TMS Bookworm Edition, Volume I

January 10, 2008 | Comments (0) | by The Hundley

In an effort to disprove our rough-and-tumble, alcohol-driven image, the bartenders would like to wander into the realm of the literary world. Kind of a "Best of 2007: Books" list. The only problem is, we haven't read that many books released in 2007, so we're highlighting some of the best books we READ in 2007. So put down your Atari 2600 joystick, you can get back to Pitfall later. Remember when you used to read? Well, it's back with a vengeance in 2008, so much so that it's been dubbed as: Reading: The new 'black'.

The Hundley

The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic and Madness at the Fair that Changed America by Erik Larson. I saw this book so many times at the local book store and I couldn't understand it. Without ever picking it up, it looked like it showed the nation's capital, and with that title, I assumed it was talking about Dubya. When I finally did pick it up, I saw that it was a true story about the World's Fair in Chicago during 1893. I felt like a dumbass for not knowing that this happened. The book follows two people and how their paths interweave. One is the man in charge of making The Fair happen, a monumental task, considering that an entire city was built within a few years. The other story is of a local entrepreneur looking to capitalize on the fair's commerce, and also whetting his serial killer appetite. Just an unbelievable book. Also won numerous awards.

Brewing Up a Business: Adventures in Entrepreneurship from the Founder of Dogfish Head Craft Brewery by Sam Calagione. I don't pretend to be an entrepreneur because I am not, but who nows, maybe someday. This book is a hell of a read if you even have the slightest urge of making your own company. While this book could (and probably should) pass as a college text book, it certainly doesn't read that way. It involves the personal story of Sam Calagione, owner of Dogfish Head Craft Brewery in Delaware, the country's fastest growing brewery. The author carefully interweaves business practices with true and funny experiences of his own, all along showing what it takes to turn your idea into a reality. You'll also learn a few tips on brewing beer, so that never hurts.

Vengeance: The True Story of an Israeli Counter-Terrorist Team by George Jonas. You've seen the movie Munich, right? Well this is the book that the movie was based on. It involves the true story of five men in an Israeli Special Forces Unit that was secretly assembled in response to the 'Black September' murders of 11 Israeli athletes during the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich. True of many book-to-movie endeavors, the book contains far more details and a more complete backstory, including the moral dilemmas that the Special Forces unit underwent.

Can I Keep My Jersey?: 11 Teams, 5 Countries, and 4 Years in My Life as a Basketball Vagabond by Paul Shirley. Imagine if one of your good drinking buddies from school played basketball in college and the pros, and then he wrote you frequent emails, humorously recounting his experiences. That is the main gist of this book. Never a star in college (taking a backseat behind Fizer and Tinsley at Iowa State) or in the pros (reread the title), Shirley kept himself grounded and thankfully, managed to keep his sense of humor. He gives the reader a taste of how dumb and decadent NBA stars can be, as well as how thankless and, at times, hopeless life can be as a pro baller in the CBA or overseas. It's a fast read and one that will have you laughing out loud. This is high praise, coming from a guy who is a lifelong Hawkeye (me), reading a book about a Cyclone (Shirley). Dude also has a legendary column at

Miracle in the Andes by Nando Parrado. Here we go again, another book that has been made into a movie. Not exactly, the movie Alive was based on the book by the same title. Miracle in the Andes was written by an actual survivor of the Uruguayan plane of rugby players, friends, and family that crashed in the Chilean Andes Mountains in 1972. For 72 days, Nando and some his fellow survivors managed to stay alive, high in the mountains, with no food and no way of contacting the outside world. When a radio was found, they heard that the search had been called off, and they were forced to make some tough decisions that would ultimately keep them alive and save them. The first was that with no food, they would have to eat the bodies of the deceased. The second was that they would have to hike and climb to find someone to rescue them, or they would surely die on the mountain. This is an epic tale of survival and one young man's sheer will, determination, and yearning to see his father again. It's amazing that he was even able to climb considering all of the mental and physical obstacles that Parrado dealt with. After reading this, you'll likely call your dad just to talk to him.

Chaim Witz

IV by Chuck Klosterman. Admittedly, I have a huge man crush on Chuck Klosterman. Anybody that can wax poetic about the virtues of the KISS solo albums in one breath and then discuss baseball ad nauseum in the next has my undivided attention. His second effort, 'Sex, Drugs and Cocoa Puffs' remains one of my favorite reads ever. Seriously, how many sports journalists do you think can talk shop about music (besides Springsteen and U2)? And how many horn-rimmed music nerds can would be able to tell you how to fix the NBA? Klosterman combines the best of both worlds, all while coming off as funny, sincere and surprisingly unpretentious.

