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The 15: PressBox Staff Picks For Summer Reading

June 15, 2016
1. "It Looked Like For Ever" by Mark Harris
While Laura Hillenbrand's "Seabiscuit: An American Legend" book is sports related and may be my actual favorite book of any kind, it's baseball season, and I thought I'd show some love to the late Mark Harris for his novel, "It Seemed Like For Ever" (1979). This novel is actually the fourth in a tetralogy that also includes, in chronological order, "The Southpaw" (1953), "Bang the Drum Slowly" (1956) and "A Ticket for a Seamstitch" (1957). All of the books are about fictional pitcher Henry Wiggen. In "It Looked Like For Ever," Wiggen is on the verge of retirement, but he comes back for one last season because his youngest daughter begs him to, simply because she's never really been old enough to understand what it is about his career that was so important to him. This one stands alone for me as the best baseball novel I have ever read.
- Stan Charles, publisher 

2. "The Best Game Ever: Giants vs. Colts, 1958, and the Birth of the Modern NFL " by Mark Bowden
No book has taught me more about Baltimore sports than "The Best Game Ever" by Mark Bowden. Published in 2008, it is set against the backdrop of the 1958 NFL championship game between the Baltimore Colts and New York Giants, known by many as "The Greatest Game Ever Played." It truly paints a picture of some of the greatest athletes in Baltimore history, telling the backstory of Johnny Unitas, Raymond Berry, etc. But perhaps more importantly, it vividly paints a picture of life in Baltimore in 1958. While Bowden explains the significance of the game within the history of professional football and sports media, he appropriately relates the significance of the game and the team within our own city.
- Glenn Clark, columnist and host of Glenn Clark Radio

3. "My Losing Season" by Pat Conroy
Technically, it is not a sports book; it's a memoir by one of today's greatest American novelists. Conroy, author of "The Prince of Tides" and "The Great Santini," among other works, chronicles his senior season playing basketball at The Citadel. It explores many of the themes in his novels -- military life, destructive parenting, coming-of-age struggles -- but it is all against the backdrop of college basketball. I've gifted it to many friends through the years, and every single person has been enthralled.
- Dan Connolly, columnist 

4. "Ball Four" by Jim Bouton
Sometimes it's fun to jump into the way-back machine for a summer reading selection. If you haven't read Jim Bouton's "Ball Four," published in 1970, there is no better time than while on vacation or at the pool. "Ball Four" is as relevant today as it was when it pulled the curtain back on professional baseball players' penchant for everything, from petty jealousy to rampant drug use and party-boy hijinks. Sex, drugs and baseball; some things never change, do they? (Plus, it's really cool to read how opposing players absolutely feared playing the 1969-1970 era Orioles.)
- John Coulson, managing partner/VP of sales

5. "Das Reboot: How German Soccer Reinvented Itself and Conquered the World" by Raphael Honigstein
Being the big soccer fan that I am, I couldn't be more excited about the UEFA European Championship, taking place this summer in France from June 10-July 10. For others who will be watching the action, or want to learn more about the beautiful game, I suggest reading Raphael Honigstein's book about Germany's soccer revolution. The book looks at the various personalities and techniques that took Germany's team from underperforming and being unremarkable in the late 1990s, to winning the FIFA World Cup in 2014. Among those profiled is Jurgen Klinsmann, the current head coach of the U.S. men's national team, who helped start the revolution that ended in World Cup glory for his homeland.
- Wick Eisenberg, high school writer

6. "I'm Fascinated by Sacrifice Flies (Inside the Game We All Love)" by Tim Kurkjian
I don't read a lot of sports books, but when ESPN's Tim Kurkjian puts one out, I know it will be what the true reviewers call "a page turner," because nobody has more stories or spins them better. Kurkjian's latest effort is "I'm Fascinated by Sacrifice Flies (Inside the Game We All Love)." I'm guessing this is a sequel to "Is This A Great Game, or What?," which makes it good enough to be at the top of my must-read list this summer.
- Jim Henneman, columnist 

7. "Shoeless Joe" by W.P. Kinsella
Summer is all about baseball, and my all-time favorite sports book is a perfect read for that season. Written by W.P. Kinsella in 1982, "Shoeless Joe" is a beautiful novel about the powerful lure of baseball and how the game brings people from different generations and varied backgrounds together. "Shoeless Joe," which tells the story of an Iowa farmer's quest to build a baseball field and bring back disgraced major leaguer "Shoeless" Joe Jackson for one more shot at the game, also explores the important themes of family, redemption and having the courage to dream. The book, which later became the basis for the 1989 movie "Field of Dreams," emphasizes that the influence of baseball goes way beyond winning and losing. 
- Steve Jones, college writer

