Saturday, October 27, 2018

Lessons Learned & Family Drama

Hey, here are some great books I read.

Speechless by Adam Schmitt was an intriguing J Read. Jimmy's cousin Patrick has tragically died, and he's been asked to deliver the eulogy. Here's the deal though y'all - Jimmy is 13, and his cousin is a total jerk. I'll own that the premise of this one was one I was initially a bit unsure of. What teenager would be put in this situation? However, as the story went, I really liked this as the vehicle to understand the complexities of teenage feelings and family relationships. Throughout, Jimmy reflects to try to figure out just what to say. In addition, he's managing the variety of emotions that show up at Patrick's wake with different folks. In the end, Jimmy finds his voice in a very unexpected way. Looking at this as a J read, I think it would give kids lots to consider about how to understand and relate to those people in our lives who we don't always connect with well. This was yet another book I was able to check out thanks to NetGalley, and it's one that will make you think. It's worth checking out when it's released in November.

Read this book if - You want a book that looks at the complicated relationships in our lives in a different way. You want a honest look at what it's like to navigate grief and frustration at the same time told from a kid's perspective.

Can You Hear Me? How to Connect with People in a Virtual World by Nick Morgan is an upcoming release from the Harvard Business Review (Thanks for the sneak peek NetGalley!) This was a dissection of different types of technology. First, there was an exploration of the potential hazards and issues of each type. Then, there were suggestions of what could be done to make each of these more engaging and more like a "real life" meeting. As someone who works remotely and leans on technology, this was a super interesting and helpful read on how to better leverage the ways I have to communicate. I really appreciated the advice on how to better integrate emotion into these technologies because so often that's what can be lost in these relationships. Honestly, if you're using technology to communicate, this is a must-read as there's some definite worthwhile nuggets for conference calls, webinars, video calls, etc.

Read this book if - You are interacting with technology and humans in the work that you do in life. You want technology to help, not hinder your work.

To: The Ambitious, From: The Experienced: 26 Letters on Leadership by A. Jordan Fischette was a unique and easily digestible look at leadership. What I appreciated was that it explored leadership from so many angles. Each chapter was someone sharing a leadership lesson they'd learned along the way. What was especially great about this was that they weren't all from "business" or specific position titles. Rather these were the lessons that can come in everyday personal or professional experiences. Each reflection was written so authentically. I also appreciated that this was a short, quick read. It was a good burst of leadership energy as I was travelling, and it made me reflect on some of my own experiences, as well as glean some new perspective through the lessons shared. 

Read this book if - You want a short, yet informative and helpful read on leadership.

The Mother In Law by Sally Hepworth was a phenomenal read. Y'all, this one had so many twists and turns, but they happened in an emotional and completely unexpected way. This book focuses on the relationship between a mother in law and her daughter in law. The relationship is explored in alternating chapters told from both of their perspectives. The added dimension is it's told in both the past and present. The present involves the death of the mother in law that may be a suicide, however the story quickly reveals that the story is far more complex than this. It was so captivating to learn the secrets that these women (and others in the family) had from each other, as well as the lies that were being told. Having the varied perspectives and timing in chapters made a story that kept me reading. There were lots of feels as multiple perspectives of how things went down were revealed. This one doesn't come out until April of 2019 (another book I received thanks to NetGalley), and when it does, y'all are going to need to check this one out.

Read this book if - You want a story that explores the complicated nature of family relationships. You like stories that build suspense and emotion through multiple lenses.

Finally, with this quartet, I've set a new record for my annual books read. And AND, the year's not over!!

Saturday, October 20, 2018

A Villain, A Thriller & Books ON Books

Hey, it's me again. 

Defending Jacob by William Landay is an older (2012) thriller, but it's had renewed interest with the announcement of a new adaptation. Y'all, you NEED to read this now. When you pick up a thriller, this is exactly how you hope it will go. The book is narrated by Andy Barber, an assistant district attorney. When a 14 year old boy is murdered, Andy is assigned to the case. He begins his investigation. Then, his own 14 year old son becomes the prime suspect. Andy's world is rocked, as he contemplates if his son is capable of such a heinous crime. The investigation rolls on with Andy on the sidelines as his colleagues now investigate his own family. While watching the process, Andy and his wife must grapple with difficult questions and decide how they are going to react/act. There were so many twists on this one, particularly in the last fourth of the book. It kept me guessing, and I read it in one day as I had to know what happened next. If you're a crime thriller fan, and you haven't yet found your way to this one, do that now. Seriously, read no other crime thriller until you read this one. 

