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Cardboard Gods: An All-American Tale Told Through Baseball Cards

3.8  ·  Rating Details ·  679 Ratings  ·  117 Reviews
Cardboard Gods is the memoir of Josh Wilker, a brilliant writer who has marked the stages of his life through the baseball cards he collected as a child. It also captures the experience of growing up obsessed with baseball cards and explores what it means to be a fan of the game. Along the way, as we get to know Josh, his family, and his friends, we also get Josh’s classic ...more
Hardcover, 208 pages
Published April 20th 2010 by Seven Footer Press (first published January 1st 2010)
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Brad Herzog
Jun 21, 2010 Brad Herzog rated it it was amazing
As an author of creative nonfiction, I occasionally come across examples of the genre and think, "Man, I wish I would have written that." THE KNOW-IT-ALL by AJ Jacobs (about his mission to read the entire Encyclopedia Brittanica) was certainly one of those books. Brilliantly funny. CARDBOARD GODS is another. I bought the book for the concept -- using baseball cards to tell the story of childhood angst and exploration. Great idea. But I'm writing this rare (for me) review because I just LOVED the ...more
Dec 06, 2010 Matt rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2011
Let me preface this review by stating that during my youth, I was obsessed with baseball cards. I understand. I am part of the fraternity.

Needless to say, when I stumbled upon this book (after reading a Ben Tanzer review on Goodreads) I was excited. The reviews were outstanding. And then I opened the book.

This book is little more than a gimmick, and like all gimmicks, it wore thin quickly. When the novelty has expired, there needs to be something more. While Josh's writing is peppered with ang
Dani Shuping
Couple of things right off the bat:
1) This is NOT a book about baseball cards or how to collect them or anything like that
2) This book is a memoir of the author
3) Recommended ages for this book 16+

With that out of the way...I've collected baseball cards for over 25 years now so when I saw this book and saw images of baseball cards from the 70's and 80's throughout the book I was excited. I thought "Here's a book that's going to talk about how collecting cards influenced the writer's life" or how
Apr 05, 2011 Jared rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved this book. It is, refreshingly, utterly without pretense. The author has such an authentic, humble, and honest voice that he simultaneously manages both gritty realism and vulnerable eloquence. Even if it wasn't about baseball and baseball cards, it would have been worth the read for the moving personal and family narrative (the only time I have ever cried while reading a book came during the brilliant final three pages of this book). But then again, his personal and family narrative cou ...more
Mike Kennedy
Nov 02, 2014 Mike Kennedy rated it it was ok
Shelves: baseball
I had high hopes for this book, and it just didn't deliver. The premise of the book was pretty cool, telling his story through baseball cards. Two problems with this idea. One about half of the stories didn't seem to represent the cards he chose. It almost felt like he forced the stories to mesh with the baseball cards. The second problem is that his life doesn't seem worthy of a book. I kept waiting for some great wrap up to make it all worthwhile. It just never seemed to happen. I'll give Josh ...more
Nov 27, 2010 Ben rated it it was amazing
A triumphant exploration of childhood, pop culture, the last third of the last century, and the start of the new one, rooting for the Boston Red Sox and the birth of the writer through his youthful obsession with all things baseball card, the players, both obscure and star, their stats and back stories, and the endless hopes, needs, and anxieties we can project onto an object of desire.
May 02, 2011 zxvasdf rated it it was amazing
When I got Cardboard Gods in the mail, I loved the feel of its almost rough covers in my hands, found the thick bond with intervals of brightly coloured vintage photographs of baseball cards pleasing to my eyes. It was then I immediately regretted throwing in my lot in the book drawing. Baseball?! What did I know about baseball, other than it was one of the most boring sports to watch on TV, second only to golf? I reluctantly gave it a try.

Josh Wilker is a talented very writer, despite any perso
Jan 10, 2012 Kitty rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Anyone who has ever analyzed anything way too deeply
Shelves: baseball, essays, memoir
If you're unfamiliar with Josh Wilker's baseball card analysis and self-reflection, take a look at his blog ( Here, Josh Wilker tells the process of his life through 1970's baseball cards as if the stages in his life had been the original subjects in the photos and not the particular baseballsman pictured. Each Topps card is dissected so that every aspect, the background, the facial expression, the possible photo doctoring, the stats on the back weave a story tied into ...more
Jan 15, 2016 Jay rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: baseball, audiobook
One of my favorite books is about baseball cards – “The Great American Baseball Card Flipping, Trading And Bubblegum Book”. In that book, the author shows baseball cards from his youth with a pithy paragraph or more of writing about the card, the player, the name, the pose, what the card makes him remember, …those kinds of things. It is very funny and I felt a kinship with the author in the way I bonded with my baseball cards, although mine were a few decades newer. In “Cardboard Gods”, Josh Wil ...more
May 24, 2014 bamlinden rated it it was ok
I picked this book to read because of my love for sports cards and my memories of cards as a kid. In fact, I remember owning some of the cards depicted in this book.

