It’s the post you all know and love. It’s the one you have been waiting for since this time last year. It’s the TC annual book list. A look at the books I read over the past year while riding the steel rails of the LIRR. Enjoy!
Pinstripe Empire by Marty Appel. Well researched (especially the early 1900’s stuff) and well written. This tome tells the history of the Yankees from their beginnings as the Highlanders through the glory years of Ruth, Gehrig, DiMaggio, Berra and Mantle, through the lean years of the mid to late 60’s and the teams resurrection under George Steinbrenner.
Hammerin’ Hank, George Almighty and the Say Hey Kid, The Year that Changed Baseball Forever. John Rosengren. The 1973 baseball season in all it’s glory with an emphasis on Orlando Cepeda, Reggie Jackson, George Steinbrenner, Hank Aaron and Willie Mays. I will say one thing for the author he is the only person I have read so far that has correctly named the restaurant where the Yankees announced what they thought they would be their new manager, Dick Williams. It’s Terrace on the Park, NOT Feathers in the Park.
Time Change, Book 3: The Way Back – Alex Meyers. Jack Riggs is back to try and prevent the Civil War AND find his way back to his own time. I don’t want to give anything away but it seems that Riggs’ time leap has caused advances in communications, medicine and technology to advance 20 years. You would have seen that Apple Computer in 1964 instead of 1984.
Protect & Defend – Vince Flynn. The action starts in Iran where an undercover Mossad agent has destroyed the Iranian nuclear plant. Of course the Iranian Government blames the United States. However before Mitch Rapp can clean up this mess there is a little something he has to take of from the previous novel, An Act of Treason and that is to kill the bad guy. Once that is done it’s on to dealing with the Iranians, the Israelis and his own government. Of course Mitch saves the day.
Now It’s Funny: How I Survived Cancer, Divorce and Other Looming Disasters – Michael Solomon. I met the author as our sons were navigating the playground at a Long Island McDonald’s. We got to talking and he told me that he was in TV to which I replied that I also do TV work as well. He told me about his book which I jotted down and ordered for my Kindle. Cancer is not funny but Solomon takes you through his ups and downs that will have you laughing one minute and in tears the next. Thank God he came through this ordeal OK and is still around to talk about it. It’s been said that how you deal with cancer ie: positive attitude is half the battle. Solomon really made it through with his sense of humor and a good spirit.
His Excellency George Washington – Joseph Ellis. A task I have assigned myself is to try and read a book about every U.S. President (and so far I am failing miserably). So where better to start than with number one, the Father of his country himself. Bet you didn’t know that Washington just missed being shot at 25 years old. Now imagine if that had happened. How different would American history be?
Crash and Burn – Artie Lange. Artie sort of got clean and then goes down the lonely road of drug and alcohol abuse once again in this follow up to “Too Fat To Fish.” Having met Artie a few times he is a likable guy I just wish he would clean himself up for good.
E Street Shuffle:The Glory Days of Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band – Clinton Heylin. Having read many volumes on one of my favorite artists (Springsteen) I figured I’d give this one a whirl. Nothing new revealed here. I knew all the stories. Still a decent read for a casual fan.
Seinfeld: The Making of an American Icon – Jerry Oppenheimer. Seinfeld from his humble beginning as a standup comedian to his rise to superstardom of his hit comedy series and beyond. Having worked as a bartender in the Comic Strip where Jerry got his start, it was nice to see quotes from the former manager of the club, Lucien Hold. Jerry Seinfeld has led a charmed life and I am happy for all of his success, which he never really let go to his head.
Extreme Measures – Vince Flynn. Mitch Rapp’s co-worker and good buddy Mike Nash gets to share the spotlight in this one. Two terrorist cells have been thwarted but a third one is on the loose and it’s up to Nash and Rapp to stop them. But first Rapp has to be released from custody for violating a prisoner’s (read terrorist’s) rights.
