Those Guys Have All the Fun: Inside the World of ESPN
by James A. Miller & Thomas Shales
If cable TV has a rock star, it is not a music network, but ESPN. It keeps behaving badly and just keeps getting more popular. Those Guys Have All the Fun is an oral history of ESPN’s rise to “world domination.” The book could have been titled how to make a television network from scratch, warts and all, completely uncensored. For those of you who hate sports, I should have said upfront that the story of ESPN is a compelling American odyssey involving all sorts of people and from all walks of life. It is a story that transcends the knocking of balls and cracking of skulls. It is the American dream realized. It is our collective nightmare. Maybe that’s hyperbole. It is a story of big personalities, big money, sex, and TV.
ESPN started as a family business made possible by intra-family loans. The network grew as cable grew – truly home grown in the nowheresville town of Bristol, Connecticut. Eventually, real money gets involved – Mickey Mouse money. Yes, Disney bought ESPN. You’ll learn why your cable costs so much. Hint: it has something to do with Hank Williams and Monday night. Miller and Shales don’t turn a blind eye to the entrenched culture of sexual harassment at the network. Think Mad Men but as a qualification to get hired at this agency you have to be a sports fanatic. Yeah, it was bad. Racial tensions within the network were a microcosm of racial tensions in our culture at large. This continues to this day. With matters of race and sport tied so closely together, how could it not?
Some have criticized the book for letting ESPN off the hook. If Those Guys Have All the Fun handled its subject with kid gloves, I’m afraid of what a more rigorous examination would look like. Differing points of view on controversial subjects were all given a chance to make their case. I listened to the book on Playaway. The weight of its length is lessened by multiple narrators. With different male and female voices, it feels like you are in the room while the interviews are happening.
I stopped paying for cable years ago but can enjoy much of ESPN’s programming via their Podcenter. There you can find streaming and downloadable versions of their radio and TV talk shows. I still unwind most work days by listening to Around the Horn featuring my favorite sports writer Kevin Blackistone. He was the only commentator on the show brave enough to call out the press for making such a fuss over the “death” of an imaginary woman whenever there was a real death at Notre Dame that went conspicuously under reported.
Oh, and the Super Bowl? I’m rooting for coach Harbaugh.
Forgotten Bookmarks: A Bookseller’s Collection of Odd Things Lost Between the Pages
By Michael Popek
Michael Popek began working at his parent’s used and rare book store where he was responsible for buying and sorting books. On a whim, he created a blog so that his friends could see some of the unusual things he was finding inside of the books he processed. That blog became the basis for his book Forgotten Bookmarks: A Bookseller’s Collection of Odd Things Lost Between the Pages.
Popek divided the book’s chapters into five categories “Photographs,” “Letters, Cards and Correspondence,” “Notes, Poems, Lists and Other Written Ephemera,” “Receipts, Invoices, Advertising, and Other Official Documents,” and “The Old Curiosity Shop: From Four-Leaf Clovers to Razor Blades.” He also featured photographs of both the forgotten items and the book in which they were found.
Forgotten Bookmarks: A Bookseller’s Collection of Odd Things Lost Between the Pages is charming and captivating. You find yourself wanting to know the story behind the letters, postcards and photographs…. Not only are you seeing wonderful examples of ephemera but you are getting to see the lovely cover art of the books themselves.
Don’t miss it.
This Machine Kills Secrets: How WikiLeakers, Cypherpunks, and Hacktivists Aim to Free the World’s Information
by Andy Greenberg
This Machine Kills Secrets charts the rise and fall of Wikileaks. The word “Wikileaks” is no longer the boogeyman it once was. The current public debate about online privacy might indicate that the philosophical roots behind Wikileaks has gained traction with the general populace. This book is a history of said philosophy. The ideological manifestation of this philosophy is a belief in the right to privacy. The pragmatic manifestation of this philosophy is encryption, or the ability to scramble data so only you and those you choose can unscramble it. Those ideologically motivated enough to take pragmatic action wrote encryption software. Of course, encryption and related technologies can be used for anonymous whistle-blowing too. The people who wrote encryption software are either freedom fighters or paranoid wackjobs depending on your perspective. Pick your poison. It makes for great reading. It also makes for strange bedfellows. I was left wondering what gun nuts in Idaho think of Julian Assange. Greenberg works in a biography of Assange, a history of digital encryption, a (sort of) history of hacker collective Anonymous, and how this all led to a quiet revolution in Iceland. I couldn’t put it down.
