Jerry Punch


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“One of the books that I read about five years ago, by Robert Poole, was On Hallowed Ground. It is the story of the Arlington National Cemetery. I am such a military history buff that I wanted to read it. It chronicles the early days of the Washington family estate, where Robert E. Lee lived on the bluff overlooking Washington. It describes how Lee was summoned on several occasions to ride his horse into Washington, on the months before the Civil War erupted, and asked to assume the role of commander and chief of the Union forces. It chronicles his repeated response that, ‘I could never take up arms against my native Virginia.’

After he assumed a role as a General of the Confederate army of Virgina, the powers to be turned his home and surrounding grounds into a Union encampment and later a cemetery; thus assuring that it could never be returned to his family as an active farm or plantation site. However, in the early months of the war, Lee on occasion would ride through Federal lines at night to stay in his home with his wife and family. He rode directly past Union guards who never had any idea who he was. This book was revealing and enlightening to someone who revels and respects the storied history of this cemetery. There is no more hallowed ground that that which serves as the final resting place of our heroes; the men and women who have sacrificed for our freedom.”

Dr. Jerry Punch, ESPN, NASCAR commentator and motor sports reporter

Alex Roland

alexroland“I recommend two historical fictions that linger in my memory years after I read them:

Thomas Flanagan’s The Year of the French (1979) recreates the conspiracy by Ireland and France to bring the wars of the French Revolution to the British Isles. From the Irish perspective, the plan was to enlist French help in their rebellion against English oppression. From the French perspective, the intervention was designed to open a new front in Britain’s backyard to distract France’s arch enemy from the brewing war of the second coalition. From the British point of view, it was a traitorous stab in the back that posed sufficient danger to warrant swift and ruthless suppression. General Cornwallis was brought out of near retirement to redeem the reputation he lost in the American Revolution. He unleashed a campaign in Ireland that had few rivals for brutality, atrocity, and effectiveness. For Flanagan, a professor of English, “The Year of the French” proved to be the first of three historical novels recounting the hard and bitter modern history of his beloved Ireland.  The novel is thoroughly researched and vividly written. The cruel fate of the Irish conspirators who bet their futures on two small, belated French invasions haunts the memory.

Winston Groom’s Better Times than These (1978) is also a first historical novel by a powerful writer. Better known for his 1986 Forest Gump, Groom was a Vietnam veteran trying to capture his experience in the war when he wrote “Better Times than These,” one of the very best of the countless Vietnam novels. Groom uses familiar structures and devices—young lieutenant, ambitious and venal senior officers, heroic soldiers, and searing battle narratives—to impose a coherent narrative on the small-unit engagements that comprised the American experience in Vietnam. What sets this book apart is its ability to distill the special flavor and apparent senselessness of American military operations in Vietnam in the late 1960s. This is a mature and sophisticated rendering of a complicated topic by a young but masterful author.”

Dr. Alex Roland, Professor Emeritus of History at Duke University, has authored numerous books and publications on military history, military technology and space flight. Roland is currently writing a biography of Robert Fulton.

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Jeff Gravley

GravelyphotoI Am Third was written by former Chicago Bears great Gale Sayers along with Al Silverman. If you have ever seen the movie “Brian’s Song,” this book was the inspiration for the movie. It’s a story about an ebony and ivory friendship that grew from football. Gale Sayers and Brian Piccolo played the same position, running back, for the Chicago Bears. Sayers was a lightning quick star from Kansas. Piccolo plowed his way into the ACC record books at Wake Forest.

The book details how they became friends, sharing time together away from football. Piccolo was diagnosed with cancer which ended his football career but strengthened his bond with Sayers. I don’t know of anyone who has watched this movie or read this book and not shed a tear as Gale Sayers lost his best friend to cancer. I was drawn to the book by the title, I Am Third. What’s the significance? It comes from the priorities of Gale Sayers. The Lord is first, my friends are second and I am third.

I have a large collection of books written by John Feinstein which includes A Season on the Brink. One, he writes a lot about sports but more because of his writing style. Feinstein is a great storyteller.

He was given total access to a season with Indiana coach Bob Knight, one of the most successful and hot-headed coaches in college basketball. This was one of the first behind the scenes sports books that I can remember. Feinstein was there for every practice and expletive filled tirade that Coach Knight would unleash. Hall of Fame coach Al McGuire summed it up best. When he learned about Feinstein doing the book with Knight he said, ‘With all the time they are going to spend together, they won’t  be speaking to each other by March. My second prediction is that if John survives the season, he will have a terrific book on his hands.’

I don’t think that the author and former coach have spoken since the book was printed in 1985. But I totally agree with Coach Al, it is a terrific book watching a master coach work his craft.”