Read this book if - You love or even just kind of like crime thrillers. You want a book with twists that you won't see coming. You want a book that will make you grapple with the question of "How far would you go to protect those you love?"

Bibliophile: An Illustrated Miscellany by Jane Mount is easily the most beautiful book I've read this year. The cover is only the beginning of a beautiful visual tribute to books. Jane Mount is an illustrator who regularly draws stacks of people's favorite books. She is a master at translating covers and spines to the most perfect art. This book is pages on pages of this stunning work. In addition, it is full of all the books you want to read next. The pages are divided into genres, and each collection is full of recommendations of what you should check out. I finished this book with quite a few new books on my to-read list which the author shares as one of her hopes. This is a book I want to read and look at over and over again. In addition to books, it highlights a variety of libraries and bookstores that I also now want to visit. All around, this is just a book that reads like a love letter to book lovers. This won't be the last time I flip through these pages.

Read this book if - You love books. You want to visually fall in love with books on each and every page you see.

The Great American Read: The Book of Books: Explore America's 100 Best-Loved Novels is predictably a book about the recent PBS series. I had high aspirations of reading more of these since the show's premiere, but this just hasn't happened. This book gave me renewed interest in doing that . . . eventually. This book offers summaries of each of the reads. It includes information on the plot as well as the authors and how the books came to be. There's not much to review here, other than to say that I dug it as a book about other books, and it's a great resource to have in my home library.

Read this book if - You want a book about The Great American Read novels.

Fairest of All: A Tale of the Wicked Queen by Serena Valentino is the story of the evil stepmother from Snow White. This is the first in a Disney series that looks at the origin story of well-known villains. Y'all, I love all things Snow White. It's my forever favorite Disney movie, and I still love when I can find my way to any and all Snow White kind of stuff. This was different than any other previous Snow White variations I'd read given the perspective. It was intriguing. The Queen wasn't always so wicked according to this tale, so this traced back how she got to be how she was. I liked it, especially how the Magic Mirror was integrated throughout the story. I will always love Snow White, and the unique, creative angle of this one was a different way to read my favorite fairy tale. 

Read this book if - You enjoy fairy tales told differently. You like reading about the origin stories of different characters.

And onto the next one. . .

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Books For Other People & LIN-MANUEL MIRANDA!

Sometimes I read books, and I don't love them. However, I think other people might. 75% of these books were that kind of read. 

Cool? Okay.

The Girls by Emma Cline just wasn't enough of what I thought it was going to be. I thought it was going to be more about a girl got sucked into the madness of a cult. Instead, I felt like it was more about a girl who spent a summer "dabbling" in a cult. For me, this read more like a seventies coming of age story than the thriller it was said to be. What this was was the story of Evie. Evie is a 14 year old who is in that "rebel" stage of her life. She wants to push the limits, and she is captivated by a group of free spirits. The experiences she has with them will make for one heckuva essay on "How I Spent My Summer Vacation" as she spends time with the group. Overall, this book just didn't give me enough. I wanted more depth to Evie and the people she encountered. I wanted it to really be a deep dive into what it said it was about, and instead it was just a flyover recap of an almost, but not really cult experience.

Read this book if - You want to read a coming of age novel about a girl's not so great life choices. You want to read an almost, not quite story about a cult.

Eve by Wm. Paul Young was a lot of things, and I say that as a fact, as well as a critique. I absolutely loved the author's first book. The Shack was a beautiful exploration of faith, and I cried through it and adored it in a unique and special way. This story was another faith-based tale built around the creation narrative. It was an intriguing premise, and at times, it was too intriguing. There were so many layers to this, and it was a lot to process. It did have the beauty of faith exploration like The Shack, but the complexity of who the characters were (or weren't) made it hard to wholly take that in. Honestly, I feel like I would need to read this again to really get the intended impact. There were moments where I was captivated, but my confusion got in the way of truly loving this as I hoped I might.

