Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Finishing What I Started

At the beginning of the year I wanted to read 10 books this year. As I have said in the past, this is task for me is harder than most. I am a slow reader, it's not that I can't comprehend what I'm reading, it's just I read about 15 pages a half hour, I just read slow. So when I made this goal, I kept it realistic, I wanted to do 12, but I thought it might be a little ambitious so I gave my self a little grace room because I knew I'd start a book and put it down and not read for two or three weeks.

Last week, I finally reached my goal of 10 books, some were really good, some OK and a couple I didn't like and here is my book report on all ten books.

Eight Men Out- As a baseball fan I am ashamed to say that I never read this book prior to this year. I've watch the movie, but never read it. For those that do not know, this is the story of the 1919 Chicago White Sox. They were considered one of the best teams of that era, but the players of that time were poorly paid and were pretty much indentured servants. There was no such thing as free agency, who ever signed you, you were forced to play for them till they traded you or let you go. A lot of the key players on that team were approached by gamblers who offered them money in order to throw the World Series. Obviously, they were found out and over the next year they were thrown out of baseball.

The biggest thing I got out of this was how similar the Black Soxs and the current steroid controversy has developed. They always say history repeats itself and from reading Eight Men Out, it does not look good for baseball.

The Old Ball Game- Went back-to-back baseball books to start the year. This is the story of one of the first starts of baseball Christy Mathewson and his coach and also great player John McGraw. The two men were complete opposites, Christy was a college educated Christian, who did not drink nor swear. McGraw was a son of Irish immigrants, and was feared for his tactics on and off the field. He would do just about anything to win. Yet, these two opposites where best friends and helped create baseball as a national past time. The most interesting thing is how dominate Christy was and yet he has become a footnote in baseball and mostly known for figuring out that the 1919 Black Sox were throwing games. His stats as a pitcher were amazing and yet, because he played a hundred years ago, no one knows of him. I have a lot more respect of Christy, McGraw and the New York Giants.

Testament: A Soldiers Story of the Civil War- I already did a post on this book back in May so I won't rehash that, but if you want to click on the title to read what I said back then. This was a great book that gave me insight to how the average soldier when through the Civil War.

If Chins Could Kill: Confessions of a B Movie Actor- BRUUUUUUUUCE! One of my favorite actors is Bruce Campbell, if you don't know of Bruce, you probably have seen him, yet you never knew it. I learned of him through the great horror/comedy/cult film Bruce Campbell vs the Army of Darkness and from the TV show Brisco County Jr. He has flown under the radar of Hollywood his whole career, yet he has made a living out of it. Chins is his autobiography about his life growing up in Michigan, how he and Sam Ramni (Director of SpiderMan) use to make films as kids and his accent to B movie stardom.

I learn a lot about making movies on a shoe string budget and how hard it is to break into Hollywood. Mr Campbell did a superb job writing this book, I'd say it was the best book of the year. It was entertaining, informative and made me laugh out loud in public at least 4 times. A must read for any horror movie fans or anyone who likes movies.

Make Love! The Bruce Campbell Way- I loved Chins, yet I was not as much of a fan of his next book. The biggest part for me was, I missed one key word on the cover.... novel. I was reading this book like it was non-fiction and when he started talking about Sandusky, Ohio I kept thinking, "Wait, I don't remember Sandusky having a Beef Carver Steakhouse?" Then things got absurd and that's when I saw that little word... novel.

It's a fictional story of Bruce Campbell trying to make it in an "A" movie starring Rene Zellweger and Richard Greer. Bruce plays Richard's sage butler, who give him advice on love. Bruce travels the country to find out about what "makes love." By the end of the book he is breaking onto the studio lot, getting arrested and is now a national security threat. I'm not saying this is a bad book, I was just in the mood for learning more about Ole Brucey.

Shadows of Ashland- The Wife and I were in a used book store when I found this one.. and yet again I missed one small word... novel. This is the story of a man who's dying mother is to find her long lost brother who left Toronto during the Great Depression to find work in America. After the mother dies a letter arrives from the brother, dated back in the 30s from Ashland, Kentucky.

