Page by Page: Book Reviews

How to Write a Popular Baseball History Book

Make no mistake. Our Team is a wonderful book in this sense. It is easy to read. It tells an interesting story built on thorough research in newspapers and secondary sources, skillful organization, pleasant writing, and narrative drive. Epplin gives each of his four main characters equal attention in an account carefully woven out of the cloth of several seasons. For the baseball fan, either serious or casual, even if one’s favorite team is not the Indians, this book can provide several hours of pleasure.

The War in Spain Recalled in the Main as Heroic and Inhumane

Much of The Lincoln Brigade involves actual warfare, action scenes that have little to do with the heroism of Boy Commandos but a lot to do with the grimness of EC war comics. Blood flows. Victories are followed by defeats, and by the end of the comic, we approach the present with old men’s memories.

The Words That Made the Fab Four Famous

Neither The Lyrics nor The Beatles Illustrated explains the mystery of the Beatles—how did these four guys from Liverpool create so many remarkable songs in such a short period of time?—but both books, but especially The Lyrics, allow us to once again marvel at the work itself and gain a bit of insight into the imagination that helped create it.

Down The Mean Streets of St. Louis

What makes Little Brother important and a must-read certainly for St. Louisans is its powerful account of a slice of Black life in our region, a vivid picture of the good and the beautiful and the bad and the ugly of North County, a life cordoned off from the rest of St. Louis as if it were a leper colony. Westhoff’s account of the families, the male bravado, the petty crime, the violence, the art and aesthetic of its rap culture, all of this is worth the price of the book. For what Westhoff reveals is the vast profundity buried in the absurdity of Black urban life that also reveals the inadequacy, hypocrisy, and flawed nature of White bourgeois life.

The O. J. Simpson Trial as the Rorschach Test of the Decline of American Culture

In Bailey’s version of the trial—as the subtitle of his book declares—he was the master strategist and courtroom impresario while Robert Shapiro was the bumbling and increasingly envious knucklehead who blew the preliminary hearing, believed O.J.’s best option was to seek a plea deal to manslaughter, and, when he learned that the jury had reached a verdict, made a panicked call to Alan Dershowitz to prepare the appeal.

The Master of the Nuclear War Machine

Here is the story of how the development of nuclear power that had peacetime possibilities and Hyman Rickover’s personality merged at an essential moment to create a reactor that worked by 1953. Someone else could have developed the nuclear sub, but no one could have done it as quickly and as well as Rickover did.

The Boxer, the Whorehouse, and the Journey to the End of the Night

Shot at a Brothel tells, crisply and succinctly, the story of the rise and fall of Oscar Bonavena, a significant, though not great, boxer of the 1960s and 1970s. Like the other books in the Hamilcar Noir series, it shows the underbelly of the world of boxing through short biographies of fighters who sustained tragic ends.

America in the Key of Consensus

Songs of America: Patriotism, Protest and the Music That Made a Nation leans heavily on metaphors of harmony and dissonance with results that are often thought-provoking. The authors honor their subtitle by devoting sustained attention to musical statements of both patriotism and protest, and most importantly making it clear that these categories overlap. Their vision of United States history, while it values dissent, ultimately aims for a reassuring consensus as shouts of protest inevitably find their way into the great American songbook.