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Posts Tagged ‘Half-Price Books Store’

The Art of a Beautiful Game: The Thinking Fan’s Tour of the NBA”  –  book review
On Wednesday (11 May 2018), I finished reading “The Art of a Beautiful Game: The Thinking Fan’s Tour of the NBA”  (2009©)  – written by: Chris Ballard.  The game in question is basketball and not soccer – which is what I assumed the book would be about until I opened it.  My copy did not come with the dust cover and the sub-title is not on the binding.  Oh, well…
This book is a blend of various types of sports authorship: part biography, part techniques and skills, part biology, part X’s and O’s and part psycho-babble.  Interestingly, the blend worked and the book ends up an entertaining and interesting (if not particularly useful) read.  Sometimes a hard childhood makes a superstar, sometimes it doesn’t.  Sometimes “just” being superb at individual skills and techniques will elevate you to superstar status, most times it doesn’t.  Most times being a biological freak will get you into the league – even if it is not enough to make you a superstar.  And, it appears, sometimes superstars are cerebral.  Unfortunately, the book doesn’t confirm (or prove) ALL superstars are cerebral or that average and not-quite-superstar players are not equally cerebral (thoughtful about their game / skills).  And, because correlation does not prove causation, we can’t know if being cerebral makes a player a superstar.  Causation appears unlikely, though.
The book breaks down the “art” of the game into twelve particular skill sets / attributes the author wants to describe, including: “killer instinct”, pure shooting, free throws, defense, rebounding, blocking shots and being big.  There are five other specifics, but these (listed) are representative of the book.  Each chapter uses interviews with one or two active players – active as of the time of writing or the decade immediately prior – (2009 or the 1990’s) to relate the star to the author’s proposed “art“.  Through first person interviews and interviews with teammates and coaches, we get a feel for what makes the “superstars” truly super.  It turns out: great genes, desire, practice, coaching and attention to detail, and luck are all it takes to be great.  (Sarcasm: “WHO would have guessed?”)
So, is the book any good and was it worth my time reading it?  Yes, and yes.  The author played basketball at a much lower level and what clearly comes across is his love for the game and his feelings (not so subtle) that, “If only…”  This is a feeling which almost everyone who has seriously participated in any sport can relate to – particularly if you too “loved” your sport.
Final recommendation: strong recommendation.  I tend to read books (history, sports, biographies and science books) to scratch a particular itch.  While I can’t say I learned anything generally about sport or basketball, or anything specifically about skills and techniques in this book, I did thoroughly enjoy reading about the players and their views on their skills and sport.  Sometimes, just reading about passion for a subject is enough to make a subject more interesting than the book about the subject itself really ought to be.  It’s the difference between “love for the game” and diagrams of X’s and O’s.  This book scratches the first itch, even if it pretty much ignores the second.  I got the book at Half-Priced Books for $2.  Well, worth the cost and the time – particularly if you like hoops.  (Unashamedly, I do!)
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On This Day In:
2017 The Voice Of Experience
2016 Who And When
2015 Change Process
2014 What Is Still Possible
2013 Strength Is There
2012 Beyond Reasonable Doubt
2011 Celebrating Values
2010 Is it just me, or is it suddenly dark around here?
Dance!

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On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft” (2000©)  —  book review
Who hasn’t day-dreamed of writing the “great American novel” and becoming wealthy and celebrated?  Okay, maybe not me in over 40 years, but still…
Today’s book review is for “On Writing“, by Stephen King.  Yes, that Stephen King.  The horror novelist / writer.  Well, actually, he does write in other genres, too, but that’s the one I know him for.  This book came recommended to me by various sources – some “best of” lists and also a couple of blogs / sites I follow.  I found it on sale for $3 at my local Half-Price Books store, so I snatched it up.
The book is basically a three-part tome: King’s life leading up to writing, how to write well, and finally, advice on life and how to get started getting your writing published.  Part one is extremely interesting and amusing.  I got several belly laughs out of it.  Part two is mundane, yet (probably) useful.  I have already begun applying some of King’s suggestions in my own writing here on this blog.  Part three will probably be useful if I ever (again) imagine myself sitting down to write the great American novel or autobiography.  One of King’s recommendations is to write about what you know.  I’m afraid the only thing I know the most about is me.  (Sad, but true.)
So, final recommendation: very highly recommended!  Is this the finest book I’ve ever read on being a writer.  Yes!  With the qualification it is also the only book I’ve ever read on being a writer.  Having said that, it is a fast read at less than 300 pages and I found it enjoyable and informative.  And, of course, multiple quotes will appear on this blog in the future…
One last mention: King recommends all wanna-be writers start off by reading Strunk & White’s “The Elements of Style“.  (According to part 1 in the book, King is a former high school English teacher.  Go, figure.)  Fortunately, for cheapskates like me, the book (“Elements“) is out of copyright and you can find it in pdf format at multiple locations on the web.  At fewer than 30 pages, it should also be a quick read.  The book cover on Amazon looks very familiar, so maybe King’s book is the second book I’ve read on writing.  LOL…  I probably read “Elements” in high school and blotted the contents out of my memory.
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On This Day In:
2017 Summer Pale
2016 Ain’t It Funny
2015 At Both Ends
2014 Whiner(s)
2013 Just Passing Through
2012 Dog-gone Heaven
2011 Occasional, Sad Results

