Sunday, November 23, 2014

In time for Christmas . . . The Book Shelf: Part 3 of 4

The Book Shelf: Part 3 of 4

Just in time for Christmas, here’s a brief look at some of the books I have read over the last while:

One Summer: America, 1927 -- My goodness, but this is an entertaining book. Author Bill Bryson puts a microscope on the United States in 1927, a year that featured, among other personalities, Charles Lindbergh, Babe Ruth, Henry Ford, Calvin Coolidge, Al Capone and on and on. Bryson is able to transport the reader back to that year -- there’s a flag-pole sitter and an executioner and prohibition -- and you get a real sense for the excitement that was all over America like an invasion of locusts. This is one of the best books I have read in recent years. (Kindle)

Orr: My Story -- Former NHL defenceman Bobby Orr, now a player agent, tells his story. It’s really straight forward, with no surprises and no dirt of any kind. He does take some shots at his former agent, Alan Eagleson, but other than that it’s a real soft-shoe. Perhaps the most interesting part is near the end where Orr spends time discussing what he calls “the state of the game.” (Viking, hard cover, 290 pages, Cdn$32.00)

The Power of One -- An extraordinary story of the troubles of a nation (South Africa) that is wrapped around the maturing of a youngster known simply as Peekay. His dream is to become the welterweight boxing champion of the world, but the path is anything but straight and narrow. Author Bryce Courtenay weaves a wonderful story through terrific characters in a novel that is based during the Second World War. This one was recommended to me by Detroit Red Wings assistant coach Jim Hiller, who is an avid reader. (Kindle)

Runnin’ Rebel: Shark Tales of ‘Extra Benefits,’ Frank Sinatra, and Winning It All -- This book, written with Dan Wetzel, a prolific author who is a columnist for Yahoo Sports, is Jerry Tarkanian at his story-telling best. Tarkanian (aka Tark the Shark), who came to fame as the head coach of college basketball’s UNLV Runnin’ Rebels, tells all kinds of tales, most of them unkind to the NCAA. He takes the towel out of his mouth long enough to point fingers at almost everyone, too, including UCLA and the great John Wooden. It was released in January 2013. (Kindle)

Seasons in Hell: With Billy Martin, Whitey Herzog and "The Worst Baseball Team in History" - The 1973-1975 Texas Rangers -- Mike Shropshire was with the Fort Worth Star-Telegram in 1973 when he was assigned to cover the Texas Rangers. They then were managed by Whitey Herzog; later would come Billy Martin. They are only two of the characters in this book, which should come with a colourful language warning. Shropshire does a fine job of detailing for the reader the trials and tribulations of covering a major league team that wasn't very good. He also proves to have a strong liver, perhaps not quite as strong as Martin's, but up there just the same. (Kindle)

Showtime: One Team, One Season, One Step from the NHL -- The OHL's Peterborough Petes gave Ed Arnold, a former managing editor at the Peterborough Examiner, unfiltered access to all avenues of their operation during the 2012-13 season. This book is the result of what he witnessed. How did it go? Well, the general manager (Dave Reid) was fired early in the season. The head coach (Mike Pelino) didn't see Christmas. If you would like a good look at how a community-owned major junior hockey team operates, this book provides it. (Kindle)

Slim and None: My Wild Ride from the WHA to the NHL and all the way to Hollywood -- Howard Baldwin has seen a lot, and been through a lot, in hockey and the movie business, and this is his story, written with help from Steve Milton of the Hamilton Spectator. Baldwin was involved in the ownership of the Hartford Whalers, in the WHA and the NHL, and the Pittsburgh Penguins. That means he was in the meetings that led to the NHL adopting, at a price, four of the WHA's teams, including the Whalers. He has been involved in the making of a bunch of movies, including Ray, the story of Ray Charles. That means he's been in the good seats for the Academy Awards ceremony. So there are a lot of stories and, yes, he names names. But, in the end, this is a light read without a whole lot of depth, kind of like a bun without meat. It touches on this, that and the other thing, but moves on without really digging into any one subject. (Kindle)

A Soldier of the Great War -- Some writers have love affairs with the language; some don’t. Mark Helprin, the author of this wonderful book, first published in 1991, has an intimate relationship with words. This is the story of an aging gentleman who has been through the First World War in a way that is virtually beyond description. He tells his story and a colourful and compelling one it is, all told in such a beautiful way that the reader really doesn’t want it to end. (Kindle)

Sycamore Row -- Another thriller from the keyboard of John Grisham, this one brings back attorney Jake Brigance for the first time since A Time to Kill, a book that was published in 1989. Yes, Brigance ends up being pitted against lots of big-city lawyers. No, there aren’t any real surprises. But that doesn’t take away from this book’s readability. (Kindle)


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