Here’s what I brought to WBRC Fox 6 in May. Read and learn with some works of informative nonfiction. One is set right here at home. Then there’s some fiction … because fiction is awesome.
Showdown at Rickwood: Ray Caldwell, Dizzy Dean and the Early Years of America’s Oldest Ball Park by Art Black will surely get you ready for the 23rdAnnual Rickwood Classic, at 12:30 p.m. on May 29th, 2019. The Birmingham Barons will play the Montgomery Biscuits, and Lou Piniella will be the special guest at that game at historic Rickwood Field. Showdown at Rickwood, by Birmingham author Art Black, will get everyone in the proper spirit. This book is a celebration of the beginnings and the growth of a minor league baseball team that survived the First World War and the start of the Great Depression. Some of the names here are familiar—Pie Traynor, Dizzy Dean; others, like Pop Boy Smith, are not. All, however, were part of a hard-won championship played at our country’s oldest ballpark. It’s important to note that the Birmingham Barons and the Birmingham Black Barons shared this space (playing on alternate weekends). The Black Barons made plenty of history of their own here with legends like star pitcher Leroy “Satchell” Paige who won more games for the Black Barons than for any other professional team. In the late 1960s and early ‘70s, Art Black kept a scorecard at Rickwood on lots of summer nights. In this debut book, he shares a special time and place in our city’s history. His passion and detailed descriptions of the personalities and talents of the men he writes about make this history come alive.
A Craftsman’s Legacy: Why Working with Our Hands Gives Us Meaning by Eric Gorges with Jon Sternfeld is a celebration of all kinds of artists. “Despite our technological advances, we’re busier than ever …,” Gorges writes. “That’s why the handmade object, created with care and detail, embodying a history and a tradition, is enormously powerful. It can … speak in ways we don’t often hear, or that we’ve forgotten.” The host of the popular public television show, A Craftsman’s Legacy, introduces readers to craftswomen and –men using centuries-old methods to create beautiful, unique things—from calligraphy to pottery to glass to yarn. He shares the joy and insight that comes from pursuing hard, often-dirty, satisfying work with passion. He talks to Jake Weidmann, the youngest master penman in history; David MacDonald, whose pottery reflects his African heritage; April Wagner, who has her own glassblowing studio, Epiphany Studios; and Maple Smith, who spins alpaca fleece into gorgeous yarn; watch her do it here. Gorges embraced his own journey of working with his hands because of a health crisis. He reevaluated his life, sought out one of the best metal shapers in the country and signed on to be an apprentice. That apprenticeship eventually led to Gorges opening his own custom motorcycle shop, Voodoo Choppers, in Detroit and a life of creativity.
The Cat’s Table is by Michael Ondaatje, one of the best writers alive right now. The author won the Man Booker Prize for The English Patient and the Irish Times International Fiction Prize for Anil’s Ghost. I happen to really love his lesser-known novella about New Orleans jazz pioneer Buddy Bolden called Coming Through Slaughter. In this book, from 2011, he tells the story of an 11-year-old boy who, in the early 1950s, boards a ship in Colombo (in what is now Sri Lanka) bound for England. He spends mealtimes at the “cat’s table,” as far from the Captain’s Table as possible, with some “insignificant adults” and two other boys. As the ship journeys across the Indian Ocean, through the Suez Canal and into the Mediterranean, the boys explore every corner of the ship and meet some unforgettable characters—the shadowy Miss Lasqueti, who is more than what she seems; a man who talks to them about jazz and women; and a shackled prisoner below decks. The narrative moves from the ship and his adventures there to his adult years when he looks back on a singularly magical and unexpected childhood.
The Right Side by Spencer Quinn is the perfect read for dog-lovers and those who love thrillers, too. LeAnne Hogan went to Afghanistan as a rising star in the military but came home mentally and physically scarred. She doesn’t really remember the doomed desert operation that nearly killed her but suspects that the fault is her own. When her hospital roommate, Marci, dies, LeAnne takes to the open road—on a cross-country drive to contemplate her past and decide whether or not she has a future. When she arrives in the small Washington State town where Marci once lived, she discovers that Marci’s 8-year-old daughter has vanished. LeAnne feels duty-bound to find out what happened, and when a strange and powerful stray dog adopts her, she has an unlikely and crucial companion in this effort, which, ultimately, will be as dangerous as her Afghan mission.