Book Review: ‘The Audacity of Hops: The History of America’s Craft Beer Revolution’ by Tom Acitelli

History is awesome. Beer is awesomer. America is awesomest.

Put all three of those together and you get this: a triple awesome badass epic that goes through the history of craft brewing in the United States of America.

Tom Acitelli has put together a great book for craft beer lovers. It doesn’t matter if you are in America or not, this book tells the interesting tales of some of the most interesting breweries there are. It examines how the craft brewing industry came to be such a juggernaut in the U.S. and how it has fought against the bigger corporate megabreweries (still a much, much bigger juggernaut).

The book helped to solidify and enrich my love of beer, its creation process and just about everything else surrounding it.

Acitelli’s words are well-written, the tales he tells are well presented and there is a lot of new knowledge to walk away with even for the most hardcore beer aficionado.

I cannot recommend this book to beer lovers and/or history buffs enough.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: The books Tasting BeerBeyond the Pale and Asheville Beer.

Book Review: ‘Appalachian Trials’ by Zach Davis

*Written in 2015.

Appalachian Trials: A Psychological and Emotional Guide to Successfully Thru-Hiking the Appalachian Trail is what I would consider a must-read before setting off on the long journey. Granted, I have never hiked the Appalachian Trail but it is something I consider doing more and more each year.

Zach felt the need to create a book dealing with the psychological and emotional aspects of hiking the Appalachian Trail, which has never been the subject of a book before. I agree with him that penning something like this was pretty vital, as every field guide in the world can’t prepare you for the real challenges. And sure, this may not fully prepare one either for something so tough and arduous but at least it gives good information on what one should expect and it also provides tales and lessons to help the reader better understand the trials ahead on an emotional and psychological level.

The book gets straight to the point and doesn’t waste much time. It is concise yet packed with essential information. It is also well-written and an enjoyable read.

If you are like me and have seriously considered hiking the Appalachian Trail, this most definitely should be read before you start your trek into the wild.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: A Walk In the Woods and Wild.

Book Review: ‘The Game’ by Ken Dryden

*Written in 2015.

This book is considered by most hockey purists to be the greatest hockey book ever written.

Now while I am a Chicago Blackhawks fan, I have always had a respect and love for the Montreal Canadiens. In fact, in my lifetime, I’d love to see a Chicago v. Montreal scenario in the Stanley Cup Finals – especially with the two current teams.

Anyway, this book is an autobiographical tale by legendary Canadiens goalie Ken Dryden. It follows him during the 1978-1979 NHL season, which ended up being one of the years that the then dominant Canadiens won the Stanley Cup. In fact, that season was their fourth straight Cup win and their tenth in fifteen years. The Canadiens would win two more (one in the ’80s and one in the ’90s) but they have never had that sort of success since the days of Dryden and that is what makes this an interesting book because it is told from the perspective of greatness, albeit very humble greatness.

The Game is an entertaining read and it is well-written by a man that evolved to be something much more than just a great hockey goalie. Dryden has gone on to be a well-respected lawyer and a prominent Canadian politician. He didn’t just go home with a bunch of championship rings when his playing career was over. These things about Dryden’s character are what make him unique and make his words more than worthwhile to read. You can’t write his words off as just some shoddy life advice through the experiences of some dirty goon.

This book is definitely in the upper echelon of hockey books out there. There are so many that I have read and still many that I should read. The Game is at the top of that heap however.

Rating: 9.25/10
Pairs well with: J.R.: My Life as the Most Outspoken, Fearless, and Hard-Hitting Man in Hockey by Jeremy Roenick with Kevin Allen, Tough Guy: My Life On the Edge by Bob Probert and Kirstie McLellan Day, Made In America by Chris Chelios and Kevin Allen, Keith Magnuson: The Inspiring Life and Times of a Beloved Blackhawk by Doug Feldman, Leave No Doubt: A Credo For Chasing Your Dreams by Mike Babcock and Rick Larsen.

Book Review: ‘So You Think You Know Baseball?’ by Peter E. Meltzer

So You Think You Know Baseball? is pretty interesting if you are at all a hardcore baseball fan or even a casual fan that wants to understand the game’s rules at a much deeper level.

This book goes through every single rule in the official rulebook. In fact, it doesn’t just reiterate or try to explain the rule, it gives actual real examples, often times multiple examples, of the rule in play and how it effected the cited game.

The book also provides examples and asks multiple choice questions to the reader, to try and determine the right answer. This allows the reader to better understand even the most complicated or seemingly useless rules. It also makes the reader respect some of the more obscure rules.

This book is a must own for any baseball fan just because of the lengths the author goes in trying to make each and every single rule clear. It will challenge purists and aficionados and bring some enlightenment to those on the eternal quest for ultimate baseball knowledge.