But the more I got into this read, the more I became disconnected with the writer, the dialogue and the cards that were referenced.

This book felt more like a fictional tale than the story of someone's life growing up in a dysfunctional family environment. The author's experiences in school, sports, work and recreation just didn't do
Jul 25, 2011 Keith rated it really liked it
I saw myself in this book in so many places that it was kind of spooky at times. Josh's feelings on baseball, baseball cards and growing up really resonated with me and brought back memories that I haven't recalled in many years. Like Josh, my obsession with baseball cards met an inevitable conclusion, but my love for the game continues even if it will never again reach that fevered pitch of youth where I would live and die by how my Astros did that night. I thought this book would be gimmicky w ...more
May 03, 2011 Jacob rated it really liked it
I am the target audience for this book.
[x] Similarly aged male as the author
[x] Baseball obsessed as a kid
[x] Baseball card collector
[x] Reads books

However, I don't think you need to be a (former) card collector and baseball fan to appreciate this story. I'd read a lot of Wilker's Cardboard Gods blog over the years and was excited to see it in book form. [If you haven't seen his blog and are a baseball fan then you need to look at it while you're still online.]

In the first few chapters of t
Won a First Reads copy.... and couldn't even finish it. I seem to be in the minority on this, but I really could not get into this book at all. I don't understand the recent trend of personal memoirs from people who haven't led particularly memoir-worthy lives. A regular person who's had an extraordinary job or been in an exceptionally odd set of circumstances or has an interesting or funny or engaging writing style can make it work, but this is just a book about a regular guy and his angst-fill ...more
Aug 08, 2014 Alex rated it liked it
The greatest baseball card memoir I've ever read. Also, the only baseball card memoir I've ever read. In Cardboard Gods, Josh Wilker tells the story of his childhood through his baseball card collection. In surprisingly poignant and heartfelt vignettes, Wilker chooses a childhood card and lets it be the springboard for his reminiscences on growing up in Vermont in the 70s. He makes many wonderful and surprising connections between the players on the cards and the era he grew up in. Towards the e ...more
Jul 18, 2011 Anna rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoirs
This book was fantastic. I've read plenty of various peoples' memoirs, and his guy told his story in such a unique way. Wilker is great at conveying the attachment a child has to his or her favorite toys or collection, and he uses that attachment to tell the reader about his life, from childhood to marriage.

The chapters are short, which makes it extremely easy to say, "Oh, just one more chapter", which, in turn, makes it very easy to ready this book quickly.
May 11, 2014 David rated it it was ok
What started as a somewhat interesting exercise in memoir whereupon the author uses his collection of baseball cards from the mid-to-late-70s to relive his unconventional childhood quickly turned into a long slog through his and his brother's unremarkable and rather feckless adulthood.

Neither the life nor the prose justify the interesting premise.

May 27, 2011 David rated it liked it
3 stars is probably charitable. Had its moments, but overall was quite a downer.
Ed Wagemann
Jul 11, 2010 Ed Wagemann rated it it was amazing
Early this summer I picked up Josh Wilker's non-fiction book about baseball cards called Cardboard Gods.  I hadn't read a book about baseball since about 1981 (and that was just the instructions that came with my Johnny Bench Batter-Up), but Wilker's book so completely awakened my long lost obsession for baseball cards and baseball that I immediately sought out two other recent non-fiction books about baseball.  My hope was that these books could not just sustain the nostalgia, but help me figur ...more
Ryan Norton
Mar 05, 2017 Ryan Norton rated it it was amazing
One of the most original conceits that I've come across in a long time, in terms of how to construct a novel. It felt more like a memoir, but either way, it was an enjoyable read, probably because I also feverishly collected baseball cards throughout my childhood.

Wilker dives inside the baseball cards he obsessed over as a kid, and manages to tell his life story through them.
Jul 30, 2015 Stephen rated it really liked it
If Tarot cards can divine the future, Josh Wilker has learned to decipher the past through baseball cards.

The past this thoughtful author returns to in “Cardboard Gods: An All-American Tale Told Through Baseball Cards,” is primarily that of those free and chaotic 1970s during which he assembled his sainted collection.

