Category Archives: Sports

Books from the New York Times Best Seller’s List January 2014

  How Lucky You Can Be by Buster Olney

Where can you find a good book when you are looking for one?  The library has hundreds of books, but which one should you choose?  One option is to read reviews (like this one) or to wander through book lists, like the New York Times.  This will give you a good idea of what books are being read and enjoyed by others.  Our club decided to pick books from some of these lists.

​The book How Lucky You Can Be was written by Buster Olney, an ESPN announcer.  It is subtitled “The Story of Coach Don Meyer.”  Coach Meyer is the most famous coach that you never heard of… but other basketball coaches around the country know about him.  He devoted himself not only to his teams but also to teaching the art of coaching to anyone interested in the game he loved.  This is much more than a sports story.  It is the story of a dedicated man who at times neglected his family to achieve greatness in his field, passing the legendary Bobby Knight in career wins with over 903 victories, the most by any coach in history at that time.  It took a tragedy for him to express the love he had for his family — wife, children, and his players.

​ Don Meyer had been a college player at Northern Colorado and a head coach for years at David Lipscomb College and Northern State University.  His success was tremendous, but this story really begins on a lonely stretch of two-land road in South Dakota.  While leading a caravan of cars, taking his players on a team-building retreat, Meyer fell asleep at the wheel.  His car veered into an oncoming tractor-trailer truck.  The Coach was crushed, and it was feared that he would die from his injuries.  At the hospital, doctors prepared his wife because they were certain he would not make it through the surgery.  After five hours, Meyer survived but lost part of a leg, his spleen, and had numerous other injuries.  Meyer said that the accident was the best thing that could have happened to him.  He equated it with an angel providing him with a message.  The doctors found that Meyer had terminal cancer.

​ The story describes how this driven coach, who did not want to give up coaching basketball, rose to face the greatest challenge of his life.  He reassessed his life and his relationships.  His three adult children describe the changes that he under went.  Meyer now expressed himself, particularly his emotional self.  He did not hold back telling his children, his wife, or his players how much he loved them.  This tragedy actually has made their family even closer.  This is the story of a man who’s belief in God, his religion, his family, and his team— both coaches and players– gave him the strength to come back to coaching and to fight the lose of a leg and the cancer.  This would be the toughest battle of his life.

I recommend this book wholeheartedly, not only for basketball fans, as an inspirational story of a man fighting to overcome tremendous odds.  (5 of 5)

Other books from book lists rated by different club members:

Mr. Ives’ Christmas by Oscar Hijuelos

Part love story, part meditation on finding spiritual peace in the midst of crisis.  It is a beautifully written, tender and passionate story of a man trying to put his life in perspective.  (4 of 5)

  Eats, Shoots, and Leaves by Lynne Truss

A funny, informative nonfiction book with excellent examples of misused punctuation. (5 of 5)

  The Hundred Year-Old Man by Jonas Jonasson

The story spans the 20th century with a character similar to Forest Gump.  (4 of 5)

 The Postmistress by Sarah Blake

Multiple story lines and strong women tell the story of World War II.  (5 of 5)

    Pope Joan by Donna Woolfolk Cross

Thought provoking historic novel about women being held back by authoritive men.  (4 of 5)

     Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

Published in 1932, a thought  provoking novel anticipates developments that have profoundly changed society.  (4.5 of 5)

 The Christmas Train by David Baldacci

This tale shows how we do get second chances to fulfill our deepest hopes and dreams, especially during the season of miracles.  (5 of 5)

 God is not Mad at You by Joyce Meyer

A book that explains the relationship between God and man.  (5 of 5)

     Duck the Halls by Donna Andrews

‘Tis the season to be jolly – a funny novel with a heroine who rounds up stray animals of all sorts as well as a killer.  Duck the Halls! (5 of 5)

    Nighttime is My Time by Mary Higgins Clark

A riveting novel of psychological suspense that depicts the mind of a killer. (4 of 5)

The Club Members rating these books:

Pat Gombita, Mona Herrell, Pat Kuna, Lee Ann Schrock, Julie Shultz, Bill Simmons, Deb Stewart, Barb Swanson, Linda Troll, Patti Tullis and Rae Ann Weaver

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Filed under Adult Fiction, Adult Non-Fiction, Biography, Crime, Fourth Tuesday Book Club Books, Historical, History, Humor, Inspirational, Inspirational, Murder, Mystery, Personal Insights, Religion, Sports, Sports/Entertainment

Calico Joe

By John Grisham

Published by Doubleday

Copyright © 2012

John Grisham departs from his normal fare of legal thrillers and gives us an enjoyable story about America’s pastime, forgiveness, and redemption. 

