Next in Line – In honor of basketball season, I decided to pick this up – the story of Chris Mack’s first season at Xavier. Great read – love to relive this season, which included legendary players like Jason Love, Tu Holloway and Jordan Crawford. There was a double-overtime Shootout win, as well as an unbelievable Sweet Sixteen showdown with Kansas State. Loved it.
Hillbilly Elegy – One of the best books you’ll read all year. The story of J.D. Vance and his family, and how hillbilly culture leads to failure – and sometimes, success – is riveting and throught-provoking. You’ll laugh and cry with this one – on par with All Over But the Shoutin.
No Middle Name – Oh man. A collection of all the bonus short stories Lee Child has written about Reacher. Some of these I’d read, most I hadn’t, but they are all amazingly enjoyable, especially the story about a poor Vet whom Reacher means – and gives a very special gift. Super, super good stuff.
Night School – Back to Reacher!!!! I couldn’t stay away any longer. We flash back again to when he’s in the Army, and this time he and a couple other elite military guys are called in for a special mission. What are they doing? I’m itching to find out …
The Gunslinger – I admit it. I gave in. For years I’ve wanted to read Stephen King’s Dark Tower novels. But I was always hesitant. I didn’t want to make that kind of commitment – it’s eight books after all. But then I saw the trailer for the movie, and even though the reviews have been terrible, I was intrigued. In fact, I knew I had to jump in. So I did. And I loved it. It’s amazing. So much so that I went to Wikipedia to read what happens in the other seven books. Now I don’t have to read all of them. But I really enjoyed my brief Dark Tower experience.
The Truth Behind Men in Black – Picked this up at the flea market. Best $1 I’ve ever spent. Love to hear these stories about Men in Black, even from way back in the day, like Kenneth Arnold. Fascinating stuff.
Infinity Blues – Every now and then I have to throw a wild card out there, right? This is a book of poetry by my fave musician Ryan Adams. Picked it up at a second-hand store and loved it immediately. Raw, bare, emotional and sometimes heartbreaking – just the kind of poetry I love the most.
Physics of the Future – Another outstanding Michio Kaku book, this one takes a look at how the world will advance technologically by 2100. Fascinating, and in some cases, frightening. A must read.
Not of This World – got it for 50 cents at a library used book sale. That’s about what it’s worth. Poorly translated from Italian, I believe, and written where some things seem factual even though they are not, it’s an odd read. Some good info on ancient civilizations and odd occurrences, though.
Predator: Concrete Jungle – To celebrate the 30th anniversary of the film, I was able to track down the original novel that was supposed to be the sequel for the original movie. Ah, Amazon is amazing, isn’t it? This tale involves the brother of the original character Arnold played in the film. He’s a police officer in NYC and the Predators are seemingly coming after him. Okay, I’m in!
The Lost City of the Monkey God – Took a break from the Predator reading for the true story of a journalist Indiana Jones type who went off to find a lost city in 2012 in Honduras. Did they find it? Spoiler alert … maybe. But what they did certainly find was horrifying. A great, great read.
Predator: Big Game – Got into a bit of a cycle here with reading some Predator comics and I loved them. This one introduces us to a Native American soldier/hunter who has to take on the alien. Great characterization and story.
Predator: Kindred – A sleepy Oregon town is about to learn what it is to go against the Predator. Loved this graphic novel. Love this universe of stories.
Monsters Among Us – Back to the paranormal, where Linda Godfrey explores odd stories from across America. Wolfmen, Lizard dudes and of course, aliens show up in this collection – as well as a few stories I hadn’t heard before.
Communion – Since I was a kid, the cover of this book gave me nightmares. You may remember it: It’s just the big head of an alien, with huge, dark eyes. I remember seeing it everywhere in bookstores in the late 80s. It was creepy. A few weeks ago I decided to read the book, which is the supposedly true account of author Whitley Strieber’s constant visitations from otherwordly creatures. I have to say – the book did not disappoint. It’s scarier than any Stephen King book I’ve ever read, and I’m glad I’m done with it. That’s all I’ve got to say.
Make Me – The 20th Reacher book, and it was one of my faves, dissecting the mysteries of the Deep Web and the nastiness that happens there. Fantastic read, with another great short story at the end, too. Ready for one more? Then I’ll be all caught up. Night School is next.
Personal – Almost finished with the Reacher series now. I think just two more to go. I’ll be honest – this was not my favorite in the series. The setup sounded cool, but I’m not sure it worked for me like some of the others. A sniper from Reacher’s past gets out of prison with a vendetta because Reacher put him away. Sounds good, right? I’m not sure it got much better. On to the next …
A Wanted Man – Back to Reacher’s antics. He thumbs for a ride in Nebraska – and of course, he just happens to hitch with two murderers and a hostage. Who but Reacher could help figure this out? I’m along for the ride.
