Thursday, July 12, 2012

I'm Known To Read Certain Books From Time To Time

If you keep up with the blog(I appreciate all 7 of you) you know that I have previously written a couple of pieces about books that I have read and I am back to school you on some more. Speaking of school, I was thinking the other day about how I became such an avid reader and I didn't really have an answer. One memory came to mind from the class Book World, freshman year as I was reading ahead during class because it was sooooo painful to listen to others read. I still can't understand how so many people struggled to read as 9th graders. Oh well, I guess I'll take any advantage in the real world as I can get because I like to do as much as I can with using as little effort as possible. The dictionary would call me a "slacker" but I like to think of myself as an innovator. Anyway, back to the books as I have 6 of them below ranging from sports to anthropology to computers to kidnappings. I hope you enjoy and check out for these great reads(that's called a plug Amazon and you pay important people like me for using them).

Let's start with sports as you can see that this book is about one of the most mesmerizing and charismatic athletes that we have ever known. Muhammad Ali, formerly Cassius Clay(for much of the book) is revered by many as the greatest boxer of all time and this book covers his amateur years as a boxer through the first 5-6 years of his professional career. The book also focuses a lot on Floyd Patterson, Sonny Liston, Malcom X, and the Nation of Islam. It's actually a pretty good history lesson on boxing as a whole and it gives insight to the falling out of Malcom X with the Nation of Islam and Muhammad Ali's role in the whole thing. A great boxing story about the greatest boxer ever. One funny thing about Muhammad Ali from the book was that he was so afraid of flying that his manager went to an Army surplus store and bought him a parachute that he actually wore on the plane during his first flight. It's stories like that that you never hear about and what makes reading worthwhile.

Another sports story is the second novel on display but you probably have never heard of this one. This book covers Gino Bartali's life as a Tour de France champion and World War II hero. He grew up in Italy and fell in love with cycling at an early age and became a prodigy in the sport. After winning the 1938 Tour, the second world war takes over his life as he is forced into military. He uses his fame to convince his bosses that he still needs to train and with that becomes a great help to those in need. In his time, his fame was so great that when stopped at checkpoints on his bike, soldiers would not search him and find the fake passports and other documents hidden inside his bicycle for Jewish-Italian citizens. Post war, Gino returns to cycling and fame as Road to Valor tells the complete story of a hero you have never heard of. A fun fact from this book is that the cyclists back then had to stop and flip their bikes over to change their gears by hand even during the Tour de France; just another one of those stories.

The Birthday Party by Stanley Alpert is not your typical party experience as he tells his story of being kidnapped off the streets of Manhattan the night before his birthday. Say all you want about New York being the greatest city in the world but it's shit like this that makes me love the great state of Wisconsin(just as I write this some asshole murdered his 3 children in River Falls, I've lost hope in humanity). Federal prosecutor Stanley Alpert was walking home one night(because he didn't own a car) when he was abducted by 4 men in a Lexus. He must have a photographic memory because he is able to recount almost everything about the 26 hours he spent in captivity while being blindfolded and the book goes into great detail telling the events. I can't imagine being kidnapped but Stanley was a man of wit and used it to survive. An entertaining thrill ride from start to finish.

As I mentioned before, I like to use to find good books and I recently came across an author by the name of Tracy Kidder. The first of 3 books that I read of his is about a man name Deo from the African country of Burundi. Deo grows up in the mountains of Burundi with dreams of becoming a doctor and has made his way to medical school when his country breaks into civil war and then genocide. The war and genocide is derived from the differences between the two main groups of people in Burundi and was as fierce as the Sunni-Shiite conflict is today. Deo manages to escape the country and finds himself in the United States as a 9th class citizen. He continues to pursue his dream while staying ahead of his past in an attempt to improve the standard of living in his home country.

The second Tracy Kidder novel I read was a great story about Dr. Paul Farmer, a man trying to save the world. This book follows Paul Farmer around the world as he tries to rid it from tuberculosis. He has spent much of his life working in Haiti as it is one of the most deprived countries in the world. Dr. Paul Farmer is the definition of an anthropologist as he as raised millions of dollars for his cause and outside of taking care of his mother, he doesn't even take a salary from his teaching at Harvard. I can't even begin to explain the amount things he has done for humanity as he has never turned a patient down. A truly great man.

The third book of Kidders that I experienced was his Pulitzer Prize winning  The Soul of a New Machine. You wouldn't think a book about the era of minicomputers in the late '70s could keep you entertained but this piece of writing does exactly that. Kidder tells of the Massachusetts based computer company Data General and its competition within itself to design the next minicomputer. The designers and creators of the computer were the main target in the book but my main man Gollum also makes an appearance. Gollum was one of the computer's nicknames and once again, he became mischievous and annoying. One thing learned while reading this was how devoted these guys were to finishing their project just to have their names mentioned in the same sentence as the computer. The employees worked 12+ hours a day, 6-7 days a week for over a year to finish their masterpiece. Some great insight on a piece of technology now used by every person, every day.

Don't worry if you didn't find a book that you like because I am a reading machine and I'll have another batch in a short while. I had something a little more creative to end with but my brain is fried from a hard days work stocking shelves at Gordys and Morgan Freeman is on TV with his dreamy, dreamy voice. Final note. Know what the title is from? Shawshank, that's goddamn right.

The Lounge Chair Legends

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