Getting A Read On It

by Rich on October 7, 2014

I was having a conversation with an intern this week, about books. I asked if she ever read nonfiction and she indicated that she had not, outside of required reading for school. Like many readers (myself included) she prefers the escape of a good novel. She did relate to me, however, that she wanted to start reading more nonfiction, but did not know where to start. So, me being me, I offered her my opinion. They are as follows:

 

The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan

This is a story about how and why we eat what we eat in America. It gives you an inside look into the industrialized food chain. It changed the way I shop, cook and eat, and it did it without preaching. That’s impressive.

 

Midnight In The Garden Of Good And Evil by John Berendt

   The true story of murder in Savannah, where the city is a main character. Sex, drugs and cocktail parties with a side of low country voodoo.

 

Helter Skelter by Vincent Bugliosi

Written by the DA who prosecuted him, this is the story of Charles Manson and his “family”. It’s creepy, but a piece of our collective history you will be glad you know more about.

 Moneyball by Michael Lewis

More about the process than the person, the book is obviously more in-depth than the movie. 2 things I really love about this book: the second chances that so many players got playing for Billy Bean and his new system, and how it shows that institutional group-think can be so engrained that no one can see it. It amazes me how divisive this work is to baseball fans and insiders alike.

 

Band Of Brothers by Stephen Ambrose

If you haven’t seen this HBO mini-series, I highly recommend it. Very accurate and true to the book. Stephen Ambrose details the history of one particular company of newly formed airborne infantry during WWII; from its inception in Georgia, through D-Day and the Battle of the Bulge, to liberating concentration camps. It is fascinating and incredible what this one group of men did.

 

The Blind Side by Michael Lewis

Another great read from Lewis that became a hit movie. The book delves more into the evolution of football and how this affects what is valuable on the field than the movie did. Lewis writes from an economic background, so data is crucial. You can read his work multiple times and get something new every time.

 

Black Hawk Down by Mark Bowden

Documenting a heart wrenching event during America’s involvement in Somalia in the early 90s. This book is incredible for a few reasons. First, most military histories are written by historians and are somewhat dry. Bowden is a reporter. This book reads like a novel. Second, for the first time in the history of armed combat, almost all of the key players (at least on the American side of the battle) were recorded real time. This gave the author an unprecedented look at real transcripts of dialogue as the battle took place. He uses this and interviews with the combatants to give the reader a look inside combat that most never see. I can read this one over and over. So good that even the appendix is fascinating.

 

All The Presidents Men by Carl Bernstein

 Classic story of the fall of the Nixon presidency. I cannot recommend this one enough.

 

The Right Stuff by Tom Wolfe

          The beginning of the space race told by one of America’s greatest story tellers.

 

All Creatures Great And Small by James Herriot

This is the first in a charming series written by a country vet in rural England. It is sweet, funny, heartwarming and honest. I love these books. Read them in JHS and have re-read them many times as an adult.

 

The Millionaire Next Door by Thomas Stanley

A fascinating look at what constitutes real wealth, versus our perception of it, and how real people making smart choices create a net worth of a million dollars or more. These aren’t people who MAKE a million, but those who, if they liquidated everything, paid everything, would have a million left over. Will change how you look at money and buying decisions.

 

Barbarians At The Gate by John Helyar and Bryan Burrough

The true story of the hostile take-over of RJR Nabisco in the late 80’s. A peek inside the corporate world that is hysterical and maddening at times. A very fun read.

 

The Story Of Sushi by Trevor Corson

Not going to lie…even as someone who enjoys sushi, I never thought I would enjoy this book, but it was delectable. Corson uses the stories of California Sushi school students to give readers a history of the dish and how it has evolved over the centuries. It has greatly improved both my knowledge of, and love for, raw fish and fermented rice.

 

 

So there you go. I love nonfiction told like a story, not the “how to” books. I don’t really need to know the 7 habits of highly effective people. A) I already am highly effective, and 2) 7 is way too many. I can do it in 3…

 

…3-1/2 tops.

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The Silent Cheer

by Rich on October 2, 2014

I am an Auburn Fan.

If you have read any of my previous pieces (articles? blogs? posts? What do you call these things, anyway? “Pieces” makes them sound like works of art. Which, of course, they are. I am way too humble to point out this obvious fact, yet there it is. But I digress…), you would certainly know that. My Auburn fandom is hereditary. It is in my DNA, my genes. Just as I got my ears and nose from my dad, so too did I receive from him my allegiance to what I firmly believe is the greatest institute of higher learning on the planet. That allegiance is unwavering. It is non-negotiable. I can no more turn it off or separate myself from it than I can make hair grow on my head (full disclosure: I can’t). This can, from time to time, cause a problem. Well, not so much a problem as a sizable challenge.

You see, for a living, I cover and talk about sports. Predominantly Auburn sports. And here, as they say, is the rub.

On one hand, my job is perfect! I love sports. I love Auburn. What could be the problem?

Just a little thing called “professionalism”, that’s all.

