Thursday, December 21, 2023

Reading is FUNdamental!

 I have to call out a fellow blogger.  It pains me to put them on the spot, but sometimes you must.  It's not often someone chides you in a comment on one of your posts.  However it occurred a little over a year ago.  However since its the season of giving, I'll give a couple pictures before I call them out.

All my stocking are hung with care! In the last couple months I've found all these pairs of socks at Dollar Tree.  I'm not planning on wearing them, but they look really nice on display, and a nice conversation piece. 

The tree may not be a big deal to most, but if you are a long time reader of this blog you may remember that usually I buy my trees from Dollar Tree.  My Dollar Tree...trees, are nice but are very small.  Well around Black Friday, Dollar General had this 6 foot tree for 10 bucks.  It was usually 20 or 25 and had no decorations.  We still had some decorations, the ornaments were buy one get one half off, so for I think 4.50 we got around 50.  So not bad for 15 bucks.  Now the fun will be taking it apart.  Though I think we have a wrapping paper plastic box... thing, that we can put this in (the tree comes apart in 3 pieces).


So with that out of the way, time to call out a blogger.

 Mr. Penny Sleeves himself, Jon, had the audacity to yell at me about how I should read more!  WELL, I NEVER!  LOL!  In all honesty I even replied that I planned to read more in the next year.  I have a bookcase full of books, so I better start reading.  Let me say, Thank you Jon for putting a fire under my rumpus to finally start doing it.

I don't normally make New Years resolutions, and I didn't count this as one either.  In fact, I forgot all about this reply until a couple days ago when looking at old posts to see what I've actually posted.  The timing was too good to pass up, so I think he'd get some enjoyment out of it.

The post today will be all the books I've read in since the start of 2023.  With the year about to wrap up, I might have time to finish one more book, but if I do, I'll post about it in 2024.  I like this format of having a folder of all the books I've read so it might be a yearly feature.  I decided to jump the gun a bit early just in case I wasn't in the mood to right in the next week or two.  If I do, I might show off all my decorations I have up for the holidays, as well as more photos of the tree.  Maybe go around town and take pictures of lights.

Anyways, the format is this- all the photos were time stamped from when I took the picture which was usually shortly after I read them.  Sometimes I was lazy and took 3-4 pictures at a time, but otherwise the order should be correct.  I think I might have read 1-2 more, but I either didn't take a picture or I didn't finish them because I didn't like them which I just gave to my sister to donate to a little free library.  I might not recap every book, but I will try to mention what I thought of them.  So let's begin.

So it looks like I didn't take photos until around the end of June.  However, I had a separate shelf for all the books I finished, so I should have included them all. I remember reading these three early in the year.  I'm positive the first one was the Lyle Alzado book.  I liked it because he was really honest and it gave me more info about his life that I didn't know.  I would recommend the book.

The Alex Karras one wasn't too bad but it was made for school age kids, and published in the 70s/early 80s, so it didn't have much of his acting career.  Looking back, it may not have even mentioned Webster.  A full autobiography would be something I wouldn't mind reading.  It's not that I don't recommend it, but I wouldn't expect too much from it.  That said maybe if you have a kid who likes football, it may not be bad, though they probably have no idea who Karras is.

The Bo Jackson book took a bit longer to read, and I have to be honest, I was a bit disappointed. I was expecting something better especially with Dick Schaap as a co-writer, but I had a feeling this was more like a money grab than a true autobiography.  Don't get me wrong, he is honest in the book, and I think a lot of people will like it, but I came away from it losing a bit of interest in Bo. That said, I'm glad I read it but its not one I will likely revisit.

The Jeff Foxworthy book I read because I've read two of his other books- Redneck Dictionary Volumes 1 and 2.  I didn't expect much from it, and figured it would be like a Lewis Grizzard book which I've read a few.  This came out more of an autobiography with a lot of humor.  It was much better than I expected and very glad I read it. If you enjoy his type of humor, then I recommend this book.

Trip Lee is a Christian rapper, and to be honest I wasn't sure if I was going to read this or give it to a friend.  I'm not totally familiar with Trip Lee's music, but have heard his name.  I was listening to less Christian rap by the time Trip Lee was getting popular, but I decided to read it anyways.  This was like a Christian self-help book, and while I don't mind them, by the time I finished this, it seemed to repeat a bit a few times, trying to deliver points.  I didn't realize he also had a CD with the same name released around the same time, but I've never listened to it.  Overall it wasn't bad, but I was wanting to finish it by the end just to finish it, not so much because of the message.  That said, it did deliver a good message.

