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Hardcover, or not: best books of 2013

The Notebook loves a good look. I’ve tried the electronic types — Nooks, Kindles, and so forth — but can’t warm up to them. My favorite is a good old hard-covered dose of story-telling, using my iPhone as a bookmark. Best of all, they are recyclable: buy them at Sheridan Books Stationery, Books and Gallery, read and enjoy, then donate them to Fulmer Public Library.

Noteworthy books of 2013, in no particular order:

 

• “The Heart of Everything That Is” is a biography of Red Cloud by Bob Drury and Tom Clavin. A mostly forgotten chief and strategist, Red Cloud was much feared in battle and later, before his death in 1909, endeavored to have a better life for his people. Any personal library about the West will be more complete with this book.

• “Shot All to Hell: Jesse James, the Northfield Raid, and the Wild West’s Greatest Escape” by Mark Lee Gardner. The infamous James/Younger gang couldn’t pass up the chance to raid the “fat bank” in Northfield, Minn., though it was a long way from their comfort zone. Citizens were ready for them. It’s one of those books that is difficult to put down once the hooks are set.

• If you like professional football, and you don’t have to be a Cowboys fan to enjoy. Try on Joe Nick Patosk’s “The Dallas Cowboys: The Outrageous History of the Biggest, Loudest, Most Hated, Best Loved Football Team in America.” Patoski profiles the NFL politics involved for two super-rich oilmen, Lamar Hunt and Clint Murchison, in getting Dallas a franchise. (Hunt moved to Kansas City and renamed the Texans the Chiefs.) The well-written narrative includes all the warts, the triumphs and how the team often reflected the dynamics of the city. Lots of laugh-out loud humor, too, particularly from “Dandy Don” Meredith. Another good football read is “Monsters: The 1985 Chicago Bears and the Wild Heart of Football” by Rich Cohen.

• Melanie Hoffert’s memoir, “Prairie Silence,” is an affecting, evocative story of coming out, while coming of age. Ms. Hoffert wrote it over a six-year period. It’s a lovely memoir of how rich life can be: a family farm, the pull of the North Dakota prairie, the fabric of small-town life. Ms. Hoffert has family in Sheridan and recently did readings here. It is the book I will give to friends for Christmas.

• “Southern League” by Larry Colton is both a dose of southern history in the integration of 1964 Birmingham, what with its church bombings and police dogs, and how a resurrected minor league baseball team gave its city hope in a tumultuous time. It’s a good book about baseball as well.

My two favorites:

• “Guns at Last Light” by Rick Atkinson. It is the conclusion of his WWII liberation trilogy. A masterful telling of the Allied rush to end the war in Europe, Atkinson writes from the perspective of teenaged infantry soldiers, worn-out company commanders and from the insights of presidents and prime ministers.

• “Brothers” by George Howe Colt profiles the burdens and privileges of being an older, a middle or younger brother and why nostalgia is such a powerful emotion in all of us. Colt also parallels his own experiences with his siblings, using illustrations of what makes families complex. Another treat is how Colt explores the lives of famous brothers: the Booths, Kelloggs, Thoreaus, the Marx brothers and others.

 

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Quotable

 

“Biography is a means of expression when the author has chosen his subject in order to respond to a secret need in his own nature. We may buy biographies to learn about the subject, but we keep reading because the biographer has put something undeniably personal in the portrait.”

 

—Andre Maurois, French author/historian, 1885-1967

 

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