The First 20 Minutes

Are you tired of all of the hype surrounding exercise? It seems like we are constantly bombarded with information regarding the best ways to exercise and how much time we really need to spend working out. Finally, a book that the average person can understand that explores actual research behind current trends in exercise. The First 20 Minutes by Gretchen Reynolds is great for everyone from couch potatoes to athletes.  For instance, it answers many questions that runners have.  Is it necessary to purchase those high dollar running shoes to avoid injuries or are those new “barefoot” running shoes the way to go? And, if I do go for a run or work out, are sports drinks the best way to stay hydrated and recover? If I am entering a race should I carbo load for optimal performance? For everyone from the occasional to the regular exerciser, a number of questions are answered as well. For example, just how much time do you need to spend exercising per week to start reaping health benefits? Do I really need to do all that stretching before and after I exercise to avoid injuries?  Is weight training valuable or should most of my time be spent on cardio? If I’m exercising why don’t I ever lose any weight? For those who are not currently motivated to work out, this book is for you also. It discusses many of the benefits of exercise not only for your body but also for your brain!

One, Two, Three Books to Read About the Old Ball Game

Whether you like baseball or not, you have to admit that it provides some good stories.  John Grisham just recently came out with Calico Joe, which I’m looking forward to reading.  Here are some other baseball tales to enjoy.

The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach
One errant throw sets of a series of events that changes the lives of many in this story of the baseball team at a small liberal-arts college in Wisconsin.  Harbach explores the lives of the characters, as well as the beloved game.

Shoeless Joe by W.P. Kinsella
If you’re in the mood for a good book/movie combo, this is the book that Field of Dreams was based on.  A farmer in Iowa builds a baseball field for the past baseball greats, roping a reclusive writer into the project along the way.

The End of Baseball by Peter Schilling
In a dream-worthy alternate history, Bill Veeck transforms 1940′s baseball by recruiting the best of the best Negro Leagues baseball stars to play on the the Philadelphia Athletics, causing an uproar from fans, players, and even the United States government.


Calico Joe by John Grisham

Watching baseball to me is about as exciting as watching paint dry.  Well, I might like it somewhat better than that cliche portends if I have a connection to one of the teams playing, but it is not something I would normally choose to do.  So why did I pick up a book about baseball?  I like John Grisham’s legal thrillers and I was aware that his newest book, Calico Joe was on the New York Times Bestseller list and was a fairly short book.  Why not see how a good writer deviates from his normal genre?

I found myself enjoying the story and immediately getting caught up in the characters lives.  The story jumps between August 1973 when a professional baseball player, Calico Joe Castle is hit in the head by a pitcher, Warren Tracey and then thirty years later when Warren Tracey is dying of cancer.  Narrated by Paul Tracey, the book has a heartfelt message of righting wrongs, when Paul, estranged from his now dying father, pushes him to ask forgiveness from the man he hurt.  Grisham has successfully branched out of legal thrillers with a couple other titles also, Painted House,  Skipping Christmas, Bleachers, and Playing for Pizza. 




Imperfect: an Improbable Life by Jim Abbott

  In this extraordinary memoir, Jim Abbott tells the story of his life as a child and of the years before and after becoming a major league pitcher. Not just a biography nor just a baseball story, Imperfect: an Improbable Life is the story of a  man’s perseverance and dedication to overcome his physical disability and to gain acceptance for his achievements as a player and a person, not only as a disabled person. Abbott was born without a right hand and was raised by two young parents who provided unconditional love and  who taught Jim to regard his disability as an opportunity and a challenge. As a child, Abbott hides his right arm in a pocket, enduring the teasing of other children for being different. He plays baseball and football with neighborhood children and gains acceptance for his abilities on the playing field. Hours of throwing a ball against a wall improve his pitching and his technique to throw then place the ball glove on his left hand for fielding. Abbott eventually plays high school baseball and football, wins an Olympic Gold Medal for baseball, was an All-American player the University of  Michigan and is drafted by the California A’s baseball team. The book follows the ups and downs of his baseball career, and chapters about his life alternate with chapters describing each inning of the no-hitter that he pitched while playing for the New York Yankees. Inspiring is Abbott’s humility, and his belief that his example of achievement despite obstacles will inspire children with disabilities to reach for their own dreams. The most touching moments in his story are those before and after each game, when Abbott spent  countless hours signing autographs, talking with families of children with disabilities, and answering hundreds of letters from disabled children.