8. "A Fan's Notes" by Frederick Exley
Exley lived a tragic life in Watertown, N.Y., and he put it all on paper in his first and most famous novel. As an avid fan of the New York Giants and their quarterback, Frank Gifford, Exley spent his Sunday afternoons in the fall cheering for his favorite team -- work and family be damned. At the end of the day, Exley laments that some men were simply meant to sit on the sidelines, condemned to watch the greatness of others. Nonetheless, the ups and downs of a professional football team can sometimes mirror our own lives. Exley understood that better than most people. After "A Fan's Notes," he spent the rest of his days trying to recapture the fleeting greatness that came with a younger version of himself. 
- Todd Karpovich, lacrosse writer

9. "Color Blind: The Forgotten Team That Broke Baseball's Color Line" by Tom Dunkel
More than a decade before Jackie Robinson historically integrated Major League Baseball in 1947, there was another largely forgotten but remarkable breakthrough in sports race relations. That tale is told in this account of the 1930s-era Bismarck, N.D., baseball team that included both African-American and white players. Among the African-American players recruited was none other than pitcher Satchel Paige, who left the Pittsburgh Crawfords of the Negro National League to play in Bismarck. Written by former Baltimore Sun features writer Tom Dunkel, "Color Blind: The Forgotten Team That Broke Baseball's Color Line" describes how this extraordinary team was assembled, the personalities behind the names on the lineup card and the Bismarck squad's march to the 1935 National Semipro Championship.
- Bill Ordine, senior editorial adviser 

10. "The Soul of Baseball: A Road Trip Through Buck O'Neil's America" by Joe Posnanski
"The Soul of Baseball" is told against the backdrop of discrimination; however, that's by no doing of Buck O'Neil. Where most lament that most Negro League greats never got their chance in the major leagues, O'Neil made it his life's mission to carry on their legacies. O'Neil was a two-time Negro League batting champion, two-time title-winning manager, as well as the first African-American coach in the majors, the scout responsible for signing Lou Brock and Ernie Banks and the only man in the world who ever referred to the great Satchel Paige as Nancy. Joe Posnanski's book purports to be about a sport but is truly about the lens through which one views the world.
- Kyle Ottenheimer, co-host/executive producer for Glenn Clark Radio

11. "The Boys Of Summer" by Roger Kahn
They say baseball brings fathers and sons together, providing the chance to draw parallels to which both generations can equally relate. Published in 1972, "The Boys Of Summer" is considered by many to be one of the best books ever written about America's national pastime. In it, Kahn examines the relationship he and his father, Gordon, share through the Brooklyn Dodgers, as well as his time covering the team in the 1950s for the now-defunct New York Herald Tribune. He effectively captures what life was like for the Dodgers' players during and after the team's heyday through his own personal perspective, using humor, wisdom and numerous anecdotes about their lives on and off the field.
- Justin Silberman, assistant editor

12. "Up, Up, and Away: The Kid, The Hawk, Rock, Vladi, Pedro, le Grand Orange, Youppi!, the Crazy Business Of Baseball, And The Ill-fated But Unforgettable Montreal Expos" by Jonah Keri
The story of the Expos' franchise, its rise and fall, is at once hilarious and tragic. From the chicken that appeared on the scoreboard chirping, "balk, balk" on every pick-off move to the exploits of many characters, including Bill "Spaceman" Lee, it's impossible to put down. It's my favorite book of the summer.  
- Dean Smith, feature writer

13. "Over Time: My Life As a Sportswriter" by Frank Deford
I have always loved Frank Deford's work on HBO's "Real Sports." This book offers a colorful glimpse into the life of a sports media original. Deford offers personal tales from his days at Gilman, taking you all the way through his remarkable career. I picture myself sitting next to him, listening to his gravelly voice, when I read this bad boy.  
- Matt Stovall, producer/videographer 

14. "The Sports Beat" series by John Feinstein
There are tons of sports books out there, but how often do you hear of sports mysteries? I would assume not often. A few years ago, I read John Feinstein's "The Sports Beat" series, and I couldn't put them down. They follow two aspiring teenage sportswriters who uncover mysteries that range from a missing tennis player to a drug-testing cover up. After reading one, I had to keep going until I finished all six. If you're looking for a good summer read and you love sports as I do, any of these books would be a good choice for you.
- Sydney Tonic, intern

15. "Squeeze Play" by Jane Leavy
In "Squeeze Play," Jane Leavy recounts her experiences as a female sportswriter in the early 1990s through the character of A.B. Berkowitz. The book, which Leavy says is fiction, is loosely based on the real experiences she had during her first years as a sportswriter for the Washington Tribune. Leavy shares what life was like for female sports reporters, like Berkowitz, who dared to be the first to cross the lines into a male-dominated world. Despite the obvious struggles Leavy describes, "Squeeze Play" is not at all a tirade for the women's rights movement, which is what makes the book so enjoyable. Leavy recounts the tales of Berkowitz's truly unique life in a comical and endearing way that has readers cheering for her to succeed.
- Kaitlyn Wilson, managing editor