I tended to rotate between books for school age kids and books for adults for a couple reasons.  First, since I have never really read consistently, I didn't want to be overwhelmed with a 2-400 page book, so I would do shorter ones, followed by a longer one.  It was also just the mood I was in when I grabbed a book.  The second reason was because some of these books I've had for a long time, and I wanted to read them to clear the shelf.

Against the Odds was for kids, but I remember getting it at Savvy Seconds a few years ago.  It was a collection of short stories of various athletes, and I always liked Reggie Miller.  They were like mini-biographies, and it was pretty good.  I would recommend it mainly because I didn't know some of the athletes and after reading this I might actually look them up more.

Ernie Irvan's book was one of my early favorites of book of the year.  It was one of the first ones that I didn't want to put down.  Unfortunately by the end of it, I was getting tired of reading it (again, its why I would rotate between short and long books).  I am a big NASCAR fan, but never been a big fan of Irvan's.  However he was very detailed on his career and his horrific crash that almost ended his career and his life.  I learned quite a few things about him, including how he didn't always get along with Davey Allison, and how hard he had to fight to get back to racing.  This is a great book for NASCAR fans, and I do recommend it.  I don't know if I come away from it liking him any more than I did before, but I was glad I read it.

Black Diamond held the title for book I owned the longest without never reading.  The book was new when I bought it from Scholastic book order in elementary school.  As a lifelong baseball fan, I have always wanted to read it, but I just never did.  I now regret not reading it sooner, but I'm also happy I waited because it motivated me to read another book which my sister gave me much more recently (you'll see in a bit). This book is good and I recommend it.  As I read it though it made me wonder if the authors could update it with more information that wasn't available to research when this came out.  So much more data has become available to research since the 90s after all.

Like Father, Like Son was a book my sister found for me a while back (I forgot when exactly, could have been 5 years ago, or much more recently).  It is another collection of short biographies, so it was easy to read, especially since it was for kids.  I liked seeing the McRae's on the front.  However I felt a lot of the biographies were uneven.  Some focused too much on the father, others too much on the son, and sometimes with multiple generations or sons, some of them seemed forgotten.  I think it could have been better executed, but having said that, I think it is good for young baseball fans to be introduced to some of the families.

Not all the books were winners.  Finish Strong was tough to get through even with a short amount of pages and not a lot of words.  It was a motivational book my mom found at Savvy one day, and she though the author signed it.  I'm pretty sure it was signed by the parents as a present to their son.  Either way, after I finished it, I gave it to my sister to donate.  My only motivation was to finish the book.

The Darwin Awards book was one that I did enjoy much more.  I use to keep up with the awards back in the early 2000's but actually forgot about them until finding this book at Savvy one day.  The book wasn't bad, but I'll be honest- its better off just being short blurbs on an internet web page, or maybe made into one of those page a day calendars.  Some stories were maybe half a page, others like 2 pages, but I kept thinking how much wasted pages they used for a book that could have just been a bookmark on many computers.  That said, if you enjoyed reading about the Darwin Awards, then it might be worth checking out.  For those unaware, the Darwin Awards was created by a person collecting stories of people doing idiotic things and some lived and others didn't.  I can't remember any stories specifically, but maybe one might be a guy using a propane tank to build a rocket bicycle or something.  Another might be a woman jumping off a cliff to save her dog who jumped.  The stories are 95% of the time true (ones that aren't are labeled as stories), and are of people who are idiots doing idiotic things, or sane people having a brief lapse in judgement.  The more I read these, the more I felt bad about laughing at some of them.  Then I'd read one that made me thing people can't be that stupid, can they?

The first time I heard about Woodlawn, was hearing about a movie with the name.  I didn't have a lot of interest in it.  A few years later I found this at Savvy and figured I'd get it.  As I started to read it, I was intrigued.  It was a good story, but I don't see how it could be relayed into a movie.  That said it was a decent book, and one I'd recommend if you like football.  Todd Gerelds grew up at Woodlawn and his father was a coach there.  Its basically a book on how the school managed to handle desegregation in the 50s and 60s with football being the catalyst.  I was glad I finally got around to reading it, but at the same time it may not be one I'll remember reading in a few years time.

Not all books I read were sports related, and this next one might be my favorite of the year.

I typed that intro then realized I have this out of order.  Oh well.  It's still my favorite book of the year I've read.  Bill Geist is a journalist, and the father of Willie Geist from the Today Show.  In the 50's, he spent his summers at his aunt and uncle's hotel in the Lake of the Ozarks.  This book is a collection of stories from those times and allows Bill to take one last trip to the Lake to realize nothing is how it was the last time he was there.