You see, for many in my business, what sport you cover, or what team, is a matter of pure business. You work for a paper and you get the Auburn beat. You work at a radio station in Atlanta and cover the Falcons. It’s a job. And if a better opportunity springs up in Ann Arbor or Austin, you pick up and move. No problem. And there is nothing wrong with this. Almost all of the most amazing writers and commentators do this. It is their profession. And that is part of what makes them so good. That objectivity. I really admire that. I admire it but I do not share it.

I have tried to come up with scenarios, or magic numbers, that would entice me to pick up and move to cover another team. I just can’t imagine one. It’s like trying to imagine what it would be like if everyone on the planet spoke Whale. Or if the majority of Alabama fans had all their teeth. It’s just so outside the realm of possibility that I cannot conceive what it might look like.

So why does this pose a problem? Well, the standard norms of professionalism (think MLB’s “unwritten rules”) dictate certain behavior in certain places. For the most part, they don’t really affect me. Not because I’m unprofessional (I am) but because what I do falls outside journalism into a gray area called “commentary”. I don’t so much report, as talk about what has been reported. But to do my job, I need to see as many as possible of the events that I will be talking about. Which means rubbing elbows and following the leads of those a fore mentioned professionals.

Nowhere is this more difficult than inside the press box at Jordan-Hare Stadium. Allow me to give you an example or two.

You know when you and your friends are at a bar having drinks, watching the game? And something good happens? A huge catch, a scorching run, a goal line stand? And you turn to your friend and give a “YES!” along with a high five? Or when something bad happens? A blown call by a blind ref (looking at you, Big 12), a missed tackle, an interception? And you slam your fist on the bar or table and yell “NO!”

Not in the press box. Can’t happen.

Please don’t misunderstand. I am not complaining! I understand and completely agree with the rules! It just that…well…it’s hard sometimes!

Think back to some of the best plays over the last 3-1/2 years in Auburn football alone. Imagine sitting on your hands and biting your tongue until it bleeds so you don’t yell out it agony or ecstasy. Imagine sitting next to one of your close friends and all you can do is share a smile and a raised eyebrow. Tough, huh?

But man… it is totally worth it! To be in the press box of every home game, to be around all those men and women who are so good at their jobs. To witness that wonderful machine operate the way it does. To experience on such a level that thing that you love so much. It really is amazing. And you would think that being so close to something you love might take the luster off a bit; reveal some warts. Not to me. If anything this closeness has deepened my affection for my alma mater.

My friends who have left Auburn for the suburbs are somewhat in awe of what I do for a living. And frankly, so am I. I will never get wealthy doing what I do. I make a living, thanks to a great employer, but this is a small market and I get an appropriately sized paycheck. But man… the perks!

And so, each Saturday I sit in the press box with all the professionals and I cheer. I cheer loudly. In my head.

After all, I am an Auburn fan.

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Shed a Tear With Me

December 6, 2013

Confession time… I’m a guy and I cry. Not all the time, mind you, and not loud bawling. It’s not like I make a scene or anything. Usually my tears are mine alone, shed in the private solitude of my Jeep or home, sometimes office. But I do. I cry. Calling it getting misty. Call […]

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Damn You, Auburn…

November 27, 2013

Damn you, Auburn. Damn you for making me care. Damn you for being irresistible. Damn you for making me fall in love with you. Not your football team, but you. All of you. Your campus, your city, your academics, your history, your townspeople and your culture. Damn you for being as close to perfect as […]

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Order Up!

September 22, 2013

After taking the summer off, I’m back. It’s perfect jeep weather, so let’s go for a ride…   Frequent passengers here in the jeep know that I enjoy cooking. Now, I’m not especially talented or professionally trained in this area, but I do enjoy it. I enjoy the process, and I really enjoy presenting the […]

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A Hole In The Wall

May 29, 2013

I’m trying to get my head around the fact that I have a 13 yr old son. A teenager. It’s really throwing me for a loop. The realities and ravages of time are certainly no stranger to me. I get it. I am older than I was and younger than I will be (hopefully). But […]

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Less Of A mess

April 21, 2013

Allow me to introduce you to the one person who’s invention changed the world forever. No it’s not Steve Jobs or Thomas Edison. It’s not Ben Franklin or Henry Ford. The person who did the most to change the world forever is Arthur Julius. “Well, sure, Rich. Everyone knows Arthur Julius. His invention was…wait. Who?” […]

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The Confessional

February 21, 2013

Sometimes the ride in my jeep is a laugh-riot, sometimes it is an introspective look at the world. Today, the ride is more of a confession. Like many confessions, the confessor is often the last to acknowledge the sin he is confessing, and I am sure this instance is no exception. Most who read this […]

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Sink Or Swim

January 26, 2013

Let’s get one thing very clear right up front: I am not an elite athlete. As a matter of fact, I’m not much of an athlete at all. Just so we’re straight on this issue. Rich is not an athlete. Got it? Good. Now we may proceed. I recently started swimming. For exercise. Please see […]

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Maggie

January 21, 2013

So we have a new dog. Well, not “new” new, but new to us. As you may have read in a previous post, we recently lost our black lab, Haley. It was a hard loss, and we waited almost a month before moving on another dog. Frankly, I wasn’t in a hurry, even though I […]

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