Wednesday, December 4, 2013

The Book Shelf: Part 4 of 4

A brief look at some of the books I have read over the last while:

Raylan – Raylan, of course, is Raylan Givens, the U.S. Marshal who is the focus of the TV series Justified. Raylan, the book, was written by Elmore Leonard, and it is a treat to read any of his work. His dialogue and his characters always make his work worth reading, and this one is no different. Even if the first half deals with the stealing of kidneys. (William Morrow, hard cover, 263 pages, US$26.99 -- found at Chapters for $7.99)

Randy Bachman's Vinyl Tap Stories – If you are a fan of Randy Bachman's Vinyl Tap, the popular CBC radio program, you'll enjoy reading this book. And if you haven't heard even one Vinyl Tap show, you'll enjoy it, too. Lots of music-related stories here, and lots of anecdotes involving Guess Who, BTO, Bravebelt, Chad Allen and the Expressions, and on and on. The last few pages feature a whole bunch of interesting lists, too. (Penguin, soft cover, 224 pages, Cdn$20.00)

Red Mittens & Red Ink: The Vancouver Olympics – Vancouver-based journalist Bob Mackin takes an intriguing look at the 2010 Olympic Winter Games that were held in Vancouver and Whistler. Mackin tackles the years before the Games, the leadup to the Games, the two weeks of the Games and the post-Games period. If you have any interest at all in what went on behind the scenes, in the impact the recession had on these Games, the city of Vancouver and the province of B.C., you absolutely must read this book. If you want to know whose backs got scratched, you absolutely must read this book. If you are a sports fan and a taxpayer, and wonder how our dollars get spent, well, have a towel ready because you will cry your eyes out. . . . This book is available in many forms; I found a Kindle version at

Selling The Dream: How Hockey Parents and Their Kids are Paying the Price for our National Obsession – The subtitle pretty much says it all. You may have heard stories about the lengths some parents go to in order to facilitate their child’s minor hockey career. Well, Ken Campbell, a veteran writer with The Hockey News, and Jim Parcels, a veteran minor hockey observer, have taken some of them and put them between the covers of one book. But there is more to this book than that. There a whole lot of numbers, statistics and facts, explaining just what the odds are of your child making it to the NHL. This should be required reading for anyone with anything whatsoever to do with minor hockey. If you are a parent about to enter the world of minor hockey, well, be prepared to have nightmares. And, yes, the authors agree that spring/summer hockey sucks. (Viking, hard cover, 360 pages, $32.00)

The Short Sweet Dream of Eduardo Gutierrez – Written by famed New York newspaperman Jimmy Breslin, this is one of those books that will stay with you long after you have finished reading it. The teenaged Eduardo Gutierrez leaves Mexico, taking the overland route across the border, and goes to New York City looking for a job and money to send home. He ends up dead after drowning in concrete following the collapse of the apartment building on which he was working. In between life and death, Breslin, as only he can, takes apart the bureaucracy that allowed all of this to happen. This was published in 2002 but still has its bite today. (Crown, hard cover, 214 pages, Cdn$33.00, US$22.00)

The 34-Ton Bat: The Story of Baseball as Told Through Bobbleheads, Cracker Jacks, Jockstraps, Eye Black, and 375 Other Strange and Unforgettable Objects – Like your grandfather or favourite uncle who loves to tell you stories, author Steve Rushin presents for our reading enjoyment about a million wonderful baseball-related stories, as he lets us in on a whole bunch of the game’s secrets. It isn’t just that he tells us about the evolution of the catcher’s mitt; he tells us through anecdotes and is able to put faces on the players. This is one of those books that will have you saying “I didn’t know that! That’s interesting!” a few thousand times. (Kindle)

A Wanted Man – This is the latest (No. 17) in the Jack Reacher novels, all of them written by Lee Child. Following the 6-foot-4, 240-pound Reacher’s wanderings throughout the U.S., as the former military policeman encounters situations, conspiracies and crooks and thieves, is great escapism. (Dell, soft cover, 533 pages, Cdn$10.99, US$10.99)

What the Dog Saw: And Other Adventures – Author Malcolm Gladwell, as only he can do, explores various subjects in this work that was published in 2009. Gladwell writes some interesting stuff and this is no different. The highlight, perhaps, is a chapter that deals with Ron Popeil, the king of television marketing. Or maybe it's the one on Enron. Or maybe . . . Each of the 19 essays contained in this book have appeared in The New Yorker. (Little, Brown and Company, 432 pages, Kindle)

Whitey Bulger: America's Most Wanted Gangster and the Manhunt that Brought Him to Justice – There were a couple of Boston-based gangsters who believed they had immunity granted to them by the FBI, so they acted accordingly. Yes, they killed, they extorted, they did it all. You're thinking it's a work of fiction. Uhh, no. Authors Kevin Cullen and Shelley Murphy, a pair of Boston Globe reporters, detail the story of James (Whitey) Bulger, from his childhood in South Boston through his arrest in Santa Monica, Calif., at the age of 82. This is a great, if terrifying, read. (W.W. Norton & Co., 496 pages, Kindle)

The Whore of Akron: One Man's Search for the Soul of LeBron James – Scott Raab, who has written for Esquire since 1997, was born and raised in Cleveland. He is a Cleveland fan. Cleveland Browns. Cleveland Indians. Cleveland Cavaliers. No, he is not a fan of LeBron James. This is Raab's story of that relationship and all that went wrong. It is profane. It is hilarious. (Harper Perennial, soft cover, 302 pages, US$14.99, Cdn$16.99)

Winter of the World – Author Ken Follett’s Century Trilogy follows five familes through the 20th century. This is the second book, following Fall of Giants and preceding Edge of Eternity, which is scheduled for publication in the fall of 2014. Winter of the World’s focus is on the Second World War – the buildup, the fighting and the aftermath. If you are looking for a lengthy easy-to-read work of historical fiction, this is for you. It is escapism, for sure, and there also is a hint of American propaganda, but, hey, it’s enjoyable prose. (Kindle)

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