in books about the players and teams of the past. Rarely, though, do I see a book that goes all the way back to the turn of the twentieth century. At The Old Ballgame, edited by Jeff Silverman, does just that. Silverman presents a number of stories, poems, and articles from 1867-1921, both fictional tales and actual accounts of games.
On the fictional side, you can’t get any better than “Casey At The Bat,” the epic poem penned by Ernest Lawrence Thayer, and Grantland Rice’s sequel, “Casey’s Revenge.” Ring Lardner’s satirical “My Roomy” is also included, and I found myself laughing several times as the author claimed he would be happy to sign for the coming season as long as he could pick his own roommate.
The historical pieces are fascinating as well, a snapshot of different aspects of the game. Christy Mathewson writes about jinxes. Grover Cleveland Alexander explains his performance in the 1915 World Series. Candy Cummings describes his discovery of the curveball. A Chicago reporter opines that the 1919 World Series was won fair-and-square, despite the rumors.
There will be a great deal written and talked about this world’s series. There will be a lot of inside stuff that never will be printed, but the truth will remain that the team which was the hardest working, which fought hardest, and which stuck together to the end won. The team which excelled in mechanical skill, which had the ability, individually, to win, was beaten.
Twenty-two old-time pieces gives us a glimpse into the game as it was played during simpler times. At The Old Ballgame is perfect for baseball lovers of all ages.
The Ax Murders of Saxtown
by Nicholas J. C. Pistor
Lyons Press, 2014
Nothing titillates the imagination more than unsolved crime, and the more gruesome the better. In 1874, a terrible event occurred to a German family in Saxtown, Illinois—a heinous murder that took out not only the adults, but two very small children. With no witnesses and no reliable evidence, investigators were forced to rely on suspicion to formulate theories and make arrests. They were unable, however, to obtain a confession, and the case has remained unsolved for over a century.
Author Nicholas J. C. Pistor, a reporter for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, digs into the history of the Stelzriede murder in The Ax Murders of Saxtown. He paints a picture of the crime scene, the bloodied bodies, and the mob awaiting justice on the property outside. The prominent figures are profiled, both on the side of the law (educator Isaiah Thomas, Sheriff James W. Hughes) and under the cloud of suspicion (George Schneider, George Killian, and others). Pistor gets no closer to the truth today than Thomas and Hughes did in the nineteenth century, but gives a very detailed account of the various theories surrounding the case.
For those who enjoy tales of true crime and unsolved mysteries, The Ax Murders of Saxtown is a good read.