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Over the weekend I discovered a new (to me) used book store.  The store is named: Berkshire Books.  It turns out it’s been there just over ten years, but I don’t often get on that road and when I do, I tend to be looking the other way, so I just never saw it before.  Soooo, I popped in to see what’s up.  The store is pretty poorly lit and has that old book musty smell.  Now, to my taste, that’s bad and great.  There’s no place to sit because there are books everywhere – and I do mean everywhere.  To be honest, except for the lighting, I kinda felt like I’d died and when to heaven.  Anyway, the prices aren’t great, but they’re not too bad either.  I will definitely be going back, but not to buy stacks at a time like I can from the two dollar racks at my local Half-Price Books store.
My selection was an oldie, but a goodie: “The Power“, written by Frank M. Robinson.  The original version is copywrited in 1956, while the revised version is 1999©.  I don’t think the book was intended to be a children’s book, but I first read it back in the mid-1960’s when I was around 11 or 12.  It is considered to be a “classic” of SciFi literature.  The book was adapted into a movie (released in 1968) which starred George Hamilton as the principal character and Michael Rennie (“Klaatu, Barada Nikto”) as the bad guy.  This was the first time I remember ever reading a book before seeing the movie and then being sharply disappointed that the movie didn’t live up to my imagination.
Anyhow, the book is about a team of scientists who discover there are “super” men among us who can control us physically (via telekinesis) and who can also implant thoughts and remove memories.  They also possess superior strength and reflexes themselves.  The main character must try to discover which team member is the super-man while living long enough to kill him.  Of course, all the while, the super-man is killing off the rest of the team.
When I found the book, I thought, “Wow! This was from my childhood!“.  It wasn’t until later that I discovered it wasn’t the “same” book at all.  This was the “revised” version, basically the same, but updated with comments about Vietnam and the first Gulf War.  Did it make a difference?  Ultimately, I think it did.  As I read the book, I began to doubt my memories.  Some of the books passages prompted vivid memories – like when you eat or smell something and you’re instantly transported back to another place and time.  Other times, it was: “Huh?
I do believe the book is a legitimate classic in the SciFi genre, but I would say it is more of a young adult book than a mature adult book.  It is about 220 pages and a very fast read.  Highly recommended!
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On This Day In:
2013 Legal (Almost)
2012 Great Scots!
2011 The GI Bill – A Simple History Lesson
Breaking Even

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This week I completed two books – one very good and one not very good.
The very good book is titled: “On Becoming A Leader” (2003©) and was written by Warren Bennis  – updated version from the original published in 1989.  Bennis is considered to be the “father” of the developed leader school.  His mantra is that leaders are not born, they are made.  Some are made by history, but Bennis goes farther in that he believes many (if not most) make themselves.  They (leaders in process) have various ways of “making” themselves, but ultimately they follow similar paths to becoming a leader.  The book is meant to lend framework to the path – partly to define the framework, but mostly to lay out the map for readers (leaders in process).
Shakespeare states: “Be not afraid of greatness; some are born great, some achieve greatness, and others have greatness thrust upon them.”  This is a quote often seen when discussing how great leaders come to be.  I believe all three are true for “historic” leaders and am not convinced that any one is more prevalent than the other two.  I do feel that history and luck play the biggest role in “greatness”, though.
Bennis is firmly in the “achieving” camp.  It should be pointed out there is a difference between “greatness” and “leadership” and Bennis is concerned with the latter and not the former.  This book is his version of “how” to become a leader – the personal traits you need to develop, how you should lead, and how you must form your organization or how it will form you.  There is a statement that great leaders understand themselves and “express” their nature fully.  This is the part where I start to fall away from Bennis.  While I can understand “warm-fuzzy psycho-babble”, it’s not my cup of tea.  It simply doesn’t “resonate” with me.  This may simply be because I’m not a “great” leader and I’m therefore not  able to feel the “expressive” nature of great leadership hidden away in me.  (But, I doubt it…)
Anyway, as negative as the preceding paragraphs sound, this is actually a VERY good book and I highly recommend it – not because I believe everything Bennis says, but rather because I love his use of language.  I probably hope that being “fully expressive” is all it takes to be a great leader, because this implies I may still develop into a great leader myself.  (But, I doubt it…)
By the way, this was another $2 clearance book at Half-Price Books (and worth ten times as much), and you’ll be seeing frequent quotes from the book in future posts.
The second book is titled: “Marathoning A-Z” and was written by Hal Higdon (2002©).  The book is sub-titled: “500 Ways to Run Better, Faster,and Smarter“.  The book is a series of alphabetically sorted snippets from his question and answer columns and emails about running.  The book is a very fast read.  This is partly because each offering truly is a snippet and partly because there is almost nothing stated which makes one pause to think.  As such, I could not recommend this book to any but the most rank beginner of a runner.  Even then I’d qualify the book to them by stating at least 20 to 30 of the items are repeated in a different alphabet letter.  I’m not sure if this was meant to introduce humor or simply filler because you’ve promised the publisher 500 items.  (I have a feeling it’s the latter…)  Sadly, this was NOT a $2 book for me.  It was $4.95 and I was over-charged about $4 in value vs cost.  Save your money and check this out of a library.  Better yet, just go out and start jogging.  You’ll get more from jogging yourself than you will ever get from this book.
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