So it's a little late for holiday shopping recommendations, but perhaps you're like me and wait for the last few days. Why the rush, right? Imagine if Tiger Woods had picked up Elin's gift in November. It would've turned out to be a complete waste.
So there's no shame in waiting until Dec. 22 to go shopping, and none in offering advice for a one-stop spree at a local book store. There's also a chance you'll get a gift card to Borders or Amazon or something. You'll thank me then.
Either way, it's the return of the holiday book suggestions. I get sent a lot of books and buy many more, and the depth of quality is strong. You can always just browse the racks and find something on your own. Or, in case these are unappealing, you still have my summer recommendations.
In the meantime, this is what I've enjoyed of late.
"The Godfather of Poker"
By Doyle Brunson and Mike Cochran
This is the kind of book that makes me wonder why sports books don't sell better. What would you pay to sit and listen to the greatest stories from Doyle Brunson, who, if we were running a contest on fascinating lives of the last 100 years, could go toe-to-toe with about anybody? You want the mob, wild gambles, golf hustles, poker cheats, murder and mysteries? How about tales of extreme riches and being bottomed-out broke?
Brunson is a legendary poker player but his entire life from Sweetwater, Texas, to Fort Worth, to Vegas and beyond is astounding. And he never really told the whole thing. Leonardo DiCaprio has supposedly been trying to buy the movie rights to his tale for years. Brunson won't sell it, so this is the best we have. And it's fairly incredible. All for about $20.
Hey, you remember the 1912 Series, right? Yeah, I didn't either. Turns out this sucker had it all and Vaccaro, of the New York Post, researched the details and retold the tales with modern flair. Besides the back-and-forth drama and bubbling comedy of a sport still gaining its footing (possible thrown games for extra gate receipts, a game called due to darkness), the best part is the cast of characters.
The game was barely organized then, so the players were a bunch of wild barnstormers playing for fun more than anything. It's a must-read for baseball fans and a fun time for anyone who loves skillful storytelling.
I should've read this last year, but the story is so well reported and written it carried on 15 months after the Beijing Olympics anyway. Bickley is a columnist with the Arizona Republic and he used his tremendous relationship with Colangelo to secure unprecedented access. So we get behind-the-scenes stories of a memorable team featuring the huge personalities of LeBron, Kobe, D-Wade, Coach K and so on. The parts that featured NBA great Bill Russell might be the best, although that would be saying something.
"Where Men Win Glory: The Odyssey of Pat Tillman"
By John Krakauer
Krakauer's greatest literary success came with "Into Thin Air," which detailed a tragedy on Mount Everest. Now he's back in the region – Afghanistan – reporting the life and death of NFL star Pat Tillman. First, he delves into what made Tillman, a complex, larger-than-life figure, walk away from a million-dollar contract and enlist. If you've ever read Krakauer you know his attention to detail and ability to make you clearly see and feel things are his greatest strengths. And he unleashes it all here, a story that is at times uplifting, at times painful and, inevitably, frustrating. This is a real triumph of a book, one that will make you think, and one that Tillman and his family deserved.
This isn't normally my kind of book, but the sheer scope of information, interesting tidbits, stories and reporting produced by McGinn won me over. If you have an NFL fan who can't know enough about the game, this is a book for him or her. McGinn weaves little-considered statistics with first-hand reporting to show you Super Bowl games in ways you never knew possible.