Really first rate book. Takes a little known but significant sporting event and gives it historical context. Great story about a quintessential Americ...moreReally first rate book. Takes a little known but significant sporting event and gives it historical context. Great story about a quintessential American underdog. Compares very favorably to 'Seabiscuit'.(less)
A few months ago, I listened to a podcast by an author/hero of mine, Richard K. Morgan. He was talking about 'Air' by Geoff Ryman. He said it wasn't a...moreA few months ago, I listened to a podcast by an author/hero of mine, Richard K. Morgan. He was talking about 'Air' by Geoff Ryman. He said it wasn't a great science fiction novel. It was a great novel period.
The same is true of Eliot Pattison's 'The Skull Mantra'. It's not a great mystery novel. It's a great novel period. It's an intricate mystery set in modern-day Tibet. It will keep you guessing until the very end. For me a great mystery is one where you feel like you have all the clues but still can't solve the puzzle.
The thing that struck me the most about 'The Skull Mantra' was the authenticity of the conversations, especially those featuring Tibetan Buddhist monks. You don't have to have studied anything about Buddhism to get the sense that these conversations accurately capture the teachings of Tibetan Buddhism. Another sign of a great novel.
Pattison writes beautifully about the region. I have to think Pattison must have traveled the region. I can easily see how he won the Edgar for this.
I understand that there are other novels featuring Inspector Shan. I'll certainly be reading them soon.
I really enjoy Pattison's Inspector Shan series novels because they work on several levels. First, they educate the reader about Tibetan culture. Seco...moreI really enjoy Pattison's Inspector Shan series novels because they work on several levels. First, they educate the reader about Tibetan culture. Second, they are intriguing mysteries. And, third, they are a damning indictment of the Chinese oppression of Tibet. In all cases, Tibetan culture forms the backbone of the mystery. In order to accomplish this, Pattison displays a masterful understanding of Tibetan culture and Buddhism (which are one and the same).(less)
I am not really that big a baseball fan. At most I will check the standings every day when the Orioles are playing well (like they are this season). I...moreI am not really that big a baseball fan. At most I will check the standings every day when the Orioles are playing well (like they are this season). I had heard of this book a couple of years back. I had heard the term 'sabremetrics' and I knew there was a revolution underway in baseball about how to evaluate talent and value players but that was about it.
What prompted me to read the book, of course, was the movie. The movie, enjoyable as it was, made me think there was a better, more interesting story about this movement to revalue players. I have no idea why I didn't go out and grab the book before seeing the movie like I usually do. Perhaps I wasn't expecting to enjoy the movie as much as I did or to suspect there was a more interesting story underneath the movie.
The movie focuses on one season (2002) after the A's have had three of their top stars raided by richer ball clubs, and how they set about to replace those players and go on to win even more games than the previous season. The story of how Billy Beane finds a new assistant GM who understands how to properly value players is told against the backdrop of Billy's own mis-valuation by the New York Mets and his failed career as a player.
'Moneyball', the book, takes a much broader view of this than movie. It retains the story of Billy's failed career which explains why Billy knows that scouts don't know what they are talking about. (They talk in cliches, like a guy having a 'good face', as if this explains anything about how he hits, throws or fields.)
The book also spends much more time on Bill James. Bill James gets a few brief mentions in the movie. In the book he gets an entire chapter. James was a night watchman in a Van Camp's pork and beans factory who almost single-handedly revolutionized how baseball compiled and analyzed statistics. It was Bill James, and his annual baseball abstracts, who proclaimed that the most important statistic in hitting was on-base percentage.
Early in his front office career, Billy is exposed to James' ideas and they influence him profoundly. As a can't-miss, first round pick, sure-fire superstar who was a bust, he knows that the 'old baseball' men don't know what they are talking about. He suspects James is on to something and when he becomes GM of the A's he sets about implementing James' ideas.
The A's haven't won the World Series since 1989 but James' ideas have been vindicated by the fact that the A's, one of the teams with the lowest payrolls, consistently outperforms many teams with much, much higher payrolls.
Lewis' writing is easy to read, easy to understand and funny. He really tears down what he calls 'old baseball' in an entertaining way. Even if you don't much care for baseball, Lewis has something to say about the use of objective data and efficient markets, in general.(less)