Read this book if - You want a unique and intense exploration of the creation narrative.

Ohio by Stephen Markley was an advanced reader's copy that I wasn't able to get to before it was released way back in August. I also waited to read this one because I knew it was going to be emotional. Y'all, this one was even heavier than I expected. The story revolves around high school classmates a decade after graduation. For one reason or another, something has drawn them back to their hometown of New Canaan, Ohio. The thing is there's not much in New Canaan. It's a town that has struggled like many have with the recession, and these classmates have been hit by many of these struggles. The book has five narratives that also intersect as the author does a realest of real "Where are they now?" exploration while also revisiting the scars of high school that many of these characters still carry. The stories of then and now that these characters have are powerful, and at times they're hard to read. That speaks to how well the pain of each of these is described. I will also say that the end of this went to a level of intensity I did not see coming. It was well-written and kept me turning the pages, but y'all, WHOA. Overall, this book is heartbreaking and saddening, and you really feel those feels given the depth with which the author explores the past and present of each classmate. It's incredibly well-written, and you'll ache as you read it because it's beauty is in so much tragedy. 

Read this book if - You want a character-driven look at the impacts of the recession. You want the realest of real looks into "What ever happened to. . .?" 

So, these three books were not for me, but then, BUT THEN, I read this.

Gmorning, Gnight!: Little Pep Talks for Me & You by Lin-Manuel Miranda was just a treat of a read. Each day, Lin-Manuel Miranda tweets a morning pep talk, and he ends the day with a nightly affirmation. This was a collection of some of these. This book was incredible. I want to turn to a random page in this each day for my daily dose of positivity and love. This is a book everyone could use in their life. It's so simple, but sometimes we just need a sentence or two to remind us that we can take on the day and/or that we're doing okay at life. Everyone (as in every human in life) could use this book. I loved it, and I'm sure you will, too.

Read this book if - You can read. Seriously, anyone who can read (or have someone read to them) could use this dose of happy in their life.

Until the next round!

Friday, October 12, 2018

Stories That Stick With You

There are books and characters that tend to stick with you long after you've read the last word. This was a rare quartet where there was so much of this happening. 

Restart by Gordon Korman was shared with me by my sister-in-law who teaches third grade. The focus of this book is a bully who loses his memory. He wakes up after a fall with no memory of who he was before. However, he comes to quickly realize that he was a total jerk. With no memory of what used to be, he heads back to school. In this new normal, the connections he makes vary. People remember who he was before, and they're skeptical of who he is now, particularly as he is drawn to some new hobbies and friends. This one was an intriguing read. I think for kids there's a valuable message in considering what you might do with a fresh start. Also, there's lots to consider when it comes to how it shows the impact of bullying. Even though this one wasn't written for my age bracket (I'm about 25 years over where it skews), I was captivated by this story. I loved the messages it shared through a unique cast of characters. It'd be a great read for kids, but adults could benefit from checking this one out, too.

Read this one if - You're looking for a J read with heart. You want something that explores the concept of second chances. You want a book that looks at bullying from a new angle.

The Dreamers by Karen Thompson Walker was mesmerizing. This is the second of the author's books that I have read (the first being The Age of Miracles), and she has a gift for creating captivating stories around (literal) world-altering happenings. She writes the kind of stories that you keep reading because you want to know what happens next, but also, they make you wonder what you would personally do in the same situation. For this one, there is a mysterious illness that is impacting a college town in California. It starts in a residence hall. One student falls asleep and she doesn't wake up. She's still alive, but nothing can wake her from her slumber. Then, another person is impacted, then another, etcetera. With no clear answers, options for solutions emerge. This is where the ethical dilemmas begin. What do you do to help those who are impacted, while protecting those who aren't? The book follows a variety of residents of the town and students of the college to show how they react and how their various interactions with the illness are addresses. Y'all, this one was beautiful and heartbreaking at the same time. Karen Thompson Walker draws you into the worlds she creates like no other author can. They bring you into the dilemma of the world she has created, while making you ask so many questions of your own life. She also does a really amazing job of showing the variety of options that are available, but never emphasizes one of these as the best way to handle. She really helps you see these are complex issues through the beautiful character stories she also builds. This was an advanced read I got thanks to NetGalley, and y'all are going to want/need to check this one out once it's released into the world in January.

