One of my passions is reading in my free time. Here is a list of a few of my recent favs.
Recent Reads by Coach Rathjen
by Margot Lee Shetterly Year Published: 2016 by Michael Lewis Year Published: 2016 by Jeff Guinn Year Published: 2016 by Erik Larson Year Published: AverageNot long after Jack the Ripper haunted the ill-lit streets of 1888 London, H.H. Holmes (born Herman Webster Mudgett) dispatched somewhere between 27 and 200 people, mostly single young women, in the churning new metropolis of Chicago; many of the murders occurred during (and exploited) the city's finest moment, the World's Fair of 1893. Larson's breathtaking new history is a novelistic yet wholly factual account of the fair and the mass murderer who lurked within it. Bestselling author Larson (Isaac's Storm) strikes a fine balance between the planning and execution of the vast fair and Holmes's relentless, ghastly activities. The passages about Holmes are compelling and aptly claustrophobic; readers will be glad for the frequent escapes to the relative sanity of Holmes's co-star, architect and fair overseer Daniel Hudson Burnham, who managed the thousands of workers and engineers who pulled the sprawling fair together 0n an astonishingly tight two-year schedule. A natural charlatan, Holmes exploited the inability of authorities to coordinate, creating a small commercial empire entirely on unpaid debts and constructing a personal cadaver-disposal system. This is, in effect, the nonfiction Alienist, or a sort of companion, which might be called Homicide, to Emile Durkheim's Suicide. However, rather than anomie, Larson is most interested in industriousness and the new opportunities for mayhem afforded by the advent of widespread public anonymity. This book is everything popular history should be, meticulously recreating a rich, pre-automobile America on the cusp of modernity, in which the sale of "articulated" corpses was a semi-respectable trade and serial killers could go well-nigh unnoticedNote: This book is available in our Library. by Dave Boling Year Published: AverageA family saga set against the destruction of the Basque town of Guernica in 1937, Boling’s debut follows the Ansotegui clan: eldest son Justo works a farm; middle son Josepe fishes; and youngest son Father Xabier tends to parishioners in nearby Bilbao. Vignettes of their youths glimpse their settling into their vocations, while scenes of Justo’s marriage to Mariangeles give way to the story of their dance-loving daughter, Miren. Her warmth and twirling skirt snare the marital attention of Miguel Navarro, and they, their own daughter, Catalina, and other Ansoteguis find themselves subjected to the maelstrom depicted in Pablo Picasso’s frantic artistic indictment of Guernica. (Boling grants cameo scenes to Picasso and the German air commander.) Mutually devastated by the apparent deaths of their wives and daughters, Justo and son-in-law Miguel improve their previously tense relationship, while author Boling cultivates a subplot with a somewhat melodramatic but definitely Lazarus-like conclusion that restores some happiness to the family. Enhanced by Boling’s knowledge of Basque culture, this is a convincing fictionalization of an infamous act of war. --Gilbert Taylor by Hampton Sides Year Published: AverageIt's bold to start an account of the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. without a single mention of James Earl Ray. But in Hellhound on His Trail, Ray's absence is essential--in his place, Hampton Sides traces the alter egos Ray created after escaping from prison and beginning his haphazard journey toward Memphis. Sides meticulously constructs parallel portraits of two very different men--one, the larger-than-life figurehead of the Civil Rights movement; the other, a nondescript loner with a spurious and violent history, whose identity was as fluid as his motives. The narrative builds to the staggering and heartbreaking moment of King's assassination, then races on through the immediate fallout: the worldwide manhunt led by J. Edgar Hoover's FBI; Ray's nearly successful attempt to flee to Rhodesia; and the riots that erupted throughout the United States as racial tensions reached a breaking point. Sides's storytelling packs a visceral punch, and in Hellhound on His Trail, he crafts an authoritative and riveting account of two intersecting lives that altered the course of American history. --Lynette Mong by Erik Larson Year Published: Averagen the Garden of Beasts is a vivid portrait of Berlin during the first