Reading List 2017

My reading list this year included three of the most insightful and powerful memoirs I’ve ever read — by baseball players Ila Borders and Rick Ankiel, and by rocker Bruce Springsteen, who read his own audiobook version and was a pure delight to listen to in a format I rarely choose.

I also finally tackled Ron Chernow’s acclaimed biography on Alexander Hamilton and I understand completely why it inspired Lin-Manuel Miranda to write his own Pulitzer-winning screenplay (which I can’t wait to see for the first time when it comes to the Gammage theater here in a couple weeks!)

But the best book I read all year — and like I wrote about “Simple Justice” last year, another book that should be required reading for all Americans — was “The Warmth of Other Suns,” by Isabel Wilkerson. It’s a mesmerizing account of The Great Migration, one of the least known and understood stories of the 20th century, when 6 million African Americans fled the Jim Crow South between 1915 and 1970 to pursue life, liberty, and happiness in the northern and western United States. Highly recommended, along with James Baldwin’s “The Fire Next Time.”

Other highlights from this past year: Studs Terkel’s “Working” has just as much relevance to understanding the American labor force in the 21st century as it did 40 years ago when he wrote it; Jay Jaffe’s “Cooperstown Casebook” follows in the sabermetric footsteps of Bill James to provide a compelling guide to past, present, and future Baseball Hall of Fame elections; and Nancy Milford’s classic bio of Zelda Sayre gives a deserving spotlight to F. Scott Fitzgerald’s wife and muse in this heartbreaking account of her life. I was a little disappointed by “The Third Coast,” which tried to squeeze too many stories about mid-century Chicago into one breezy book and it didn’t quite do justice to any of them. 

Without further ado, here’s my reading list for 2017: 

  • The Eighth Wonder of the World: The Life of Houston’s Iconic Astrodome (Robert Trumpbour/Kenneth Womack)  
  • Baseball in Territorial Arizona (John Tenney)  
  • Zelda (Nancy Milford)  
  • Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (J.K. Rowling)  
  • Born to Run (Bruce Springsteen)  
  • Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (J.K. Rowling)  
  • Making My Pitch (Ila Borders with Jean Ardell)  
  • The Third Coast: When Chicago Built the American Dream (Thomas Dyja)  
  • Bat Bomb: World War II’s Other Secret Weapon (Jack Couffer)  
  • Urban Shocker (Steve Steinberg)  
  • Alexander Hamilton (Ron Chernow)  
  • Up, Up, and Away (Jonah Keri)  
  • Working (Studs Terkel)  
  • The Phenomenon (Rick Ankiel with Tim Brown)  
  • Mexican American Baseball in El Paso (Richard Santillan, et al)  
  • Lafayette in the Somewhat United States (Sarah Vowell)  
  • The Streak (John Eisenberg)  
  • The Cooperstown Casebook (Jay Jaffe)  
  • The Gunslinger (Stephen King)  
  • Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy (Karen Abbott)  
  • The Cubs Way (Tom Verducci)  
  • The Fire Next Time (James Baldwin)  
  • The Warmth of Other Suns (Isabel Wilkerson)  
  • The Tristia (Ovid)  
  • The Man With the Golden Arm (Nelson Algren)  
  • A Moment on the Edge: 100 Years of Crime Stories by Women (Elizabeth George, ed.) 

Until next time …