Book Recommendations

In no particular order, here’s some books I’ve read recently that I recommend.

  • Sweet and Low (Rich Cohen): Rich Cohen’s grandfather started the Sweet & Low company. He lifted the family from relative poverty to generating hundreds of millions of dollars of income every year. Along the way, Rich’s branch of the family was cut out. This is the story of his family history, the company, sugar, New York, the Jews, the FBI, the FDA, World War II… it has something for everyone.
  • Now I Can Die in Peace: How ESPN’s Sports Guy Found Salvation, with a Little Help from Nomar, Pedro, Shawshank, and the 2004 Red Sox (Bill Simmons aka Sports Guy): I have been reading Sports Guy religiously since 1999 or so, back when he was the Boston Sports Guy. I am a bit too proud to have two of my letters to him published. If you want to get a taste of one of the best and funniest sportswriters around, check out some of his columns here.
  • Special Topics in Calamity Physics (Marisha Pessl): This was one of the New York Times books of the year. I read it based on that recommendation, and I’m glad I did. Incredible use of language that wraps you up in every sentence. The plot is interesting, then a little less interesting, then when you least expect it, it gets fantastic. This is a long dense book, but it’s worth the payout.
  • My Name is Red (Orhan Pamuk): Winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature. Obstensibly a murder mystery set in historical Istanbul, this book is more a meditation on the meaning of art. The language is beautiful. Full of stories within stories, and layers of meaning that are present without being overt. Everything about this book feels like ti comes from another time and place, in a good way.
  • A Solider of the Great War (Mark Helperin): A long recounting of the events in and around World War I that made the narrator into the character he is. Just a good read.
  • The Blind Side (Michael Lewis): It’s either a great football book, or a great upbringing book, or a book about racism, or a book about a idiot savant… whatever it is, it’s a great book. Michael Oher was a huge kid barely living in the deep South, without a home, without a family, hardly ever speaking a word. First, he randomly gets adopted by one of the wealthiest, whitest families in town. Then, it turns out he is an incredible football player. He was born to play left tackle (the second highest paying position in pro football). A prodigy, he is enormous and fast and athletic and wide in all the right ways. If this story was fiction, you wouldn’t believe a word of it. (Michael Lewis is also the author of Moneyball and Liars Poker.)
  • Pound for Pound (F.X. Toole):(FX Toole also wrote the story that would become Million Dollar Baby.) Boxing fiction is it’s own little subgenre, filled with violence and betrayal and heartache. This is easily the best book I’ve ever read around boxing. The author had been around boxing his whole life, and it shows. It’s a story about people and loss and forgiveness and drugs and children and I don’t know what else. Wonderful writing, like Ed McBain, only with something to say.
  • Persepolis (Marjane Satrapi):A wonderful graphic novel about growing up in Iran during the 70s and 80s. Very simple artwork, very powerful story. If you loved Maus, you’ll like this.

3 thoughts on “Book Recommendations”

  1. Actually, I was going to go for the Pound for Pound book first, but if you say Lewis, then Lewis it is. Hard to turn down a guarantee.

    Weezie is indeed worth a chuckle. The other night I thought of a really deep cut in the nicknames — Clarence. I don’t remember anything about him, except that we used the nickname. Some poor unassuming kid, but we saw him and thought “Clarence!”. Something funny about that.

  2. * EZ Weezie made me laugh out loud. Wonder whatever happened to her? You might have to call Spewie..

    * Well, that’s not the recent ones I’ve read, just the ones worth passing on. My complete list would be much longer of course…

    * It’s not that I had to finish books. It’s that I read fast enough that it’s not a big deal to finish. If it’s only going to be 45 minutes, why not. If it’s a big thick book and it’s bad, I won’t bother. I’ve been changing my philosophy more generally. My feeling is that there are plenty of great books out there, if it’s crap, why even waste 45 minutes.

    * Now Mrs. Muttrox… she is absolutely pathologically exactly how you describe. I’ve heard her, on page two mind you, announce, “This book is terrible. I can tell I’m going to hate it.” And she will never put it down, she is compelled to read it for three more weeks, then announce “I was right. That stunk.”

    * I particularly recommend the Michael Lewis book to you. My personal guarantee to you, you’ll love it.

    * We just upgraded to Firefox 2.0. It does automatic spellcheck. Needless to say, Weezie, Muttrox, and Spewie are all being tagged. This makes me laugh.

  3. First of all, it never ceases to amaze me just how many books you plow through. Jeeezus, mom!

    Second, I have a vivid memory of entering your dorm room and you engrossed in some paperback. “Wanna go to Pete’s?” “Wait, I’m almost done …” So I wait a couple of minutes, maybe start looking through your CDs. Then I’m startled as you hurl the book against the wall, exclaiming “what a bunch of crap!” or something like that. That’s how you know you’re a voracious reader — if I stumble upon a bad book, I just lose interest and never come close to finishing it. You, on the other hand, have to finish it no matter what, and then just cast it aside with the disdain that it deserves.

    That being said, I’d like to see a short list of books (particularly popular ones) that you’ve recently read that you think are crap. Sounds like a good entry to me.

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