Sunday, December 31, 2023

Final review of 2023 - “Snow in the Kingdom”

For my last review of 2023, I decided to go back to a topic that always fascinates me - high altitude mountain climbing. Found this book on Kindle Unlimited written by a climber who scaled Everest without Sherpas or bottled oxygen. Wondering how he and the team could possibly do this, I picked up the book and am glad I did.  Here is my review of “Snow in the Kingdom.”

Title/Author: “Snow in the Kingdom” by Ed Webster 

Rating4 of 5 stars (very good)

Review: No matter which peak, which path, or how many are in the climbing party, there is always an element of danger is such an expedition. This book by Ed Webster brings to life one such trek, when he and three other climbers reached the summit of Mt. Everest in the spring of 1988. This was accomplished without bottled oxygen, assistance from Sherpas, or radios. Webster’s account of this expedition on a new path to the top, along with stories from before that Everest climb (it was his third attempt to reach the summit) that make the a very good read for the most part.

I say “most part” because there times the book feels like it is moving slower than a novice climber on their first Himalayan climb. This is especially true when Webster describes his previous climbs before his famous 1988 trekking. The book also moves along slowly at times durian the Everest climb although that helped readers to understand the slow pace, and the danger, these climbers faced.

Two parts of the book I really liked were the descent after reaching the summit and the photography. While reaching the peak for any climb is undoubtedly the goal and is often dangerous, often the descent back to Base Camp is just as risky. In Webster’s case, that was certainly true. The terrifying ordeal the team went through on the descent, with frostbitten toes and fingers that eventually were amputated as a result, was a more gripping account of climbing than the journey to the highest peak in the world was.

Even though I read this in e-book format, the photography was stunning, especially the color photographs. Whether it was the beauty of the mountains, happy pictures of Webster and others (including a few of Lauren, his girlfriend who was killed in a rock climb accompanying Webster) or photos of the climbers on the mountain or back in camp, they all help to tell the story of this very intriguing climb of Mt. Everest.


Sunday, December 24, 2023

Review of “Deep Thoughts From an Armchair Quarterback”

Happy Holidays! For one of the last reviews of 2023, I went with this book written by a sports fan on thoughts that other fans usually have and/or express. Here is the review of this book. No matter which holidays you celebrate, I wish all of you a joyous season.  


“Deep Thoughts From an Armchair Quarterback” by Chris R. Weilert


4 of 5 stars (very good)


Sports fans who view many games in a wide variety of sports will relate to this book by Chris Weilert. He’s not claiming to be any different than any other fan - simply a fan who is sharing his thoughts on a wide variety of sports and it makes for a very enjoyable reading experience.

What I really liked about this book is that Weilert covers a wide variety of sports and doesn’t spend a lot of time on any on particular game, team or athlete. He doesn’t get overly critical of anything, nor does he go overboard on praise. If there is a topic that affects him and his feelings about it, he’s not shy to voice his thoughts. The best example of this is when he talks about a topic sports fans debate all the time - who is the GOAT (greatest of all time)? Pick any sport, any team, any player and this debate rages - Weilert thinks that it’s a waste of time - how can one fairly compare performances in different eras? (Note - while it’s not the reason I chose this example, I am in complete agreement with him on this topic). 

Another good aspect of this book is that while it helps to be a fan, a reader doesn’t have to be an expert on the vocabulary or nuances of the various sports discussed to enjoy the book. The language is basic and easy to comprehend- it feels like a barstool discussion on whatever topic is the subject of the chapter. Finally, what makes the book fun is the wide variety of games covered. Of course the main four of baseball, football, basketball and hockey are a majority of the text but so many others are discussed, such as the Olympics and the Highland Games - that was a fun chapter.

No matter who or what they follow, sports fans will want to pick this book up, maybe with their favorite adult beverage close by and enjoy these discussions that fans engage in all the time. 

I wish to thank the author for providing a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.


Monday, December 18, 2023

Review of “The Fighter of Auschwitz”

 Having not read a boxing book for a while, this title intrigued me. It turned into a story on a topic much more important than boxing or sports. Here is my review of “The Fighter of Auschwitz”


“The Fighter of Auschwitz” by Erik Brouwer


5 of 5 stars (excellent)

Review: Leendert Josua Sanders was a middleweight European boxing champion from the Netherlands in the 1930’s. Even avid boxing fans and historians may have trouble remembering much about his boxing career as he wasn’t one to avidly promote his fights. He was also a Jewish boxer in Rotterdam and this was the time when the Nazis were gaining power in Europe. 

Sanders, who would often fight under the name “Lee” or “Leen” to try to mask his Jewish identity, would eventually be captured with his family and sent to Auschwitz. This excellent book by Erik Brouwer covers both of these segments of Sanders’ life.

Sanders wasn’t keen to pursue the sport at first but with some encouragement from his family, including his brother who became his trainer and manger, Leen did work his way up in weight and prestige, with his biggest boxing accomplishment winning the above mentioned title.

But once Sanders and his family were arrested in Rotterdam as the Netherlands fell to Nazi occupation, this book gets even better. There are many books that describe the brutal conditions Jewish prisoners faced at these concentration camps and this one is just as graphic. Sanders is spared the worst treatment, conditions and work detail when it is learned he was a professional boxer.

Boxers and other prisoners who had special talents that could be used by the SS guards in the camps would receive privileges that other prisoners could have, such as better food and clothing ans special detail such as the kitchen or laundry. Because Leen beat a well-known fighter in one of the Sunday boxing matches held for the “entertainment”of the guards, Leen became one of these privileged prisoners and as such, received this type of detail. 

