Favorite Books 2017

I love to read.  

Each year I keep track of all of the books that I read.  My minimum goal is to read 24 books each year – or two per month.  I was pleased that in 2017, I was able to exceed that goal by reading a grand total of 34 books.  For a guy as active and busy as I am, that’s pretty good.  I also don’t count my own books in that total.  Any writer can share that they read their own drafts countless times as they write, revise, edit, again and again.

Now that 2017 is coming to a close, I’ll share the books I enjoyed the most this year with a quick note about each.  This isn’t the complete list of the books I read, but the ones that struck me, for varied reasons, as the ones I enjoyed the most.

11/22/63 by Stephen King – My son Ryan had just read this book and raved about it.  He said, “Once you start reading this, you won’t be able to put it down.”  He was correct.  This is the story of a man who travels through time to try to prevent the assassination of JFK.  I had never read anything by Stephen King before, and I didn’t know what to expect.  I was immediately was enthralled by this tale.  I read the 849 pages in just a few days.  The book was that good.  

Shoe Dog by Phil Knight – I am always inspired by stories from people who are successful.  This autobiography, from the founder of Nike, was absolutely fantastic.  It tells how people can become successful through hard work and a great vision.  The story is honest but it reads like a novel.  I feel like I know Phil Knight after reading this wonderful book.

The Wright Brothers by David McCullough – I learned a lot about these amazing brothers and their quest to fly in this book.  I always thought the story of the Wright Brothers began and basically ended at Kitty Hawk.  Boy, was I wrong!  This was another story about how people can become successful through diligence.  I was (and still am) inspired by the story of these successful brothers.

The Big Book of Peanuts (1980’s) – I found this book at Ollie’s Discount Mart on a family vacation and took my time reading all of the daily strips from the decade of the 1980’s.  It was so much fun that I now need to buy the other editions in this series to fully experience Peanuts.  

Dinner with DiMaggio by Rock Positano – I read this book for Simon & Schuster to review for the Yankees blog I write for (Start Spreading the News but then named “It’s About The Money“) and greatly enjoyed learning about the Joe DiMaggio that was kept from the public eye.  I had a chance to do a podcast with the author, Rock Positano who was a pleasure to talk to.  I loved learning about kind and generous Joe DiMaggio was.  Some of the stories spoke to his true heart and compassion.  DiMaggio was a true American icon.

Smart Baseball by Keith Law – I love baseball books that force me to think more about the game and question things that we accept as absolute truths.  This was one of those books.  Outstanding!

Ahead of the Curve by Brian Kenny – Ditto

A Nice Tuesday by Pat Jordan – I read A False Spring years and years ago and came across this book at a used book sale.  It sat on my shelf for a while before I picked it up to read.  Pat Jordan can write.  He’s great.  I feel in love with his tale of trying to pitch again as an older man.  This was a brutally honest tale told from the heart.  And it was a fantastic book.  

Positive Living Day-by-Day by Norman Vincent Peale – Each day I read an inspirational passages for the Radio Home Visitor (WRKC, Wilkes-Barre, PA).  I used many of the stories from this book for that purpose – hopefully inspiring the thousands in the listening audience.  I know the passages inspired me.

Hero of the Empire by Candice Millard – Candice Millard is, with a doubt, one of the best writers today.  I have read all her books – and each one is better than the next.  This is the story of Winston Churchill in the Boer War and his attempt to escape from a prison.  I learned a ton about Churchill in this page-turner.  This may have been my favorite book of the year.  It was that good. A+

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling – I read this book to some of the fourth grade classes in my school.  I’ve been doing this for years.  One might think that I’d get tired of this story.  I don’t.  I LOVE reading the tale to the kids – assigning different voices to the characters.  Often when I get up to leave after 30-minutes of reading, the kids say, “Can’t you read more?”  It’s times like that that I know I have the greatest job in the world.  My sons are grown up now, but reading this book to the students always brings back the happy memories of when I read all of the Harry Potter books to my own children.  Due to the fact that I read this book numerous times every year, it’s probably the single book I have read the most in my life.  It never gets old.  “Harry, you’re a wizard.”

