What I’ve Been Reading: Forty Years in the Big House

Tag: what I’ve been reading

6Jul 2016
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What I’ve Been Reading: Forty Years in the Big House

Forty Years in the Big House by Jon Falk is a follow-up to If These Walls Could TalkFalk is, of course, the long-time equipment manager for Michigan who was hired by Bo Schembechler. He retired following the 2013 season, and it’s implied that maybe he just didn’t see eye-to-eye with the direction of the program under the leadership of former athletic director Dave Brandon. In a curious twist, this post-retirement book, Forty Years in the Big House, wraps up a career . . . that still continues. After his replacement, Brad Berlin, moved on to other things, Jim Harbaugh asked Falk to come back as the equipment manager this off-season. So far I have not heard about any changes to that agreement, so maybe Falk will get in one last season (or more) to add to his 40-year career.

Anyway, the book is a collection of stories, mostly from his time with Bo Schembechler. It’s a walk down memory lane, and hardcore Michigan fans will enjoy the names, games, and events referenced here. Some of the chapters and themes get a little repetitive, but that was the same case in If These Walls Could Talk, so I was prepared. The book was co-written by Dan Ewald, whom I remember encountering first as an author when I read Hello Everybody, I’m George Kell (side note: I don’t talk much about other sports and teams, but the Detroit Tigers were my first sports infatuation and the first professional event I attended). Both gentlemen are getting up there in age, so I can forgive a little bit of repetition.

I enjoyed the book. It was a quick read, and I finished it over the span of two days. The biggest thing I took away from it was about doing something you love, doing it with passion, and being dedicated. I’ve read that people should change jobs every seven years to avoid stagnating, but this is a guy who worked 40 years at the same job and still talks about how much he loves the school, talks about crying at certain events because they mean so much to him. He loved Schembechler, loves the players, and loves Michigan. It’s hard not to appreciate his dedication to and love for the University of Michigan. Plus there are some good stories in there about Jim Harbaugh, Tyrone Wheatley, and Gerald Ford, along with many others.

2Jul 2016
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What I’ve Been Reading: Dark Places

Dark Places by Gillian Flynn (Gone GirlSharp Objects) is another quasi murder mystery that plays with timelines. It’s the story of Libby Day, the survivor of a brutal multiple homicide when she was a little girl. Her mother and two sisters were killed, and the murderer put behind bars was her 15-year-old brother Ben. Libby survives and writes a book about her experience, but with money running out, she accepts an offer from a Kill Club that doesn’t believe her brother was guilty. In the ensuing investigation, all kinds of new information comes to light. The story is told mostly from the perspective of a modern Libby Day, but it also gives a look from Ben and his mother from the time of the murders in 1985. I thought this book started off slowly and picked up about a third of the way through, mostly because it’s hard to empathize with Libby Day. (I also found that to be the case with Sharp Objects, where the main female protagonist was a little strange.) Flynn writes about some women with strange views on life, but she’s almost like a female Chuck Palahniuk, who writes (mostly) about some screwed-up dudes.

Has anybody else read this book? Or seen the movie? I watched the trailer for the movie, and I think Charlize Theron is a pretty poor choice for the lead role.

15May 2016
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What I’ve Been Reading

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Bad Luck and Trouble by Lee Child. This is the eleventh book in the Jack Reacher series. I don’t think I’ve read this many books in one series since I read the Hardy Boys case files as a kid. I’ve read Harry Potter, A Song of Ice and Fire, Dexter, and The Chronicles of Narnia, but those series only reached a max of eight books. My goal is to finish the released Reacher novels by the end of the summer going into football season, so I can go ahead and read the new release, Night School, which is scheduled to come out in September of 2016. Despite the personal nature of the novel – some of Reacher’s Military Police colleagues wind up dead, so he investigates – I couldn’t get into this one quite as much as others. I won’t explain why because I don’t want to give anything away. I also think the Reacher books go a little too far at times into the realm of unbelievability. I want to read them as somewhat realistic action novels, but I’ll say this: the chances of someone getting away with these actions with no attention paid by spectators or police are very slim. I also grew tired of reading the phrase “You do not mess with the special investigators.” There was a little too much bravado and repetition, not to mention a lack of creativity, in that overused mantra.

Nothing to Lose by Lee Child. The twelfth installment of the Reacher series, Nothing to Lose is the tale of two towns in Colorado: Hope and Despair. Neither one of those towns exist in real life, but I’ve come across some other little-known geographical areas in Reacher novels that do exist, so I had to check. This one had some hints of Die Trying in it, which I found a little bothersome. Hope is obviously a fine place to live, whereas Despair is full of angry people who don’t want any outsiders meddling in their business. You also have to suspend your disbelief for this one, but the story has enough twists and turns and leaves you guessing enough to want to figure out how it ends. I was a little disappointed in how easily Reacher gets duped at one point in the story, but even a superstar ex-cop makes mistakes once in a while, I guess.

Hit the jump for some non-Reach novels, including books written by Elmore Leonard, Amy Poehler, Steven Levitt, and Matthew S. Hiley.

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28Feb 2016
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What I’ve Been Reading

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Raylan by Elmore LeonardRaylan was commissioned after the Justified series started airing on television, so the ideas in this book aren’t very fresh. If you have watched the series, you know pretty much exactly what goes down in the book. There are some minor changes, but it was kind of like reading the TV script. I still enjoyed it because Raylan is a fun character, and so are his backwoods Kentucky friends and enemies. But don’t expect any new shenanigans for Raylan Givens.

Hit the jump for more of what I’ve been reading.

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7Dec 2015
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What I’ve Been Reading

Endzone: The Rise, Fall, and Return of Michigan Football by John U. Bacon. Bacon’s publishers were kind enough to contact me and ask whether I would like an advance copy of Endzone, an offer I gladly accepted. Unfortunately, the book was to come out in early September, and the advance copy did not come until mid-August, right at the height of my own football season. I was able to squeeze in enough reading time to finish the book a day after the book was publicly released, but as you can see by the lack of “What I’ve Been Reading” posts lately, I did not have a great deal of other chances to read or write about my reading. You have probably read other reviews of Endzone by now or read it yourself, so I’m sure nothing I have to say will be too awfully surprising. Former Michigan athletic director David Brandon did not come off in a good light. Bacon spent quite a lot of time pointing out how detached Brandon was from the fan base and how he gave off an air of hubris and stubbornness. At times it almost seemed like a smear piece, but Brandon did not take advantage of an opportunity presented to him by Bacon to respond to his questions and allegations. Either way, the book emphasized all the pieces that had to fall into place for Michigan to land Jim Harbaugh as the next coach at Michigan. Another great part of the book is that Bacon did an exhaustive amount of research and interviews, which resulted in many different perspectives on Brandon, Harbaugh, Coach Hoke, and other aspects of the program. Some books can come off as one man’s opinion, but this one did not. If you are a reader and a Michigan fan, then this is a must-have for understanding the current state and direction of Michigan athletics and the football program in particular.

Hit the jump for a few more books I’ve been reading.

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