Mr. LurkerD (who unlike me really does only lurk here) and I have been reading baseball books like hotcakes this offseason, which has really helped us through the baseball-free tundra. Some of them have been really excellent, all have been worth reading. Here are my capsulated book reports for you, AN.
If you've read any of these, what did you think of them? Agree or disagree with my assessment? What was your favorite part? Least favorite? Have you read some other baseball books recently worth mentioning? Tell us all about them...
Here are mine:
The Numbers Game: Baseball's Lifelong Fascination with Statistics, by Alan Schwarz, Thomas Dunne Books, 2004
Really great read. A definite correction to anyone that thinks that the concept currently known as Moneyball is the first inception of using statistics in new and creative ways to influence the economics of running a baseball team. This book is a history of statistics in baseball with tons of information about how different statistics developed, who embraced them in various ways, who fought them in various ways, and how they've affected the game from its beginnings through the present era. Great stories.
Lords of the Realm: The Real History of Baseball, by John Helyar, Villard Books, 1994
Really incredible book. This is a deep history of baseball as a business, with a strong emphasis on the business aspects between the players and the owners. Goes from the beginning of the game through before the 1994 strike. It's a long, detailed book that obviously took a ton of research coupled with a ton of access to write. Impressive from start to finish with both the facts and the analysis of how the game's business has evolved over all its years. Terrific resource and a wonderful read.
Juicing The Game: Drugs, Power, and the Fight for the Soul of Major League Baseball, by Howard Bryant, Viking, 2005
Good book. Starts with the 1994 strike and goes right through the Canseco book coming out last year and the ugly congressional hearings that followed. Good basic information on steroids and their affect on bodies, coupled with good stories from all different viewpoints on how baseball has (and hasn't) handled the steroid situation. Some great side stories also woven in. Definitely worth reading.
Foul Ball: My Life and Hard Times Trying to Save an Old Ballpark, Plus Part Two, by Jim Bouton, The Lyons Press, 2005
Good old Jim Bouton. This book, which he ended up having to self-publish, tells the crazy story of Jim & co. attempting to do something that seems to be a no-brainer, and getting totally crushed in the process. It's a bizarre story, well told, and this newer edition of the book has the Round Two update of what happened after the book was originally published, which turns out about as messed up as what happened the first time around. The story is both hilarious and pathetic, all at once. Good read.
and fiction even:
Summerland: A Novel, by Michael Chabon, Miramax, 2002
Totally different book - this is a fantasy novel for kids (i.e. 10-12 year olds). That said, my entire family, at all of our various ages, really loved it. The main characters are kids of that age, and these are baseball playing kids of course. Baseball is woven through the whole story both as a metaphor and as an important part of the adventure story the book tells. Really great fantasy story by a writer whose other, very different, books I've also liked.