Told with honesty and humor, this is a memoir not only about a career in baseball but of a life that inspires us all to overcome the burdens and challenges of living.

Our Boys: a perfect season on the plains with the Smith Center Redmen by Joe Drape


The Kansas Read for 2012 is Our Boys by Joe Drape, the inspirational story of the Smith Center Redmen and the community that cheers them on. We are excited to announce that we will have the author here at our library on Thursday, February 9!

When New York Times sports writer Joe Drape moves to Smith Center, the Redmen have won 67 games in a row, holding the nation’s longest high-school winning streak.  He is determined to find what creates such a successful football program, only to discover a coach that uses football to teach his team how to succeed in life and a town that maintains values of love, patience, and hard work in the midst of struggle.  Our Boys goes beyond being a story about football to teach us about community and raising the next generation.

If you like this book, we have recommendations for more books about sports and community here.

Branch Rickey by Jimmy Breslin


Whether Branch Rickey was a good man is still up for debate. It is beyond question, however, that he was a man that influenced the course of American history. Rickey had the radical idea of signing the first African American man to play Major League Baseball, legendary hero Jackie Robinson. According to Breslin, Rickey was motivated by both altruism and money, but, regardless of his reason, he shook up the world of baseball and eventually the entire country. Branch Rickey by Jimmy Breslin is a short biography, focused mostly on this monumental time in Rickey’s life which became his greatest legacy. The story is covered more thoroughly in other works, but Breslin has the incredible ability to write like someone gathered in a bar telling tales over a few beers. If you’re interested in American history or baseball and want a brief glimpse into the story behind the story, this is that book.

Wait Till Next Year by Doris Kearns Goodwin


At face value, this is a story about baseball, about a little girl and her love of the Dodgers and how it brought her closer to her father. But as you get further into Doris Kearns Goodwin’s story, Wait Till Next Year, this becomes the story of a time period lost to us now. Kearns Goodwin grew up in a small suburb of New York. Her father rode the train into the city everyday and took time every evening to hear his little girl’s report on the Dodgers game. Her mother was sickly, but still managed to be the ultimate homemaker. They were surrounded by friends who gathered for backyard barbeques. She knew the local shopkeepers and they tolerated her endless curiosity. It seems like an ideal time, but she also talks about the undercurrents that were starting to bubble up like McCarthyism and racism and social conditions that would eventually tear apart the community she so loved. Threaded through the history of this community is the story of baseball. The neighborhood was split into factions that cheered the Yankees, Giants, and the Dodgers. Friendly taunting among the groups was part of the social interaction during a time when the teams often faced each other in league championship as well as World Series games. Baseball was something that brought the community and families together. Doris Kearns Goodwin utilizes her story telling magic to transport the reader to another place and time and cheer on this little girl who loved baseball.

As They See ‘Em by Bruce Weber


One of the fun aspects of baseball is the larger-than-life personalities, yet those who do their best to preserve the integrity of the game prefer it if we don’t notice them at all. As They See ‘Em by Bruce Weber is the story of umpires, including the controversies, the hints, and the training. Weber attended Jim Evans Academy of Professional Umpiring and crossed the country interviewing umpires to get the inside story. He reveals the unique talents required, the difficult living conditions, and the ability to shrug off insults along with anecdotes about difficult calls and difficult players and managers. As They See ‘Em presents a new perspective on America’s game.