Read this book if - You like a fiction book that makes you think "What would I do?" You like books that have a slight hint of fantasy in a realistic environment.

The Girls at 17 Swann Street by Yara Zgheib was an advanced readers' copy that showed up on my doorstep this week. As soon as I received it, I just knew I wanted to read it right away. This book is the story of Anna, a 26 year old French dancer, who is now in St. Louis being checked into a residential eating disorder treatment facility. The book chronicles her experiences at 17 Swann Street as she explores what got her to this point and strives towards recovery. This book is an emotional and honest look at the realities of Anna's life and disorder. The book is told entirely from Anna's point of view and supplemented with a few reports from her medical providers. As the narrator, she shares what is happening, but also her internal musings, so you gain a true picture of the depth of how anorexia has impacted her life. She also explores her past with her family (including some tragedies), her relationship with her husband, and the women she meets in the treatment facility. This book was real about the struggles of a disorder and the realities of recovery. I was captivated from the first words until the very last. Thanks to St. Martin's Press for the ARC, and this is one y'all will want to add to your 2019 to-read list for sure.

Read this book if - You want a book that explores the complexity of an eating disorder. You want a book that is an emotional and authentic read.

Today Will Be DIfferent by Maria Semple was just a quirky, emotional, yet enjoyable read. The main character Eleanor is just one of those characters that you can't help but be drawn in by. Throughout, Eleanor is just trying to keep it all together and get through her days vowing that this day will literally be different. However, things keep happening that prevent that from happening. In addition to the happenings of the day, Eleanor is navigating secrets, revelations, and past hurts. This is a book that's honestly hard to summarize, but just know that I enjoyed it. I loved Eleanor, and some of her life observations were so, so right on. Sometimes you just need a light read like this, and for me, this little peek into the world of Eleanor was just what I needed.

Read this book if - You are looking for a unique main character. You're looking for a story that gives you some chuckles, while also some feels.

Again, this was a batch of characters and plots that I really connected with for a variety of reasons, and I hope y'all might find something that will do the same for you! 

The Peace of "And That's Okay"

One of the ways I give back to my sorority is facilitating conversations with alumnae around CliftonStrengths (aka StrengthsQuest or StrengthsFinder).

The core component of the Strengths philosophy is that rather than wasting time on our weaknesses, we should live in our "strengths space" (as I like to call it) where we focus on our talents and what we do well. 

Note: If you'd like to know more about this assessment/philosophy, let me know, and I can provide that education. #seriously #ilovedoingit


As I worked through the content with a group of women a few weeks back, one of the commonly identified struggles and hesitations was reframing to focus on their strengths. There was that lingering want to "fix" what they can't do well, to devote their energy to addressing their flaws, and to stretch themselves to be good at all the things.

I get it. I totally understood their struggles. 

However, on this night, I was the facilitator, so I needed to get them on board for Strengths. I also know and believe in the power of the Strengths approach.

So, I acknowledged their feelings as valid, and then, here's what I said. 

I explained to these women that we should accept and embrace what we bring to a group. We should proudly say, "I'm <Insert thing we know we know/are/bring>, and that's okay." Adding those simple words to the end of those statements can be a gamechanger. Rather than the quest to perfection, it brings an air of contentment. It allows us to go into spaces and bring what we bring with a peace and confidence that this is who we are and that's okay. Do I bring what that other person brings? Nope, and that's okay. I'm showing up as is ready to give what I give best, and that's okay.

I started this entry a few weeks back, and I returned last night to finally finish up my thoughts. However, as I returned to this entry, I realized this was also something I needed to reflect on for me.

I turned 36 this week. My thirties have legit blown by. I can't believe I'm in the last half of this decade y'all. There are things I thought I'd be by now. There are things I don't have yet. There are things I still need to do. But right now, I am where I am, and that's okay. 

