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Paterno by Joe Posnanski
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Aug 22, 12

Read in August, 2012

Paterno by Joe Posnanski

“Paterno” is the fascinating story of Joe Paterno’s life. It’s the truth of his life. “The only thing he ever asked of me was to write the truth as I found it.” Mission accomplished, talented author and sports journalist Joe Posnanski, takes the reader on a life’s journey, the life of Joe Paterno. With unlimited access to Joe Paterno’s personal files, family, friends and former players, Posnanski weaves a captivating life that impacted many: his childhood, war, college life at Brown University and his sixty-one years of coaching at Penn State. It includes the very sad ending and the scandal that galvanized the country. This mesmerizing 416-page book is composed of the following five acts: Act I: Before, Act II: Excellence, Act III: Success, Act IV: What Comes After and the Final Act.

Positives:
1. Posnanski captures the essence of Joe Paterno’s life. It is well-written, well-researched and the topic was treated with the utmost care and respect. Most importantly, it was truthful.
2. Having access to Joe Paterno and all the people that interacted with him was instrumental in being able to provide the public with a truthful account. The author makes it clear that he is not out to defend Joe Paterno but to provide a truthful account of his life and succeeds.
3. The book covers Paterno’s life: from his childhood, his many years as a coach to the sad end.
4. One of the joys of reading is discovering hidden gems and surprises. The author provides many interesting tidbits about Paterno.
5. As a football fan, I enjoyed the insight into coaching. The philosophy, the inner workings, the interaction with people, the impact to a community and ultimately a nation. How coaching changed over the years, the evolution of coaching.
6. Paterno’s philosophy in life. His passion for education.
7. This book is also about the people that Paterno influenced: his family, the players, students, his staff and his community. Many amusing stories.
8. Once again, if you are a college football fan and you are going to enjoy the inside scoop of big-time college sports. Many great anecdotes.
9. The rise of a college coach star. Sainthood. The arrival of Penn State. to prominence.
10. The issue of race and college football, fascinating.
11. Paterno and his relationship not just with his players and family but rival coaches.
12. The things Paterno enjoyed the most.
13. The cherished traditions of Penn State. Paterno’s idiosyncrasies.
14. Penn State College football…time to name drop, the football stars. The players, the games, the successes, the championship teams.
15. Paterno’s family and their relationship to football.
16. Paterno’s speeches. His motivational and inspirational tactics.
17. His relationship with Sandusky, as a coach and as a man. The author is very candid and forthright. Interesting.
18. The aging coach and dealing with adversities (bad seasons). Interesting.
19. The scandal. A very touchy and disturbing issue. The author handles it with an even-handed approach.
20. The sad end. The investigation, the illness and the end. The author does this section justice.
21. An excellent notes section that covers how the majority of the material for the book was obtained.

Negatives:
1. The biggest downfall of biographies is that many of the highlights of the book have been revealed to the public. That being said, the author includes so much more to Paterno’s life story.
2. If you are not a college football fan you will struggle through those sections that emphasize the game that I particularly enjoyed.
3. Those looking for a book about just the scandal will be disappointed, this book is about the life of Joe Paterno and all that it entailed including the scandal.

In summary, I really enjoyed this book. First of all, let me state for the record that I have no affiliation with Penn State. The purpose of my review is to provide a personal assessment of the quality of the book, not to defend Joe Paterno. The most important thing about a biography is how it corresponds to reality and to convey it in an entertaining and accessible manner to the public. It’s also about treating the subject with fairness and to handle sensitive issues with the proper tone and care. Posnanski succeeds on all fronts. It’s a book that covers the life of Joe Paterno accurately. I highly recommend this book!

Further recommendations: “Paterno: By the Book” by Joe Paterno, “Playing for Paterno: One Coach, Two Eras: a Father and Son's Personal Recollections of Playing for JoePa” by Charles and Tony Pittman.
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