Wilker's story is autobiographical and told through baseball cards pasted into the book. His childhood was spun beneath the umbrella of some rather 70s-like experimental parents – a
Jun 21, 2012 Al rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
I don't consider myself much of a memoir fan, so this one came as a big surprise. In the first place, I wasn't expecting a memoir. I was very slightly familiar with the nature of Wilker's work from seeing his blog (also called Cardboard Gods) mentioned on some baseball blogs and websites I read, but I had never actually checked it out. My assumption was that he wrote about baseball cards, sticking largely to the subjects on the cards, and maybe some shared sense of nostalgia that speaks to baseb ...more
Scott  Breslove
I have to preface this review by saying that I have never read anything else that Josh has ever written, including his blogs. This book was my first experience with his writing, and I have to say I wasn't a huge fan. I was not born yet, in the generation he is mostly focusing on in this book, and it makes me feel, kind of, detached, or distant from the book. Now, I am not saying that I cannot read a book that is written about a generation, more so, that this book didn't do its job of making me f ...more
Sep 16, 2016 Deborah rated it it was ok
Telling your story through baseball cards is a novel concept, but the reader really has to like or at least be interested in baseball to get into reading this book. I slogged my way through while breezing through other books. In all honesty, the only reason I kept slogging is because this was the kind of book I could read in bed and fall asleep quickly. A male baseball fan might find this book much more appealing than I did.
M Christopher
Nov 21, 2011 M Christopher rated it did not like it
Shelves: baseball
I was really excited when I received this book as a gift this Christmas. It had been highly praised by the baseball writers on as a worth successor to a book I greatly enjoyed as a teenager: "The Great American Baseball Card Flipping, Trading and Bubble Gum Book" by Brendan Boyd and Fred Harris. Indeed, shortly after Christmas, I flipped through it and it appeared to have a good deal in common with that book: short chapters headed by the reproduction of a baseball card and followed by t ...more
Mar 19, 2010 Ted rated it really liked it
Shelves: baseball
Highly idiosyncratic, personal and aware persective of New England/Northeast life, baseball, baseball cards mostly during the uncertainty and fading possibilities of the Carter-era. Wilker has the gift of really connecting to readers and striking some universals of trying to grow up during the time of gas crisis II, plastic batting helmets and red shoelace hiking boots. I previouly believed I was the only one thought Kent Tekulve looked out-of-place and time on the '79 Pirates. (Now he reminds m ...more
Apr 28, 2010 Bob rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
I should preface my review that I was a blogger alongside the author at and I'm mentioned in the acknowledgments for the book. However, I bought the book myself.

When I tried to describe what Cardboard Gods was about to some friends, I had a hard time. It's a book that is not just read for pleasure, but it also takes you back in time in a way that even a history book can't do.

Cardboard Gods is, in a nutshell, one man's way of piecing together a narrative about his life (espec
Sep 11, 2013 Christine rated it liked it
Well, it certainly helps if you understand the game and the surrounding allure of baseball. I don't. I probably wouldn't have finished this book, except...the construct of the novel is unique. It appealed to me and drew me in despite myself. I also read it in the company of a baseball fanatic. While I know he was bothered by my incessant "what's a...?" and "who was...?" and "what does this mean...?" each and every flash of a chapter resulted in stories from MY partner's life. He could relate to ...more
Tommy Carlson
Jun 28, 2012 Tommy Carlson rated it really liked it
This is a coming of age story, framed with baseball cards. But it's a weird coming of age story. Usually, such stories will involve a kid growing up with strict straight-laced parents, struggling with the bounds of control, eventually growing free of the parents while retaining some important lessons.

This isn't like that.

This guy grew up with hippy parents where the mom's boyfriend lived with them, then the mom and boyfriend moved the kids to Vermont to try and live off the land while the dad to
William Cunion
Jul 28, 2012 William Cunion rated it really liked it
Engaging, if uneven, memoir of a guy about my age who spent the key years of his youth invested in collecting baseball cards. He uses those cards to tell his life story. For example, his own family life was highly dysfunctional, so he recounts how he longed wistfully for an All-American like Steve Garvey. Later, he discusses the difference between those who seize life and those who let it pass them by (a major theme in the book), by talking about the 1978 Topps Ivan DeJesus card, in which he is ...more
Andrew Kasten
Aug 11, 2012 Andrew Kasten rated it it was amazing
Those of us who once treasured baseball cards as slivers of gold will feel instant, powerful resonance from Wilker's sharply accurate depiction of the insatiable hobby that took hold of waves of children and turned them into fiendishly obsessive, card-crazed consumers -- barters and traders in their own unique marketplace.

Basking in the splendor of the glorious game we know as baseball (at least, in the pre-steroid/PED era), this all-too-familiar nostalgia trip offers hysterical commentary and
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