Ten (plus a few extra) books that influenced me as a reader

This meme goes around Facebook every so often. If you haven’t seen it, it goes something like this:

In your status list 10 books that have stayed with you in some way. Don’t take more than a few minutes and don’t think too hard. They don’t have to be the “right” books or great works of literature, just ones that affected you in some way. Then tag 10 friends, including me so that I can see your list.

I’ve been tagged on this a couple of times. Because Facebook’s search features leave a lot to be desired, I decided to post it here to make it easier to find. This isn’t an exhaustive list. I’ve added several extras and may come back and add more later. It’s just too hard to pick a few.

Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments. Continue reading Ten (plus a few extra) books that influenced me as a reader

One Shot at Forever: A Small Town, an Unlikely Coach, and a Magical Baseball Season One Shot at Forever: A Small Town, an Unlikely Coach, and a Magical Baseball Season by Chris Ballard

One Shot at Forever: A Small Town, an Unlikely Coach, and a Magical Baseball SeasonOne Shot at Forever: A Small Town, an Unlikely Coach, and a Magical Baseball Season by Chris Ballard

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a great story of a small town baseball team that made an improbable run at the Illinois high school baseball championship in 1971, in the days when small schools and big schools played each other in the postseason. It’s also a story of how a young teacher/coach transformed his players, students, and, to some degree, the town of Macon, IL.

I grew up in Decatur and Champaign, so it was an added bonus for me that Macon is close to Decatur and Lynn Sweet’s family settled in Champaign. Fred Schooley, one of Sweet’s Champaign friends, taught and coached at Champaign Central when I went there. It was a pleasant surprise to find him in the story. Macon also played at Champaign Central’s McKinley Field, which is where Central’s baseball team still plays.

Highly recommended for people who like a good sports story, especially those who live in Central Illinois.

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The Old Man’s War series by John Scalzi

Let me start out by saying that I’m not generally a huge science fiction fan. After devouring this series, I think it’s because I haven’t been reading the right writers. Here’s some back story on the universe:

Earth itself is a backwater. The bulk of humanity’s resources are in the hands of the Colonial Defense Force. Everybody knows that when you reach retirement age, you can join the CDF. They don’t want young people; they want people who carry the knowledge and skills of decades of living. You’ll be taken off Earth and never allowed to return. You’ll serve two years at the front. And if you survive, you’ll be given a generous homestead stake of your own, on one of our hard-won colony planets.

I love the world building in the series. It reminds me of Babylon 5 because each book is ultimately a story about well-rounded characters who have relationships with each other. There’s tech, but it isn’t the focus of the story. Each book gave me a lot to think about as I read.
Highly recommended for people who aren’t sure they really like sci-fi.

I Must Say: My Life as a Humble Comedy Legend by Martin Short

I Must Say: My Life as a Humble Comedy LegendI Must Say: My Life as a Humble Comedy Legend by Martin Short
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

3.5 stars. Martin Short is a likeable guy who knows some very famous people. His clear love for what he does and for his family shines through. The last two chapters, where he discusses his wife’s illness and death, were very moving. Friends tell me that the audio book is hilarious. I may have to check that out too.

Reading this book also reminded me of just how out there some of his characters were. My teenage daughter uses the phrase “I must say” with great regularity. About the time I finished the book, I really became aware of how often she says it. She’d never heard of Ed Grimley, so we looked up a YouTube video in which he was featured. Now she says it with Ed Grimley’s inflection. It never fails to make me smile.

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Fed, White, and Blue: Finding America with My Fork by Simon Majumdar

Fed, White, and Blue: Finding America with My ForkFed, White, and Blue: Finding America with My Fork by Simon Majumdar
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Simon Majumdar’s exploration of America through food is highly readable and a lot of fun. His vivid descriptions of the food he ate along the way made me hungry. His “outside looking in” view of some of the things that we take for granted was also enlightening and thought-provoking, especially the chapter about the volunteer work he did at a food pantry.  I’m glad that he’s now a proud citizen of the United States. We’re a better nation because of it.

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At the Water’s Edge by Sara Gruen

At the Water's EdgeAt the Water’s Edge by Sara Gruen
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I wish Sara Gruen wrote faster. I always like her books and the multiple year wait between them is just too long. Maddie’s gradual transformation from party girl to responsible woman is painful, but ultimately very satisfying. The backdrop of Scotland during World War II is also interesting. If you liked The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, you’ll like this too.

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Some stuff I’ve recently read

Although I haven’t been posting much lately, I have been reading. I’m seven books behind on my GoodReads challenge though. Good thing I have a week off at the end of June. Maybe I can catch up.

Here’s a roundup of some of the books I’ve finished recently along with the GoodReads rating I gave them.

The Girls of Atomic City: The Untold Story of the Women Who Helped Win World War II by Denise Kiernan

The Girls of Atomic City: The Untold Story of the Women Who Helped Win World War IIThe Girls of Atomic City: The Untold Story of the Women Who Helped Win World War II by Denise Kiernan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

4.5 stars.  An interesting, engaging history of the development of the atomic bomb, told through the stories of the women who worked at the Clinton Engineering Works in Oak Ridge, Tennessee.

Recommended for readers interested in World War II, women’s history, and the history of science.

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