Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis — Author J.D. Vance is a hillbilly and damn proud of it. He also is one of the fortunate sons who was able to escape before the vicious circle consumed him. He got out by joining the U.S. Marines and then going to Ohio State U, and followed that up by earning a law degree at Yale. In this telling book, he bares his family’s soul and, in the process, helps explain today’s political situation in his country.
Hockey Talk: Stories Behind the Voice — Dr. Gordon Hunter of the U of Lethbridge has put together a book in which 49 men tell their stories. Each of them is, or was, the play-by-play voice of a major junior or junior A hockey team. Each of them has a unique story, although almost all of them are at least in part about being in the right place at the right time. Hockey Talk is available from the U of Lethbridge bookstore, with all royalties going to Kid Sport Canada.
The Holy or the Broken: Leonard Cohen, Jeff Buckley and the Unlikely Ascent of Hallelujah — A song that received little exposure when it was first released by Leonard Cohen, Hallelujah has become an anthem of our times. Author Alan Light, a former editor-in-chief of Spin and Vibe magazines, examines the song, modifications and covers, and everything else around it. If you’ve heard the song — and you know you have — this is an engrossing read.
The Hot Line: How the Legendary Trio of Hull, Hedberg and Nilsson Transformed Hockey and Led the Winnipeg Jets to Greatness — Phew! That’s a title. . . . Author Geoff Kirbyson provides a real feel for what Anders Hedberg and Ulf Nilsson went through when they joined the WHA’s Winnipeg Jets. Because of the beauty they brought to the North American game, it’s easy to forget the abuse they absorbed, but it’s all right here. Also here are plenty of well-deserved accolades from all kinds of hockey people. Thankfully, Kirbyson didn’t forget the other terrific Europeans who also were with the Jets, players like Lars-Erik Sjoberg, who quietly may have been the best of them all, Dan Labratten, Willy Lindstrom, Kent Nilsson et all. . . . I read a Kindle edition and it really needed an editor as there were a number of spelling errors, especially when it came to names. I would hope they don’t appear in the print edition.
Indian Horse — Saul Indian Horse, an Ojibway survivor of the residential school system, finds escape from his nightmare on the ice as a hockey player. He is a dynamic player, too, but what happens when what he thinks is his game turns out to be white, just like the ice? Author Richard Wagamese has written a wonderful book, one that will drag you through a gamut of emotions and one that will stay with you for a long time. If you haven’t yet read Indian Horse, get a copy and put it on top of the pile. It is that good; in fact, I would go so far as to say this one is unforgettable. The movie is on its way and if it’s half as good as the book, well, look out.
Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI — Oh boy, did this one stay with me after I finished it! The Osage Indian nation of Oklahoma found itself awash — really, really awash — in oil money in the 1920s, but not one member of the tribe could have envisioned the blood bath that would follow. Author David Grann has investigated what went on and what he discovered is mind-boggling and heart-shattering. Countless members of the tribe were killed — the exact number never will be known — by white men after their fortunes. Most anyone who may have been charged with investigating seems to have been bought off, which brings us to J. Edgar Hoover. The FBI was in its infancy and this case, with a man named Tom White assigned to head it up, did wonders for its reputation. . . . This book is one of the best reads this year, without a doubt.
The Late Show — Michael Connelly, the author who brought us Harry Bosch, uses The Late Show to introduce us to Renée Ballard, a detective with the Los Angeles Police Department. Due to an incident with a higher-up, Ballard works the night shift (aka The Late Show) and really doesn’t mind it. Like Bosch, she has an independent mind and doesn’t mind going around the speed bumps in order to get the job done. But while Bosch is a lone wolf trying, and struggling, to keep up with the times, Ballard is up to speed on everything in today’s world. She also sleeps on the beach, surfs and, well, if you like cop books give this one a read.
Leo Durocher: Baseball’s Prodigal Son — In baseball’s long and glorious history there may have been no figure who was more polarizing than Leo Durocher. Here was a manager who during his days with the Chicago Cubs chose to demean Ernie Banks and Ron Santo, perhaps the two most-loved figures in that franchise’s history. If you are like me and love the stories and anecdotes from our sporting history, you will enjoy author Paul Dickson’s in-depth look at Durocher and his life on and off the baseball diamond. Don’t forget that Durocher was great friends with the likes of Frank Sinatra, Danny Kaye and George Raft, and his third wife was Laraine Day, a big-name movie star back in the day. Yes, Dickson had lots to write about and he did it well.
Life — There is a meme kicking around the internet that reads: “We need to start worrying about the kind of world we are going to leave for Keith Richards.” Dig into Life, the memoir written by the Rolling Stones’ guitarist, singer and co-founder, and about halfway through you start to think that meme hits the nail squarely on the head. Richards, now 73, should have been dead a dozen times over, if not more. Oh boy, what a life this man has led, and he chronicles every inch of it between the covers of Life. The drugs, the women and, yes, his relationship with Mick Jagger . . . it’s all there.
The Miracle Mile: Stories of the 1954 British Empire and Commonwealth Games — This truly is an important book, one that should take its place on the shelf with others that dig deeply into events that were important to Canada’s history. Author Jason Beck, who is curator and facility director at the B.C. Sports Hall of Fame in Vancouver, started researching this book in August of 2006; it was published in 2016. The important thing to understand is that this work is about so much more than the Miracle Mile and its two primary participants — Roger Bannister and John Landy. It is full of the history of the 1954 BECG — how did they land in Vancouver, the decision-making process in selecting sites, what being the host city meant, etc. The research is impeccable and the stories about an untold number of athletes are invaluable. It also is the story of a city on the cusp of becoming an international showpiece. This book is, in a word, a masterpiece.
Mississippi Blood — This is book No. 3 in a trilogy that began with Natchez Burning and continued with The Bone Tree. If you read the first two, you won’t want to miss this one. If you like long reads that draw you in and give you a front row seat these are terrific, and Mississippi Blood doesn’t disappoint. Author Greg Iles tells the story of Penn Cage, the mayor of Natchez, Miss., his family — his father, Dr. Tom Cage, is much beloved in Natchez, especially by the black community — and so much more. Believe me when I say it’s all multi-layered and oh, so readable.
(Part 2 of 3)