The Affair – We flash back again to Reacher in the military. It’s an awesome read. Who’s responsible for killing three beautiful women in Mississippi? Is it a rogue soldier? A senator’s son? Or is it the equally beautiful female police chief? Reacher finds out.
Jack Reacher’s Rules – What’s the best way to enter a building if you suspect your enemy is waiting inside? How do you spot a terrorist bomber on a train? Can you really get a hotel room in a fancy place for $20 a night? Find out in this offshoot of the Reacher series where he pontificates on what he’s learned from his life of adventures. Fun stuff.
Time and Space – One of the Time Life Books selection series, I’m continuing my research on time travel from various sources. Interesting anecdotes, but way too focused on ancient alien type sources. Good to have in the library though.
Hunt for the Skinwalker – Monsters. UFOs. Bigfoot. Would you believe all of the above have been witnessed on one ranch in Utah? Many do. Referenced in the 37th Parallel book, I had to read more about Skinwalker Ranch. The stuff sounds unbelievable, but even scientists have seen weird stuff out there. Really strange and compelling.
The Golden Era: A Celebration of Light – My favorite artist, impressionist G. Harvey, explains his finest works, complete with sketches and behind-the-scenes accounts of visit to the White House, etc. I’ve always loved his work, and this collection takes you inside his head for a while. Quite a career he’s had – and this is a nice tribute.
The Road to Omaha – Caught my eye at Half Price and when I flipped through I realized it’s my favorite kind of sports book. Uses the backdrop of an event I love – the College World Series – to tell the tale of the pageantry of the sport, as well as the Cinderella story of Fresno State’s run to the title. Awesome, awesome read.
Our Souls at Night – Every word counts in this brief, but beautiful look at two elderly people brought together by loneliness, and – later – love. Kent Haruf wrote the Great American novel (in my eyes) when he penned Plainsong, and when he died I was genuinely heartbroken. I’m grateful for this posthumous novel that’s as sweet and achingly sad as anything he’s done. It’s a nice goodbye note from an author gone too so0n.
Physics of the Impossible – One of my favorite people, theoretical physicist Michio Kaku, takes a look at the impossible theories of the universe – time travel, parallel worlds, teleportation, UFOs and laser guns – and tells us how likely they are to actually occurring. Just fascinating.
The 37th Parallel – Oh my gosh. The guy who wrote The Accidental Billionaires wrote a book about a UFO Hunter! Okay – I’m in. Ben Mezrich follows a UFO Hunter as he investigates cattle mutilations along the 37th parallel – and it turns out a lot of other weird things happen, too. This will be a great movie.
Gone Just Gone – Thirteen baffling disappearances. Found this at Half Price. In the spirit of Missing 411, it tackles crazy stories of disappearances. Unfortunately, most of these cases have pretty guessable as to why these folks disappeared.
The Demon in the Freezer – Fascinating look at smallpox and anthrax by Richard Preston, who set the world on fire when he wrote about Ebola in The Hot Zone in the 1990s. This book is just as enthralling. I read it in three days. Possibly the scariest thing you could ever read.
Parting Shots – Dan Issel wrote a book! I never even knew until I found this little wonder at Half Price for $3. I had to bring it into the collection. Plus, it’s a really interesting look at one of the game’s stars retiring in the mid-80s in the middle of the Lakers and Celtics’ glory years. Good info about Rupp and the rest of the SEC, ABA and NBA.
Ramona Forever – picked this up for free at Carrington’s new school. Get to intro her to the wonderful world of Beverly Cleary.
It – I’ll be honest – I really wanted to read this after watching Netflix’s “Stranger Things.” I never read Stephen King’s opus but I remember Mom reading it when I was a kid. Now I feel like I’m ready to do it. Diving in now.
Joe B. Hall: My Own Kentucky Home – Found this little treasure at Half Price Books. Russell Rice paved the way for what Joe and I do now, so I love reading some of these old books by Rice. He was always nice to me.
Back-to-Back – A break from Reacher. Tom Ramstetter’s look at LaSalle’s football team. I’m kind of an adopted fan. This book tells their story. I loved it!
Worth Dying For – Reacher. Again. Did he die in the last book? No sir. But he’s hurting. And he’s in Nebraska. That’s not a good combination. What do the sinister Duncan family have on the whole town that keeps everyone afraid?
61 Hours – Back to Reacher. He’s stuck in South Dakota. It’s cold. And he decides to help protect an elderly witness against a ruthless drug biker gang. Chaos ensues.
Contagious – a break in the Reacher reading for work, which assigned me a fascinating look into why things catch on the way they do. It’s a psychological look at why we talk about what we do. Think of grown-ups playing telephone and you’ve got it. Interesting, but already a little dated.
Gone Tomorrow – A woman is showing all the signs of being a terrorist on a New York City subway. Reacher notices first and he tries to intervene. Instead, the woman pulls out a gun and takes her own life. Or … was she controlled by other forces?
