Monday, February 13, 2006

Lookin’ at Some Books

I haven’t done a book review in quite awhile because I haven’t had the time, but now I have a couple of minutes to write a few words about the last bunch of books that I read. I know that this isn’t exactly the most popular feature on this site, but I like being able to keep track of what I’ve read in the last few months.

The first book of the trio is “Howard Hughes: His Life and Madness”. You can blame this book as part of the reason why I haven’t written about books in awhile. This thing was about 660 pages of densely researched text. Donald J. Bartlett and James Steele did an awesome job of culling together every aspect of his life for a scholarly take on one of America’s most enigmatic figures.

The best part of the book is that it was very light on the gossipy Hollywood stuff. It delved into that part a bit, and it had to because that was Hughes’ life, but it really stuck with the facts via newspaper stories, letters and memos from Hughes himself. Since it was a journalistic approach to the man, it wasn’t burdened with an editorial slant either. It laid the facts on the table and the reader was allowed to make up his or her mind.

The reason why I picked up this book was due to seeing “The Aviator” in the summer, I thought that was a fascinating flick and wanted to learn more about Hughes. What I learned is that the movie was very liberal with a lot of the facts of Hughes’ life. Also, the part of his life that the flick focused on, was the more boring part of the book. Yes, he was an aviation hero and a millionaire playboy, but that almost seems like a cliché now (one that Hughes helped to create).

The reclusive billionaire who didn’t trust anyone, sat around naked for fear of germs, a border line racist who lost his grip on both his sanity and his money, now that would make a great movie. Another thing that I learned from the book, when it came to business decisions and business deals, Hughes was not proficient at either. You always hear the stories about what a terrific business man Hughes was and he wasn’t. He ran, or almost ran, a bunch of his companies into the ground, was a failure at speculations and if it wasn’t for his father (who made a copyright on a drill bit) Hughes wouldn’t have been able to fascinate the country.

He’s like a psychotic Donald Trump only with more charm.

The second book I read was “The Education of a Coach” by David Halberstam. If you’ve lived in Massachusetts for the past six months and haven’t heard of this book, get out from under your rock. In a sentence, this is a very short biography about New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick. Obviously, it’s a bit more than that as Halberstam delves deep into the Belichick family tree and fleshes out the backgrounds of both Bill’s father and to some extent grandfather to see what makes the football genius tick.

Halberstam is a terrific writer and he gets into the nitty gritty of Belichick’s younger life. Curiously, when it comes to his days as a more established coach in the NFL, he glosses over many of the details and battles that made Bill Belichick, BILL BELICHICK.

Like the Hughes book, I don’t want the gossip, I want the facts. I want to know more about his Giants days, way more about his Browns days (where he cut his teeth and learned a lot of lessons on how to coach a football team), his Patriots and Jets days. I want knee-deep stuff. I feel that Halberstam just glosses over that and it’s what stopped this book from becoming an A+ in my view.

Don’t misunderstand me, I thought it was a terrific (albeit very quick) read and I learned a lot about the inner workings of Belichick, but I wanted more. A lot more. Halberstam just pumped this out and it shows, as a lot of publishing tricks were used to make it seem like it was a more in depth book.

I actually go this for a Christmas present, so I can’t say that it wasn’t worth the money, but if I had bought it, I would’ve been less than satisfied.

The last book I read, “A Season of Loss, A Lifetime of Forgiveness” is going to be tough to review not because it's a crappy book (actually, it's the opposite) it's because the author, John Manasso, is my brother-in-law. He also just gave me a pretty kick-ass Christmas present.

So now that you know that, and that I'm not above a bribe =), I can say that I honestly thought that it was a terrific book. John did a hell of a job writing it and more importantly, researching it. You can tell that John is an accomplished journalist while reading this book because he doesn't leave any stone unturned. The reader gets every bit of information rung from this case.

If you’re not sure what the book is about, it’s the true story of the Atlanta Thrashers and their ability to cope with the death of one of their popular teammates (Dan Snyder). The twist in this story is that he died after getting into an accident with the team’s star player (Dany Heatley) ran his car into a wall while going above the speed limit.

Even though I pretty much knew everything about this story, I would talk to him about it now and then and Aly would fill me in on the latest news of the trial, I still found the book engrossing. You should really think about checking it out, even if you don’t like hockey because this book is as much about hockey as “The Old Man and the Sea” was about fishing. Hockey is the backdrop, but there is so much more going on. There are lots of inspirations and life lessons to be learned, but it’s done without being preachy.

The strangest part of this book was seeing John’s face on the dust jacket every time I opened up the back cover and hearing his voice as I read the pages. I don’t know many writers personally, and I assume that this is how I would read their books if I did.

Anyhow, it’s a great book and I suggest you pick it up. Either Wednesday or Thursday, I’ll update you all with the sad state of “Arrested Development” and it’s finale from Friday.