Sunday, July 24, 2011

A few book reviews

As mentioned in my previous post, I have been fortunate enough to have a little extra time to catch up on some long sought reading.  In light of the recent announcement that Borders has declared bankruptcy, I thought I would give a quick synopsis of these books in case you might be interested in picking up one or both of these books during the clearance sales.  I promise to give more book synopses as I read further.

License to Pawn by Rick Harrison:  If you are a fan of the History Channel, then you have probably seen the hit tv show Pawn Stars.  In short, the show is Antiques Roadshow with an edge.  The author of the book, Rick, owns a pawn shop in Las Vegas with his father, known as Old Man, where he employs his son, Big Hoss, and Big Hoss's childhood friend, Chumlee.  On the show, all sorts of historical items are brought into the shop, and the four stars use their knowledge and a team of experts to determine the history of the item and negotiate a purchase price.

The book takes a look into the history of "The World Famous Gold & Silver Pawn Shop", its customers, and some of the more interesting items in the shop.  Of particular interest is Rick's relentless desire to build the pawn shop and make a buck anyway he can find.  However, Rick is at his best when describing the many characters the shop has seen over the years, especially the recurring customers who have become as much a part of the shop as the employees.

Other parts of the book also provide a biography into the lives of Rick and the other stars of the show.  As expected, the four stars have each lived rather rough lives at times, and one would not want to pick a fight with any of them.  Additionally, Rick discusses his struggles, and those of Big Hoss and Chumlee, to overcome heavy drug use.  All three have now been sober for many years, and are strong supporters of anti-drug campaigns.

One area in which the book fails, though, is in its look behind the scenes at the production of Pawn Stars.  Although Rick notes that the stars of the show are no longer able to work the counter on a regular business day (they largely shut the store down for filming), Rick gives little other insight into the experts, the time spent filming, and how quickly items purchased on the show are sold.  Personally, I would have enjoyed a deeper look behind the scenes of the show's daily operations.

Overall, the book is a quick read, and one well worth reading if you enjoy the show.  However, if you are not a fan of the show, or only an occasional viewer, you probably want to pass.

The Good Stuff by Joe Posnanski:  For all of you sports lovers out there, this is a book you will really love.  The book is a compilation of columns of former Kansas City Star sports columnist, and current Sports Illustrated writer, Joe Posnanski.  In my opinion, Posnanski is the best sports writer in the business, and this book highlights him at his best.

In 2001, the Kansas City Star and Posnanski decided to compile what they considered his best columns over the past few years.  Thus, although I thoroughly enjoy Posnanski's work, I was concerned this book might be (1) outdated, and (2) too focused on Kansas City sports to be interesting to a St. Louis sports fan.  Despite these concerns, neither became an issue.

As to the outdated part, yes, the columns all covered events at least 10 years old.  However, it was enjoyable to relive events from the 2000 Olympics, Tiger Woods's early years, and many others.  Often, Posnanski's columns quickly made me forget just how long it had been since these events occurred.

Regarding my second concern, this was also rarely an issue.  Yes, some of the columns focused on the Chiefs, the Royals, and Kansas basketball, but again, most of the columns were more national in coverage, and even those focusing on Kansas City area sports were primarily a look into human nature and the power of a person to achieve even in the midst of the most adverse circumstances.

If you have any interest in sports, I would highly recommend this book.  Do not let its age or Kansas City connections fool you into dismissing this great read.  It is a book I am sure you will enjoy.

1 comment:

  1. Chumlee is the only reason I dig that show. :-)

    I'll have to look for the book.