Nothing to Lose – Reacher again. Stuck between the two Kansas towns of Hope and Despair, Reacher tries to figure out what is going on at the local plant – because it seems to be killing young men in the town. Excellent.
West by West – Amazing autobiography by The Logo, Jerry West. Some look at the book as being too pretentious – as in, why should a successful championship player and executive still suffer from crippling depression? because depression can affect anyone – especially someone who was brutally abused by his father when he was young. Honest, revealing, introspective and just plain fascinating – this is a sports book that needs to be read.
American Splendor – Found this at Half Price, too. So excited. One of my favorite movies, I always wanted to find some of the comics from Harvey Pekar. So I just found the comic they based the movie on, a collaboration of some of his best work, including My Cancer Year. So funny. So poignant and honest.
Amazing Stories – Got this ultra-cool find on the clearance rack at Half Price Books. Always loved this mid-1980s show by Steven Spielberg – very Twilight Zone-like, but much more positive. Each chapter is based on a story from the series. Love it. And it was $1.99 on sale. Very cool.
Bad Luck and Trouble – Back to Reacher. Already amazing. His old super investigating crew in the military is being picked off, one by one, 10 years later. The survivors team up to get vengeance for their comrades – and to find out what is going on. Because you do NOT mess with the special investigators.
Missing 411: The Devil’s in the Details – Why do so many people go missing in America’s national parks? No one knows. But it’s a fact – something weird is going on, and this book (to me) is one of the scariest things you’ll ever read.
The Hard Way – Reacher is sitting on a NYC street corner, having a coffee, minding his won business. Then all hell breaks loose.
The Enemy – Back to the Reacher series. Lord it’s been too long. Already loving it. Great look at Reacher back in the day when he was in the Army as an MP. It’s awesome.
UFO Hunters – Taking a bit of a break before I head back into the Reacher series, but I couldn’t help myself – had to pick up a copy of this book, which follows folks as they investigate UFO reports all over the world. This would seriously be my dream job. Of course, then I’d want to write about it.
The Drop – Back to the Bosch series. Found this at Half Price Books, and had to pick it up for a dollar. Loved it. Juggling two cases at once, Bosch has to manage old enemies, family, a lovelife, and a new deadly foe. From the first page to the last this one is hard to put down.
One and Fun – The book is fun. Aside from some minor mistakes here and there, I have to admire Aaron Torres for this effort. The downside is that if you read his oral history of this team on Fox, and you listen to KSR, you don’t really learn anything from this project. It’s nice to read and remember this great team, but very little new ground is broken.
Planet of the Apes – Weird, weird book. Not at all like the movie, which I love. Still, the story is interesting, and the idea in itself is inspired. All in all though, I find this is one of the weird moments where the movies may actually be better than the book.
Persuader – As I continue through the Reacher series, this one is one of my favorites. Combines a little more Reacher history as we learn more about his past, and it shows us a couple of the most terrifying villains in the series. This one is an A-plus.
Without Fail – Okay. I’m won back over. This Reacher installment is magnificent. From the first page, you are hooked into a sordid affair. The plot sounds ridiculous but just stick with it – it’s awesome. Jack Reacher is tasked with assassinating the vice president. It’s really good.
Xavier Tales: Great Stories from Musketeers Basketball – Got this when I found out I’d gotten the new job. Was so thrilled. Loved learning about the history of my new university’s sports club. Michael Perry is also a good friend.
Echo Burning – Actually, I wasn’t thrilled with this installment of the Reacher series. While it was intriguing, there was a whole kidnapping bit that I just can’t deal with it. However, it was still very well done. That’s a pun on the burning and the heat – get it? Well done? Still worth reading.
Running Blind – This is an actual sequel to the third Reacher book, and it’s fun to see how Child handles this. Love how these stories seem so fresh. I can see how near the 30th book, Reacher getting framed for murder may seem a little redundant, but here it just seems fun. These books are wicked fun.
Pet Sematary – Wanted to read it for Halloween to examine ho scary a book can be – and how someone may write a really scary novel. Well, it’s horrifying – but also so bleak you really don’t want to finish it. I did just to see what happened. Great ending – but a total lack of hope or redemption made me queasy.
Tripwire – Reacher No. 3. I love this series so much. I just fly through them.
Die Trying – Book No. 2 in the Jack Reacher series. So far, it’s outstanding. So, so good.
The Mothman Prophecies – Got this from the Mothman Festival in Point Pleasant. Odd book, because it really doesn’t deal with much of the Mothman as it does with UFOs, Men in Black and other things that go bump in the night. It’s still fascinating, but not exactly what you expect. One thing is for certain: There was some weird stuff going on in West Virginia in 1966.
