Some books I read on a beach or late at night:
Boys Among Men by Jonathan Abrams (2016)
Pretty much required reading for writing and thinking about the NBA’s one-year rule and the generation of players spanning from Kobe Bryant and Kevin Ganett to LeBron James and Dwight Howard. Of course, anyone familiar with the Abrams and the book’s cover could tell you that. No, what truly imprints the book’s message into a reader’s cerebral cortex are the personal stories and anecdotes about the players who either disappeared after the draft or vanished without ever being drafted in the first place. As a high school teacher and an individual who came of age with LeBron and his peers, these buzzed with a static intimacy that at times struck as large as any lightning bolt. On the other hand, as a writer, I admired how Abrams trusted the breadth and depth of so many lives that seemed to start on a basketball court and end up somewhere else. He did not write this book with a heavy hand. He simply raised awareness, which is something quite complicated, but true to what sport does once you’re too old, and too slow, to play.
Ball Don’t Lie: Myth, Genealogy, and Invention in the Cultures of Basketball by Yago Colàs (2016)
With source material that includes as much Aristotle as Rasheed Wallace and as much Walter Benjamin as Manu Ginobili, this book came to wreck minds. Colàs entrenches the NBA narrative within the American mythos and rips it all apart. The Jordan I thought I knew is not. The Wilt and Russell dichotomy collapses. An empire got swallowed up! All this time I’ve been watching basketball, and now I don’t even know anymore. And yet, I want to pick up a ball and dribble and shoot and spin more than ever.
Dreamland: The True Tale of America’s Opiate Epidemic by Sam Quinones (2015)
If you are a fan of television shows like Breaking Bad or Justified, this book might be something that pulls back the Pollos Hermanos curtain and reveals a franchise of small town boys selling heroin like pizza, like it was nothing. If you’re a fan of No Country for Old Men and Sicario, this book might be worth reading for how it recognizes the humanity on both sides of the border. If you were ever prescribed a painkiller over the last twenty years or so, you might want to read this book to understand the differences between a drug dealer from small town Xalisco and a large drug corporation. If you know someone who lost a loved one to this epidemic—if you’re lost yourself—, I am sorry. This book is about the desperation of dreamers, and the sadness of those who already possess the substance of the dream. This is about falling apart and what to do with the pieces.
The Coyote’s Bicycle: The Untold Story of Seven Thousand Bicycles & the Rise of a Borderland Empire by Kimball Taylor (2016)
If Quinones’ Dreamland is about desperation, corporate culture and death, then Taylor’s book is about movement. This is not to say that The Coyote’s Bicycle is a story without sadness, but the windblown qualities of a bike ride are so much more invigorating than the stupor brought on by overmedicating chronic pain. This book is about the game played between the castle’s guards and the inevitable shadows that creep—and ride—with an irresistible spirit.