A word up front on my history with Johnny Cash. My cousins and I used to play wargames and D&D on a nightly basis when we were in high school back...moreA word up front on my history with Johnny Cash. My cousins and I used to play wargames and D&D on a nightly basis when we were in high school back in the late 70s. To accompany the games, we took turns playing our favorite records - for me, Elvis Costello and Mott the Hoople, for my cousin Marc, Jimi Hendrix and Parliament, and for my cousin Craig, Johnny Cash. We listened to Cash's album "Silver" so many times we banished that one. Craig was a huge Johnny Cash fan and remains one to this day, and we listened to a lot of Johnny Cash. I was more a run-of-the-mill appreciator of Johnny Cash until his American Recordings came along in the mid 90s. Those records made me a fan, and I listen to them quite a lot to this day. So why did I want to read a 600+ page biography on Cash? I asked myself that a lot as I read it. Initially it was so I could give the copy I won (thanks, Goodreads) to my cousin. But I also found Cash fascinating. He kept at his music until he died, and was in effect reborn multiple times and in multiple ways, a charismatic jack-of-all-trades where music is concerned. I find biographies of these kinds of individuals often help you figure out what makes them tick.
With this biography, I'm not sure I know what made Johnny tick. After all those pages, there is still an unpredictability in his thoughts and actions in many ways. Quite a bit of the dichotomy of Johnny Cash was his Christian spirituality on one side and his womanizing and joking about drugs on the other. It's easier listing family members without addiction problems than those with. He was always up for releasing another gospel album (in this he was entirely predictable), yet he's well known for songs about murder. Another big dichotomy was between being an artist and being commercial -- you didn't know which way Cash would go when making a decision to focus on one or the other. Hilburn paints between the contrasts, illustrating the context.
There were also questions caused by the book. Cash valued his family, at least most of the time. I found it odd that his brother Tommy is mentioned on one sentence as putting out his own greatest hits album, but no where does it mention any help by Johnny. In other circumstances, details felt missing or glossed over. But the bulk of the color of the stories in the book overcame these little issues.
Cash was a man that defined himself by his music. The author includes lyrics to roughly a dozen songs in the text, and I found this greatly helped explain the context or the story. Most of the lyrics were from either very early in Cash's career or very late. I also appreciated that the author, a rock journalist, had the nerve to say whether a song was good or bad. The author picked roughly half a dozen Cash songs as being special - quite a concise greatest hits collection, great for an iPod.
Overall, this was very easy to read - I found it hard to put down. It isn't written in an academic way. It appears well researched, with some interesting endnotes on who was interviewed and issues in determining when a song was written. When you read this book, you may want to listen along. I found good music while contemplating the first half of the book was "Live at San Quentin", while the last quarter of the book goes well with any of Rick Rubin's American Recordings. And when you get to the last two chapters, limit the songs to Cash's gospel songs. Reading with soft gospel in Cash's baritone in the background -- that really added to the experience. (less)
Every once in a while a book hits you unexpectedly. I really didn't read the blurbs before starting this one, and I was surprised to find it contained...moreEvery once in a while a book hits you unexpectedly. I really didn't read the blurbs before starting this one, and I was surprised to find it contained a number of themes that I find very interesting. The main theme is artificial intelligence, and this book covers this ground with a lot of thought, including what it is and how a program could get there. This really appealed to the geek side of me and felt surprisingly real. The novel relates this to personal relationships and sets the story in a stealth tech start-up, and with that dude-lit background of bachelorhood, divorce, sex and love, it hits a lot of themes that I enjoy reading about. On top of it all, the writing is pithy and quotable. I found myself re-reading paragraphs to savor the wordplay. I haven't had this kind of read in a while. I did find the book slowing down near the end, more jumping around to set up the ending, but I felt it pulled together at and after the contest. I am looking forward to the next by Hutchins.
I won a copy of this book on Goodreads First Reads program. Despite that, this review is what I think of the novel.(less)
The best of the series so far. I found this more adult and more complex than the first two books. At times I fell into mystery mode, trying to figure...moreThe best of the series so far. I found this more adult and more complex than the first two books. At times I fell into mystery mode, trying to figure out what was happening (and failing, but with an ending that was believable). (less)
This book requires an investment. Most books about baseball don’t. It is the first book by an author trained at the Iowa Writer’s Workshop who subsequ...moreThis book requires an investment. Most books about baseball don’t. It is the first book by an author trained at the Iowa Writer’s Workshop who subsequently became an award winning author of books on science subjects. This one is densely written, having long wandering passages without natural breaks early on, then, like the baseball season it follows, the passages become more sure of themselves, more to the point, more sure of an ending, more climactic.