Ghost Stories of Tennessee – Picked this up while in Gatlinburg. Really nice to pick up every once in a while. Just the kind of folklore I find fascinating. You know there’s going to be some teenagers who are up to no good and probably pay for it – and you know there’s going to be a story about the Bell Witch. I found out I was right on both.
The Black Box – One of the best Bosch novels you’ll read. There’s a case that has stung the detective for 20 years – and he finally gets a chance to solve it. How does he do it? By being awesome. A great story by a great storyteller.
The Overlook – Great little Bosch novel that you can read in a day. I loved this because I needed something to get my mind off the real world for a while, so I stepped back into Bosch’s shoes – always thrilling. This time it’s a nuclear threat. Of course it is. Well worth the time.
The Killing Floor – Yes! Found this at a Half-Price store up in Cincy. It’s the first Reacher book. Excited about this. More to come … UPDATE: This book was amazing. Seriously. I’m keeping it on my list of all-time greats. So much more than an adventure story. Sooooo good.
Charles Berlitz’s World of Strange Phenomena – Grew up with this book. Love it. Reading it again. Awesome.
Fifty Shades of Grey – Got this for a dollar at Half-Price Books. Wanted to know a bit more about what all the fuss was for. Besides finding the prose a bit ridiculous, I also find the story amazingly unbelievable. Maybe I’m naive, but I just don’t belief this ultra hot dude with all the money in the world wants a 22-year-old girl fresh out of college who’s never had sex before. Um, no. And I’m only 100 pages in. My first erotica novel! Exciting. UPDATE: This was pretty unbelievable and terrible. I threw it away.
3 Nights in August – A lot of my friends are baseball and Reds fans, which means they also hate Tony LaRussa. I find that funny. And I know most folks hate people in sports because they are winners. So I was drawn to Buzz Bissinger’s book about LaRussa and the Cardinals and a series with the Cubs in a normal baseball season. Great stories about baseball players we still know, like Pujols and Rolen. Great baseball book about the mind of a manager.
Never Go Back – My second read in the Reacher series, because this is the next one they will make into a movie. Stellar beginning, and we get a more layered description of the Reacher character. I just found the first Reacher novel at Half Price Books, so I’ll be starting that soon. I love this series. Unbelievable? Completely. But awesome all the way.
Charles Berlitz’s World of the Odd and the Awesome – Loved these books when I was a kid, and found a box of them for free at a yard sale. I took them. Loved going through these stories again. Berlitz shaped my view as a kid when I was learning about the supernatural world. I always looked for his books when I went to the library. Good to reconnect with them.
One Shot – My first foray into the world of Jack Reacher. As I put Harry Bosch aside for the moment, I stepped into the world of the nomadic Reacher, the Army MP veteran who lives on his pension and travels the country getting into adventures. It brings back memories of Kung Fu and The Hitchhiker, and I was so taken with this book I started searching for others – and even watched Tom Cruise’s movie version, which wasn’t bad. Highly recommend the book!
The Scarecrow – As I read for school, I also try to continue to read for pleasure. Here I choose Connelly’s next in the journalist series, where our hero from The Poet is about to be laid off from his newspaper job. He instead goes head-first into one last, great cop story. We’ll see what happens. (When I finished, this was one of my faves!)
And the Walls Came Tumbling Down – Frank Fitzpatrick writes the definitive account of Kentucky versus Texas El Paso, and while UK and Rupp play the role of villain, I have to read this book for school, as I continue to study the role of race in rivalry and sport. The story, literally starts here.
The Narrows – As I continue jumping into the Bosch universe I had a total mind blow – there was a sequel to The Poet, but instead, it involved FBI agent Rachel and – wait for it – BOSCH! I couldn’t believe these universes were coming together. I’m into it now.
The Black Echo – I decided to jump in to the Harry Bosch novels and start at the beginning. Simply, it’s engrossing. So well done. We love Bosch as a character, and the explanation of the black echo is frightening. Love the flashbacks to when Bosch was a tunnel rat in Vietnam. Not sure I completely believe the ending, but it’s well worth it. And I can see why people love this series. I’m sure I’ll continue it.
The Poet – I’m ready for this one. After picking up Nine Dragons, I also grabbed this one on a whim. Here’s a separate story about a journalist who covers, as he calls it, the “death beat.” Apparently he starts covering the stories of a serial killer who likes the poems of Edgar Allan Poe a bit too much. I was more than intrigued. Bring it on!
Maniac Magee – Picked this up on a recent trip to the kiddie bookstore with Carrington. I remembered I loved this book so much when I was an adolescent, and after reading it again, I remembered why. Maniac Magee is an orphan who can outhit, outrun and outwit anyone he meets. He can untie the most difficult of knots – and maybe, just maybe, he can bring together the racially divided halves of his town. Written by Jerry Spinelli, who would win the Newberry Medal for this work, the book is heartbreaking, heartwarming and throught-provoking, no matter the age of the reader. I can’t believe it hasn’t been made into a feature film. Read this book!
