The Bookshelf . . . Part 3 of 3


For the past few years, I have compiled lists of books that I have read over the previous 12 months, and posted them here. With any luck, you may find an idea or two to help you get through your Christmas shopping.

So . . . here is Part 3 of 3 of the books that I have read so far in 2018.


Paul Newman: A Life — Author Shawn Levy has taken an all-encompassing look at Paul Newman, one of the top actors of the past 50 years. There weren’t a lot of warts in Newman’s life, although it seems he was a functioning alcoholic, strayed a time or two on both of his wives, and liked to drive fast. But it’s intriguing to read how Newman moved through his career, and it is absolutely amazing to see in black and white just how much positive work Newman the philanthropist was able to accomplish.


Red Notice: A True Story of High Finance, Murder, and One Man’s Fight for Justice — Bill Browder, who wrote this book, is a grandson of a man who once led the American Communist Party. Browder later co-founded Hermitage Capital Management, an investment company that at one time was a huge investor in Russia. Red Notice details the rise and fall of Red Notice within Russia, with a huge focus on what led to the latter. This is a frightening story of what can happen when someone runs afoul of — and stands up to — high-powered people in Putin’s Russia. None of it is pretty.


Reporter: A Memoir — Seymour M. Hersh may be the greatest investigative reporter of our generation. If not, he certainly is in the discussion. No one has been a greater pain in the butt to the American government, American presidents, the CIA and assorted others in positions of power. In the mid-1990s, Hersh met with Cardinal John O’Connor, archbishop of the diocese of New York, who told him: “My son, God has put you on earth for a reason, and that is to do the kind of work you do, no matter how much it upsets others. It is your calling.” . . . That calling has resulted in what is a fascinating read for a number of reasons, including spelling out just how far those in power will go to stay in power.


A Rift in the Earth: Art, Memory and the Fight for a Vietnam War Memorial — If you have ever visited the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington, D.C., chances are that the image will remain with you forever. In this book, author James Reston Jr. chronicles all that went into this project, from the contest that was held to select the winning entry, to the vociferous opponents and all of the politics that came into play before the memorial was dedicated. Maya Lin was 21 years of age and an undergraduate architecture student at Yale when her design was selected for the memorial. A lot of the book is about her battles from 1979-84 against male authority figures, who wanted to interfere with her vision and change the memorial’s design.


The Rooster Bar — Three law students get scammed by the system in this book from the prolific John Grisham, so they choose to try reversing things and scamming the scammers. Unlike most, if not all, Grisham books, there isn’t one person here who is really likeable, so I found it hard to feel any emotion while reading this one.


Route 66 Still Kicks: Driving America’s Main Street — Is there a more famous highway, at least in North American, than Route 66? Author Rick Antonson and travelling partner Peter drove more than 2,400 miles as they worked to see as much of the original Route 66 as possible. The result is a nifty read that is full of anecdotes about the likes of Al Capone, Woody Guthrie, Mickey Mantle, John Steinbeck and Bobby Troup. It was Troup who wrote the iconic song ‘(Get Your Kicks on) Route 66.’ . . . The New York Times referred to this gem as “one of the best books of the bunch” in a 2012 Christmas roundup of travel books. It will make you want to rent a Mustang and get some kicks.


The Russian Five — The Detroit Red Wings, under head coach Scotty Bowman, once had five Russians as key players on their roster. “Their legacy should be . . . it’s history, it really is. . . .,” says Dave Lewis, who was an assistant coach on those teams. “It was a revolutionary thing to even have one or two on your team. We had five and we haven’t seen it since. And to influence and marvel your teammates like they did, guys like Steve Yzerman and Nick Lidstrom. Those guys aren’t dumb hockey people. I really think it should be talked about in terms of the history of the NHL, and how they changed our game.” Keith Gave, who wrote this book, covered the Red Wings for the Detroit Free Press. Gave speaks Russian and played a key role in the early days of the Russian Five — Sergei Fedorov, Slava Fetisov, Vladimir Konstantinov, Vyacheslav Kozlov and Igor Larionov. Gave especially was involved as the Red Wings worked to get Fedorov out of Russia. Gave was there, too, when the Russian Five took the Stanley Cup home to Moscow.


The Stranger in the Woods: The Extraordinary Story of the Last True Hermit — “Everyone dreams of dropping out of the world once in a while,” writes author Michael Finkel. “Then you get in the car and drive back home.” Unless you’re Christopher Knight, that is. In 1986, at the age of 20, Knight drove his car into a Maine forest, left the key in the ignition, and walked away. For 27 years, he lived in an encampment he constructed himself, surviving by raiding cottages and a camp for disabled children nearby. His ‘home’ was so well hidden that not even the authorities could find him. Eventually, technology tripped him up as he broke into a camp building and was arrested. Finkel got most of the information for this book by visiting Knight while he was in jail. This is an intriguing look into solitude and how to deal with it, and the art of survival. But I don’t know if it explains well enough just how Knight survived all of those harsh Maine winters.


Tiger Woods — Authors Jeff Benedict and Armen Keteyian, both of them investigative journalists, tell the story of the rise and fall of Tiger Woods. It’s doubtful that any athlete of Woods’ stature has fallen so far so fast, and the authors detail all of it — from the pressure placed on him almost from birth by obsessive parents, especially his father, Earl, to the stunning fall from grace. A couple of things really stand out here: 1. Woods was incredibly rude and insensitive to a whole lot of people on the way up; 2. It is amazing that he could have had such success inside the ropes while so much was going on away from the PGA Tour.


Two Kinds of Truth — Harry Bosch is retired from the LAPD now and doing some freelance work for the San Fernando Police Department. Author Michael Connelly has written another vintage Bosch book, and even has the veteran cop doing some undercover work. The really good news is that the ending indicates that there is more Bosch on the way.


The Year of the Pitcher: Bob Gibson, Denny McLain, and the End of Baseball’s Golden Age — Author Sridhar Pappu takes 1968 and explores it using all that was happening in and around the U.S., as a backdrop to the MLB season. This was the summer in which the fierce Bob Gibson had a 1.12 ERA with the St. Louis Cardinals and the problem-child Denny McLain won 31 games for the Detroit Tigers. They would meet in the World Series but neither would be the hero. This is an interesting look at the U.S. as the 1960s were drawing to a close, a good look at two huge names from baseball’s past, and a whole lot more.

That’s it.

Merry Christmas . . . and happy reading!

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