Pursuit of Honor – Vince Flynn. 185 people are killed in Washington DC at the National Counterterrorism Center, including staff, cabinet members and senators. And as usual it’s up to Mitch Rapp to save the day. However Rapp is dealing with Mike Nash’s psychological scars from the previous book as well as one of the higher up’s at the CIA who want to bring Rapp down. With the self-named Lion of al Qaeda and his two dimwitted assistants running around America, Rapp has his hands full. It all come to a stunning climax at a national monument in DC.
The Last Man – Vince Flynn. One of Mitch Rapp’s colleagues has been kidnapped (or has he). Either way Rapp must muddle through Afghanistan to find the answers to some very disturbing questions concerning his buddy. Sadly this was the last full book Flynn finished as he died of cancer in 2013.
Dream Team: How Michael, Magic, Larry, Charles, and the Greatest Team of All Time Conquered the World and Changed the Game of Basketball Forever – Jack McCallum. This is quite possibly the greatest sports book I have ever read up to this point. Author McCallum gets his subjects to open up about a variety of topics that went on while this team was in Barcelona for two weeks in the summer of 1992. Never knew about Michael Jordan’s dislike for Isiah Thomas or what a tremendous competitor Jordan really was until I read this one. The Larry Bird – Chris Mullin game of H-O-R-S-E is interesting to say the least. Bird and Patrick Ewing becoming friends is another interesting, if not odd finding in this book. Magic Johnson aka Majeek as he was called in Europe was and is still loved by his adoring fans. You have to respect what David Robinson has done after his basketball career ended by opening up a school for children in San Antonio. I loved the chapter on the scrimmage between Team Magic and Team Jordan, which was played July 22, 1992 the same day my Godson Andrew was born! Jack McCallum is the luckiest sportswriter ever to have had the opportunity to cover this team for Sports Illustrated.
Catch a Wave: The Rise Fall and Redemption of the Beach Boys’ Brian Wilson – Peter Ames Carlin. I read Carlin’s bio on Bruce Springsteen a while back so I thought I would give this one a go, borrowing it from my library. The word genius is flung around too often, but it is perfectly applicable to Brian Wilson. The leader of the Beach Boys overcame a rough childhood under the abusive hand of his father Murry to become one of the most prolific songwriters in American history. If that sounds like high praise, it’s warranted. I especially liked the part when Brian was in India at the same time as the Beatles and Paul McCartney played him a demo of “Back in the U.S.S.R.” saying it was an homage to the Beach Boys own “California Girls.”
The Third Bullet – Stephen Hunter. Apparently JFK was shot from the Dal-Tex Building.Yes it’s another book with yet another take on the Kennedy Assassination. I am not apologizing for reading a lot about a subject I have been fascinated with for a long time. Having never read any of Hunter’s work before, I did enjoy this one.
The Hit – David Baldacci. I have read all of the Mitch Rapp books. Now that Vince Flynn has passed away, I went looking for a new undercover super secret agent to follow. I found him in Will Robie. This is the second book of the series, and I was a little upset that I didn’t read the first one first. However I did catch on right away. Our hero is being stalked by someone who has “gone off the grid.” This one was a real page turner with a surprise twist ending.
The Innocent – David Baldacci. So I went back and read the first book in the Will Robie series and got myself caught up. Robie befriends a tough teenager whose parents were killed. They go on a wild adventure as they are both looking for answers. For the girl, it’s who killed her parents and for Robie, it’s who set him up.
The Target – David Baldacci. Third in what I hope will be a never ending series of Will Robie books. Will and his new “partner” Jessica Reel. Nazi’s and North Korea are just two of the villains in this one. Another page turner but I am getting tired of the kidnapping yarn. How many times can one person be abducted and rescued? Over all I still liked this one and look forward to the fourth installment.
Surrounded by Enemies – Bryce Zabel. Yes it’s another “What if JFK Survived Dallas?” novel. Only this one has a twist. It’s told from the perspective of a group of reporter from a fictitious newsweekly, Top Story. Author Zabel, who is a producer and screenwriter makes the characters come to life. JFK was at the Ed Sullivan Theater in February, 1964 to see and meet the Beatles! I connected with Zable through Linkedin and told him how much I enjoyed the book and how I look forward to any future work by him. He is currently working on another alternate history: “What if the Beatles Never Broke Up?”