years of Hitler’s reign, brought to life through the stories of two people: William E. Dodd, who in 1933 became America’s first ambassador to Hitler’s regime, and his scandalously carefree daughter, Martha. Ambassador Dodd, an unassuming and scholarly man, is an odd fit among the extravagance of the Nazi elite. His frugality annoys his fellow Americans in the State Department and Dodd’s growing misgivings about Hitler’s ambitions fall on deaf ears among his peers, who are content to “give Hitler everything he wants.” Martha, on the other hand, is mesmerized by the glamorous parties and the high-minded conversation of Berlin’s salon society—and flings herself headlong into numerous affairs with the city’s elite, most notably the head of the Gestapo and a Soviet spy. Both become players in the exhilarating (and terrifying) story of Hitler’s obsession for absolute power, which culminates in the events of one murderous night, later known as “the Night of Long Knives.” The rise of Nazi Germany is a well-chronicled time in history, which makes In the Garden of Beasts all the more remarkable. Erik Larson has crafted a gripping, deeply-intimate narrative with a climax that reads like the best political thriller, where we are stunned with each turn of the page, even though we already know the outcome. by Doris Kearns Goodwin Year Published: ChallengingThe life and times of Abraham Lincoln have been analyzed and dissected in countless books. Do we need another Lincoln biography? In Team of Rivals, esteemed historian Doris Kearns Goodwin proves that we do. Though she can't help but cover some familiar territory, her perspective is focused enough to offer fresh insights into Lincoln's leadership style and his deep understanding of human behavior and motivation. Goodwin makes the case for Lincoln's political genius by examining his relationships with three men he selected for his cabinet, all of whom were opponents for the Republican nomination in 1860: William H. Seward, Salmon P. Chase, and Edward Bates. These men, all accomplished, nationally known, and presidential, originally disdained Lincoln for his backwoods upbringing and lack of experience, and were shocked and humiliated at losing to this relatively obscure Illinois lawyer. Yet Lincoln not only convinced them to join his administration--Seward as secretary of state, Chase as secretary of the treasury, and Bates as attorney general--he ultimately gained their admiration and respect as well. How he soothed egos, turned rivals into allies, and dealt with many challenges to his leadership, all for the sake of the greater good, is largely what Goodwin's fine book is about. Had he not possessed the wisdom and confidence to select and work with the best people, she argues, he could not have led the nation through one of its darkest periods. Ten years in the making, this engaging work reveals why "Lincoln's road to success was longer, more tortuous, and far less likely" than the other men, and why, when opportunity beckoned, Lincoln was "the best prepared to answer the call." This multiple biography further provides valuable background and insights into the contributions and talents of Seward, Chase, and Bates. Lincoln may have been "the indispensable ingredient of the Civil War," but these three men were invaluable to Lincoln and they played key roles in keeping the nation intact. --Shawn Carkonen by Michael Lewis Year Published: AverageIn his sketch of the gridiron arms race, first came the modern, meticulously choreographed passing offense, then the ferocious defensive pass rusher whose bone-crunching quarterback sacks demolished the best-laid passing game, and finally the rise of the left tackle—the offensive lineman tasked with protecting the quarterback from the pass rusher—whose presence is felt only through the game-deciding absence of said sacks. A rare creature combining 300 pounds of bulk with "the body control of a ballerina," the anonymous left tackle, Lewis notes, is now often a team's highest-paid player. Lewis fleshes this out with the colorful saga of left tackle prodigy Michael Oher. An intermittently homeless Memphis ghetto kid taken in by a rich white family and a Christian high school, Oher's preternatural size and agility soon has every college coach in the country courting him obsequiously. Combining a tour de force of sports analysis with a piquant ethnography of the South's pigskin mania, Lewis probes the fascinating question of whether football is a matter of brute force or subtle intellect. Photos. (Oct.)