This book combines three of my favorite topics, so you know I will rate it highly. Despite the title and the fact that this is found in the sports section of the bookstore, this is a book about business -- the business of minor league baseball in one of the smallest markets in the league, a market, Waterloo, Iowa, that is quickly shrinking, leaving behind a decaying ballpark with no inclination by the mostly worse-off citizens to support through taxes. This could almost be the story of the local symphony, a small museum, the public library, or any of the civic groups that exist, at least in part, to provide local citizens reasonably priced entertainment. The issues are often the same, and the solution, in depressed small and midsized cities, often require private funding or loss. The Waterloo Diamonds are an intriguing example of this, showing where America’s pastime hits the end of the road in a community. In the business aspects of the book, this muddling to an exit is a tragedy.
Another topic covered is minor league baseball. There are the requisite stories of bus travel, issues with learning and growth, the hopes of making the next level, issues with the ballpark. Stories are from the players, coaches, front office, owners, fans, and government perspectives -- they are all covered. But Waterloo was treated by its major league parent San Diego as a bit of a dumping ground, giving up their best players to higher leagues throughout the season but not getting quality players working their way up from lower leagues. A large majority of the games described are losses, giving a heavy feel to the entire book. Lopsided win-loss records happen when major league teams use their minor league affiliates for different reasons, and Waterloo was used to focus on training a small handful of players. The baseball stories are there, but the feel is quite oppressive. There isn’t as much hope portrayed as in other minor league focused books I’ve read, and the ending is bleak. In the baseball aspects of this book, this is also a tragedy.
I also enjoy reading about the region where I grew up, near the Quad Cities. The QC shows up because they also have a minor league team in the Midwest League playing Waterloo, and the River Bandits are used as a good example of how a city (and non-local owners) can rebuild a stadium and provide a quality entertainment. Given the QC reliance on John Deere, which was also Waterloo’s large employer, I felt a kinship with Waterloo-ans, despite never having visited. Waterloo’s story sounds a lot like other cities in the upper Midwest. In this aspect of the story there is hope of redemption, as Waterloo invests in itself for the rebirth its leaders hope for.
Given the topic, I’m sure there are a handful of others that will love this book. But just a handful. The best audience, I feel, are those that are interested in the business of minor league baseball. Not the way it is currently run, but the way it was run in the 80s through the 90s, when local groups owned and civic pride prevailed, then failed. The story should resonate for other civic organizations as well, not to give hope, but to present a path travelled to failure - a cautionary tale.(less)
An excellent science book that details the lengthy search for a genetic cure for cancer, focusing on one of the first of this type of "cure" to reach...moreAn excellent science book that details the lengthy search for a genetic cure for cancer, focusing on one of the first of this type of "cure" to reach the market. The story was actually exciting, describing the march of scientific research, the business decisions, and the human interest stories surrounding this drug development effort. Quite exhaustive and hard to put down. Includes stories about the people involved, from researchers to test patients to drug company CEOs. Provides an interesting example of an orphan drug and how lucrative for the developer these drugs can end up being. I found the timeline of the story, where much of the "action" takes place between the 80s and the 00s, to be of interest as well -- this is a fresh story and the medical/scientific advances in this period have been great. I found the organization and the writing of the book to really catch the interest with the right amount of variety.
There's a term used by the author in the author's notes at the end of the book. She was researching the "infrastructure of opportunity" for the poor....moreThere's a term used by the author in the author's notes at the end of the book. She was researching the "infrastructure of opportunity" for the poor. What a wonderfully useful term. In BtBF, this infrastructure can be seen in how the government, markets, and even society provides people the ability to rise. If a child is poor yet talented in some valuable way, can the talents be used by society to make things better, or are those talents squandered? This book shows the infrastructure for the poor, as it is, in Mumbai. There are opportunities there, but often at the expense of others in similar circumstances.
I also tagged this book as business because of that term. I think that is an interesting way to look at how a company can advance their employees and other stakeholders, and there are many similarities that I see.