Waging Heavy Peace – Neil Young. The story of Neil’s rise to fame and fortune and his work with Pono a portable digital media player and music download service strictly for high-quality audio. As a fan of Neil’s work, I thought he was all over the place with this biography, as it’s not told in a linear fashion. Neil loves his son’s Ben and Zeke who are both afflicted with cerebral palsy. Ben usually accompanies his father on tour and Neil loves looking into the wings and seeing his son enjoying the show. Neil’s hobbies are discussed as well including his love of model trains and his car collection including the famous LincVolt – an electric converted Lincoln Continental that Neil himself designed. Along the way there is talk of Buffalo Springfield, CSNY and his solo music career.
When Giants Walked the Earth: Led Zeppelin – Mick Wall. Probably the most detailed book I ever read on Led Zeppelin. Author Wall gets into the psyches of all four members plus manager peter Grant. A whole chapter is devoted to Aleister Crowley and Jimmy Page’s obsession with the black wizard. Wall even deciphers what he thinks “Zoso” actually means! The band was at it’s zenith after the Earl’s Court shows in 1975, and after that is when everything began to unwind. The author pulls no punches regarding John Bonham’s drinking and Page’s heroin addiction – John Paul Jones actually produced “In Through the Out Door” as Page was strung out during the making and mixing of the album. One annoying part were the flashback sequences where Wall would spend anywhere between a page to a page and a half discussing Jimmy Page as a sessions man or Robert Plant seeing Elvis for the first time. It slowed down the flow of the book. Other than that a great read for any hard core Zeppelin fan.
I Hate the Dallas Cowboys – Thomas R Pryor. My friend and fellow Yorkville neighbor wrote this one and gave me an autographed copy over lunch one day. There are a lot of fun stories in this one that anyone who grew up in Yorkville will appreciate. Heck even if you didn’t grow up in Yorkville, but you were reared in a tight knit community with lots of friends and family you will be laughing at these stories.
Season of ‘42 – Jack Cavanaugh. Baseball’s in America’s first full year of World War II. America’s first full year of World War II and it didn’t look good for the allies fighting wars on two fronts. As for baseball there were Teddy Ballgame and the Yankee Clipper renewing their rivalry. Unfortunately the errors in this book were plentiful and too long to list here. I did enjoy one section about Coast Guard officer John Cullen (no relation) who spotted four German spies on the beach at Amagansett. I have heard this story before but it was nice to see it told again.
Republic: A Novel of America’s Future – Charles Sheehan-Miles. Seems West Virginia wants to secede from the union. Troops are called in, battles are fought and the rebellion is put down rather quickly. Author Sheehan-Miles drew up some characters that I really cared about. Lots of linked characters like the daughter of a general who leads the rebellion. She is also the assistant to a very powerful Senator who is up for re-election. I liked this one a lot and couldn’t wait to read the sequel.
Insurgent – Charles Sheehan-Miles. And here is that sequel. With the rebellion squashed, small pockets of resistance have popped up around the state. As it turns out the rebels are backed by a religious nut (aren’t they almost always) who wants to put his own man in the White House and he comes very close to achieving that goal. One side plot in this one that really made me like the book was a soldier — previously regarded as a screw up — who begins dating the mayor’s daughter. Unfortunately her uncle the mayor’s brother-in-law is on the side of the rebels.
Obama’s America: Unmaking the American Dream – Dinesh D’Souza. The author does not like President Obama, I get it. I don’t particularly like President Obama either. D’Sousa puts to bed the rumors of Obama not being born in the United States. He WAS born in Hawaii, he just spent a lot of time in Kenya and Indonesia, before settling in Chicago. Why Chicago? That’s where Saul Alinsky began his career as a community organizer. Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign was heavily influenced by Alinsky and his teachings. Chicago is also home to Bill Ayers, allegedly an Obama friend. Ayers was a founder of the Weather Underground. You remember the Weather Underground, a Communist revolutionary group whose contribution to society was planting bombs in buildings such as the Pentagon and the U.S. Capitol to protest the Vietnam War during the 60’s and 70’s.
