Saturday, January 31, 2009

I am Yinzer! Here me roar!

I am Yinzer In case you haven't heard, there's a big football game being played this weekend. My passion for books is rivaled (perhaps) only by my enduring love of the Pittsburgh Steelers. It is, like Lionel Richie and Diana Ross sang, an endless love. I bleed Black and Gold (notice when referring to the Steelers, the colors become uppercase).

No tourist am I; no fair weather fan; no jumper of bandwagons. Having grown up in Western Pennsylvania in the ‘70’s, it seemed to m
e the Steelers were always the champs much like FDR always seemed to be president to the generation before me. My neighbor’s father died of a heart attack, so happy was he that the Steelers won a Super Bowl. When I was in first grade, I met running back Franco Harris when he signed autographs at a department store in my home town. That same signed photo sits on my desk in my office, near photos of my wife and my old dog.

I live in a city whose football fans used to, at least, respect my team but now despise them, not only because their meager offering to the NFL consistently gets their asses handed to them when they play the Steelers but also because they perceived a season-ending
injury inflicted on their quarterback as a dirty hit when it wasn’t and the guy who did the hitting was a well-liked former Bengal with no reputation as a dirty player, ever. What used to be gentle ribbing and high-spirited teasing has become nasty and personal and-- I digress!

What I wa
nted to do before I got off on this rant was recommend a couple of books I’ve read about my beloved team who are poised to win more Super Bowls than any other team, ever. The toughest, roughest, franchise. The pride of Western PA. The classiest franchise in the NFL. The incredible Pittsburgh Steelers.

This is a memoir by running back Jerome Bettis. Tolstoy it ain't but it's an enjoyable look at the Bus and his last season before he retired. Great phots and a cool DVD, too.

Another memoir,
this time by the owner of the franchise. Mr. Rooney is a class act, like his father who founded the franchise, and the organization is held to the same standard. As an employee of the Steelers, you are expected to win whether you're a player or the IT guy. It's part of what makes the franchise what it is. If you're so inclined, I posted a review of this book early last year so you can search the archives.

The last one is a memoir by the former voice of the Steelers, Myron Cope, who we lost in 2008. His rather grating voice and heavy 'Burgh accent made people from outside W. PA wince but that voice always sounded like home to me. He invented the Terrible Towel in 1975 when he told people to bring gold dish towels to wave to a playoff game. He held the rights to the Towel and not many people knew until he died that the profits, almost 2.5 Million dollars, went to a school for people with physical disabilities and mental retardation. We miss you, Myron.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Perhaps more than you'd bargained for

Alas, dear reader (you know who you are--both of you), I can only apologize for my time away from blogging. While I've been reading and making my judgments on several books, I can but plead to a distinct lack of creativity coupled with a subsequent lack of desire to share my thoughts. It's not you. It's me. Really.

With that in mind, I pledge to do better and keep you current on what Reed reads. I've also changed the color scheme some though I'm undecided if I like it or not. Perhaps it's time for Reed Next to get a face lift. Any thoughts?

Now that I've begged your forgiveness, duly chastised myself and taken a quick shower, here are my choices for my favorite books for 2008:

  • The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid by Bill Bryson
  • Cerealizing America: The Unsweetened Story of American Breakfast Cereal by Scott Bruce and Bill Crawford
  • Just Say Nu by Michael Wex
  • The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein
  • The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski
  • The Deportees by Roddy Doyle
  • The Good Thief by Hannah Tinti
  • St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves by Karen Russell
  • So Brave, Young, and Handsome by Leif Enger
  • Dear American Airlines by Jonathan Miles
  • City of Thieves by David Benioff

As you can see, I've included both fiction and non-fiction in my picks and for all but two of these titles, you can find a post on this site. (I owe you reviews of the books by Tinti and Benioff and they will be added shortly.) These are in no particular order but if I had to choose my Book of the Year, and I must say, I had the good fortune to read some wonderful books, I'd have to choose City of Thieves. It is a remarkable story,
beautifully told.

Oddly, there seem to be two common threads in these titles, one canine, as evidenced by my choices of books by Russell, Stein and Wroblewski; the other being thievery as evidenced by Tinti, Benioff and, if you will indulge me, Miles (you may d
ecide for yourselves about the airlines but I live in Cinn city where our airport is the most expensive in the country for no good reason).

In the spirit of encouraging you to follow my example of the 50 Page Rule (To wit: if a book doesn't grab you in about 50 pages, close the book and start another. Life is too short to plod through a book you don't like), I have picked up and put down a few to which I offer a heads-up and thumbs down:

The Book Of Lies by Brad Meltzer. Despite having my favorite author inscription (he called me "the best human ever!"--how insightful), this book showed initial promise. However, I think this briskly paced potboiler is trying to be too many things at once.

The Moviegoer by Walker Percy. I'll be taken to task for dissing a book held in such high esteem by so many but I would ask, who among you is reading it for the first time in the 21st century as opposed to having read it years ago? If you were to read it now, you're likely to find it quite different without your your rose-colored bi-focals. It's dated style and feel left me cold and the characters are the very phonies Holden Caulfield railed against, except they're Southern and moneyed. Bah, says I.

I do think I may try an experiment this year. My old cellmate, Janet, the grande dame of bookselling, used to always alternate a new title and then an old one (she also bought CDs this way).
I think I may add a wrinkle to this and revisit books I've read before to see if they still hold my attention and my ardor. Thus far, the year began with Breakfast at Tiffanys, followed up with What I Was by Meg Rosoff and currently has me reading the luxurious prose of McCracken's The Giant's House. Stay tuned. Reviews will post soon.