I found this book at Dollar Tree for 1.25 earlier this year, so this is one of the quickest books I've read from acquisition date. All I knew was what I read on the back of the book.  I didn't know Willie Geist's dad was a journalist much less that he summered at the Lake.  I have been to the Lake of the Ozarks many times, even to the Bagnall Dam which is featured on the cover.  I know what it looked like in the 90's and more recently thanks to Google Maps, but I was intrigued by hearing stories of the legendary Arrowhead Lodge in the 50s.  This book didn't disappoint.  Not only was the stories good, but other little things kept me entertained.  I like how he name dropped certain towns around the lake, ones that nobody outside of this area would know unless they've been there.  It reminded me a bit of the show Ozark, which they did a lot of scouting there and on the show name dropped places that only locals would know.  The difference is that Bill's stories and name droppings aren't just to make the story real, they are real.  The TV show didn't even film in Missouri outside an overhead shot or two, and maybe a few scenes in season one.  Most of the Ozark show was filmed in Georgia (which reminds me I still need to watch the final season).  Anyways, this book was done really well, and after I finished it I wanted look up more information about life at the Lake from the decades before I was born.  This book is well worth reading, and one I might even revisit down the line.  The story of the Lake of the Ozarks itself is interesting.  How the electric company flooded many small towns to build the lake and how it later because a very popular party hangout.  If there were more books about the Lake I'd likely read them.

So another book that might be my favorite of the year is one that I got excited about reading after reading the book on the Negro League players.

The Summer of Beer And Whiskey describes the early years of baseball in the United States.  Well, the 1880's.  It specifically focuses on one summer and how the St. Louis baseball team fought to not only stay afloat but become contenders for the baseball title.  It is probably the book I would recommend the most to anyone reading this (since most readers here are sports fans), and it made me want to look up more about the game and how it was played pre 1900. I do have a couple nit picks, but not enough to make the book not worth reading.  I liked how the author compiled and tells the story, but at the same time, I think he goes a bit overboard at times and goes off on tangents.  That said, it doesn't distract you from the main story enough that you will put the book down and forget about it.

My sister found this book for me, and I'm glad she did.  While I'm not a history buff, and most of my historical reading is more recent, this was pretty good.  It helped that St. Louis was the focus of the book, but it makes me wonder if it was written from the vantage point of say Louisville or Akron, how it would be written.

I will say since about 2006 or so I've been less interested in politics.  So much so, that I don't like even bringing it up because most of it just agitates me.  However, when I saw this book I was intrigued.  I had somewhat of a respect for Herman Cain and it seemed like he achieved success on his own terms.  I don't think I endorsed him when he ran for President in 2012, but I wouldn't have opposed him.  However the reason I wanted to read this had nothing to do with politics.  I like advertising and business, and Cain was known as the man that made Godfather's Pizza a success.  I wanted to read all about his business strategies, and stories on how he ran his businesses.  I figured this would explain a lot of it.

I was disappointed.  Don't get me wrong, he discusses his business successes, but the first half of the book reads as an autobiography, yet the second half reads as his plans if(or in his head WHEN) he is elected President in 2012.  He seemed very sure of himself.  The first half of the book I enjoyed very much, he talks about his upbringing, and where he worked in his early years of young adulthood.  I only wish he would have talked about it more, but I understood, he has a lot to discuss.  I really like Herman Cain.  Then as I read the second half, it dives into his political aspirations and even some health issues.  Nothing against his health issues, I'm glad he recovered.  However he then gets to his agenda- how the country has fallen off the rails, and someone like him can save it.  I understand every Presidential candidate says the same stuff, but I wasn't buying it.  Then he started giving his plans to fix America.  Each page I read I started liking him a little less.  Look, I don't care what party your affiliated with as long as your a humanitarian. I wasn't really getting that from him.  By the time I finished the book, I was really conflicted.  What started out as a great book, turned into political propaganda which was made worse by a man so sure of himself that he fully expected to become President.  No IF I BECOME, it was always WHEN I BECOME.  ON DAY ONE I WILL.... I guess I should have expected as much.  Maybe I should have searched for older books he wrote to get more info on his business acumen, but now I just don't care.

I will say I don't recommend this book, however if you are a Republican, you might enjoy it more than a Democrat would.  That's as political as I'll get on here, because nobody wants to hear my rants on how it would be beneficial to have a 3 or 4 party system.