The writing feels like a fiction book, one where no one is much better off than in the beginning, just older and wiser if they survived. It truly has the feel of a sci-fi or dystopian novel, a strange society with odd customs or habits. Had this been set on another planet, around a spaceport instead of an airport, it also would have been an excellent book. Much shorter than I expected - well executed.(less)
It's been quite a while since I read a book that has a feel like this book, like a message or a learning is at the end. OK, so I've been reading books...moreIt's been quite a while since I read a book that has a feel like this book, like a message or a learning is at the end. OK, so I've been reading books by Tony Danza and the like, so there's not been much hope, but this is a fine story to break the bad streak. I enjoyed the jumping chronology of the story, and I really enjoyed the writing on Richard Burton - quite funny. The wit ran throughout but didn't overwhelm the story, told from so many different angles. I foresee this becoming a reading group staple.(less)
Once again I find myself greatly enjoying Russo's writing - he makes situations and characters feel relatable. His topics, although autobiographical,...moreOnce again I find myself greatly enjoying Russo's writing - he makes situations and characters feel relatable. His topics, although autobiographical, feels a lot like the characters in his previous books, and you can see some of the same types of characters and stories appearing in real life before appearing in his fiction. As others have pointed out, this is mostly about Russo's, uhhh, "difficult" mother, a "momoir", and that is true until the final chapter. That final chapter was the one that really got me, though, as Russo considers his history with his mother, with his hometown and upbringing. Through the earlier part of the book Russo says that his mother has to have a "talking to" herself, and he flatly doesn't understand the apparent duality this requires. But in the final chapter it becomes clear that Russo is talking to himself in much the same way, at first confusing, then you realize what he's done. Seems in many ways he is still his mother's boy.(less)
Wonderfully smart HBO-sitcom-y feel to this book. At times poignant, at times slapstick, the story had very interesting characters, action, and locati...moreWonderfully smart HBO-sitcom-y feel to this book. At times poignant, at times slapstick, the story had very interesting characters, action, and location. It is about a road trip, so those things should be a given, but not in every road trip book I've read. This one gets it right. My nephew is the same age as Trevor, and in a similar medical situation. I found that Trev's actions and attitude were pretty close to what I'd expect of my nephew - it felt very realistic to me, and written well. Quite an emotional book on care and caring with a lot of laughter throughout. I look forward to reading more from Mr. Evison. (less)
While I've always been a sci-fi reader, I have an aversion to end-of-the-worlders. Generally too depressing. I blame my high school Senior English tea...moreWhile I've always been a sci-fi reader, I have an aversion to end-of-the-worlders. Generally too depressing. I blame my high school Senior English teacher for making us read Nevil Shute's "On the Beach" -- what a downer to have to study right before entering college. So I've avoided these types of books, but this one looked different. Like "On the Beach" this involved searching for survivors (by plane instead of by sub), but this wasn't the focus of the story. The beginning includes plenty of adventure writing (think Mad Max in Colorado) mixed with plenty of reflection. I found this mix to be perfect for setting the mood of the story. The second half feels a bit less adventurous, but I though in all the book kept up the moodiness of the end-of-days theme. I finished this yesterday and still have that tingley altered state feeling you get when you've read something that has made an impact. The writing throughout is enjoyable. I listened to this on audio, and I thought the very deliberate pace of the narration added to the mood of the story.(less)
Quite a behind-the-scenes description of the making, or really the envisioning of book covers. Everything has a story, quite often a reasonable one ba...moreQuite a behind-the-scenes description of the making, or really the envisioning of book covers. Everything has a story, quite often a reasonable one based on the book being covered (but not always!). Nice as a coffee-table book, but the odd half-hardcover, size and heft makes this ergonomically challenging to read. I'm heartened that my daughter, considering taking a design class in high school, is attracted to the book - the images, the stories, and the design of the pages. With Kidd explaining, that's a great start.(less)
This book was written with me in mind. A great nostalgia romp through the late seventies and eighties media, hitting on TV sitcoms where you knew all...moreThis book was written with me in mind. A great nostalgia romp through the late seventies and eighties media, hitting on TV sitcoms where you knew all the plots, movies so good you memorized the dialog, music of the era (Rush fans take note!), and video games -- early computer, console, and stand-up games of all kinds. (Had the author mentioned my favorite, Tutankham, I would have given the book another star.) This is one book that keeps moving. I listened on audio and was impressed multiple times noticing how much interesting action had occurred in a short amount of time. This is one of those audiobooks that I had to pace while listening because it was quite involving and exciting. Thankfully I wasn't driving at the time. Recommended to a few of my high school classmates that could have passed most of the tests, as well as anyone interested in near future sci fi with 80s topics. Summary: take the Willie Wonka story, except instead of chocolate he owned Second Life and it was the biggest thing ever, and he wanted to give his empire to someone that could play games related to 80s pop culture. Pretty nifty and fun. (less)
Well written story of a road race, with the details and the thoughts and rememberences of the racer telling the story. The racers thoughts, when climb...moreWell written story of a road race, with the details and the thoughts and rememberences of the racer telling the story. The racers thoughts, when climbing a second mountain, become a jumble of images, a lot like I would expect with one nearing their limits. Very enjoyable if you are into races like Tour de France. (less)