It is well written, well organized and just damn interesting.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: The Baseball Codes by Jason Turbow and Michael Duca, The Hidden Language of Baseball by Paul Dickson

Book Review: ‘When The Game Was Ours’ by Larry Bird & Earvin Magic Johnson with Jackie MacMullan

*Written in 2015.

I grew up in a pretty lucky time for a basketball fan. My introduction to the game was seeing the constant rivalry between Larry Bird and Earvin “Magic” Johnson unfold nearly each and every postseason. It set the stage for what was the best era in professional basketball history, as next came Jordan, Pippen, Malone, Stockton, Barkley, Ewing, Robinson, Drexler and so many others. Bird and “Magic” gave us what was the start of the amazing era that took over the 1980s and culminated at the 1992 Olympic Games with the assembly of the first and greatest Dream Team.

These two guys changed the game and enhanced its spirit. They forced the game to get better and their competition to work harder. They were generals on the court but they were also model citizens and guys worthy of pointing to and saying, “Hey son, be like that guy.”

Anyway, this is a pretty awesome book. Whether you like one of these guys, both of these guys, none of these guys, or just the game.. or not.. it is still a pretty awesome book.

It tells the tales of both men from their point-of-view as they came up through high school, through college and into the NBA. It gives insight as to what each man thought about the other, every step of the way. In many ways, them opening up about their feelings and thoughts is pretty cool, especially since much of what they share with the reader, they hadn’t yet shared with each other.

There are great stories in here, legendary stories in fact.

The only downside is that I felt like the book suffered from being written by a third party. Not to say the writing wasn’t good, it was great. However, it would’ve been a much more intimate and better experience had Bird and Magic penned their own words for the majority of the book.

Regardless, this book, at least to me, was a stark reminder of how much class the National Basketball Association and its stars had. Something that has been missing league-wide since the end of that Dream Team era. This book also reminded me why basketball was my favorite sport as a young kid.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: My Life by Earvin “Magic” Johnson and Drive by Larry Bird.

Book Review: ‘Senna Versus Prost’ by Malcolm Folley

Senna Versus Prost is one of my favorite books on Formula 1. It covers the rivalry between two F1 legends, the late great Ayrton Senna and superstar Alain Prost. For those who don’t know, they had one of the most bitter rivalries in the history of not just motorsports but all of sports.

Many people are now familiar with the rivalry between James Hunt and Niki Lauda due to the film Rush but even that epic feud wasn’t as big as the one between teammates Senna and Prost.

Malcolm Folley wrote a damned good book and from cover-to-cover this thing wasn’t just compelling it was eye-opening and emotional. The events surrounding Senna’s death were tragic and the words of Prost within this book offer up a level of respect and admiration for the man he seemingly hated.

This book lets you into Prost’s mind and shows you how despite the differences and anger that these two amazing drivers had with one another, they never doubted the greatness of their biggest rival or themselves.

Senna Versus Prost is well-written and thorough, giving the reader stark insight into the history between these two super talented and passionate men. It also shows Alain Prost in a better and more fair light than the documentary film Senna, which painted a negative picture. That wasn’t a bad documentary but it had an agenda in the way that it was told. This book gives a more balanced view and lets the reader form their own opinion.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: The Death of Ayrton Senna by Richard Williams, The Mechanic’s Tale by Steve Matchett and Winning Is Not Enough by Jackie Stewart.

Book Review: ‘Keith Magnuson: The Inspiring Life and Times of a Beloved Blackhawk’ by Doug Feldmann

Keith Magnuson was one of the greatest Blackhawks of all-time and not just that, he was a pillar of the community and a great man. Unfortunately and sadly, he was killed in a car crash in 2003 – leaving behind his wife and kids.

During his time as a player and a coach in the Blackhawks organization, Magnuson brought class, hard work and dedication. Sure, that could be said for a lot of guys in the history of the organization but very few were as giving as this guy was and even fewer were as good of a leader as Magnuson.

This book is pretty great. Granted, it isn’t as great as if Magnuson would have penned his own story but it was still a thorough look at the man’s life and had a lot of personal details on nearly every page. The author, Doug Feldmann did his homework and weaved a fantastic tale that not only showcased the man on the ice but the human being off the ice.

There are a lot of stories and behind-the-scenes situations in this book that are more than enjoyable to read, not just for a Blackhawks fan but for any fan of hockey or sports in general.

This is a very welcomed treasure to my ever-growing hockey library.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: J.R.: My Life as the Most Outspoken, Fearless, and Hard-Hitting Man in Hockey by Jeremy Roenick with Kevin Allen, Tough Guy: My Life On the Edge by Bob Probert and Kirstie McLellan Day, Made In America by Chris Chelios and Kevin Allen