America: Imagine a World Without Her – Dinesh D’Souza. What if America didn’t exist? I shudder at the thought and you should too. The academic D’Souza brings up the fact that President Obama was raised by leftists and that his progressive agenda is destroying America. More of the same as the previous read. There is no way in hell this country can afford to elect Hillary Clinton as President in 2016.
What’s So Great About Christianity? – Dinesh D’Souza. As you can see when I get into an author I want to read a lot if not all of his works. This is probably the heaviest book – in terms of subject matter – that I have read in a very long time. D’Souza cites noted scientists, philosophers, Christian scholars and atheists to prove that God does exist. He actually answered the question I have always asked, “Well if God created the universe, what was he doing before the universe was created?” As for religion being the cause of almost every war or act of genocide, D’Souza points out that neither Stalin or Hitler believed in God. So I guess atheism was the cause for The Great Purge and the Nazi death camps…something to ponder. And oh yes I DO still believe in God. Never doubted his existence for a moment.
Obama’s Wars – Bob Woodward. After reading about how much Dinesh D’Souza really dislikes President Obama, I decided to go to my man Bob Woodward and see what he had to say. Why anyone would want the job of POTUS is beyond me. In this book, Woodward goes way behind the scenes with Obama, his cabinet and his generals and military to look deep into the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, with a whole lot of Pakistan throw in there as well. It’s Pakistan that is hiding and harboring most of the terrorists that want to do our country harm. Strong look at what goes into the decision making of where to deploy our troops and how many to send into the Middle East. Look we are in two wars that we can’t win. Time to pull every American serviceman and woman out of the region and let these clowns figure things out for themselves. Easier said than done I know. This book was written before we killed Osama Bin Laden.
Let’s Spend the Night Together – Pamela Des Barres. After all the political stuff I have read the past few weeks, I needed to change course. This book was certainly a different direction. One of the original ‘60s rock-n-roll groupies, Des Barres travels around the country interviewing other groupies. Tura Santana, who claimed she taught Elvis how to swivel his hips as well as swing his junk leads off the tome. A lot of names I have recognized from other rock books I have read are mentioned here, Cynthia Plaster Caster, Lori Mattix (whose name I have seen spelled several different ways over the years), Sable Starr, Bebe Buell and the legendary Sweet Connie all tell their stories. We have all done wild and crazy things when we were younger but these girls took it to the extremes. After reading this book I felt like I needed a shower.
Legendary Sessions: Bob Dylan Highway 61 Revisited. Colin Irwin. Well researched book about Dylan’s making of the Highway 61 Revisited Album. Irwin goes through each song dissecting each session. Dylan a notoriously slow worker took his time with this masterpiece and it shows. Bob recorded Positively 4th Street during these sessions which he released as a single and kept off the disc. I would recommend this one to any Dylan fan who hasn’t already read it or even just a casual fan.
Up All Night – Carol Miller. Rock-N-Roll Disc Jockey Miller tells about her rise to fame on the New York and Philadelphia airwaves. She gets personal with her relationships and her battle with cancer which she has courageously won. I have been listening to Miller for years since her days at WPLJ when then actually played great rock-n-roll. After finishing this book I dropped Carol an email telling her of my fondness for Bruce Springsteen and the fact that the night that my son was born the doctor and I got into a discussion about Led Zeppelin. The doc told me that his brother attended the show at the O2 Arena in London, two nights earlier. Carol was also there. She was kind enough to write me a note back. I love Carol’s style and I wish her nothing but more success in her career.