For One More Day by Mitch Albom – I have greatly enjoyed each Mitch Albom book that I have read.  He writes from the heart and he gets right to mine.  I always feel good when I read a Mitch Albom story.  This one didn’t disappoint.  I look forward to the day when Mitch Albom reads my novel Scattering the Ashes and says, “I like the way Paul writes – he reminds me, in some ways, of me.”  (It just might happen soon…)

Easy Company Soldier by Don Malarkey – I love the stories of the Band of Brothers from World War II.  This book adds to the collection of excellent books inspired by Stephen Ambrose’s original history.  It was this book that inspired me to run Currahee with my sons.  

Call of Duty by Buck Compton –  I bought this book after running Currahee Mountain and visiting the 101st Airborne Museumin Toccoa, Georgia.  I learned a great deal about Buck Compton that wasn’t in Ambrose’s book or the mini-series.  Buck Compton lived a great life in many ways.  Those soldiers were true heroes.

East of Eden by John Steinbeck – I don’t read enough classic literature.  This was another very long book that I devoured.  I didn’t know much about the book – only that my son Ryan recommended it.  I was shocked by a lot of it, but what a story!  Man, could Steinbeck write!

Swimming Upstream by Dr. Sajjad Iqbal – I am very fortunate in that I know Dr. Iqbal, but I had never known his story about how he fought conventional wisdom and many medical experts to self-diagnose his own cancer – and how he triumphed over it.  This is a must-read book for all who wish to be inspired by an individual’s positive approach and never-say-quit attitude.  I am a better person because I read this book.  

The Battle of the Crater by Newt Gingrich and William Forstchen – I have always read a great deal about the Civil War, but except for the Michael and Jeff Shaara books, I mostly stayed with historical texts rather than fiction.  This book sat on my shelf for years before I picked it up to read.  It was excellent.  I learned a great deal about the Battle of the Crater as I enjoyed this compelling tale.

The Last Gunfight by Jeff Guinn – I enjoy watching the old Lone Ranger tales on TV, but have never read much about the American West.  This book tells the true history behind the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral.  Again, I wasn’t sure if I’d like this book and ended up loving it.

The Horologicon by Mark Forsyth –  I think Mark Forsyth is a hysterical writer.  I laughed my way through this overview of the English language.  I love all of Forsyth’s books.  

The Seal in the Bedroom by James Thurber – I discovered Thurber as a college kid and try to read some of his writings every so often.  This book was just a collection of his cartoons, but many made me laugh out loud.  Thurber has always been a favorite of mine.

The Arm by Jeff Passan – This is the story of baseball pitchers, injuries to their arms, Tommy John surgery, and more.  This was a compelling book that reminds me about how much we don’t know about the human body, even though we think we do.  In short, we can’t seem to stop arm injuries.  I read this as I battled by own Achilles tear that prevented me from running.  I easily related to the frustration the pitchers felt as they were dealing with their own injuries.  No athlete likes to be sidelined… a pitcher or a runner.

Schulz and Peanuts by David Michaelis –  Picking up on the theme at the start of this list, Charles Schulz was determined, from his youngest age, that he was going to be a successful cartoonist.  This was a long (long) book that tells a great deal about Schulz.  It took me a long time to read it, but it was very compelling.  

Grit by Angela Duckworth – This is an attribute I have tried to teach my own children, the players I have coached, the teachers in my school, and, most of all, all of our students.  Grit is one of the most important character traits a person needs to develop in order to become successful.  Duckworth’s book is the gold standard for defining this critical characteristic.  In reflection, a lot of the books I read, I realize, deal with people or events that speak to grit.

2017 was a great year for reading!

I hope that as others make lists like this, that my book Impossible is an Illusion is included.  I keep hearing how this book is changing lives for the better.  I hope so.

2018 now beckons.  I can’t wait to begin a new year of reading!

 

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