I always joke how I love presenting and facilitating conversations, but I need to heed my own lessons and advice. I realized last night that's what I need to do with all of this right now.

When it comes to birthdays, I tend to think ahead of what's to come a little too much. I've often written the stories for my years before they've began. Instead of being in the moment, I prepare for how I think I need it all to go. I often try to will my years into being before anything ever goes down.

So, this year, I'm going to try to let things roll. I'm going in embracing where I'm at right now. Are there hopes I have for this year? Absolutely. Do I have goals? Yup. However, for right now, I'm just beginning my 36th year, and that's okay. 

Friday, October 5, 2018

Sloths, Squirrels and Unexpected Twists

For this round of books, I needed to pare down some of my advanced e-galleys. It's rare I'd read this many e-books in a row, but I made an exception because of the size of the queue. What a problem to have, right?!?

In The Shadow of the Ivory Tower by Alan Kirby was a true higher education read. As someone who works in higher education, what I appreciated was that the story was true to the real life protocol for something like this. Seriously, I can't tell y'all how many books, Lifetime movies and/or other TV shows I've watched and been frustrated at the lack of understanding of how a campus would truly manage an issue. ANYWAY. This book focuses on a Threat Assessment Team that Darren Kelly, the narrator, serves on for California Pacific University. There are several incidents on campus, and someone named "Mercury" is involved. The book is trying to figure out who this is, how to support those who are impacted, and how to solve the mystery before something else can happen. This is a mystery that kept me guessing. Because it was written true to form (again, I can't say enough how much that meant), I could focus on the drama and suspense as they tried to figure out who was behind everything. There's also a twist at the end that I did not see coming and loved. As someone in higher education, I also appreciated that the author acknowledged in a final author's note that this book mentions many of the current concerns on our college campuses. However, given the focus of the book, these aren't covered exhaustively. I actually had noted this, and I appreciated the author's awareness and encouragement to become further educated on this issues raised. Thanks to NetGalley for letting me check this one out.

Read this book if - You'd like a mystery in a university setting that is true to form on how the situation would be managed IRL.

Slothilda: Living the Sloth Life by Dante Fabiero was a quick, fun read. I first found Slothilda when I was writing a piece on introverts, and I wanted some GIFs to supplement. Slothilda came up, and I instantly feel in love. This is an expansion of those Slothilda moments. Slothilda wants to be better, but she also wants to just relax, love what she loves (Carbs! Naps! Staying Home!) This was simply a book that made me smile. It wasn't deep, but it was relatable. Every once in awhile, I like to check out one of these simple reads for a little shot of happiness. Thanks to NetGalley for providing me that opportunity via Slothilda.

Read this book if - You are familiar with Slothilda. You want a quick, humorous look at the quest for self-care/self-improvement.

Squirrel Days by Ellie Kemper was a book I wanted to love. I assumed I would love it. I tried to even talk myself into loving it. The reality is I just sort of liked it. I hate to offer the comparison, but I've read a fair amount of memoirs by female comediennes. This just failed to make the emotional connection that the others had for me. This was undoubtedly the author's true voice, and y'all she radiates positivity just like her characters. That comes through loud and clear. However, there was just something missing for who I am as a reader. It's hard to critique a book that someone wrote about their life, but I told NetGalley I'd be honest, and I am. I do wonder if this might translate slightly better as an audiobook as some of her humor comes in her voice. I don't know y'all. This one ultimately had expectations from me that it did not meet.

Read this book if - You'd like to read a collection of essays from Ellie Kemper?

Even If I Fall by Abigal Johnson focuses on the after of a tragedy. Brooke's brother Jason is in jail for murdering his best friend Cal. This obviously rocks his family unit and the community. Brooke is left to figure out her new normal as her family is broken and struggling, her friends have disassociated with her, and the things that bring her joy no longer do. In the midst of this, Brooke connects with Heath - Cal's brother. Yup, talk about complex situation. Through the story, Brooke and Health's relationship grows, but they must keep it a secret from their families and the whole community. The story centers on how the family emotionally navigates visiting Jason - or not visiting. There is also the emotion that Heath and Cal's family feel as they continue to grieve and process. This book is also about Brooke's want to understand the truth of what happened that fateful night. That truth is ultimately revealed, and the secrets that are uncovered add a whole different dimension. This is another one I read thanks to NetGalley. Thanks to them I was able to go on this emotional journey. The story is a complicated one which is what makes it worth reading. 