Nine Dragons – I’d heard there was a Harry Bosch novel out there where the Lincoln Lawyer makes an appearance. Y’all know I love everything Lincoln, so I had to have this. It was my first true Bosch novel, and yes, our Lincoln Lawyer hero does make a memorable appearance toward the end. But this really got me into the Bosch series as well, and I’m sure I’ll find myself reading more of them when I have time. Here we have Bosch’s daughter kidnapped a ruthless Chinese gang. This was “Taken” before it was made, as Bosch travels to Hong Kong to get her back – but not everyone makes it out alive. Fantastic. I see more of these in my reading future.
The Gods of Guilt – Connelly does it again. The fifth in the Lincoln Lawyer series. I can’t put it down. I hope there’s another coming soon. Outstanding lawyer beach reading here.
The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym – Edgar Allen Poe has been a favorite since I was a kid. And even though I’d loved his short stories, including The Gold Bug, I’d never read Pym until I read Lovecraft’s “Madness.” This, for me, was painful. It begins as a great sea story, and I expected something out of Treasure Island, which I also loved, but instead I got a wild, uneven, sometimes adventurous tale with no ending. In all, it was completely frustrating. Disappointing.
At the Mountains of Madness – H.P. Lovecraft has come highly recommended by friends and other authors alike, especially his famous ‘Madness’ tale of an expedition that finds much more than it bargained for. I liked this a lot, from the literary device used, to the main character, to the impressive way it predicts future technology. There also seems to be a bit of “Ancient Aliens” in this. Fascinating. But it was still a very old work of science fiction, and my only criticism is that we’re exploring a place in the story that has now been heavily explored. We’ve been there, done that. Perhaps there is a way to update the tale – exploring the ocean depths, maybe – that could make it even more scary and relevant today. Overall though, it must be read. I hear there’s been a movie in the works for a while. I’d be interested.
Philanthropy and American Higher Education – My adviser John Thelin, who has literally written most of the books on Higher Ed, comes back with this one (which I am reading for his class) and again he doesn’t disappoint. It is his belief that the future of higher ed in America depends on Philanthropy. After reading this I would have to agree.
The Fifth Witness – No. 4 in the Mickey Lincoln Lawyer series. This one may have been the best. Our fave lawyer anti-hero has taken up foreclosure cases, and finds himself in the middle of a murder where the culprit may be a defendant from another case – a little old lady. Along the way he’s beaten by goons, rekindles the flame with his ex-wife and may just be able to put the real killer behind bars – if he survives. This may be the most satisfying of all in the series. Cannot recommend them enough!
The Godfather Returns – Reading this now before I return to the remaining two volumes of the Lincoln Lawyer series. This book is definitely not as good as The Family Corleone, but it’s not as bad as some Amazon reviews would lead you to believe. This one tries to fill in the years between the Godfathers I and II, while taking the story farther, post-Gfather II. Some things I could care less about. Many seem to be horrified that in this interpretation, Fredo is discovered to be gay. I wasn’t outraged in the least. In fact, it seemed to be a logical conclusion based on his character. Still, people hate change. Other characters are fascinating – you just have to look past some minor inconsistencies in plot points from books to movie. Altogether, it’s a nice way to keep these characters alive in your head. And by the way – nothing could ever be as bad as Godfather III.
The Reversal – Our fave lawyer anti-hero decides to switch from the defense to the prosecution. With his ex-wife and ace investigator Harry Bosch by his side, Mickey tries to put away an alleged child killer. Again, I’m hooked on the whole series. Soooo good. Bit of a disappointing ending though. Still – awesome stuff.
The Brass Verdict – The second in The Lincoln Lawyer series. They need to make a movie of this too. Simply, a great story – and I don’t love lawyer stories! But I read through this in a hurry. Then I went out and I got the other three in this series.
Ghosthunting Kentucky – Part of the Ghosthunting America series, I couldn’t think of a better person to have written this than my old pal Patti Star. She gets all the spots you’d hope for – Bobby Mackey’s, Waverly, etc, – and others I’d never heard about. I’d like to write a book like this someday, maybe comparing colleges and university tales across Kentucky.
The Lincoln Lawyer – I saw this movie. I loved it. I started the book. I can’t put it down. And I don’t even love lawyer novels. (I read pretty much the entire John Grisham catalog in middle school). But this story – told first-person from the main character – is so likable as an anti-hero you get addicted to the words and the voice. It’s so much fun it makes me remember how much fun you can have with a book. A motorcycle gang, a streetwise chauffeur, a hot ex-wife prosecutor, and a series of other wicked supporting cast members could have stolen the show – if our main lawyer hero wasn’t so well developed. Of course, after seeing the movie, it’s very difficult to NOT picture Matthew McConaughey in the role.