However, as Brouwer tells in vivid matter-of-fact detail, the other prisoners had much harsher conditions and more brutal work. Leen would help out many less privileged, especially new arrivals to Auschwitz, by providing extra food, clothing or blankets. This was done at great risk to his own safety as if he were caught, he would certainly have faced swift execution. This went on for nearly two years, until Leen and other survivors of the evacuation of Aucwitz were rescued by advancing Allied troops. For a final touch, to make this book complete, Brouwer informs the reader that Sanders had some good and bad experiences in his life after surviving Auschwitz. Even there , Sanders had struggles as he was wrongfully denied the Extraordinary War Pension he deserved until close to his death.

What I really liked about this book is that while the majority of it talks about his heroic feats at Auschwitz, it also gives the reader an inside look at his boxing success as well as his life in the concentration camp. It’s the complete story of a man whose story needed to be told.

I wish to thank Octopus Publishing US for providing a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.


Saturday, December 9, 2023

Review of “Team of Destiny”

As a fan of the Minnesota Twins, of course I will read any book about their time as the Washington Senators. This is an upcoming book on the anniversary of their only championship in Washington. Here is my review of “Team of Destiny.” 


“Team of Destiny: Walter Johnson, Clark Griffith, Bucky Harris and the 1924 Washington Senators” by Gary Sarnoff


4 of 5 stars (very good)

Review: 2024 will mark the 100th anniversary of the only World Series championship by the Washington Senators. To commemorate this anniversary, Gary Sarnoff compiled this comprehensive recap of the special season in which rookie manager Bucky Harris became the youngest manager to win the World Series at age 27. This is a record that still stands today.

The book starts off with the end of the 1923 season as the Senators finished 4th in the American League. It was an improvement but owner Clark Griffith was not satisfied and he felt a change was needed at the manager spot. After several considerations he contacted his second baseman Bucky Harris and asked how he felt about handling managerial duties as well as playing regularly at second base. Harris accepted the challenge in his calm and unassuming manner. This is a characteristic of Harris that is evident throughout the book, especially when reading his quotes given to the press.

This section of the book, and the celebration by not only the team but the entire city of Washington DC after the World Series are the best parts of the book. The reader will certainly feel the joy that the city has after their baseball team brought home the championship. It is also interesting to read the tidbits during the World Series when President Calvin Coolidge is attending the game. This is mainly due to the rabid fandom of Mrs. Coolidge as Sarnoff lets the reader know about her enthusiasm while cheering for the team. 

The bulk of the book, from the first spring training game to the last out of game 7 of the World Series against the New York Giants, is a detailed account of every game. For the absolute baseball junkie this is great material, but it feels like it drags. Just like the players, I felt I was reaching the “dog days” of the book by the time August rolled around. It read like a narrative of accounts of the game. Although to be fair, there were sprinklings of interesting anecdotes about various players, especially the stars of the team. These included Hall of Famers Sam Rice, Goose Goslin and Walter Johnson. The reader will feel the same joy as Johnson did when he became the winning pitcher as Muddy Ruel scored the winning run in the bottom of the 12th inning. This section of the book is the part where I was most grateful for the deep detail of game action.

Overall, I felt this was a decent book on the magical 1924 season for the Senators. While it does seem to go slow at times, that matches the grind of any baseball season. As a fan of the Minnesota Twins, I always enjoy reading anything about the franchise’s days in Washington so this account of their most successful season during that era was one I was glad to read. 

I wish to thank Rowman and Littlefield for a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.


Monday, December 4, 2023

Review of "The Big Time"

Books about anything to do with sports, no matter the topic or which sport, in the 1970s always intrigues me and this one was no exception.  Here is my review of "The Big Time"


The Big Time: How the 1970’s Transformed Sports in America ” by Michael MacCambridge


4 of 5 stars (very good)

Review:  For anyone who followed sports during the decade of the 1970’s, they were certainly not the same at the end of the decade as they were at the beginning.  This is true no matter which game, league or athletes one examined. This was also a reflection of the changes in American society and these are tied nicely together and told in wonderful prose in this book by Michael MacCambridge.

While many different sports and social topics are covered in this book, women’s sports and how they affected the feminist movement of the 1970’s is the most prominent theme in the book.  The big events are covered, of course, such as the “battle of the sexes” tennis match between Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs, but there is much more to this topic.  The best example has nothing to do with action on a playing surface but in board rooms. 

The Association for Intercollegiate Atheletics for Women (AIAW) was founded in 1971 to govern women’s college sports.  They were more about opportunity than for competition, and they believed Title IX, passed in 1972 and an important point mentioned several times in the book, would be the final hurdle to their goals.  However, the NCAA, having other ideas, was incorporating those sports into their programs in order to comply with the law and they eventually took over all women’s programs.  While it was sad for those AIAW members, it was important to note the progress made.

Similar write ups are in the book for other social issues such as racial equality and labor rights in various sports.  It is noted how important the decision by arbitrator Peter Seitz to strike down baseball’s reserve clause had a ripple effect in all other sports when it came to free agency for players.  Some sports adapted free agency more quickly than others and it didn’t come without significant labor strife, but that is also an important topic when it comes to 1970’s sports.

Of course, the text isn’t limited to just these types of topics.  There are several passages about the actual games played as well and the variety of sports covered is tremendous.  Just about any particular game you can think of that was played in front of spectators was covered.  That is one of the best aspects of this book – the variety.

I wish to thank Grand Central Publishing for providing a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.


Link: The Big Time: How the 1970s... by MacCridge, Michael (