The annual three-part Bookshelf feature is appearing here this week — sorry it’s a bit late this year, but COVID-19 has gotten in the way of getting things done in these parts. . . . Perhaps you will find a gift idea for someone on your Christmas list by perusing thumbnails of some of the books I have read in 2022. . . .
Alaska — Beginning with the days of the mastodon and moving on from there, author James Michener chronicles the history of Alaska. Oh, does he ever! This is a meticulously researched work that relates the area’s story through the eyes of various citizens. It’s thoroughly engrossing, but it’s epically long.
The Baseball 100 — We read to be entertained. Right? Well, author Joe Posnanski’s 880-page labour of love is the most entertaining baseball book I have ever read. In fact, it is perhaps the most entertaining sports-related book I have ever read. Period. Posnanski, a longtime baseball writer and obviously a huge fan, has rated his top 100 baseball players and written an essay on each one. Yes, there are statistics here, but the numbers don’t dominate. Rather, the stories do. It took me almost two months to read, because I would only read one or two chapters at a time. Why? Because it was so wonderful that I didn’t want it to end.
Behind the Superstars: The Business Side of Sports — Although Gerry Patterson wasn’t a lawyer — his background was in marketing and sales — he was one of Canada’s first player agents. This book was published in 1978, and it’s rather entertaining to read about contracts Patterson negotiated on behalf of Jean Beliveau, Gordie Howe, Johnny Rodgers, Guy Lafleur and Rusty Staub. It really was a different world back in the day. Patterson died on Jan. 21, 2005. He was 71.
Better Off Dead — Jack Reacher is back for a 26th time and this time he’s in a small Arizona town, fighting to save his country from what may be a terrorist attack. Or is it just someone wanting to set off smoke bombs on July 4? This one is co-written by Lee Child and his younger brother, Andrew.
Black Ice — This is the 20th book by author Brad Thor that features Scot Harvath, a nice guy who tortures and/or kills the bad guys (in this case, Chinese and Russians) all for the greater American good. I have mentioned previously that a book needs a likeable hero in order to keep the reader interested and Harvath is just that. In Black Ice, Harvath is in Oslo, Norway, when he happens to see a man he had already killed. So what’s going on?
Chasing History: A Kid in the Newsroom — It’s hardly a secret that the newspaper industry has seen better days. Such as when Carl Bernstein got his start as a copy boy and dictationist at the Washington Star. This engaging book provides a neat look into the news room of a major daily newspaper in the days when everyone seemed to read one. Bernstein was there, in Washington, D.C., in the 1960s so he was witness to a whole lot of history. Of course, in time Bernstein moved on to the Washington Post, Nixon, All the President’s Men, and a whole lot more. But he got his start at the Star and that story is all right here.
The Dark Hours — No one writes cop mysteries better than Michael Connelly and his latest, published in November 2021, doesn’t disappoint. He is slowly transitioning this series from spotlighting veteran detective Harry Bosch to featuring Renée Ballard in the lead role. She works the late shift and loves it. In this one, Ballard is masking up amid the pandemic and deteriorating morale on the force, mainly because of the defund police movement, as she works murder and rape cases, always with Bosch there to help, of course.
The Fallen Angel — This is No. 12 in author Daniel Silva’s series of books that involve Gabriel Allon, an extremely likeable Israeli who, in truth, also is a rather effective assassin. He also is perhaps the world’s best art restorer. This book involves the death of a woman — was it really suicide? — in the Vatican, where Allon is restoring a masterpiece. Silva really knows his stuff when it comes to the Middle East and European history, making this another entertaining read.
The First Season: 1917-18 and the Birth of the NHL — Using newspaper archives, veteran hockey writer Bob Duff tells the intriguing story of the early days of the NHL and how it almost didn’t happen. There were teams added and teams subtracted and, yes, there were lawsuits, too. In fact, Eddie Livingstone, who was involved with most of the lawsuits, had a whole lot to do with the NHL surviving. . . . There also are all kinds of nuggets scattered throughout this book. I mean, who knew that Bert Lindsey of the Montreal Wanderers recorded the first goaltending victory in NHL history? And who knew that he was Ted Lindsey’s father? Great stuff.
Ice War Diplomat: Hockey Meets Cold War Politics at the 1972 Summit Series — Author Gary J. Smith was a young Canadian diplomat stationed in Moscow who ended up deeply involved in the planning and preparation for the eight-game series between Team Canada and the USSR in 1972. This really is a good look at all that went into the impossible task of trying to keep hockey and politics separate while politicians worked to bring the countries closer together. How involved was Smith in all of this? His press pass indicated that he was a member of the Soviet team. This really is an interesting read.
In Harm’s Way — Published in 2010, this is author Ridley Pearson’s fourth book that features Walt Fleming, the sheriff in Sun Valley, Idaho. As usual, Pearson doesn’t disappoint. There are a lot of personalities and a number of twists and turns to keep a reader interested. For starters, Fleming is divorced — his wife had an affair with one of his deputies and the two now live together. Yes, there is tension in this book, too. Lots of it.
The Judge’s List: A Novel — It’s another highly readable thriller from the keyboard of the prolific John Grisham, with this one featuring a serial-killing judge who has been on the hunt for a long time. This book also features Lacy Stoltz, an investigator for Florida’s Board on Judicial Conduct, who was a main character in The Whistler. Stoltz is approached by a woman whose father was the judge’s second victim and the rest is Grisham at his best.
Part 1 of 3