Baseball’s Ol’ Perfessor

Mark Richardson — Marty Appel, author of Munson, the acclaimed biography of former New York Yankees catcher Thurman Munson, has done it again. This top-notch profiler of Yankees past has given us what may prove to be the baseball book of the year with his new work, Casey Stengel: Baseball’s Greatest Character. It is an extensive in-depth look at the “Ol’ Perfessor,” one of the … Continue reading Baseball’s Ol’ Perfessor

Uncle Ho: A Man of Peace

Jeff Berger — On November 11, 1944, a U.S. reconnaissance plane piloted by Lieutenant Rudolph Shaw encountered engine trouble while flying over the rough mountainous terrain along the Sino-Vietnamese frontier. When Shaw landed his parachute, members of a local Viet Minh unit were the first to reach him. For the next several days they escorted him over mountains and jungle trails toward Pac Bo, walking … Continue reading Uncle Ho: A Man of Peace

Inequality of Disclosure: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

Tony Platt — In 2010, Rebecca Skloot was a little known science journalist on the faculty at the University of Memphis when her first book The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, an investigation into the ethics of medical research, was published. It became an instant crossover hit: translated into twenty-five languages, persistently near the top of The New York Times bestseller nonfiction list, receiving the … Continue reading Inequality of Disclosure: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

The Hard Boiled Detectives

Mark Richardson — Edgar Allan Poe is generally regarded as the father of the detective fiction genre. In his classic stories, The Murders In the Rue Morgue, The Mystery of Marie Roget, and The Purloined Letter, Poe created the first mystery solving detective in literature, the inimitable C. Auguste Dupin. Poe was followed in short order by such unforgettable and still impressive mystery writers as … Continue reading The Hard Boiled Detectives

The Disappearance of God: A Divine Mystery

Bob Bates — One of the most provocative books I’ve read that deals with religion is Richard Elliot Friedman’s The Disappearance of God: A Divine Mystery (1995). Subsequent editions of the book are entitled The Hidden Face of God. Friedman is a professor of Hebrew and comparative literature, holding multiple degrees, and is currently Professor of Jewish Studies at the University of Georgia. In this … Continue reading The Disappearance of God: A Divine Mystery

Winter Reading: Tolstoy and Mann

Mark Richardson — When I was seventeen years old, I set as a goal for myself the reading of all of the works of a certain group of authors. This group included all of the Nobel Prize in Literature laureates, a large group of classic authors whose writing lives preceded the awarding of the Prize, a large collection of modern and contemporary authors who have … Continue reading Winter Reading: Tolstoy and Mann

Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City

Bob Bates — Sociologist Matthew Desmond’s widely acclaimed book Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City (2016), a study of the city of Milwaukee, pounds at a reader’s emotions until they become raw. Daily struggles and their grinding effects on America’s poor who are forced to rent housing in contexts of landlord neglect of substandard structures will likely make you both nauseated and enraged … Continue reading Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City

Lefty, Scooter, and Hankus Pankus: Three Baseball Legends

Mark Richardson — My late fall/early winter reading has recently focused on classic fiction, Tolstoy and Mann, but I have found time to squeeze in three baseball biographies, and all three are worthy of note. Biographies have always been at the forefront of the game’s literature, but in recent years there seems to have been an explosion of life stories of the diamond’s greats. This … Continue reading Lefty, Scooter, and Hankus Pankus: Three Baseball Legends

America’s Four Gods

Ron Berger — Cross-national studies indicate that Americans report one of the highest levels of belief in God in the world. A recent Gallup Poll conducted in May-June of 2016 found that 89 percent of Americans say they believe in God. When given the option of expressing agnosticism by saying they are not sure if they believe in God, 79 percent still say they do. … Continue reading America’s Four Gods

David’s Secret Demons

Jeff Berger — Recently I read Baruch Halpern’s biography about King David of ancient Israel/Judah called David’s Secret Demons:  Messiah, Murderer, Traitor, King (2001). It was a difficult book to read, as are most books about the Old Testament, but I recommend it to anyone who is interested in biblical history. One reason why it’s so difficult to read these books is because of the … Continue reading David’s Secret Demons

Saving Capitalism: For the Many, Not the Few, by Robert Reich

Ron Berger — In his most recent book Saving Capitalism: For the Many, Not the Few (2015), Robert Reich aims to explain how “the increasing concentration of political power in a corporate and financial elite…has been able to influence the rules by which the economy runs.” He lays the groundwork for this case by introducing readers to the field that was once called political economy—“the … Continue reading Saving Capitalism: For the Many, Not the Few, by Robert Reich

Austerity is a Greek Tragedy

Jeff Berger — In his most recent book Welcome to the Poisoned Chalice: The Destruction of Greece and the Future of Europe (Yale University Press, 2016), James K. Galbraith explains the modern Greek tragedy, which is really the tragedy of Europe that seems to be on a downward slide. Galbraith is a professor of economics at the University of Texas where he became friends with … Continue reading Austerity is a Greek Tragedy

When Our Worlds Cried: California’s Genocide

Tony Platt — Too many academic historians are reluctant to accept that the catastrophic experiences of California Indians during the 19th century meet United Nations legal standards of genocide: “acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group.” Benjamin Madley, an Assistant Professor of History at UCLA, responds to this challenge as a prosecutor might, building … Continue reading When Our Worlds Cried: California’s Genocide

Faith and Baseball

Mark Richardson — Every now and again one stumbles upon a book that addresses issues which have flitted through one’s mind throughout his/her life, but which have never solidified into one’s thought in any cohesive way. Such a book is John Sexton’s Baseball as a Road to God: Seeing Beyond the Game (2013). Mr. Sexton is the president of New York University and a former law clerk … Continue reading Faith and Baseball

Making Science Fiction Sentient

Charles Ogg — The editors of Wise Guys invited me to write an article on science fiction (sf) and an online magazine I am planning to start called Sentient Fiction. Currently Sentient Fiction exists as a closed Facebook group that I administer. When I first considered using “sentient” for the magazine, I was surprised to discover the general use of this word is different from … Continue reading Making Science Fiction Sentient

A Carefully Crafted Life

Mark Richardson —   “Moe could speak twelve languages, but he couldn’t hit in any of them.” Such was the scouting report on Moe Berg, the subject of Nicholas Dawidoff’s The Catcher Was A Spy: The Mysterious Life of Moe Berg.”   Berg was a notoriously poor hitter, a defensive wizard behind the plate who played in the major leagues for fifteen years , and most … Continue reading A Carefully Crafted Life

Whittaker Chambers by Sam Tanenhaus

Mark Richardson — In the current political atmosphere, in which angry conservatives seem to be claiming that the way to “make America great again” is to stifle the free expression of any ideas that are not theirs and to squash dissent, it appears to me to be a good time to look back at our history, to a time when Senator Joseph McCarthy and his … Continue reading Whittaker Chambers by Sam Tanenhaus

Reflections on The Big Short

Ron Berger — The Academy Award nominated film The Big Short is an entertaining dramatization of Michael Lewis’s book The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine. Most people have not and will not read the book, and it is my impression that while the film conveys the general nature of the systemic corruption that is endemic to our financial system, the specific mechanisms and broader … Continue reading Reflections on The Big Short