Reader’s Notebook, 8/30/18

Man, how did I get so behind on these? Well, part of it is that my reading pace has remained slow in recent weeks. It doesn’t help that I have a stack of golf instructional books that are stealing time away from my proper reading stack. I’ll quickly run through some recent books.


Notes from a Public Typewriter – edited by Michael Gustafson and Oliver Uberti.
Gustafson and his wife own a bookstore in Ann Arbor. A few years back they set out an old typewriter left over from his grandfather’s estate along with a stack of paper, and invited people browsing to type notes that they would leave for others to read. This book is a collection both of those notes and essays about them. It made me want to take a trip to Ann Arbor and bash out a few words, likely not very profound, to be a part of the experience.


Minute Zero – Todd Moss
The second of Moss’ Judd Ryker foreign policy thrillers. As with his first book, The Golden Hour, this is centered on political unrest in Africa and the US trying to both keep events from spinning out of control and nudge them in the direction we want them to go. Moss’ books are good summer books, because while dealing with politics and government he still manages to keep the pace of events racing along at a swift pace.


Upon Further Review – Edited by Mike Pesca
The best thing about sports is winning. The second best thing is playing the What If game. What if that recruit had picked your school over a rival? What if the ref had/had not blown his whistle? What if that ball had curled foul?

Pesca throws readers a curveball with the cover of this collection, subtitled “The Greatest What-Ifs in Sports History.” It shows pictures of Bill Buckner fielding that ball “behind the bag at first,” Dwight Clark letting Joe Montana’s toss slip through his fingers, Charles Barkley holding the NBA championship trophy, and Kevin Dyson dragging Mike Jones into the end zone rather than being stopped one yard short.

That’s a curveball because the book is not about isolated moments like that.[1] Instead, Pesca asked the writers he assembled to look at broader What Ifs and to examine the long-term implications of them.

There are some serious chapters: What if Muhammad Ali had gotten his draft deferment?; What if the US had boycotted Hitler’s Olympics?; What if horse racing was still the most popular sport in the country?; and what if the MLB had started testing for steroids in 1991?. These, and the other serious chapters, are interesting to read.

But the book really shines in the more light-hearted chapters. Ethan Sherwood Strauss sends the 2017 Golden State Warriors back in time to play Jordan’s Bulls and the Shaq/Kobe Lakers. Jesse Eisenberg wonders if the 1993 NBA finals would have ended differently had he not written Dan Majerle a fan letter than winter asking for help to stop a kid bullying him at school. Nate DiMeo imagines a world where tug-of-war was never dropped from the Olympics and was now one of the biggest and most storied sports in the world. Paul Snyder’s chapter about a blimp full of money exploding over world track headquarters in 1952 and turning Wilt Chamberlain, and all the great basketball players who followed him, into full-time track and field stars is an utter delight.

Josh Levin closes the book with a chapter titled “What If Game 7 of the 2016 World Series Had Turned Into Every Sports Movie Ever Made?” which is brilliant.

The balance of serious and farcical make this book a great read.


  1. Well, mostly.  ↩