19 April 2012

Jim Abbott and Tim Brown, Imperfect: An improbable life. NY: Ballantine, 2012.

Jim Abbott spent ten years as a left-handed pitcher in the Major Leagues, earning nearly $13,000,000 (and an Olympic gold medal), in spite of being born without a right hand.

Interspersing inning-by-inning reports of the no-hitter he threw in 1993, and drawing parallels between that game and him personal development, gives this memoir focus and momentum generally lacking in sports (auto)biographies. Very thoughtful and well-written, this volume will be inspirational for any audience.

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13 April 2012

Andrew Finkbeiner, Mopar B-Body Performance Upgrades 1962-79. New York: S-A Design, 2012

My neighbor collects the Plymouth Fury: she has a ’66, a ’73, and a tattoo on her shoulder. While the Fury isn’t exactly a muscle car—it was a C-body, while the models discussed here are B-bodies—it has enough common components to make her comments valuable.

She tells me this book is nicely organized; each chapter is sufficiently self-contained to explain a project, but builds on explanations for those previous. Illustrations are crisp, well-captioned, and useful. The text provides both general background explanation and specific pointers or techniques; Finkbeiner, also an attorney, clearly knows how to organize information and write well, making this volume much easier to follow than the old Chilton manuals. And while those volumes are still necessary for detailed reference (Finkbeiner does not get to the wiring-diagram level of detail), this book provides the theory to make those diagrams understandable.

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03 April 2012

2012 reading list: January – March

Richard Matheson, I am Legend. New York: TOR, 1995.
The title novella, about the last human left in a world of vampires, is now a major motion picture; a selection of supernatural short stories rounds out the volume.

John Stewart, Antarctica, second edition. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2011.
See full review here

Joe Posnanski, The Machine. New York: HarperCollins, 2009.
A day-by-day of the Big Red Machine’s greatest season, showing how a firely used-car salesman directed some of the best baseball talent, and biggest egos, ever collected to a World Series title through game recaps and interviews with key members of the team by one of today’s best sportswriters.

Art Spiegleman, Maus I: My Father Bleeds History. New York: Pantheon, 1992.
The first half of this survivor’s tale, perhaps the first serious graphic novel, has the artist reconnecting with his father and learning of the old man’s life in Europe before and during World War II—right up to the gates of Auschwitz.

Stewart Weisman, Need and Greed. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse UP, 1999.
Before Bernie Madoff or Allen Stanford, the Bennett family turned an office equipment leasing business into a billion dollar fraud. Weisman, their corporate council, wasn’t involved in the wrong-doing, but pieced together this report from his years cleaning up the mess alongside the bankruptcy trustee.

Gordon Dickson, Tactics of Mistake. New York: DAW, 1971.
Cletus Grahame believes that enemies can be beaten not by force, but by preparation and attention to detail—by out-thinking them. He is willing to risk worlds to find out if he’s right.

Carl Hiaasen, Star Island. London: Sphere, 2010.
Cherry Pye is a standard-issue messed up child singing sensation, so she has a stunt double to distract the photographers when she gets into trouble. Cherry doesn’t know this, though, and neither do either of the men who kidnap the double in this riotous rock-n-roll romp.

Mark Fidrych and Tom Clark, No Big Deal. Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott, 1977.
A lightly-edited (“my agent said there were too many swears”) transcription of four days’ interviews from the winter following The Bird’s magical rookie season, this shows a young man for whom anything is possible. Or, was possible, until twisting his knee in spring training just a few months later ruined his career.

Daniel Clowes, The Death Ray. Montreal: Drawn & Quarterdly, 2011.
A hardcover republication of Eightball #35. Using a variety of visual styles that change according to situation, Clowest tells a story of teen angst, from a mid-life perspective, with a strong anti-smoking subtext. Camus’ Stranger has nothing on Andy, and this title should be a part of any serious comics collection.

Don Marquis, Best of Archy and Mehitabel. New York: Borzoi, 2011.
Archy was a free verse poet, reincarnated as a cockroach, who lived in Marquis’s typewriter and communicated by launching himself head-first at the keys. He could not use the shift key, so punctuation and capitalization are lacking. Archy often wrote of Mehitabel, the cat, and Marquis often used his work, unedited, in a regular newspaper column.