Isaac Murphy: I Dedicate This Ride – Frank X Walker delivers another masterful collection of historically imaginative poems, this time based on the lives and relatives of Isaac Murphy, possibly the greatest jockey to ever don silks. Winner of three Kentucky Derbies, Murphy (an African-American) was famous for not using the whip on his rides. Instead, he talked to the horses. And it worked. Outstanding.
The Family Corleone – Fun. Fun. Fun. So this is the screenplay Mario Puzo wrote before he died, and it could have been a movie. And it’s GREAT. Here, author Ed Falco gets to novelize the screenplay, which chronicles the rise of Don Corelone to power. In it we see a teenage Sonny rescue Tom, who is supposed to be studying at NYU, but instead gets caught up shlepping Luca Brazi’s girl. Vito has yet to move to Long Island, but is making plans, and Fredo and Michael are in middle school. Tessio, Clemenza and the rest of the family are along for the ride – but please keep all arms and legs inside this vehicle. It’s dangerous. That is, unless you’re already getting plugged full of holes on the turnpike.
Affrilachia – What does it mean? It’s a relatively new word that describes African Americans who live in Appalachia. How did it become a word? Listen to my interview with Frank X Walker here. Affrilachia is Walker’s first book of poetry, released in 2000. I found it at Half Price Books – autographed, no less – and had to pick it up. It’s raw and brilliant and sad, filled with poignant questions (If Dr. King were more like Dr. Dre, would he have had as much influence?) and thoughtful imagery. Even though I tend to love Walker’s historical poetry more, this book has density. It’s more than worthwhile.
The Syndicate Wife – Wanted to read this for a long time. Engrossing from the first page. Reporter Hank Messick details the lives and deaths of the Made Men in the Northern Kentucky and Cincinnati areas from the 1920s to the 1960s. Based on testimony from the wife of trigger man Mike Coppola, readers can learn about the Sin City days of Newport, and how one courageous woman brought them down (still reading).
Dave Barry Does Japan – Bought at – you guessed it – a used book sale at the local library. I laughed a lot as Dave Barry travels to Japan in 1991 to learn about the culture and help ease tensions between the Japs (as he calls them) and America. Needless to say, I’m not sure how it worked out. But you do learn how to ask for beer in Japanese.
Down to the Last Pitch – Nice narrative here of what many call the greatest World Series of all time – 1991, Atlanta vs. Minnesota. This is one of the first Series I ever paid attention to, which is why I wanted to read this book. Set against the backdrop of each game, many interesting facts are discovered, including how Kirby Puckett thought of bunting in the nailbiting Game Six of the series. Instead, he hit the game-winning homer to force Game Seven. While I liked the book, I think I did find more typos than usual for a book of its kind. Still a great read and great topic. Debate your friends: Is it the best series ever?
Voice of the Wildcats – Nope. It’s not about Cawood Ledford. It’s about the voice before Cawood – Claude Sullivan, who not only served as the voice of the Cats, but also was the one-time voice of the Cincinnati Reds before Al Michaels. My friend Joe Cox helped Claude’s son Alan pen this memoir so his memory will not be forgotten. Read it if you love UK, if you love broadcasting or if you just love a guy who packed as much action as he could into a life cut too short.
Gone Girl – Decided I wanted to read this before I see the movie. I don’t care what homework reading I’m missing to do it. I’ve already decided this was a smart sacrifice of my studies. Completely engrossing from page one. At times brilliant, in others maddeningly ridiculous, it keeps you going until the end. Overall, I really enjoyed it, but like many readers (I’ve since learned) I hated the ending.
Campus Life – Helen Horowitz attempts to describe campus culture in college. The historical aspects are fascinating as we examine the birth of the schools, the rise of athletics, the rebellion, etc., and we see how students and faculty grew from those circumstances. Where the book seems to laughably fail, however, is how it tries to describe “contemporary” college life. Unfortunately, this is the first chapter, and you have to remember this book was published in 1988. College has changed a bit since then. For the historical aspects, however, the book is very well done.
A History of Higher Education in America – Again, reading for class. My professor and adviser, Dr. John Thelin, wrote this comprehensive book that takes us from the beginning of higher education to today. Very informative, but interesting in a way most academic works are not.
Rise of the Universities – Read this one for class at UK. Talks of the first universities and (natch) their rise in England. Big focus here on Oxford and Cambridge and the parallels we can see in the first universities in the colonies in America, like Harvard and William & Mary.
Haunted Baseball – Combining two of my great loves. Found this at Half-Price Books and ended up giving it to Joe. I perused it beforehand, of course, and found I was surprised at how many old baseball parks may in fact be haunted. Also had some creepy stories in there, like how Roberto Clemente had a lifelong fear of dying in a plane crash – and died in a plane crash. Many folks had bad feelings about the trip that led to his demise. Again – creepy. Worth checking out.