IV is his most recent work and also his most erratic. It's basically a collection of essays that he wrote for various magazines, Spin and Esquire to be specific. This is a hit or miss affair, with most of the misses stemming from the celebrity profiles that he gets assigned to do. Proof positive that celebrities really aren't that interesting. It's when he outlines the criteria that makes certain music acts 'advanced' or differentiates between an 'arch rival' and a 'nemesis' that the author truly gets to shine. An easy, enjoyable read for anyone with the slightest interest in music, sports and women.

In Cold Blood by Truman Capote - This was written by that guy who looks like Phillip Seymour Hoffman. For those that don't know, it's the true life account of Richard Hickock and Perry Smith, two ex-cons who in 1959 made headlines by murdering a family of four in a quiet Kansas town. Capote tells this story through interviews with the victims family and friends and also from information that he gathered while getting to know Hickock and particularly Smith, as they waited on death row. People smarter than I have used the words 'brilliant' and 'masterpiece' to describe this, Capote's signature work. These people were right.

A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole. Ok, so I didn't read this one in 2007 (2006 is a better approximation). But this is probably my favorite piece of fiction ever and how often do we pimp books on TMS? Read this book. The author, John Kennedy Toole committed suicide before the book was even published, so it's the least you could do for the man. In 1981 the book was awarded the Pulitzer Prize. For those of you who can't read, that's the equivalent of winning the MVP. This book was to literature in 1981 what Tom Brady was to football in 2007. Good looking and on point.

It tells the story of Ignatius J. Reilly, an eccentric, idealistic and morbidly obese man who lives with his mother in pre-Katrina New Orleans. He hates everything, particularly those things that are popular with the masses, and he proudly sports a thick and unruly mustache. He loves to eat, write erotic letters and make fun of others. He doesn't like to leave New Orleans because of a bad experience he had once on a Greyhound Bus en route to Baton Rouge. This book chronicles his life and it's various pratfalls, from unrequited love to his stint as a napping hot dog vendor and his attempt to start a coup at a pants factory.

This is the greatest book ever written.

No Country for Old Men and The Road by Cormac McCarthy. I'll keep this short and sweet. If you'd like more info on the former, go see the movie. If you'd like more info on the latter, stare at a wall for five hours. 'No Country'. Very good. 'The Road'. Very bad.

The Dangerous Book for Boys by Hal Iggulden - Ok, so I just got this a week ago for my birthday, so maybe I'm cheating. But really, this a book that any red blooded American should own. I saw it listed atop the best seller list for months and never knew what it was. What can I say? I'm a sucker for danger.

It's a basically a collection of random stuff that every straight guy should know. Do you yearn for the day when kids played outside and made tree forts and read books? Back in the day, before playing 'Halo 3' online was an acceptable way to kill 12 hours? Then this book is for you (and your kid). Here are just a few of the gems it contains: Building a Treehouse, A List of Baseball's MVPS, Famous Battles in History, Skipping Stones, How to Play Poker, Hunting and Cooking a Rabbit, The Seven Wonders of the World, and of course, Dinosaurs. Reading this book has given my mustache a thick and powerful shine.

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon - Another Pulitzer Winner. (This isn't always a good thing. See: The Road) This book is challenging to say the least. It's one of those where, for the first 100 pages (this is a 600+ page behemoth) your mind wanders and you have to re-read sections. You want to give up. You wonder aloud on a train, 'Is this worth it?' The homeless man leaning against the door nods in a way that says, 'Yes. Yes it is.' So you forge on.

I don't even know if I can do this book justice with a synopsis. It follows two Jewish cousins, Joe the Czech and his cousin Sam, who he comes to live with in Brooklyn before WWII. They are both artistically inclined and thus begin to draw comics. This was in the 'golden age' of comics, when they were legit and everybody read em. Slowly (very slowly sometimes) they become famous and start to grow apart. Joe draws a lot of comics where the hero is beating up Hitler. Sam is secretly gay. Lots of other shit happens that I can't really remember unless I were to consult Wikipedia. This was a very good book that made me feel smarter for having read it. That said, it took me a solid 4 months on and off to finish it. Recommended, but not for those who don't enjoy a good challenge.