Thursday, July 26, 2007

Baseball Book

I've been reading another great baseball book for the last week or so. It's called Crazy '08 by Cait Murphy. Before I picked it up I had seen it had received more than a couple of very positive reviews. Any book about the dead ball era of baseball that is of good quality will get my attention.

This is baseball before the home run, before radio, before steel and concrete stadiums, baseball just asserting itself as the national past time and it's a game full of characters. That is what really drives this book is the character of the men on the field, umpires, players and managers. The reason there have been so many books written about baseball is because the length of the season and the pace of the game lend itself to storytelling. Because of that the game has always embraced its more colorful people. If you want to tell a good story it helps if the subject of your story is a little off the wall. This is not a problem in 1908. Cranks abound in this story and she brings in wonderful and funny anecdotal stories just as they are needed to illustrate a point she has made. I've always enjoyed baseball books that weave in short funny baseball stories into the main narrative and Murphy does it as good as anyone.

All the best baseball books are always about more than baseball. Baseball has always reflected what is happening in our country and Murphy takes that into account with some chapter length asides called "Time Outs." In each of these she examines what is going on in the United States in 1908. In the first one she describes the beautiful mess that is the city of Chicago and, in another one, she looks at the exclusion of Black Americans from the game and mainstream society.

The season is winding down and I'll probably finish it tomorrow. Now I got to go out there and find my next good read.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Closed again

It looks like we are closed again today. Yesterday we closed at 4 pm because of fumes due to the roof construction. This last few weeks have been an inconvenience to staff and library users alike. We are all hoping they finish that roof before Christmas.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007


Since Harry Potter mania has taken over the country (except for me, I have yet to read book one of the series) how about a Harry Potter related link? Amazon looked at the statistics for the pre-orders of the new Harry Potter book, did some math with census data and put up a list of cities that have ordered the most books per capita. You can view the list here.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Library is nice and open now

It's been over week now since we have had to close due to fumes from the roof construction filling up the building. One of our staff members was walking around today with a meter on her body that was testing our air. The contraption she was wearing was making a humming noise all day and she wasn't all that pleased. I think she got tired of people coming up to her and asking what that noise was. All she could say is, "It's me."

Pirate book

I have seen all three of the Disney movies about pirates and over the weekend I finished a book called The Republic of Pirates by Colin Woodard. He focuses on the four to five year period after the War of Spanish Succession which ended in 1714. It turns out that the life of a pirate in that short period of time wasn't all that bad. It was certainly better than the life of a sailor on a merchant ship or a naval vessel. One of the big reasons men went a-pirating was due to the horrible conditions aboard ship for the common sailor. When you traveled from Europe to Africa, Africa to the Caribbean and then from the Caribbean to North American you could expect to spend some of that time fighting off scurvy when your fresh food ran out and you had to eat from the ship's often rotted stores. Now, if you jumped ship in the Caribbean and got yourself on a pirate vessel, not only did you eat fresh food much more frequently, (due to frequent stops at lush islands to distribute booty, repair ships and get drunk) you also got about 1000 times more money because the pirate society was the first truly democratic European society in the Americas. Booty was distributed much more fairly and pirates elected and monitored their captains.

I've been reading a lot of history books in the last year and this one was the best I have read in during that time, perhaps because his characters were so colorful. Woodard has done a wonderful job telling the personal stories and the overall history of the Caribbean pirates. Not only that, he also lays out quite nicely the reasons pirates existed. From what he says pirates had to exist in the Caribbean, England guaranteed it would happen when privateering started during the war and ill-treated sailors got wind of how lucrative it could be.