I thought great a story that's from the Tri-State. I started reading and it was rally good, until the main character travels back in time to the 30s. That's when I figured out it was a novel. I trudged through this short book and I kind of wished I didn't. This book is not that good, it is some what accurate about Ashland, Ky, it's just to far fetched. I only paid four bucks so I can't complain too much.

Brian Piccolo: A Short Season-I've actually had this book for a few years, but it just sat on my shelf. This was a great book, about a man struggles yet he never lets it get to him. Brian Piccolo was a football player for the Chicago Bears who was diagnosed with cancer just as his career was starting to take off. The biggest thing I took from this was his resilience through his football career. Nobody ever wanted him, in high school he had to show his coaches he could play. After become one of the top high school running backs in Florida, nobody who give him a scholarship till Wake Forest had to. They wanted one of his good friends and he would not sign until they signed Brian. His Senior year he lead the nation in rushing and yet again, nobody wanted him. He went undrafted and was finally signed bu the Bears. He struggles on the prep squad and when he finally got a chance to play the Bears drafted Gayle Sayers. Once Sayers became injured, in comes Piccolo, yet something was wrong, come to find out... it was cancer.

With everything he went through, it never got to him. He never quit, he persevered and did it was a smile. If I could be half the man Brian Piccolo was I would consider myself lucky.

The Minors- This was another used book find and maybe I should stop looking for used books. This was a history of minor league baseball. It was very informative, but it felt like it was writ en as a college text book. I learn alot about how the minors were at times just as good as the majors, but the majors had a stronger base and forced the minors to a lower stature. The biggest problem was that the book was released in 1990 and some of his concept for the minors were off and well, now outdated. At the time Miami, Tampa, Denver and Phoenix did not have major league teams and a lot of his theories about what the minor leagues needed to do to survive revolved around those cities. I just felt like Neil Sullivan just hates the majors and used his book to vent those frustrations.

Grant and Sherman: The Friendship That Won the Civil War- If you can't tell I like sports and Civil War history. When I bought Testament I almost bought Grand and Sherman instead, but I am glad I bought them both. I learned a lot about both men and how the north screwed things up and could have lost the war. For some reason nobody in the army really wanted Grant nor Sherman in command, some of that came from their past (Grant being drummed out for being drunk and Sherman for being crazy), yet they persisted and fought their way through the south and up the ranks till Grant was put in command of all the armies.

The biggest thing I learned was that Sherman was freaking crazy. He had a family history of crazy. In the beginnings of the war Sherman kept thinking the entire Confederate army was in front of him and finally he was relieved of duty and was sent home for 60 days. If it was not for his family connections he may never of had a chance to become the leader he was.

Grant through out the war wasn't to worried about promotions, yet he was driven and knew what had to be done to win the war. Once he was placed in charge of the Army of the Potomac, the men were marching after a victorious win and there was a crossroad ahead, left was to go back north, which the men had taken many a times and feared that was the road they would take again, then there was the road south and once the men headed south they cheered. No longer would they sit and wait, they were taking action. From that point till the battle of Richmond, the Army of the Potomac was always moving.

It was also interesting to learn more about Sherman's march to the see and then through the Carolinas. I did not realize this, but Sherman marched through Raleigh, I kept thinking I live here, he marched through this town, I've driven down the street where he paraded his men.

Biggest Brother-I love the mini-series Band of Brothers and this is the story of their leader Dick Winters. The book mirrors a lot of the book and series but with a little more in site to the man who started out as a lieutenant and ended up a major. Also you learn about what happened to him after the war. I thought it was interesting after he came home, he sat around his parents house for months trying to get use to normal life again. If you have watched the series or read the book Band of Brothers, you need to read Biggest Brother.

I have not stopped reading, I'm hopping to get another book in before January, but it's close to a 600 pages and it maybe the first one finished for next year.

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