Thursday, January 21, 2016

The Books of 2015

Before we get too deep into 2016, I wanted to do the post that I just didn't get around to doing in December, and that is a review of the best books that I read in 2015.  I read a total of 44 books in 2015, some really good, some forgettable, and here are the ones that I would recommend to you if you are looking for a good read.  I list them in the order in which I read them over the year.

My "Star" ratings are based on a Four Star scale.


The story of Jackie Robinson and Branch Rickey is, I suppose, a story that cannot be told often enough, and this book by Roger Kahn does shed some new light on the story, but too often it becomes Kahn grinding axes towards a lot of people in his past, particularly other sportswriters.  

Two Stars.

Author Erik Larson tells this story of the sinking of the British luxury liner "Lusitania" by  a German U-Boat in 1915.  It is told from the viewpoint of both the Lusitania, the German submarine, the Admiralty Office in London, and the neutral United States.  This could have been the best book that I read all year.

Four Stars.

Another bit of little known Presidential History by one of my favorite authors, Matthew Algeo.  Who doesn't love Abe Lincoln? Who doesn't love dogs?

A charming tale of a Presidential pet.

Three Stars.

This one has been on the best sellers list since it was released in the spring.  Lots of details about engineering and how the fly a glider and a plane in the first part of the book that, frankly, were lost on me.  However, the book really, excuse me here, "takes off" after the Wright Brothers first flew their airplane, when the Brothers had to sell their idea of airplanes and make them a viable, commercial enterprise.  That part was fascinating.

Three and 1/2 Stars.

The story of just what everyone connected to a major league baseball team goes through and deal with over the course of a very long baseball season.  Told from the point of view of players, wives, front office people, clubhouse guys, traveling secretaries.  For most of these people, the season isn't just 162 games, it is a year round undertaking.  The book follows the Washington Nationals, but the endless "Grind" is the same for every baseball team.

Four Stars.

An deep look into the workings of major college football in the United States as written by Pulitzer Prize winning investigative reporter Gilbert Gaul.  There may not be any particular new revaluations in this book, but to see it all put together in a well written book does make one pause to think about just exactly what we are cheering for and watching on autumn Saturday afternoons.  It has very little to do with the education of "student-athletes" and everything to do with money.  Big money.

Four Stars.


2015 brought always enjoyable books from favorite authors Jonathan Kellerman, John Sandford, Sue Grafton, and Max Allan Collins, and you can never go wrong with any books by those folks.  However rather than list those books, I will just list three from authors that I had not read until this past year.

Author Susan Petrone is a friend of mine from SABR and Facebook, and she has written the story of the first woman to be signed by and pitch for a major league team.  Brenda Haversham is a single mother of two with a loutish ex-husband, a run down house, and is stuck in a dead end job.  However, she does play in a recreational mixed-gender baseball league, and she can break 90 MPH with her fastball.  Petrone paints a believable picture of what Brenda faces as a pioneer, not only in the locker room, but with her kids, her friends, and herself as she comes to realize what a business baseball really is.

Three Stars.

I am lumping "The Girl On The Train" and "The Kind Worth Killing" together because that are similar novels. Both thrillers, both told from differing points of view of different characters in each book, and both are absolutely terrific books.  Chances are, you have already read "The Girl On the Train" as it has been at the top or near the top of best seller lists for almost a year.

As readable, engrossing thrillers, both books get Four Stars.

That's it, and I don't think you can go wrong reading any of these.  If you want to read more of what I had to say about each of these books, just type the title into the search box in the upper left corner of this blog page.

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