Monthly Archives: January 2015

Instant Replay

Instant Replay book cover

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with Dick Schaap
The New American Library (1968)

I’m not going to pretend that the happy ending of this first-of-its -kind sports diary will assuage Cheese Heads around the world, not as they ice their wounds over that 2015 overtime playoff  loss to Seattle.

But Packers fans, and NFL fans alike, will enjoy this 1967 Jerry Kramer replay. The all-pro right guard takes his Green Bay Packers from the blood, sweat and tears of  the pre-season training camp to a historic sub-zero  NFL championship  (the Ice Bowl) then right to the Pack’s win in Super Bowl II.

Kramer drops us inside the game—from the film sessions and locker room life to hard-ball negotiations of contracts and outside business deals. And then, (after dodging bed check), we’re out with the boys for a beer or six.

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Randy Woodson

NC State Chancellor Randy Woodson“My number one suggestion is Rise to Greatness: Abraham Lincoln and America’s Most Perilous Year. First, I am a fan of Abe Lincoln and a fan of American history. This book describes the year 1862 and speaks to the perilous nature of our nation at this critical time in our history. What is amazing to me is that during this most difficult year, Mr. Lincoln was able to get some key legislative items approved. Two of which, I believe set this nation on the path to be the greatest of all time.

Rise to Greatness book cover

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The first was the Land Grant act that established the opportunity for states to create a university focused on agriculture and the mechanical arts, two key technical needs for America that enabled the industrial and agricultural revolution we benefit from today. The second major item was the Transcontinental Railroad, which allowed this country to connect–from coast to coast–and thus enabled commerce. The third was the act that created the National Academy of Sciences, bringing together the most talented scientists in the country to insure that our federal government always had science advisors independent of political influence. Amazing stuff given the intensity of the Civil War.”

Dr. Randy Woodson, Chancellor, North Carolina State University

Nick Valvano

Nick Valvano“There are two older books that I would recommend.

To Kill a Mockingbird book cover

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To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. It is beloved by millions of readers worldwide and critics credit its appeal to the depiction of childhood innocence, its scathing moral condemnation of racial prejudice and its affirmation that human goodness can withstand the assault of evil.

Catch 22 by Joseph Heller. One of the most celebrated books of all time. A very funny book about  Yossarian, a hero who is furious because thousands of people he has never met are trying to

Catch 22 book cover

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kill him. But his real problem is not the enemy—it is his own army, which keeps increasing the number of missions the men must fly to complete their service. Yet if Yossarian makes any attempt to excuse himself from the perilous missions he’s assigned, he’ll be in violation of Catch-22, a hilariously sinister bureaucratic rule: A man is considered insane if he willingly continues to fly dangerous combat missions, but if he makes a formal request to be removed from duty, he is proven sane and therefore ineligible to be relieved.”


Nick Valvano, President Emeritus, The V Foundation for Cancer Research

General Henry Hugh Shelton

General Henry Hugh Shelton“There are two books that immediately come to mind when I think of books that have had the greatest impact on me, other than the Bible.

Once an Eagle by Anton Myrer

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Once an Eagle, a novel by Anton Myrer, traces the career of two Army officers. One, Sam Damon, is an officer of great character, who is steeped in ethics and integrity, and is committed to selfless service to our nation. The other is Courtney Massengale, an officer intent on reaching the highest ranks and willing to do whatever it takes to achieve his personal goals.  It is the story of the different ways in which they rise to power and how they elect to wield that power. After reading Once an Eagle, Army officers frequently characterized their contemporaries as a “Damon,” which was considered a great compliment, or as a “Courtney Massengale,” the ultimate insult.

Dereliction of Duty by H.R. McMaster

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Dereliction of Duty, by H.R. McMaster, chronicles decision-making at the highest levels of the U.S. government during the Vietnam War. It shows the deceit, deception and lying involving the President, Secretaries of State and Defense and The Joint Chiefs of Staff. This book sensitized me and the other members of The Joint Chiefs to be on the lookout for individuals who might be motivated by their own agenda. Ironically, almost 40 years later, I learned that similar behavior and agendas were still alive in D.C.”



General Henry Hugh Shelton, USA (R) 14th Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff and Founder and Executive Director of the  Shelton Leadership Center, NC State University   


Diane Chamberlain

Diane Chamberlain“This is embarrassing for a writer to admit, but I’m not a book saver. There is only so much space for books in my house, so I give many away. However, there are several books I devoured, loved and studied when I first began writing fiction, and I hold onto them like old friends. Here are two of my favorites.

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White Horses, the fourth novel by Alice Hoffman, was published in 1982. I stumbled across it in a bin at my grocery store. I’d never heard of Hoffman (few people had back then) but I fell in love with her style of writing and her unusual story of a young woman influenced by a folk tale of brave men on white horses. After reading this book, I sought out Hoffman’s earlier novels and wished there had been more of them. When I reread my first novel, written while in my “Hoffman phase,” I can see her influence in certain paragraphs and turns of phrase. I will keep White Horses until they cart me away!

