The bad news is: I wasn’t working on a book this year. The good news is: I read a lot more other books this year.
Hands down, the very best book I read was “Simple Justice,” the classic history of the fight for integration in U.S. public schools leading up to the Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board decision. It’s one of the most important books ever written, with so many compelling details about Thurgood Marshall and the NAACP’s long legal push to make educational resources available to kids of all races equally. It’s shameful to read about how hard so many school officials at every level fought against integration. This book is such an eye-opening read and gets my highest recommendation.
Along those same lines, “Blood at the Root” is a new book about a subject that hits me close to home: the murky 1912 murder of a white woman in Forsyth County, Georgia, that culminated in multiple lynchings of innocent black men and the systemic terrorism that drove out every black family in the county for decades afterward. The forced exile was so complete that almost no black citizens moved into Forsyth until the 1990s. (Some of you may remember stories about Oprah Winfrey shining a TV spotlight on the county in 1987, the civil rights march held there by Hosea Williams, and the KKK counter-protest.) This book was hard to read, but I’m glad I did.
I finally read the first Harry Potter book, on orders from Tracy (who’s been trying to persuade me to pick them up for 10 years now. We went to visit the theme park in L.A. this year and I was told I couldn’t go until I read one.) It was quite enjoyable, even as an adult, but I would have loved this series when I was 12. Maybe I’ll read another one, and see how far I get.
Other highlights from the past year: Ben Lindbergh and Sam Miller’s new book on the Sonoma Stompers independent baseball team was a delight, as were these two sports classics, Arnold Hano’s “A Day in the Bleachers” and Vince Lombardi’s “Run to Daylight.” Erik Larson’s latest effort on the Lusitania hit my sweet spot, but it’s a step down from his last one (“Garden of Beasts.”) The Billy Martin biography won a prestigious SABR award and deserved it; the Moses Fleetwood Walker book won the same award back in 1996 and also is well worth the time. I wasn’t fond of the Jim Murray bio or the Gatsby “origin story,” which was too much of a stretch.
Without further ado, here’s my reading list for 2016:
- Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania (Erik Larson)
- Run to Daylight (Vince Lombardi/W.C. Heinz)
- Billy Martin: Baseball’s Flawed Genius (Bill Pennington)
- The Sun Field (Heywood Broun)
- Tender is the Night (F. Scott Fitzgerald)
- Lady Moguls: A History of Women Who Have Owned MLB Teams (William Cook)
- Careless People: Murder, Mayhem, and the Invention of ‘The Great Gatsby’ (Sarah Churchwell)
- Fleet Walker’s Divided Heart (David Zang)
- The Only Rule Is It Has To Work (Ben Lindbergh/Sam Miller)
- Drowned City: Hurricane Katrina and New Orleans (Don Brown)
- A Day in the Bleachers (Arnold Hano)
- Simple Justice: The History of Brown v. Board and Black America’s Struggle for Equality (Richard Kluger)
- The Essential W.P. Kinsella (W.P. Kinsella)
- Happy Felsch: Banished Black Sox Center Fielder (Thomas Rathkamp)
- Blood at the Root: A Racial Cleansing in America (Patrick Phillips)
- Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (J.K. Rowling)
- The Lost Journalism of Ring Lardner (Ron Rapoport, ed.)
- Last King of the Sports Page: The Life and Career of Jim Murray (Ted Geltner)
- The Aspirin Age: 1919-1941 (Isabel Leighton, ed.)
Until next time …