If this book tickles your fancy, the author recently participated in an “ask me anything” session on Reddit where he answered user questions in depth and revealed more personal opinions about Wikileaks. Check it, and his book, out.
So how many books did you read in 2012?
I read .
Can you beat me? Post the number of books you read in the comments. I love to hear from fellow readers.
We already did a Best of 2012 Podcast that you can hear here. But I do have a couple of other books I’d like to mention…
Longest Read: Cryptonomicon by Neil Stephenson
What? It was only 1168 pages. That’s why it took me almost 4 months to finish.
Best Book Nashville Public Library Doesn’t Own (yeah Interlibrary Loan!): Weird Things Customers Say in Bookstores by Jen Campbell
I know I work at the library and not a bookstore, but these customers seemed oddly familiar…
Best Series I Finally Got To Finish: The Inheritance Cycle by Christopher Paolini (featuring Eragon, Eldest, Brisingr, and Inheritance)
Yeah! I did it! I read all 2794 pages. And at least 1789 of them were really good. Woohoo!
Possibly the Worst Book I’ve Ever Read (Ever): One Fifth Avenue by Candace Bushnell
This one was a tough category to pick the worst book because there were several to choose from (Looking at you J.K. Rowling). I just wanted to punch all these characters in the face. Ugh. Read it at your own risk – I’m warning you.
Ok, Nashville…let’s set our reading goals high for 2013. If you need recommendations to help get your numbers up that’s what the library’s here for.
150 books read in one year…here we come!
The Handmade Marketplace: How to Sell Your Crafts Locally, Globally, and Online
By Kari Chapin
The Handmade Marketplace: How to Sell Your Crafts Locally, Globally, and Online provides simple, straightforward good advice about how to get your craft business started and is perfect for the novice business person. Kari Chapin discusses everything from branding and marketing your business to the nuts and bolts about how to sell at craft fairs, online stores, co-ops and brick and mortar stores. The book features stories and words of wisdom from successful crafters. Also included is a thorough list of online resources to help you get started. The book’s compact size makes the information seem approachable and attainable.
There are cat people and there are dog people.
Cat people feel the need to share cat cartoons, cat videos and hairballs.
Dog people tolerate cat people, secure in the knowledge that our loyal canine companions will never attack our bare feet with razor sharp claws from underneath low lying furniture. Dog people know that we would rather share a walk with our loyal pet than with just about anyone. Dog people go to dog parks. Cat people…
If you are a dog lover, here are three books that celebrate the canine species.
What’s a dog for? : the surprising history, science, philosophy, and politics of man’s best friend, by John Homans . Canine culture and the evolution of the dog/human relationship are just a few of the topics expertly discussed in this soon to be dog-eared book.
Do dogs dream? : nearly everything your dog wants you to know, by Stanley Coren (professor emeritus of psychology at the University of British Columbia) answers 75+ questions about dogs ranging from the social and emotional to how they perceive us. Illustrated and easy to read, enjoy this one with a yellow or chocolate lab at your feet.
Finally one to tug at the heartstrings, Following Atticus : forty-eight high peaks, one little dog, and an extraordinary friendship ,by Tom Ryan. The author,a former newspaper man from Newburyport, Mass writes of the path that led him to the challenge faced hiking all 48 of the White Mountain range’s 4,000-foot peaks in 90 days with Atticus leading the way. The author reports that Atticus, a frisky miniature schnauzer was “made for the mountains” and those cute little Muttluks on his paws were made for him.
“Outside of a dog, a book is a man’s best friend. Inside of a dog, it’s too dark to read.” – Groucho Marx
Behind the Beautiful Forevers
By Katherine Boo
This book has been kind of haunting me. I read about it a couple months ago when it came out, but every time it came up on the hold list for me, I just sent it on to the next reader. I think I was afraid it would be dry and boring or simply too depressing to enjoy. I happy to report, though, that this book is neither of those things.
Katherine Boo tells such a powerful story here that it is hard to remember that these are real people living real lives. It seemed more like a novelization of a stereotypical slum. You really get pulled in by the characters – and the fact that Abdul and Manju really exist makes it even more poignant.
Parts of it were incredibly frustrating – not because of the reading, because of the situation. The amount of corruption at the lower levels of this society is amazing. Medicine isn’t even available in the hospitals. Slumdwellers must first purchase it on the street and then take it into the hospital (!?!?!). This book takes Slumdog Millionaire to the next level. Even with all our troubles, I have never been more thankful to live where I do and have the opportunities I have.
If you’re looking for something gripping that will really make you think, this one will do it easily. The National Book Award folks thought so too, because they just gave it their prize for Nonfiction.