The Book Shelf, Part 2

Stolen Season, Why Sinatra Matters tops on this list

Books

      THE BOOK SHELF:

Here is the second part of my book shelf piece. . . . Might I also suggest you not miss Boy On Ice, by John Branch of The New York Times. It’s a look into the life and career of the late Derek Boogaard, and it now is out in paperback. . . . If you’re interested, right now I’m reading The Son, a bloody and gritty fictional look at the McCullough family and Texas, and A Spy Among Friends, the story of Kim Philby, a notorious double agent. . . . Next up will be Concussion, the book that the movie is based on, along with Poachers, Polluters and Politics, the latter written by Kamloopsian Randy Nelson and subtitled A Fishery Officer’s Career. . . . After that, it’s Mark Spector’s Battle of Alberta; Bench Bosses: The NHL’s Coaching Elite, by Matthew DiBiase; and The Girl on the Train. . . . Happy reading!

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Life or Death — In September, author Michael Robotham, an Aussie, received the 2015 Gold Dagger from best crime novel of the year from the British Crime Writers’ Association for Life or Death. The award is well-deserved as this is quite a book. The premise is almost awe-inspiring — Audie Palmer is in prison, doing 10 years for his role in an armoured-car robbery in Texas, when he escapes one day before he is to be released. What? Why? This is a really well-written book with a great story line. (Kindle)

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Natchez Burning — Penn Cage, a former prosecutor, now is the mayor of Natchez, Miss., and his family, especially his father, is under attack. There are murders, old and new, and 40-year-old memories coming out of the swamp. This is the first of a trilogy — the second book, The Bone Tree, also has been published — and it’s a good, long read. (Harper, 862 pages, paperback, Cdn$12.50, US$9.99)

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Personal — Under normal circumstances, Jack Reacher, the creation of author Lee Child, is criss-crossing the United States, solving this problem or that one. In this book, Reacher actually is in Paris and London, England. But he is still taking on the bad guys, and the good guys gone bad, as only he can. (Kindle)

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The Riverton Rifle: My Story — Straight Shooting on Hockey and on Life — The title really does say it all about what’s in this story of Reggie Leach’s life, from Winnipeg to Riverton to the NHL and beyond. Like a lot of books, this one has highs at the start and the end, with lows in the middle. Leach, of course, battled alcoholism but has put the pieces of his life back together and is again a productive member of society. There’s all of that here and more; it’s just too bad there aren’t a few more hockey-related anecdotes. Like, just how tough were Paddy Ginnell’s Flin Flon Bombers? (Kindle)

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Rogue Lawyer — We all are aware that John Grisham has this ‘lawyer fiction’ down pat. Right? But this one is different. Yes, Sebastian Rudd, the rogue lawyer in this book who works out of a stylized van, brings flashes of Michael Connelly’s Lincoln Lawyer with him. But as you read Grisham’s latest, you wonder if this isn’t Grisham raging against the America he knows, from the militarizing of the police since 9/11 to SWAT teams kicking down wrong doors to the war on drugs and on and on. Regardless, it’s more good Grisham. (Doubleday, 344 pages, hard cover, Cdn$35.99, US$28.95. I found it for $10 at Chapters.)

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Rules of Prey — John Sandford has centred a series of books around a Minneapolis detective named Lucas Davenport, who has a lot of money thanks to his hobby designing video games. On the way to solving cases, Davenport often doesn’t play by the rules. It all adds up to good fun and good reading. BTW, Sandford is a pseudonym used by writer John Camp. (Kindle)

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Scribe: My Life in Sports — If you’re a sports fan, you will be familiar with Bob Ryan, a retired Boston Globe columnist. This is his story — not his life story, just his story. There isn’t any muck here, just the story of how he ended up travelling the world to all kinds of sporting events on behalf of the Globe. He’s a basketball guy, so there are lots of NBA-related anecdotes here. He also thinks Bobby Orr is the greatest hockey player in history. (Kindle)

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Slow Getting Up: A Story of NFL Survival from the Bottom of the Pile — Nate Jackson played six seasons with the NFL’s Denver Broncos. This is his story of those seasons, as well as what came before it, as well as the aftermath. Jackson can write and he tells quite a story. If you have ever wondered about what life is like for those on the bottom end of an NFL roster, this is for you. But be forewarned — it’s painful. What these guys go through in order to play football is all but impossible to believe. (Kindle)

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Sneaky People — Buddy Sandler owns and operates a used car lot. He’s married. There is a 15-year-old son. There is a mistress. So what to do about the wife? Author Thomas Berger provides terrific dialogue and a bang-on look at life in America in the 1930s. At the outset, you think you’re going to read a who-done-it of some kind, but, in the end, it turns out to be so much more. (Kindle)

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Stolen Season: A Journey Through America and Baseball’s Minor Leagues — This book was published in 1991 and I somehow missed it. However, there is nothing better than discovering a great book long after the fact, and this is one such book. Author David Lamb spent 25 years as a correspondent for the Los Angeles Times during which time he frequently was in war zones and trouble spots. In 1989, back in the U.S., he chose to drive a motorhome around the hinterland in an attempt to discover the relationship between baseball and its fans. Lamb is a wonderful writer and this is a gem. (Kindle)

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Tom Harrison’s History of Vancouver Rock ’N’ Roll — Tom Harrison, who writes in the pages of the Vancouver Province, has been a participant in and a chronicler of the Vancouver music scene for a long time. This work is pretty much what the title says it is — a history of the music business in Vancouver. It could have used a few more anecdotes but it’s still all there. (Kindle)

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Where Nobody Knows Your Name: Life in the Minor Leagues of Baseball — Author John Feinstein is a prolific writer of sports-related books and a terrific story-teller. Obviously, he is a great listener, which is how he comes to understand his interview subjects and is able to tell their stories with such emotion. Such is the case with this book, one that studies some of those in the minor leagues of pro baseball. He delves into the lives of career minor leaguers, minor-league managers, an umpire, players who have been World Series heroes and now are trying to get back to the top. This is typical Feinstein, which means it is eminently readable. (Doubleday, 369 pages, hard cover, Cdn$31.00, US26.95)

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Why Sinatra Matters — When Pete Hamill, the author, writes about sitting around a table a New York bar with the likes of Frank Sinatra and Jimmy Cannon, it’s like you’re there. When Hamill writes of driving around in a limo with Sinatra, it’s like you’re riding shotgun. Hamill wasn’t a pal of Sinatra’s, but he was more than an acquaintance and that allows him to write what is a tremendously insightful book. It examines the man and the impact he had on America and its immigrant population; it examines his music and how he rose to the top of the game, fell to the bottom and then reached the top again. It’s a small book — only 185 pages in book form — but that doesn’t keep this one from being a giant. (Kindle)

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World Without End — Published in 2007, this is author Ken Follett’s sequel to The Pillars of the Earth, which came out in 1989. Both books are set primarily in the English town of Kingsbridge, although they are about 150 years apart, with World Without End beginning in 1327. This is historical fiction at its best. Great for about seven summer evenings on your deck or a few chilly winter nights in your favourite chair. (Kindle)

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