When the Chicago Cubs first baseman and his counterpart in AAA went down with injuries the team found itself in need of a first baseman and they reached down into their AA system and called up Joe Castle in the summer of 1973. Joe was a wide eyed kid with a quick bat and even quicker feet; while he might have been nervous he wasn’t intimidated. He goes on a torrid, record setting, hitting streak to start his career and helps lift the Cubbies from the middle of the pack up to first place in their division. It was the feel good story of the year. Every young boy wanted to be Joe Castle, including Paul Tracey.

Paul Tracey was the 11 year old son of another Major Leaguer, Warren Tracey, a streaky starting pitcher for the New York Mets nearing the twilight of his career. As terrible as Warren often was on the pitchers mound he was even worse as a father and husband. Paul wanted to emulate his father and gain his love, but having a new baseball hero caused conflicting emotions. When Paul’s father and hero met on the baseball diamond something happened that changes the life of these three forever.

30 years later, as Warren is only months away from dying, these events set Paul on a path to find out if there is one shred of decency left in his father.

Calico Joe is a quick and enjoyable read told from the perspective of Paul Tracey. Grisham freely admits that he takes liberties with dates, names, places, stats, and etc. Though I’m a baseball fan, I don’t mind. I know you can’t take fictional players and insert them into realistic history without messing up the space time continuum. One thing that does bother me a little is that Grisham has made our hero, Joe Castle, almost Herculean. The feats that he attains on the baseball diamond, while I guess not impossible, are so unfathomable that you might have to change its genre listing to fantasy fiction.

That being said there were many things I loved about this book. The relationship between Paul and Warren isn’t sugar coated, and in the end it isn’t magically fixed. I hate it when writers let dysfunctional family members off of the hook too easily, because life isn’t like that. One minor act of redemption cannot overshadow years of neglect and abuse. I also liked that Grisham tackled some of baseball’s unwritten rules, especially the unwritten code for throwing at a batter.

In the end I think Grisham has adequately mixed baseball with family drama. It might not be the timeless classic that baseball fans always hope for, but like a utility infielder it was strong up the middle with a serviceable bat. And at a mere 198 pages it is a really quick read.

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Filed under Adult Fiction, Drama, Family, Sports

Playing for Pizza

Playing for Pizza

By John Grisham

Published by Doubleday

Copyright © 2007

In “Playing for Pizza” John Grisham has written a book that will appeal to the football fanatic as well as the reader who wants a little cultural escape.

Rick Dockery is a strong armed but fairly erratic third string quarterback who is prone to concussions and has a penchant for cheerleaders. He is 28 years old and he’s made quite a few stops in the CFL and the NFL; the latest being with the Cleveland Browns.

The Browns have made it to the AFC championship game against the Denver Broncos. Late in the second half the worst case scenario occurs – the starting QB and the backup have gotten injured. Rick enters the game up 17 – 0 with a little over eleven minutes left in the fourth quarter and leaves on a stretcher after losing 21 – 17.

Shortly after the game he is cut and there isn’t a team in the league who wants to sign him. His agent can’t get him a job anywhere, except – NFL Italy. With few options, the hatred of every Cleveland Browns fan, and a possibility of a paternity suit – Italy begins to sound like a good idea. He reluctantly signs with the Parma Panthers who expects him to be the savior of a franchise that usually draws less than a thousand fans and has never been to the Italian Super Bowl.

Having never left North America Rick is in for quite the culture shock. It is a good shock though, one filled with great food, great wine, beautiful women, and eccentric and passionate Italians. Rick will realize that in Italy they actually play football the right way; they play hard with heart and pride. They have to love the game because most of them are playing for pizza and Beer. Will he ever want to leave?