Jeff Gravley, Sports Anchor, WRAL-TV, and 2015 North Carolina Sportscaster of the Year

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Charlie Gaddy

265728-charliegaddy-400x300[1]“A great book, and one that I have revisited a number of times is Washington Goes To War by David Brinkley. This compelling page-turner by, in my opinion, one of the elite television news writers of all time, is the story of one of the most unique times in our history. Historians define WW ll as THE defining event of the 20th century. Brinkley provides a riveting inside look at President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s preparations for wartime, and the transformation of Washington city. FDR held more power for a longer period time than any President in American history.He had no patience for the glacial crawl of the entrenched bureaucracy, over which he installed his New Dealers who often moved with warp speed at the behest of the President.

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Brinkley covers the leaders, the critics, the buffoons, the social scene, even the problem of where the thousands of young people pouring into Washington for wartime jobs would find a place to sleep.

This rare time, when young men enlisted before their draft notices arrived, when Americans accepted shortages of cigarettes, gas and tires, then reached into their wallets to buy war bonds, is perhaps the last time we as a nation were truly united for a common cause.”

Charlie Gaddy, award-winning WRAL television anchor (ret.), named to the Mid-South Emmy Award Silver Circle

Terry Gannon

Terry GannonThe Princes of Ireland by Edward Rutherfurd … Ancient Ireland as it should be told: with drama, heartbreak and more than a wee bit of myth.  And Stalingrad by Antony Beevor is a vivid account of a famous battle that will haunt you. Anything by Beevor is a can’t-miss.”

Terry Gannon, Play-by-Play Host, NBC/Golf Channel


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Jonathan Hock


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Jake, by Alfred Slote, is the first book I can remember pulling off the shelf at the public library. I was 8 or 9-years-old. On the surface, it’s a book about little league baseball. But it’s really a story about life: family, authority, race relations, growing up and, ultimately, the endless and universal search for love. Jake taught me that sports stories can be more than game descriptions and hero worship. They can be great human stories. More than any other work, Jake has influenced my own work as a filmmaker, and in every project I’ve done – including SURVIVE AND ADVANCE – there’s a little bit of Jake.”

Jonathan Hock, an eight-time Emmy Award winning producer, director, writer and editor, directed SURVIVE AND ADVANCE, the ESPN 30 for 30 documentary about Jim Valvano’s incredible run to an NCAA basketball championship.

Dannye Romine Powell


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“One of my memorable page turners from the past is Endless Love. Scott Spencer’s novel is about a teenage boy’s obsessive love for his girlfriend. He does indeed burn down her house. I interviewed Scott when the novel came out years and years ago, and he said he never burned down anybody’s house but he did have a bad case of obsessive love in high school.”

Dannye Romine Powell, Book Editor, Charlotte Observer

Mike Shannon

mediumMikeShannon[1]“I read Crime and Punishment every other year or so. Graham Greene’s The Tenth Man is also brilliant, gripping, and short.”

Mike Shannon, Editor-in-Chief, Spitball “The Literary Magazine of Baseball.” Tales from the Dugout; Everything Happens in Chillicothe, and Diamond Classics are among the numerous books written by Shannon.


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Dave Goren


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“I was a 10-year-old sixth grader when Ball Four was published, and after all of the benign baseball stories I had been reading since I was able to read, this one opened my eyes to the reality of sport. Sure, I enjoyed all of the naughty stuff and bathroom humor that 10-year-old sixth graders probably shouldn’t have been reading about, but I also liked the way Jim Bouton described the ups and downs of life as a major league baseball player. As I grew into a sports media career, Ball Four helped me understand that no matter how much fame and fortune athletes had, they were still human beings — some better than me, some worse than me, some just like me. The only difference? They have off-the-chart athletic skills.”

Dave Goren, Executive Director of the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association & Hall of Fame Goren1

David Wells

DavidWells41Ted0EE12L._SL500_[1]“I revisit Damon Runyon’s short stories all the time. First found them in my dad’s bookcase in high school. He had Guys and Dolls, Letters from Home, and Blue Plate Special. Nobody wrote characters like Runyon and his assorted misfits that hang out at Mindy’s on Broadway always made me laugh. Mostly it was the way he used dialect to capture the comings and goings of these dreamers and misfits. I still laugh at Butch Minds the Baby, Bloodhounds on Broadway and of course Nathan Detroit.”

For books of collected Damon Runyon stories, click here.

David Wells, actor in many films including Basic Instinct (1982), Bevery Hills Cop (1984) and Starman (1984), and principal, David Wells Acting Studio, Hollywood, CA.