Read this book if - You want a YA read with some emotional complexity. You want a YA read that focuses on a complicated issue.

Until my next round!

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Baseball Reads that are a Home Run!

The only love that rivals my love of reading is that of baseball, specifically the Kansas City Royals. This year, the boys in blue aren't in the postseason. Although, I'm admittedly still feeling the feels and riding the wave of joy that was our 2014 and 2015 success. However, without a team to follow in October, I have more time to . . . well, read, obviously. 

In case you're in a similar situation and/or you'd rather read baseball than watch/listen, and/or if you just can't enough baseball, and/or you want to theme your October reads to complement cheering your team, I wanted to share some amazing reads around the game.

For me, baseball has such beauty in its details. I know, I know, that might not be your jam, and the intricacies are precisely why you just can't get with the pace of play. However, there is also incredible beauty in the emotion of the game, in the dedication of fans, and in the moments and memories of it all. These books, above all else, capture that.

So here's my starting line-up (#seewhatIdidthere) of nine baseball books you should check out:

The Last Days of Summer by Steve Kluger is an absolutely beautiful read that will make you feel all the feels. Case and point, I just reread the ending, and I teared up. This is the friendship that forms between a boy and a baseball player. Joey struggles to fit in and find his place, and Charlie is the all-star third basemen for the New York Giants. The whole story is told through letters, news articles, school assignments, and other miscellaneous correspondence. For such a unique medium, this book invokes some kind of emotion - both ups and down. Baseball or otherwise, this is one of my favorite books of all-time.

The Silence, The Series & The Season of Sungwoo by Chris Kamler is another book that also gets me right in the feels. This book chronicles the Royals' 2014 run. If you're not familiar with life as a Royals fan, it's been rough. After the Royals 1985 World Series win, they didn't make the playoffs again until 2014. As a fan who's been on the roller coaster, this book was everything. It was all the moments I wanted to remember with the city and fans I love so much. An added gem of this season is the story of Sungwoo Lee. If you're not familiar, read this and/or watch this 30 for 30 short. Anyway, now that you've met Sungwoo, find this book. It's a wonderful retelling of what 2014 meant to a team and its fans from someone who was in the heart of it all. Clearly 2015 had a better ending for us, but the ride of 2014 will also always have a special place in our hearts.

The Night The World Turned Royal Blue by Jason Sivewright is a kid's book focused on the 2014 Royals, specifically the AL Wild Card game. Y'all, this is the game of all games. It is the most truly unbelievable game I've ever seen. Against all odds, we won. Everything about this game put the wild in wild card, and this beautifully illustrated children's book rhymes its way through the happenings. This is yet another read that causes me to get a little weepy.

The Art of Scouting: Seven Decades Chasing Hopes and Dreams in Major League Baseball by Art Stewart with Sam Mellinger explores another dimension of the game. Art Stewart has been a scout for the Kansas City Royals since the first days in 1969. These are his reflections on how he's found some of our team's best. He walks through how he's made choices, and it's fascinating stuff. The world of scouting is a lot of educated guesses on player potential, and it's interesting to see how Art has done this for so long. This one is also the story of Art as a human. He speaks with such heart on not only his love of the game, but his life. He's a true gem to have in our organization, and I loved learning more about him through this one.

So, that wraps the Royals part of the line-up. . . for now.

The Teammates: A Portrait of a Friendship by David Halberstam centers on the relationships of the game. The story begins in 2001 as Ted Williams in in failing health. Dominic DiMaggio (yes, he's Joe's brother) and Johnny Pesky are in their way to see their friend. The fourth of the quartet, Bobby Doerr, is unable to join them on this trip as he supports his wife who is in failing health, but he is still a central part of the story. The book focuses on the amazing Red Sox teams these men were on together and their 60+ year friendship that endured long after their playing days were through. David Halberstam (who tragically died in a car wreck in 2007 while researching a book) is one of the best sportswriters of all-time, and he is masterful at telling these stories. Yes, this is a story about one of the best that played the game (Ted Williams), but more than that, it's about the lifelong friends he found through the game.