My Boring-Ass Life: The Uncomfortably Candid Diary of Kevin Smith – It’s true that when I was close to graduating from college and really didn’t have any job options yet, I emailed Kevin Smith and asked him if I could work for him. I never heard back. I suppose everything worked out just as well. I don’t really want to be tied to “Jersey Girl” anyway. But I am fascinated by autobiographies, and I found this one at a yard sale. For $1. So I bought it. If you can get past the minutiae of him pooping and eating, there are some fascinating essays as we watch him co-star in the movie “Catch and Release,” make “Clerks 2,” and help friend Jay Mewes fight his addiction to heroin (the book should be read for that entry by itself. Just outstanding). Overall, a fun read.
The Multimedia Journalist – This is the book I’ll be using in my fall Multimedia Storytelling class at NKU. It came very highly recommended and I have to agree that it does a great job of explaining the role of the contemporary journalist. How do you mix social media with storytelling? How do you make sure you’re reaching your readers in the best way? There may be no concrete answers, but this book can help figure out some possible solutions.
Inside the Real Area 51 – Got it from the International UFO Museum in Roswell. Interesting theories about the real purposes for the super-secret Dayton Air Force Base. Word of warning: the assumption here is that there really was an alien crash, and bodies were really taken to the base. If you can get past that, there is some weird stuff that makes you wonder what really did happen. Overall, a fascinating theory.
Killer Stuff and Tons of Money – Absolutely fascinating look at the inner-workings of professional pickers and the big events they frequent to find rusty gold. LOVE it. The characters absolutely fly off the page. One of the best nonfiction books I’ve read in a long while. Learned a lot and had fun doing it.
Wildcat Memories – As I said when I gave a blurb to author Doug Brunk: “The key to books about Kentucky basketball is picking the right folks and getting good interviews, and Doug Brunk has done that. Wildcat Memories does a great job of finding people who may not have gotten the recognition they deserve – people who were behind the scenes, but still had a hand in developing one of the great athletic programs in all of sports.” It’s a nice, nice read. Wish I’d have thought of it.
Players First – A book that is better than you would think. Nice insight into the 2012 championship season, but you do get a feeling this book was written for people who have not heard the normal Calipari schtick. Many of the phrases and stories will be re-treads, or things you’ve heard before if you’re a big-time UK fan and read the blogs everyday. Still, there are a few stories that even the most attentive of fans have never heard, and for those nuggets, the book is a fine read. Cal’s thoughts on the NCAA and where it’s heading are also interesting, as some of the change he advocated for has already happened.
David and Goliath – Malcolm Gladwell has produced some of the most thought-provoking and insightful work that I’ve ever read. Next to Brian Greene (The Elegant Universe) I don’t think I’ve ever read material so interesting. It makes you want to go to strangers on the street and ask them if they’ve read his books. D&G doesn’t disappoint. Using science and logic to tell the real story about why underdogs win in life, it makes you see the world in a different way – something all good art, and literature, strives to do. I put this second only to Outliers on my list of Gladwell faves.
Dixieland Delight – who knew Clay Travis was such a good writer? Each SEC campus is visited, where Travis writes about the atmosphere in these wild environs. Hilarity ensues. Well done, Clay.
Inferno – Dan Brown became a household name with The DaVinci Code, which was a very fine beach read, then followed it up with a lackluster sequel (The Lost Symbol). Thankfully, Inferno returns to form, as we again follow the intrepid Robert Langdon through a mystery of symbols and – in this case – art and literature in the form of Dante’s Inferno. A unique take on the Evil Genius Wants to Rule the World plot (possibly straight out of James Bond) makes this book stand out. Interesting until the end.
The State of the Game – Denny Crum wrote a book just after he retired, and for basketball fans, it’s worth a look. UofL fans will love it, but I also enjoyed it, possibly because I respect the coach so much I enjoyed learning about his history and the building of the program. The story about the recruitment of Larry Bird – and the ensuing game of HORSE – stands out the most.
Don’t Put Me in Coach – Mark Titus gives college basketball the Ball Four treatment. Hilarious, raunchy, fun as we follow a benchwarmer during his successful ride at a major division 1 hoops program. memorable stories include having severe stomach problems while waiting for a game to end, and the emergence of The Villain – Evan Turner. A must-read for anyone who loves college hoops or just loves to laugh.
Crawfish Bottom – My professor at UK, Doug Boyd, wrote this gem about a forgotten community in Kentucky. As an oral history, it is masterful. As a history book describing a lost town, it serves a deeper purpose. You start it and you can’t help but finish.
A UFO Hunter’s Guide – Great little book, a fun read to bone up on the topic. And you know where I’ll be headed on July 4, right? For all of the those reasons, I keep this little book in my car.
Leavings – Wendell Berry’s 18th book of poetry reflects on friends, family and life, but also takes a look within. Beautiful and thought-provoking. Something you’d like to curl up with on a cool fall day.
