Billion Dollar Ball

In Billion Dollar Ball: A Journey Through the Big-Money Culture of College Football, Gilbert Gaul shed slight on the $2.5 billion (and growing) entertainment business — a business that was once part of academia, but has now outgrown it.

It’s a story of haves (schools in the big 5 football conferences) and have-nots (everyone else), questionable tax-exempt status granted by Congress, and schools that favor revenue-generating athletic programs over the their academic goals (how else can you explain pay football coaches over a hundred times more than what you pay a full professor?).

So much for the notion of the “student-athlete,” or advancing educational goals through athletics and competition.

Read reviews from the New York Times and the Washington Post.



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Soccer in Sun and Shadow

Eduardo Galeano’s Soccer in Sun and Shadow is a must read for anyone who loves the beautiful game.

Read reviews from the Staten Island Advance, Publisher’s Weekly and World Soccer Talk.  Listen to a story about the book at NPR.

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@War: The Rise of the Military-Internet Complex

In ‘@War,’ Shane Harris explains tells the emerging world of cyber warfare. It is a world of blurred lines – there are no national borders in cyberspace, and the roles of the military, law enforcement, and intelligence services are much less clear than they have even been before.

With the U.S. government unable to “secure” cyberspace, Harris sees private companies are being the ones who are going to be providing the security that (in the real world) has traditionally been provided by governments.

It’s a good recent history of cybersecurity, including the major players, the politics and power grabs, and how the “war” is being fought today. Unfortunately, it probably also provides a preview of what the next major conflict will look like.

Read reviews from the New York Times, the LA Times and the Privacy Advisor.

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The Soccer Diaries

The Soccer Diaries, by Michael Agovino, is a very readable personal soccer history by a passionate follower of the game.

It begins in the Bronx when, as a child, Agovino finds himself captivated by ‘the beautiful game.’  (It’s a lso a reminder of how hard it was to follow soccer in those pre-Internet days…he relies on foreign magazines and mail ordered VHS tape.) Over the 30 years he covers (and follows) the game — both as a fan and as a freelance writer — in the U.S. and in Europe.

Read reviews from Kirkus Reviews and Clever Through Balls.

I found it to be interesting and very well-written. (My son — who fell in love with the game during the 2014 World Cup — enjoyed it as well.)  I’m looking forward to reading one of his other books, The Bookmaker.

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Kill Your Friends

Kill Your Friends‘Kill Your Friends’John Niven’s Kill Your Friends does for the music industry what The Player did for Hollywood. It’s chock full of duplicity and cynicism, with a healthy dollop of sex and drugs on top.

A very funny read.

Read reviews from the Independent and the Guardian.

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The Hollywood Economist

Edward Jay Epstein’s the Hollywood Economist is a must-read for anyone who remembers the not-too-distant age when television was known as “the boob tube” and movies were more than a series of car crashes and shoot-outs.

The author provides some excellent insights on the economics of operating a movie theater (a making all of your profit from mark-ups on popcorn, soda and other snacks) and how integral tax incentives are to films getting made these days.

Read reviews from the Wall Street Journal and The Economist.

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The Noble Hustle: Poker, Beef Jerky and Death

I very much enjoyed Colson Whitehead’s Zone One when I read it a few years back. And since I enjoy reading about writers who travel to Las Vegas for poker tournaments (among other things), I figured I’d check this book out.

I was not disappointed.  The book came out of an assignment he received from the web site Grantland, which sent staked him to play at the 2011 World Series of Poker.  He begins with “I have a good poker face because I am half-dead inside.”

Whitehead is a keen observer of his fellow travelers (and poker opponents), and he provides a lot of insight about himself as well.

I’m thinking that it might be time to plan a trip to his native land, the Republic of Anhedonia.

Read reviews from the Boston Globe and the Washington Post.


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With the recent 50th anniversary of the opening of the 1964-65 New York World’s Fair, this is obviously a timely work.  And growing up in the New York City area, and having been to Flushing Meadow-Corona Park many times, I was excited to read this book and get the “behind the scenes story” of this seminal cultural event.

I was not disappointed.

Joseph Tirella does an excellent job of making the argument that 1964-65 World’s Fair occurred when the values of 1950’s America we changing into the values of 1960’s America. Rock ‘n roll is on the upswing.  The civil rights movement is gaining momentum.  Fear of crime is growing…

While the context is interesting, I found his telling of Master Builder Robert Moses’ micromanaging of the event to be absolutely fascinating.

Read reviews from Kirkus Reviews and MacClean’s.

The New York Times recently ran an excellent story that featured some memories of those who attended the fair.

And just for fun, read Isaac Asimov’s 1964 essay “A Visit to the World’s Fair of 2014.”

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The Expats

I haven’t read any “spy fiction” in quite some time, but I stumbled across of review of Chris Pavone’s “The Expats” which made it sound like an interesting read.

The story takes a while to unfold — a former CIA field operative leaves the agency when her husband take a new job in Luxembourg — but it pays off in the end.

Read reviews from the NY Times, NPR and the Washington Post.

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The Wolf of Wall Street

I figured that I would see Martin Scorsese’s “The Wolf of Wall Street” at some point, and I like to read the book before I see the movie.

So I took Jordan Belfort’s 2007 “memoir” out of the library.  A better (or at least more accurate) title might have been “The Degenerate Lying, Drug Abusing Con Man from Long Island.”

It’s hard to believe anything Mr. Belfort has to say.  He doesn’t seem to have taken any responsibility for his crimes, and he takes great pains to describe the copious amounts of cocaine, alcohol, painkillers and other intoxicants that he ingested.

In short, he’s (at best) an unreliable narrator.  While his stories of excess might be entertaining, it’s hard not to think of the lives he probably ruined through his “pump and dump” stock scams.

It’s strange, but after reading the book I don’t really feel the need to see the film.

Read reviews from the NY Times and the Daily Beast.

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