“Playing for Pizza” is a huge departure from John Grisham’s usual fair of legal thrillers. It is a nice change up and it is well written. And whether it was intended or not, I think it is an accurate commentary on the state of sports today in America and worldwide. We don’t play for the love of the game and team anymore; we play for money and we take our sports way to seriously. People need to get back to playing games for fun, for pride, and for pizza!

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Filed under Adult Fiction, Europe, Food, Sports, Strong Sense of Place

Life and Life Only

Life and Life Only

By Dave Moyer

Published by IUniverse

Copyright © 2009

 

Readers of Puffin Circus May be familiar with the writing of Dave Moyer. He has graced our pages with two short stories: “The Tree” and “The Price of Humiliation”. These shorts were wonderful because Dave Moyer has a way of telling a story that makes you feel like you know his characters personally. We become invested in them because they are just so real. Dave has found a way to capture that in a longer format, his first novel “Life and Life Only”.

“Life and Life Only” tells the story of Dan Mason, a baseball pitching phenom from suburban Chicago. But this novel is about more than just baseball. Dan is a complex person due to his sense of common decency and he struggles with issues of family, happiness, sex, love, and politics. The only things that Dan doesn’t struggle with are baseball and Bob Dylan.

Dan’s story starts in his teen years when his future seems simple and bright. As a young man all he wants to be is a major league baseball player and he wants a pretty girl to like him. Dan’s dreams seem to be coming true when he goes to a major college baseball powerhouse and meets the girl of his dreams. But life just never turns out the way you plan. Injuries and family complicate things. Dan learns to play the cards he was dealt, but his wife does not. Dan slowly makes strides in his professional career as educator and administrator, but this success only masks the fact that his marriage is slowly deteriorating. How Dan deals with disappointment, change, and heartbreak are really what define this book.

Dave sets the stage for each chapter with a quote from a Bob Dylan song, or from some other venerable rock Icon’s song. The love of Dylan are not as much a theme in the story as it is a backdrop against which to set Dan’s life.

There are some things about this book that the reader has to work through. At times this novel seems to bog down with song lists and current events updates. There is the occasional needless flash forward. And then sometimes there is confusion as to which viewpoint the narration is coming from. But overall the book was enjoyable; because Dave Moyer delivers a character in Dan Mason that we can really relate to and want to root for. We want him to end up in the big leagues, we want him to have a happy marriage, and we want him to find some closure in his life. “Life and Life Only” would be a good read for anyone, but especially for those who just can’t get enough baseball or Bob Dylan.

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Filed under Adult Fiction, Music, Romance, Sports

The Curious Case of Sidd Finch

The Curious Case of Sidd Finch

By George Plimpton

Published by De Cappo Press

Copyright © 2004

Originally an April Fool’s Day Hoax article written by Plimpton and published by Sports Illustrated with the aid of the New York Mets, after seeing the public’s response George Plimpton turned it into a novel.

A burned out Vietnam War reporter seeking solitude on the Florida coast happens upon the find of the century, when he is mistakenly invited on a blimp ride above the New York Mets Spring Training facilities. He learns that the Mets have a pitching phenom in camp who can throw 168 mph. Did this come from years of little league, high school, and college baseball preparation? No, he knows little to nothing about baseball. He is an eccentric, extremely intelligent, French horn playing, Englishman who while searching for his father in Tibet mastered Buddhist skills of meditation and concentration that can improve a specific physical ability; in his case he can throw things with unerring control and extreme velocity. In a strange twist of fate Sidd and his new girlfriend end up staying with the reporter, whom they call “Owl,” and the three form a special bond. After some indecision Sidd does pitch for the Mets, but the decisions that he makes when he does might surprise you.

As a lover of baseball I fell in love with this novel, and the character of Sidd Finch. Throughout this book it discusses the affect that such a talent would have on the game of baseball, and then it shows us. I think that discussion is a fitting comparison for what the steroids era has done to baseball. The only difference is that Sidd Finch had a purity and honesty too him. He had respect. These are things that few players today seem to have. They are greedy, look out for number 1, steroid juiced, behemoths. I’d rather read this book than watch ball game today. I recommend this book to those who are still in love with the game of baseball.

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Filed under Adult Fiction, Sports