Reading List 2012

After last year’s embarrassing list of just eight books, I’m happy to say I got back on track in 2012 (thanks in large part to the Overdrive app on my iPhone so I could download books from one of the eight hundred libraries from which I hold a card.)

Some of these were re-reads (Zinn, Lehane, Bouton) because they’re all just awesome, some were more for research purposes than pleasure.

My highest recommendations go to: “11/22/63” (King), a beautiful and moving time-travel novel whose best scenes aren’t set anywhere near Dealey Plaza; “Fenway 1912” (Stout), the enthralling Seymour Medal winner about the building of Fenway Park; “Hellhound On His Trail” (Sides), about the global pursuit of James Earl Ray after the MLK assassination; “Open” (Agassi with J.R. Moehringer), simply the best athlete autobiography I’ve ever read and made me want to cry at six different moments; and “Bill Veeck” (Dickson), whose inspirational and outrageous true-life story must be read to be believed. 

Honesty compels me to tell you that I DO NOT recommend “The Sportswriter” (Ford), which is supposedly a modern classic but made me want to claw my eyes out and was so bad I couldn’t even finish it; “Popular Crime” (James), which was 300 pages of Wikipedia-like descriptions of crime stories with a couple of comments from James interspersed throughout; or “Starting and Closing” (Smoltz), which is much more typical of boring and self-serving athlete autobiographies.

You also should buy the 1970 Orioles book, since I wrote two biographies for it. 🙂

  • 11/22/63 (Stephen King)
  • The Age of Innocence (Edith Wharton)
  • The Food of a Younger Land: A Portrait of American Food From the Lost WPA Files (Mark Kurlansky) 
  • Fenway 1912 (Glenn Stout)
  • Breaking Blue (Timothy Egan)
  • The Man Who Loved Books Too Much (Allison Hoover Bartlett)
  • A People’s History of the United States (Howard Zinn)
  • Hellhound on His Trail (Hampton Sides)
  • Ball Four (Jim Bouton)
  • Consider The Lobster (And Other Essays) (David Foster Wallace)
  • The Given Day (Dennis Lehane)
  • Pitching, Defense, and Three-Run Homers: The 1970 Baltimore Orioles (eds. Mark Armour/Mal Allen) — hey, I wrote for this book, too!
  • In the Garden of Beasts (Erik Larson)
  • The Sportswriter (Richard Ford) — didn’t finish; it was awful
  • Just Joe: Baseball’s Natural, as told by his wife (Thomas K. Perry)
  • The Hall of Nearly Great (eds. Sky Kalkman/Marc Normandin)
  • Starting and Closing (John Smoltz)
  • Aces High: The War in the Air Over the Western Front (Alan Clark)
  • Netherland (Joseph O’Neill)
  • Open (Andre Agassi)
  • American-Made: The Enduring Legacy of the WPA (Nick Taylor)
  • Popular Crime (Bill James)
  • Bill Veeck: Baseball’s Greatest Maverick (Paul Dickson)