June Book Reviews

I took the last few days to catch up on some reading.  I read Another Hill to Climb, by Bo Ryan, Wisconsin’s successful basketball coach, Rome 1960 by David Maraniss, about the 1960 Olympics and how they changed the world and In Defense of Food, a critique of the Western Diet, by Michael Pollan.

Another Hill to Climb is the story of how Bo Ryan became a successful Big Ten basketball coach.  Its not particularly well written, but its an interesting, quick read nonetheless.  Ryan is an interesting character in the college basketball world because he comes from a very humble background and still is quite humble today.  He is willing to speak his mind when he thinks that something is unfair and has lots of funny stories about growing up in Chester, PA and moving up through the coaching ranks.   He shows the amount of dedication necessary to be successful in college coaching and believes that his lessons can be used in other professions.  I think he is right.  If you are a basketball fan, check out this book.

Rome 1960: The Olympics that Changed the World is David Maraniss’ newest book and is just as interesting as his previous works.  He tells the story of the 1960 Olympics, set against the backdrop of the cold war, the civil rights movement and weaves individual stories about athletes, organizers and politicians.  1960 was the first televised Olympics and the last olympics where athletes were supposed to be completely nonprofessionals.  The 1960 Olympics had the world’s first doping scandal and the first sub sarahan-African to win  a gold medal.  I never thought a history book could be a page turner until I read Maraniss’ They Walked Into Sunlight, but his books are.  I found myself reading an extra chapter when I was about to go to bed because I wanted to know who won the 1960 100m gold medal.  If you enjoy history, check out this book.  If you have never read any of Maraniss, check out They Walked into Sunlight, Clemente or his Vince Lombardi biography.  I highly recommend any of them.

Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food is the following to his first book, The Omnivore’s Dilemma, which narrowly missed out on being one of my favorite books of 2008.  In Defense of Food is interesting because Pollan attacks the idea that we can eat food based on nutrition, instead of being just food.  He traces the origin of the Western Diet, high in dairy, meat and refined carbohydrates, and why it is bad for you.  Its amazing that an apple today has 33% the nutrients that an apple did in 1950.  There are plenty of other examples in the book.

He also talks about how we got to where we are and how we can fix our diet moving forward.  Its not a dull as it seems, as Pollan is a journalist by trade and includes lots of amusing anecdotes in his writing.  If you enjoy food or want to learn more about why Americans’ diet, check this book out.

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