Stamina – This book was better than I thought it would be. I consider Derek Anderson a friend, and I think he wrote a great read. I never knew the extent of what his life was like when he was young. Just terrifying – and amazing that he was able to overcome it all to become the role model he is today. Inspiring.
The Real Science Behind ‘The X-Files’ – Fascinating look from the science adviser to the show, who explains how plots were devised, and how many were actually crafted from scientific fact. For those who are fans, this is a must-read, and yes – I know you’re wondering – they do discuss the very controversial episode ‘Home.’ Yuck. Overall though, a great read.
100 Things Reds Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die – Our couterpart in the MLB world. Interestingly enough, after writing 100 Things Wildcats, the folks from Triumph asked me if there was anything else I was interested in writing, and I suggested Joe and I write this Reds book, along with my friend Tom Ramstetter. Unfortunately for us, Joel was already writing this one, so we never had a chance. Just as well – I do not know Reds baseball as well as UK basketball. But this is one of the better 100 Things books around.
Area 51 – Annie Jacobsen covers the story of Area 51, and all of the secret flying stuff that’s been seen there. Jacobsen exhaustively researches the topic and becomes an expert.`
The Glory of Their Times – One of the great baseball books (and actually, one of the great sports books) of all-time. Told in the oral history style (much like what we do) we read stories of baseball talk from pre-20th century players. Fascinating accounts of what grassroots baseball was really like – when you start a chapter you cannot put it down. Found my copy for $4 at the flea market.
The Jordan Rules – Simply one of the best sports books of all-time. Like Season on the Brink, this one broke the mold. We meet Jordan the precocious scorer. We meet Jordan the fierce competitor. We meet Jordan the uncompromising winner. Does the will that makes you the best also make you a total asshole? It seems to be true in this case. Bravo, Sam Smith.
Dream Team – Jack McCallum is one of the best. Just read his account of the Dream Team scrimmaging itself in 92. Magic vs. Michael. The best against the best. McCallum had a front-row seat to watch the best basketball of ALL TIME. And now we get to follow along. Loved it.
Dave Barry is From Mars and Venus – Sometimes you just gotta laugh. He does it better than anyone. Got this for 25 cents at a library used book sale.
Is E.T. Here? – NKU’s philosophy professor Dr. Robert Trundle explores the implications of aliens visiting Earth. His conclusions – and suppositions – are surprisingly refreshing for an academic. In some cases the prose is dry, but the book is still significant. Fate Magazine named him one of the 100 most influential people in Ufology in 2005.
Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil – Simply put, this is one of my top five favorite books of all-time. Amazing true story – you will fall in love with the characters and the city. And then you will make a vacation trip. Few times in my life have I read a book more than once. This was my third reading of this book. So, so good.
Turn Me Loose: The Unghosting of Medgar Evers – Frank X Walker’s poetry takes us on another historical journey as we step into the life (and death) of Medgar Evers. Amazing use of historical voice. Haunting. Stays with you for a long, long time. Hear me interview Frank about the book here.
Paddle Your Own Canoe – Nick Offerman (Ron Swanson of Parks & Rec fame) shows us he’s much more like his TV persona than we ever knew. His observations and advice on life: (“Eat red meat. Work with your hands.”) reads like a cross between a Doomsday Survivalist story and a Republican voters’ guide. I loved it. Hilarious.
Calico Joe – John Grisham goes sappy and baseball-y, but it adds up to an interesting read. My only criticism is that he could’ve gone longer with this. It’s really more of a novella, and there’s a whole road trip with father and son that gets glazed over. I wanted to read about that.
World War Z – Just a zombie book? No, no, no. How about a masterful look at what could happen to the world if Ebola spreads in some new way? How about a realistic look at how the military could shape an unprepared world affected by drastic change? How about a literary marvel told from the perspective of survivors of the Zombie War – each character meticulously chosen, their voices perfect, their stories perfect. In short, a perfect read – and one of the scariest books you’ll ever pick up. Bravo, Max Brooks. I finished it in a weekend because I HAD to.
Snake – legendary Alabama and Raider QB Ken Stabler goes Ball Four as he tells us his life story of alcohol, football, women and chaos. At times funny, twisted, scary and fascinating, this one keeps you going – and reminds you to be thankful for what you’ve got and what you’ve done.
The Next Time You See Me – My old friend (and another former College Heights Herald writer-turned author) Holly Goddard Jones penned this debut novel and it haunted me with its honesty, fear, and hurt. Parts were lovely and parts were so heartbreakingly true it was hard to read – but I didn’t put it down until I was finished. A “Why-DoneIt” in the vein of Kent Haruf, Holly could be the next wildly successful author from these parts.
Plainsong – Quite possibly the best American novel ever written. Okay – at least it’s my favorite. Had a chance to see Kent Haruf once while at The Clarion-Ledger and I think I had to work. Boy what a regret that is. This is just poetry. I’ve read it a few times now. Better every time.