Friday, January 28, 2011

Play Their Hearts Out: A Coach, His Star Recruit, and the Youth Basketball Machine by George Dohrmann

A sports coach can be the most revered or vilified person in the room; a Red Auerbach-like personality who can inspire a team of individuals to come together to form a dynastic team, or someone who pitches a fit and sends a chair skidding across the floor a la Bobby Knight. George Dohrmann presents to the reader a very different type of coach, who has the skills to find the most dynamic players and then milk them for the most base of ends: his financial well-being.

But in the end the story isn't solely about Joe Keller as a coach, it's about him as a pioneer of the efforts made by the shoe companies to extend their commercial empire by ensnaring the next LeBron James before the kid graduates middle school. The author does an exquisite job as chronicler of the years spent by Joe Keller building up his AAU team to become one of the greatest in the U-13 leagues; of the hard-knock maturation process the children went through; and of the backroom machinations that made Joe Keller a very rich man.

I'm far from interested in basketball, but I would come home from work every night looking forward to reading more of this book--it had all of the personalities of a great page-turner, with easily recognizable villains and victims, but, appropriately enough, the hero never made an appearance.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Listen to an outstanding audiobook

Little Bee by Chris Cleave and narrated by Anne Flosnik is an astonishing novel about lives thrown into terrifying chaos in war-torm Nigeria and middle-class London. Cleave deals with the timely topic of immigration, the daily struggle to survive terror in much of the world, and the undeniable human right of access to clean water and food. Flosnik's narration is unparalleled as she navigates a variety of accents with incredible skill.

Who are your favorite narrators? Feel free to share your listening experiences with us by responding to our blog. We welcome your feedback!

We offer Little Bee in two audio formats : compact disc and MP3. You may also access the audio version from the Overdrive website on our homepage. Enjoy!


Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Rob Finally Recommends Stieg Larsson

If you've just now splashed down from a two-year stint on the space shuttle during which time the communications module was on the blink or if the monastery where you've been staying discouraged contact with the outside world, or if you're too young to read this, then you might not have heard of the Millennium Trilogy/Stieg Larsson/Girl Who...series. For those who have read (and enjoyed) these page turners, what's left but to see the movies, hope for a fourth book and troll the Internet looking for bits and pieces of Larssonia scattered about by other hapless fans. In an act of mercy, I'm giving away a few morsels of Stieg Larsson trivia which you may not have heard yet:
*At age 15, the author witnessed a rape and was helpless to stop it.
*In Swedish, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was titled Men Who Hate Women.
*Larsson died climbing up 7 flights of stairs because of a broken elevator.
*Out of revolutionary solidarity, he spent a year training women guerrillas in Eritrea during the war for independence from Ethiopa.
*The trilogy was originally intended to be a decalogy.
*In Stockholm, Millennium Tours will take you to the 7-Eleven where Lisbeth bought her Billy's Pan Pizza...
For those who have not yet read the books, I'd recommend them for the fast pace, exotic setting, the Lisbeth Salander character and the (anti) violence against women theme.

Sue Recommends Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand

The author of Seabiscuit, Laura Hillenbrand, pens another winner with Unbroken: a World War II story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption. She has the ability to weave a story of facts into a spellbinding tale that the reader must constantly remind herself/himself that this is a real person, Louis Zamperini, who experienced the glory of being an Olympic runner in Germany in 1936 and in World War II fought to survive a plane crash and the Japanese POW camps.

Hillenbrand did her homework with interviews, diaries, memoirs, family letters, and government documents. Unbroken begins with the life of Louis Zamperini as a juvenile delinquent and transitions to his competitiveness as an athlete with a family who loves him dearly. The skills he learned in this part of his life allowed him to survive the degradations and inhumanity of the 3 years in the POW camps. The final part of his life reveals how difficult it was to continue with life after being finally rescued at the end of the war.

Mr Zamperini (see the video clips on his webpage), now 94, wrote his own memoir, Devil at my Heels, if you would like to read more about him. You might also enjoy the videos on You Tube. SH

Megan suggests: Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned

A first collection of short stories from an up-and-coming author.

Maybe this story collection should be subtitled "Smart Men, Foolish Choices" or "Men Behaving Badly." Lots of things go awry for the (mostly male) protagonists of these stories, to the point where many of the plots are resemble a cross between The Young and the Restless and Law and Order: Special Victims Unit. Still, great writing. If you like short stories, pick these up. A writer to watch.

Friday, January 7, 2011

How To Understand Israel by reading graphic novels

How To Understand Israel In 60 Days Or Less by Sarah Glidden

Another stellar graphic novel proving that the medium has an essential place in storytelling, this comic is the first full-length effort by Boston-native Sarah Glidden and should be shelved alongside Joe Sacco's works and Maus in terms of its importance for fostering an intelligent discussion of the troubles between Israel and Palestine. It doesn't touch on the extreme alienation and despair of Sacco & Spiegelman's works because Glidden's story is of an American-born Jew who takes the birthright trip with the intention of reinforce her preconceived pro-Palestinian ideas that most college students sporting a keffiyeh share. As the trip progresses, her prejudices begin to break down through a very emotional process as she begins to formulate her own opinion. While the ending of the book leaves us with the same question Sarah was asking herself at the beginning, the process of reading it allows us to encounter and embrace our own uncertainty of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

War Made New

War Made New: Technology, Warfare, and the Course of History - 1500 to Today
by Max Boot

In War Made New Boot shows how technological and strategic revolutions have transformed the battlefield, from the Spanish Armada to the War on Terror, and how mastery of these innovations has shaped the rise and fall of nations and empires.

Boot focuses on four "revolutions" in military affairs and describes key battles from each period to explain how inventions ranging from gunpowder to GPS-guided air-strikes have remade the field of battle, and shaped the rise and fall of empires.
He first looks at warfare in pre nation states. Next he explores the triumph of steel and steam during the Industrial Revolution, including the British triumph at Omdurman and the climax of the Russo-Japanese war at Tsushima, showing how it powered the spread of European colonial empires.

Moving into the twentieth century and the Second Industrial Revolution, Boot examines three critical clashes of World War II, the German army's blitzkrieg, Pearl Harbor, and the firebombing of Tokyo, to illustrate how new technology such as the tank, radio, and airplane ushered in terrifying new forms of warfare that aided the rise of highly centralized, and even totalitarian, world powers.

Finally, in his section on the Information Revolution, Boot focuses on the Gulf War, the invasion of Afghanistan, and the Iraq war, arguing that even as cutting-edge technologies such as stealth aircraft have made America the greatest military power in world history, advanced communications systems have allowed decentralized, irregular, forces to become an increasingly significant threat to Western power.

Max Boot explains why western civilization came to dominate the world in the late 19th century. It is a great complement to Jared Diamond's book, "Guns, Germs, and Steel". The book looks at how the social organization of the countries, as well as technology, impacted the outcome of major battles as well as why important battles had the outcome they did.