The Female of the Species by Lionel Shriver

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Another book that influenced my writing is The Female of the Species by Lionel Shriver, published in 1987. I learned a great deal about point of view as I read–and reread and reread–this novel. It’s the story of a 59-year-old female anthropologist who falls in love for the first time. What made her story so fascinating to me is that most of it is told in third person through the eyes of her younger assistant, Errol. I studied how Shriver accomplished the telling of one person’s intimate story through the eyes of another. She does a brilliant job of it, and as with White Horses, The Female of the Species is a book that I will keep always.”

Diane Chamberlain is the bestselling author of more than 30 novels including her latest works The Silent Sister and Necessary Lies.

Like Rithmetic—Readin’ and Writin’ Adds Up

If adult readers dig deep enough into their past they’ll find a writer to whom they owe a debt of gratitude.

A bit overdue but I’m here today to say, “Thank you, John R. Tunis!”

A lousy little grade school student, I loved lunch, recess, and hated everything else, especially fifth period, which we called library.

Hey, for forty minutes a day you had to be quiet and read.

It was my habit to grab anything off the shelf that had pages, find a nice warm spot in the sun next to a window and eye-ball Jane Duncan who was outside playing right field in an older girl’s gym class.

So it wasn’t all bad. But then one day it got better. Taking a break from my fixation on Jane I happened to glance down at a book I’d randomly snared.

The Kid From Tomkinsville, by John R. Tunis.

Reading the dust jacket I learned that Roy Tucker would enter the big leagues (a place I still thought I might end up some day) and that this unsophisticated country boy (which I could also relate to) would be overwhelmed by the luxuries of professional baseball (ah, the dream!).  That he’d be taken under the wing of the Dodgers’ veteran catcher Dave Leonard (I happened to be a pretty fair Little League catcher) and that Roy would soon learn that he’d be facing a great deal of hard work if he ever hoped to pitch for the Brooklyn Dodgers.

Then, just as Roy began to prove himself worthy to wear the Dodgers flannels, a freak accident would threaten to dash his hopes of leading the team to a winning season.

Hold on to your library cards! Robin Cairns had become a reader.

Hey, I’m not saying that I didn’t still grab an occasional peek just to see how Jane was doing out there in her little gym suit. But that was the moment.  I was in for the long haul from the first page of this book to the final page of Tunis’s very last novel.

This recent find, The Kid from Tomkinsville, just happened to be the first of Tunis’s baseball series—eight novels about the Brooklyn Dodgers. I would read them all, the Dodgers series, then on to the Iron Duke, All American and Keystone Kids.

I’ve since learned (thank you Wikipedia) that the The Kid from Tompkinsville is often cited by sportswriters and commentators as the book that inspired childhood reading.  So I was one of Tunis’s little page turners, one who would grow up to write a number of baseball pieces for Sports Illustrated and SI for Kids,  as well as two baseball books, including a novel called The Comeback Kids. Hmmm, interesting a novel with the word kids in the title!

Having trotted out the above creds, I do so well aware that mine are NOT Hall of Fame numbers when compared to other baseball writers who followed in Tunis’s footsteps. These minor accomplishments are—for me—just a confirmation that writers can and do influence writing and reading.

I mean how else do you explain the fact that I can still name the characters from the Tunis books, with Roy Tucker, the Tomkinsville protagonist a given (hell, the character influenced Bernard Malamud’s hero in The Natural), and that two of my favorites were the lesser known Razzle, a grizzled old pitcher, and Chiselbeak, the Dodgers clubhouse attendant.

So it was through Tunis’s books that I learned about writing—characters, character development, plotting, the setting—all about time and place. All the while these stories of his fueled my passion for sports and at this ripe old age baseball remains one of the great loves of my life.

According to our friends at Wikipedia, Tunis (December 7, 1889 —February 4, 1975) is considered by many to be the ‘inventor’ of the modern sports story. He was an American writer and broadcaster. Known for his juvenile sports novels he wrote short stories and non-fiction, including a weekly sports column for The New Yorker magazine.

After graduating from Harvard and serving in the Army during World War I, he began his writing career freelancing for American sports magazines. For the next two decades he wrote short stories and articles about sports and education for magazines including Reader’s Digest, The Saturday Evening Post and Esquire.

And yet he never really considered himself a children’s writer. That said, all but one of his twenty-four books were published for juveniles and their success helped create the juvenile fiction book market in the 1940s.

Iron Duke received the New York Herald Tribune Spring Book Festival Award for best juvenile novel and was named The Horn Book Magazine Best Book. The Child Study Association of America gave its Golden Scroll Award to Keystone Kids.

I’m positive that the awards were well deserved but more importantly (at least to me) John R. Tunis’s works—and I read them all several times—impacted my life in a way that far surpassed lunch and recess. Given my choice today I’ll take library—the homeroom of John R. Tunis and of reading, and writing.

Max Perkins Editor of Genius

Max Perkins Editor of Genius

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by A. Scott Berg

How could I, someone who can limbo under the IQ score of 160 with the greatest of ease, possibly relate to a page turner with genius in the title?

Well, A. Scott Berg’s Max Perkins Editor of Genius, a 1978 National Book Award Winner, may be the finest, most readable book ever written about publishing—publishing when the book business was a very different industry indeed.

This is the biography of one of those once-in-a-lifetime (eye shade wearing) editors from the past, the man who steadied the quill holding hands of some of America’s iconic writers—Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Wolfe and Jones—until they’d all produced literary classics.

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