Inspired by Chris over at Smart Football (who got it from Marginal Revolution). I'd love to see the rest of the Packers Blogosphere (not to mention our "legit" beat guys and gals) take a crack at this as well. And any and all should feel free to leave theirs in the comment section or link to their blog containing their list.
Much like Marginal, this is very much a "gut list," rather than the "I've thought about this for a long time" list.
Simply one of the greatest biographies ever written, sports related or no. I must have gone into Barnes & Noble, or Borders or Coliseum Books (RIP) about a hundred times just to hold it, flip through it and peruse the treasure within. The chapter where Maraniss begins with a description of the Lombardi family's drive from New York to Green Bay, and the silent somberness that overtook their car as they rounded Chicago and made their way up through winter-bound Wisconsin is classic. The book also illustrates, or did to me the first time I read it, the way football can transcend its brutish persona and can, dare I say it, become almost religious in context.
Forget the taboo ghosts that have grown up around not only the story but the author and the movies made based on the book. This is, quite simply, one of if not THE greatest uses of the English language I have ever witnessed - which is made all the more remarkable when you think about the fact that he was writing in his second language. It's laugh out loud funny as well, which no one ever seems to remember and it is a lesson for anyone who wants to write about anything - humor can and SHOULD be found anywhere.
The only reason to still subscribe to the New Yorker, Anthony Lane has been a personal hero for as long as I can remember. And I have to admit, having his book on this list is a bit of a cheat since most of the writing contained inside was actually influencing me within the pages of the magazine, rather than when I was reading the book. But Lane is, beyond a doubt, the writer that made me look at the world around me and demand better. From everyone and everything. Yes, Lane owes a great deal to Pauline Kael - every critic of anything writing today does. But Kael was prevalent JUST before I started paying attention to such things. Sure, I've gone back and read her and I realize she was, beyond compare, the Master. But Lane was perfectly timed for me to discover him. And, again, he is howlingly funny. (His take down of the Phantom Menace is worth the price of the book alone)
Let's just get it out of the way, shall we? Yes, I was one of "those kids" who was holed up either in the library or in his bedroom on a bright, sunny summer afternoon, reading my way through the book (Tolkien originally wrote it as one book) that would define much of my imagination as a young man. Yes, between Middle Earth and that galaxy far, far away it was pretty much destined that I would go through much of junior high school playing Dungeons and Dragons and being made fun of at school. And you know what? I wouldn't change a thing. Imagination, the vibrant and fearless kind, is a dying quality in not only society but in children. It always amazes me how kids today want to pretend to be grown ups...in today's world. When I was eight years old, I was busy pretending to escape from the Death Star (the garage) or climb Mount Doom to destroy the One Ring (a big hill at a local park) - now? You're lucky if they're kids for more than five or six years before they start talking about the latest tech or web developments. It's sad.
I mean, seriously. If you're a Packers fan and you haven't devoured this book and it hasn't shaped your life in some way...well, you're just not a real die hard fan of the Green Bay Packers. Period.
The book covers barely a year of time during World War II, but I learned more about the conflict that shaped our world today from reading Beevor's book than I ever learned in school. His attention to detail combined with a master's use of storytelling interwoven with historical fact was a revelation for this son of a History teacher that probably found the subject boring just because it was what his old man taught and, well, we all know it's the sons duty to thumb his nose at the old man, even if only a little bit.
Simply put: The book that let me know that I was not alone and that I should not only be confident on my feelings regarding religion but that I should never be ashamed to voice them.
"The Killers" is still, to this day, my favorite short story of all time. It beats out both the "The Tell Tale Heart" by Poe and "Lady With the Little Dog" by Chekhov if only for one reason: Hemmingway's uncanny ability to convey vast emotional complexities with an incredible economy of language. It's my favorite type of writing. Truth be told, I love all the Nick Adams stories, but this one, by far, is my favorite.
Alright, I could go on and on. I won't bore you further. Thanks again to Chris for the idea. Hope you will all leave your lists in the comments or on your blogs. Be sure to come here and link to your lists if you do.