Bottom Of The 33rd: Hope, Redemption and Baseball's Longest Game by Dan Barry is the true story of a minor league game that once went 33 innings! This is a trek back through that game in 1981 between the AAA Pawtucket Red Sox and Rochester Red Wings, but it dives so much deeper than the game highlights. The author dives into the stories of the players (which includes two guys you may have heard of - Wade Boggs and Cal Ripken Jr), as well as the fans that were in attendance. Minor league baseball is a fascinating place full of men who are grinding each day to make it to the big show, and this is such a thorough and beautiful examination of a night in this world that was truly once in a lifetime. 

The Soul of Baseball: A Road Trip Through Buck O'Neil's America by Joe Posnanski is outstanding. Buck O'Neil was an incredible human - the best of the very best. He was a manager in the Negro Leagues, primarily for the Kansas City Monarchs and is an icon of the city. This book focuses on a cross-country road trip he took with Joe Posnanski (my all-time favorite sports writer) to reflect on where the game has been and where it is now. The combination of Buck's beautiful perspective and Joe's masterful writing make this book perfection. There will never be another one like Buck, and this is an incredible tribute to him and his love of the game.

The Arm: Inside the Billion Dollar Industry Of The Most Valuable Commodity in Sports by Jeff Passan is a fascinating microhistory around a pitcher's essential tool - his arm. Pitchers are far from invincible, and that has a lot to do with one ligament. In this book, Passan sets out to look at the limits of this arm. He examines it in a variety of ways, including looking at young athletes in the game, through an exploration of all angles of the Tommy John surgery, and through the way the game is played worldwide. This book is incredibly detailed, and that is what makes it worth the read. He finds the flaws in the system in the quest to be the best with tools that have limits. The issues with the arm are clear throughout this one, but the mystery of how to fix this tiny ligament remains unclear.

Lucky Bastard: My Life, My Dad, and the Things I'm Not Allowed to Say on TV by Joe Buck is batting ninth in this order, and it's a book I would have never thought would have made the cut. I listened to this as an audiobook (read by Joe Buck) to and from St. Louis. This was fitting given he got his start there, and his dad is the legendary announcer Jack Buck. Prior to reading this, I didn't really appreciate Joe Buck. In fact, I'd tell you he kind of got on my nerves. After this, I'm such a fan. I laughed as I listened to this, and y'all, I straight up ugly cried at parts, too. This is Joe's honest look at his sports broadcasting career. He talks about his relationship with his dad and how he followed in his footsteps, as well as just his life in general. Joe has a storytelling that is authentic, and I think the unexpected love of this one is what has made it all the more endearing to me. You may not be convinced that you can change your own attitudes toward Joe Buck, but I'd encourage you to give this one a shot to see what happens.

Oh, and some "bullpen reads" to add to your list because I obviously have more than nine baseball books to share:

  • Blue Whistler by Mickey Cobb - This is a recap of George Brett's infamous pine tar game from all angles from what pine tar is to what exactly happened from someone who was there.
  • Moneyball by Michael Lewis - Before it was a movie with Jonah Hill and Brad Pitt, it was a book. This is a fascinating read on how Billy Beane and the Oakland A's sought to do baseball differently.
  • Pedro by Pedro Martinez - From a childhood in the Domnican Republic to one of the greatest of all-time, Pedro reflects on life. This is a window into what the experience of a Latin baseball player is truly and authentically like.
  • Ted Williams by Leigh Montville - I consider Teddy Ballgame to be the greatest of all-time (seriously, I wrote a paper on it), and this is a brilliant read on him. 
  • The Baseball Codes: Beanballs, Sign Stealing, and Bench-Clearing Brawls: The Unwritten Rules of America's Pastime by Jason Turbow and Michael Duda - In addition to the written rules, baseball has a number of unwritten ones. This book looks at the "Why?" of these rules and shares moments when they've been enacted.
Have other baseball reads I should put in my on deck circle? (Y'all, I could do these baseball analogies for days!) Please share!