After the Cain book, I was too interested to read much so I grabbed this book and figured I would at worst thumb through it.  I ended up reading it all, but sadly I don't really remember much from it even though it was one of the most recent reads.  I don't know if its because I didn't know much about the players beforehand, or if I just wasn't interested.  A lot of the mini-biographies seemed to have the same format, and while made for kids, nothing in it made me want to read more about the players.  This book is fairly old, so many of these Quarterbacks were still popular when the book was published, but some I knew very little aside from their name.  I can't say one way or another if I recommend it because I really don't remember anything from it.  Sorry.

The most recent book I read left me wanting a bit more from it.  I've had the book for a while, so when I finally decided to read it I was disappointed to see that the book is much older than the cover implies.  The book was first published in 2002 or so.  That isn't terrible, however the cover is clearly showing Truman in an SEC era Mizzou jersey.  The difference may not seem like much, but if I'm being honest, I didn't follow Mizzou football until around 2006, so I was hoping to hear stories from the years 2005-2014 or so.  Instead it was older stories and quite honestly ones most Mizzou fans have heard before.  I mean the greatest stories ever told might give that away, but still I'd like to hear lesser known ones too, which some were included.  This felt more like an introduction to the Missouri Tigers, which is okay, but it left me wanted to find more stories instead of being satisfied with these.  I guess another edition could be wrote with stories from the last 20 years.  Those 2004 era basketball stories might be wild.  I still recommend it for Mizzou fans though.

So I read close to 20 books this year, and I was very impressed with myself.  Maybe Jon just needed to needle me a little more and I could have read 25.  Thanks Jon for motivating me.  Anways, I've typed long enough for one day, so I'll wrap it up.  Thanks everyone for reading and I hope everyone has a Happy Holiday season, and a joyous New Year.  I have no goals for the blog, but as far as reading, if I can read at least 15 books next year, I'll be happy.  Plus any less would make for a boring blog post.  Have a great day!

P.S.  Jon still never told me what those other good Arnold movies were.

P.S. Part Two- In the next few days I might change my blog around a bit.  I'm tired of the background, so it might look different.  I have to remember how to do all that so hopefully I'll figure it out.  Also it seems some posts have been marked as spam lately.  I'll try to unblock them as I find them.  Sorry about that.


  1. Congratulations on reading that many books! I read lots of blog posts and magazine articles... but didn't read a single book in 2023. Sorry Jon :D

    1. I think I traded in reading blog posts this past year for reading books. Same with magazines, I haven't found too many as of late I want to read.

  2. Wow, that Jon guy sounds like a real asshole :)

    Despite the fact that there are Dollar General's located seemingly at half-mile intervals (the rural version of Starbucks) in every direction here, I only go into one about once every 2-3 years. Given how high a lot of the prices are in those stores, I'm surprised to hear that a tree could've been gotten so cheap. I guess you were in the right place, at the right time. And I thought those socks were hand towels. I got a few pairs of socks from a Dollar Tree a few years ago. They did not last long at all. Definitely one of those "you get what you pay for" scenarios.

    I'm glad to hear that you were able to start reading some more, and that you've been enjoying it. A lot of people seem to have trouble breaking away from their various screens these days long enough to read a book. That being said, I think if more would put the effort into doing so, a lot of them would find that they actually enjoy books (as well as the break from all of the insanity that comes with living in the modern world). I read "Black Diamond" this year as well. I'll have to look for that "Beer and Whiskey" book. It sounds like it would be very good. I had never heard of Herman Cain prior to his presidential bid, and I don't think that I've heard anything about him since. Of course, I don't bother much with politics. It's just not worth the headache to me.

    I like the year-end reviews style of this post. I always show everything prior to reading it, so showing them a second time wouldn't work too well for me. Well, that and I really suck at writing reviews.

    As for good Arnold movies, it's a bit early, so I can't think of anything but the obvious off the top of my head; those being Predator, Terminator, and T2. And even though it isn't his movie per se, Red Sonja is a favorite of mine as well. I really liked the Conan pictures as a kid, at least until I read Robert Howard's original stories, after that, aside from a couple of scenes from the first one, I was never able to enjoy them again (the stories are a thousand times better).

    1. I probably still plan on posting when I get new books (new to me), but I do admit I like the format of a end of year review. The biggest setback is trying to remember how some of them were. Since this post I did finish one more book- Gale Sayers. I will mention it either in my next blog or my year end one with the others. I am mostly done with another one, though I might take a short break from reading anymore until I figure out what to read next. I think you'll like Beer and Whiskey.

      Honestly I never was big on Arnold movies and still plan to revisit Commando. I think I watched Predator. One of my best friends from school tried hard to get me into movies like Predator and Terminator but I never could. Then again he's also the one that showed me Last Action Hero, which I did like. Much like reading, I have started watching older movies for the first time the last few years so maybe I should revisit the Terminator movies.