Is it a little too late for post dedicated to Christmas shopping? Probably. And, even if it weren’t, would anyone come to this site looking for suggestions? Almost certainly not.
I do not care. My motivations for this post are multi-dimensional:
1) The nazis at WordPress won’t allow me to have a “Lexpatriates Suggests” widget on the right-hand side of the page, which would conveniently allow myself and the rest of the Lexpats writers to suggest books, DVDs, etc. to the massive readership of this fine site, as well as make bookoos of money off our recommendations.
2) I got bored at work one day and decided that this post was such an awesome idea that it should be written on the spot, right then and there, regardless of computer access, even if that meant writing it out completely by way of mechanical pencil and line-less printer paper. So, that’s what I did.
Without further adieu, I give you, the Lexpatriate readership, the very first installment of “Lexpatriates Suggests.”
Mad Men – Season Two
Hell, while you’re at it, pick up Season One with it. Mad Men is a show with a flow and appeal that’s pretty much impossible to explain without giving up plot lines–just trust me when I say there’s sufficient reason it’s won the Emmy for Best Drama two years running.
The show has a meticulous, deliberate pacing to it that makes me wonder how anyone got into it when they had to wait 6 days and 23 hours between episodes. Lucky for me, it’s much easier to handle when you’re able to watch them back-to-back-to-back on DVD (a method I’ve become completely comfortable with, borne out of convenience, unemployment, and a complete lack of cable). Not unlike certain seasons of the Sopranos or The Wire, the way the stories move isn’t always obvious; things happen here and things happen there with seemingly no significance–but the plot and characters are always evolving, almost always without you realizing it in the moment. Season One capped with one of the best finale cliffhangers I’ve ever seen, and Season Two picks up accordingly, coyly dancing around the elephants in the room left from S1.
If it’s credibility you’re looking for, Matt Weiner—former writer and producer of The Sopranos (only the best television drama ever—serves as creator, writer, and producer.
Buy it here.
The Art of a Beautiful Game
Sports Illustrated’s Chris Ballard describes his book as “…a celebration of the game and those who play it at the highest level, the players for whom it is truly both an art and a science.” Ballard is an ex-hoops guy himself, playing his higher-ed ball at D-III Pomona College, just outside Los Angeles. His writing reflects his basketball background; he talks about the game in such a way that, as the title implies, thinking fans (and players) will appreciate.
Apropos to the current state of the game, the book begins with Kobe Bryant and ends with LeBron James. Ballard’s work kicks off with a chapter on Bryant’s homicidal competitive streak (which I posted an excerpt from, here), which actually manages to do justice to the work ethic and freakishly win-oriented brain wiring that Kobe happened to be born with. So many writers have given us these same sort of essays, whether they’re talking about Jordan or Tiger or Brady or whoever the hell happens to have some above-and-beyond desire to beat the living brains out of whoever the hell they’re playing, yet most end up falling painfully flat. These guys like to win. As a result, they work hard. We get it. But Ballard manages to avoid this trap, using anecdotes from name brand players and coaches–who grew up with and currently play alongside Bryant–that give you a personal view into the mind of a player who really does want to beat you way, way, way more than you want to beat him.
He ends the book with James, doing his best to show the reader why LBJ really is the sort of once in a lifetime freak of nature that just happens to be tailor made for the game of basketball. He goes into detail about LeBron’s work out regimen, organic physical prowess, and surgically repaired eyeballs.
Another great thing about A Beautiful Game: It reads like a collection of essays, in the sense that all the chapters—while still holding basketball as their unifying element—can all stand alone. The book doesn’t have to be read front to back; you can pick and choose the chapters as you go. So, if, for some reason, you’re a huge Shane Battier fan, you can jump straight to Ballard’s chapter on Battier’s defensive acumen. Or, if you’re particularly intrigued by the psychology that goes into shots from the charity stripe, you can jettison your way to his piece on free throw shooting.
Buy it here.
Eating the Dinosaur
I’ve written about Klosterman on this site before, primarily to highlight his skill as a sportswriter. He actually makes his living writing about other stuff, using his ability to examine things that appear mundane but, upon examination, may actually be worth thinking about. He’s best known for his collection of essays, Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs, but he’s been all over the place for years, penning pieces consistently for Spin and Esquire, to go along with work as a contributor at the NY Times, ESPN the Magazine, and GQ, amongst others.
After a novel (Downtown Owl) and a collection of previously released works (IV), Klosterman gets back to his Cocoa Puffs roots, penning essays that delve into the parallels between Kurt Cobain and David Koresh, Ted Kaczynski’s very readable manifesto, as well as the possible motivation behind Garth Brooks’ Chris Gaines/Career Suicide thing.
In addition to the low-culture stuff he’s famous for, Klosterman also gets in his share of sports talk, using the career of Ralph Sampson as way to illustrate the way we perceive squandered potential, as well as the constant and accelerated evolution of the game of football.
Buy it here.
Filed under: Random | Tagged: Chris Ballard, Chuck Klosterman, Eating the Dinosaur, Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Mad Men, Matt Weiner, Shane Battier, The Art of a Beautiful Game, The Sopranos, The Wire |