The Drop – Dennis Lehane. at just over 200 pages, I breezed through this one in less that 24 hours. The book is about a mob bar, a heist and a second planned heist during Super Bowl Sunday. I loved the characters and look forward to seeing the movie when it makes it’s way to Netflix. It was the last film James Gandolfini made. I intend to read more of Lehane’s stuff as I like his style.
The Fifth Assassin – Brad Meltzer. Someone is planning to kill the current President. Apparently there is a link to all four past Presidential Assassins, John Wilkes Booth, Charles J. Guiteau, Leon Czolgosz and Lee Harvey Oswald. There is also some sort of secret society that some Presidents are sworn into. There were a couple of great twists and turns especially at the end. I look forward to reading the next installment. However, I am going to have to go back and read The Inner Circle which is the prequel to this book, as the author doesn’t do the reader the service of updating what has already happened.
Monopoly: The World’s Most Famous Game and how it Got That Way – Philip E. Orbanes. What kid did not have a Monopoly game in his room while growing up. What kid doesn’t know that Park Place and Boardwalk are THE properties to own? Fun read regarding Monopoly it’s predecessors, history and it’s future. There are so many versions of this game in various countries throughout the world. I am looking for an Oakland Raiders or a Star Wars version of the game!
December 8, 1980: The Day John Lennon Died – Keith Elliot Greenberg. Author Greenberg doesn’t really dig too deep into what happened on that day but leads us on a trail of the events leading up to Lennon’s murder. I did learn that President-elect Reagan was in New York meeting with Archbishop of New York, Terence Cardinal Cooke that day. The saddest part for me aside from John’s murder was that the piece of shit (I have vowed never to say his name) that killed John actually went up to shake Sean Lennon’s hand call him a good boy hours before he killed his father. And like the Summer of ‘42 book above there was another Cullen (again no relation) sighting in this book. Police officer Peter Cullen was one of the officers that drove Lennon to the hospital.
Cosell: The Man the Myth and the Transformation of American Sports – Mark Ribowsky. I was taught that if you don’t have anything nice to say about someone don’t say anything. I was also taught not to speak ill of the dead. Having never worked with Cosell (I began my career at ABC Sports in 1988 a few years after Howard semi-retired) but I have heard the wild stories. Here was a man that was very good at his job. Unfortunately his ego was too big for his body. What I took for this book: this was not a nice man. He would have made a great lawyer should he have continued along that career path. What really made me see what a jerk Cosell was, was when two daughters of an ABC Sports PR Man ran up to meet him introducing themselves as the PR Man’s daughters. Cosell’s response, “Who cares?”
Rising Tide: Bear Bryant, Joe Namath and Dixie’s Last Quarter – Randy Roberts & Ed Krzemienski. The story of Joe Namath’s years as the quarterback at Alabama. Interesting to note that Namath was at the school when it became desegregated. Aside from being a good football book this one also provides a history lesson. Namath actually witnessed Alabama Governor George Wallace standing in the schoolhouse door attempting to block two black students, Vivian Malone and James Hood from registering. The football team would not become desegregated until 1970. I found it strangely interesting how the demanding and intense Bear Bryant and the laid-back, party boy Namath got along so well. If you are going to read this one, I would follow it up with a book I read last year: Turning the Tide.
You Never Give me your Money: The Beatles After the Breakup – Peter Doggett. WOW! Did these guys really hate each other? Or was it the lawyers that made the fab four not get along? If you think you know everything about the Beatles, read this book. I guarantee you will learn a few things you did not know. Turns out John had a difficult time making hit records and while John George and Ringo were doing guest shots on each others albums, Paul decided to form his own new band and get on with his life. The amount of money that the four Beatles lost through Apple Corps. and other investment misadventures was staggering.
Legendary Sessions: The Rolling Stones Beggars Banquet. Alan Clayson. There is really only one chapter in this tome that deals with the actual sessions regarding this great disc. The rest is all filler such as the bands influences, a history of the band and Brian Jones descent into drugs, despair and his eventual death. Jones contributed little to this album and would soon be a former Rolling Stone. The Dylan book in this series — that I wrote about above — was much better in my opinion.