Tag Archives: Steve Berry

Summer Reads Make Me Feel Fine

30 May

Remember that old tune? “Summer reads make me feel fine”. Wait, I think that me the wrong lyrics. Anyway, summer reads are great, and I have a short list to keep me busy for a while. That’s not to say that reading is the only thing I have to do. Despite what many think, summer is not a total vacation for the educational sect. We have classes to prepare for; research to do; and, you never know when a problem might crop up on campus.

With that being said, we obviously have time for some leisurely reading. I am going to begin with the following.

The Columbus Affair: A Novel by Steve Berry. I have read Berry’s Cotton Malone series since its inception and like its mixture of action and historical mystery. It’s one of those things that started after the popularity of The Da Vinci Code and is far from high level intellectualism. That’s why I like it.

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame-Smith. The students on the field trip said I have to read this. I plan on seeing the movie, so I also feel that I need to read it. It comes from the smash-up genre and shows Honest Abe as a killer of vampires. I can’t wait to see Franklin Roosevelt as a killer of werewolves and Barack Obama as the slayer of the people who voted for him zombies.

The Emerald Storm by William Dietrich. Another work from the genre of historical fiction, this book has a twist. The mystery takes place in the past with the adventures of Ethan Gage. I have also read all of these and was first attracted because one took place in the western frontier. Ethan has been all over the world in the employ of some of history’s most powerful people.

Where the Tall Grass Grows: Becoming Indigenous and the Mythological Legacy of the American West by Bobby Bridger. Only a work of history would have a title that long. We tend to spell things out right there on the cover, so I don’t have to do much explaining. It has a buffalo skull on the cover, so it must be good.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot. Ever heard of HeLa cells? Apparently, they have become important in medical research throughout the world. This book is about the woman that they were originally taken from.

Howard Cosell: The Man, the Myth, and the Transformation of American Sports by Mark Ribowski. As a kid, I was fascinated by Howard Cosell and the people on Monday Night Football. My parents let me stay up long enough to see the Halftime Highlights and hear Cosell’s cadence as he said, “He. Could. Go. All. The. Way.” I can’t wait to delve into the life of the man behind the mouth.

That’s my list. If you have any other suggestions, then please let me know.


20 Jan

A couple of Christmas’ ago, I was surprised to be given an iPad. It had never been something that I talked about, and I didn’t realize that the person who gave it like me that much. I don’t use the iPad very much to serve the internet because I find a laptop much easier to type on a read. However, I use the iPad to play games and read on the Kindle. This Kindle thing was a surprise to me as well. I was always one of those people who talked about how I was never going to give in to the technology. I like holding a book and turning the pages. I like spending hours in bookstores. However, it wasn’t long before those opinions started to change. Of course, I still like bookstores. Who doesn’t? But, I have now become one of those people who is killing the bookstores. Instead of buying books, I get titles and download them later. It’s terrible, I know. It feels like cheating.

I was thinking about this change of opinion while sitting in my office this afternoon. Bunches of books were taking up space, and I began thinking about how I needed to clean out my shelves. My office is nothing like my house. There are books on shelves, crammed in drawers, and places anywhere they might be considered out-of-the-way. Some of them were memorable. Some of them have were forgotten as soon as the last word was read. but, most are waiting in the queue to be opened before they are lost in the Land of Closed Drawers.

I hate getting rid of books. It takes a lot of effort, both physical and mental. Figuring out which ones go and which ones stay. Picking up a totally overloaded box. coming up with a place to take the overloaded box. Hoping that the books find good, caring homes. Thinking about all of that trouble made me appreciate the Kindle in another way. When a book is finished, I just place my finger on it until it shakes and “x” it into the archives. No shelves. No drawers. No boxes. Just a button.

With that in mind, I decided to look through the Kindle archives and see what I have filled my mind with.

1. “The American West” by Dee Brown – This semester I am teaching the Expansion of the United States and read this work to brush up on the history of that time and place. Brown is a famous writer of the American West, but he is not a true historian. He  falls into the category of popular historian that academic historians love to complain about. The latter does the research while the former gets the fame. Actually, there are a lot of good “popular” writers. Unfortunately, Brown is not one of them. The book is badly arranged and needs an editor badly. He knows a lot of good information and tells great stories. However, it took an effort to get through it, and I love this stuff.

2. “The Big Scrum” by John J. Miller – This book chronicles the early days of college football and how it was saved by Theodore Roosevelt. At the turn of the 18th/19th Centuries, academic leaders were outraged at the sport taking over their campuses. Violence. Horrible injuries. Cheating. Paying players. Recruiting issues. It seemed that the game was going to drag universities into the gutter of professional sports. Before they could take action, TR and other leaders stepped up to claim that the game was good for America and the development of manhood. I am not sure about that, but I like college football. So, I’m glad they saved it.

3. “Blood of the Reich” by William Dietrich – Dietrich has written a series of novels about Ethan Gage, adventurer extraordinaire. His hero outwitted Napoleon; defeated Barbary pirates; and survived adventures in the unexplored American West. In this book, new heroes fight Nazis, both old and new, to find a great power in Tibet. I didn’t like this as much as the Gage adventures. However, I don’t think it was the fault of Dietrich. Before this book, I read “Sleepwalkers” by a writer that I won’t name to save him from the embarrassment. It was about a Jewish detective looking into a horrible crime before Nazis took power in Germany. It was terrible. No character development. Telegraphing of plot. Jumped from scene to scene without any connection. The only good part was the prostitute that he spent a lot of time describing. Unfortunately, she disappeared without any explanation with what happened.

4. “The Devil Colony” by James Rollins – I really like the adventures of Grayson Pierce and the Sigma Force team. In this one, they head into the American West to stop a mysterious force from destroying the globe. They hit some places that I have been, so it was easy to visualize the action. Plus, they ended up in Yellowstone. How can you beat that?

5. “The Devil’s Gold” by Steve Berry – This is a Kindle-only short story used to st up the action in an upcoming novel. In short, an operative is looking for lost Nazi gold in South America. In the process, he finds the offspring of Adolf Hitler. Short story equal short description.

6. “The Jefferson Key” by Steve Berry – This is the novel set up by the previously mentioned short story. Cotton Malone goes after a secret cabal of pirates whose families have been protected by the United States government since its inception. It starts out with Andrew Jackson being himself and sticking to the pirate ancestors. Those of us in Tennessee know how Jackson was. He didn’t take any shit. Well, the pirate descendants are figuring out a way to get out of the situation Old Hickory put them in. Malone has to stop them.

7. “Evel: The High-Flying Life of Evel Knievel: American Showman, Daredevil, and Legend” by Leigh Montville – As a kid, I was fascinated by Evel Knievel. I watched the jumps; had the toys; and wanted to be just like him. This is an all-encompassing biography that follows Evel from his youth in Butte, Montana to his death as broken, both physically and financially, old man. In between were adventures that you would assume the world’s most famous daredevil would have. Women. Alcohol. Parties. All the trappings of decadence and fame. The surprise comes when it’s revealed that Evel was afraid of dying the entire time. He created a persona that he couldn’t escape. His job was facing death with the world watching and death was looking back.

That gets us halfway through the archives, and I have discovered that typing about the finished books is almost as tiresome as putting them in boxes. We will explore the next half in the next post.