The Sandberg Game

In the summer of 1984, I had just completed my first year of law school, and my life was at a bit of a crossroads. I loved studying the law, but I had no desire to be a practicing attorney. I was attending John Marshall Law School in Chicago (now the University of Illinois-Chicago Law School), and I didn’t want to return. Although I loved law school, I knew myself well enough to know that I did not have the disciple to live in Chicago—with all the distractions the city had to offer—and also successfully complete my legal education.

It was a Saturday in late June, and I needed a break from trying to figure out my life. I knew that seeing my parents could provide that distraction.

When I got there, my mom was not home. I should have known. Like every Saturday, she was at the grocery store. My dad was home, and as luck would have it, the Cubs were playing the Cardinals on NBC’s Game of the Week.

In those days, my dad and I had an uneasy relationship. I don’t think he knew what to make of me. Although he was  proud of me for attending law school, I think he saw me still in school at the age of 24 as a way to avoid working for a living. Dad hadn’t graduated from high school. In fact, he had only made it through the eighth grade, and he didn’t understand higher education.

Despite our differences, over the years, we had bonded over baseball. Even at times when we were barely speaking, we would often watch a Cubs game together on WGN-TV. It was our one common point of interest.

What we didn’t know on that June Saturday was that we were about to watch the greatest baseball game either of us had ever seen. The game—which came to be known as The Sandberg Game—featured the Cardinals taking an early lead, the Cubs scoring a comeback victory in extra innings, and Ryne Sandberg having one of the greatest individual performances in baseball history.

Let me set the scene for you. The Cubs were down 9-8 in the bottom of the 9th inning. There were two outs and Sandberg came up to bat. He was facing Bruce Sutter, one of the toughest relivers in the game, and a future Hall-of-Famer. Sandberg saw a pitch up in the zone and he knocked it deep into the left field bleachers  to tie the score.

My dad and I had seen enough Cubs games over the years to not get our hopes up. After all, we had watched them finish each of the previous 11 seasons with a losing record. Although they had come back from a 9-3 deficit, we still didn’t hold out much hope that they would tie, let alone win, the game.

But the 1984 Cubs were a different team. We didn’t know it yet, but they would go on to have a terrific season, winning 96 games, and they would go on to fall just one game short of reaching the World Series, breaking our hearts in the process. Sandberg’s home run caught us by surprise, and we were both suddenly much more interested in the game.

In the tenth inning, the Cardinals scored two runs to take an 11-9 lead, and we were once again certain the Cubs were going to lose. In the bottom half of the inning, Sandberg came to bat again, this time with a runner on first and two outs. Sutter was still on the mound (it was a different time). My dad said, “Can you imagine if Sandberg hits another home run?” One pitch later, he did exactly that, tying the game once again.

My dad did not show much emotion, but when Sandberg hit the ball, Dad let out an “Oh!” I was as surprised by Dad’s relative outburst as I was with Sandberg’s home run. I threw my hands in the air and watched the ball land in almost the exact same spot Sandberg’s 9th inning home run had landed. I looked back at Dad, and he was smiling broadly. There was an excitement in his eyes, and he laughed, a sound I had heard precious little in the previous few years.

The Cubs went on to win the game 12-11 in 11 innings. My life was no closer to being figured out, but at least for that one day–at least for a few hours–I wasn’t worried about it.

Today is the 40th anniversary of The Sandberg Game. It’s hard to believe it was that long ago. Dad is gone now, and I’ve reached middle age, assuming I live to be 128 years old. Life moves on.

Tonight at Wrigley Field in Chicago, the Cubs will unveil a statue of Ryne Sandberg, commemorating his Hall of Fame career. It seems only right that Ryno’s statue be unveiled on the anniversary of The Sandberg Game. Ryne is my all-time favorite Cub, and it was on June 23, 1984 that reverence was cemented.

Here are Sandberg’s two game-tying home runs with Bob Costas and Tony Kubek on the call:

Here is Bob Costas talking about The Sandberg Game on the Rich Eisen show back in 2021.


Saying Goodbye to the GOAT

My first baseball glove resembled a pillow more than a modern day baseball glove. It was a hand-me-down my aunt gave me. When I first saw it, my face fell. I couldn’t hide my disappointment. My dad—my aunt’s brother—thanked her for the gift. He seemed genuinely appreciative, which meant to me that I was stuck with this twenty- or thirty-year-old relic of days gone by.

On the way home from my aunt’s, we made a detour. Dad pulled up in front of Hayden’s Sporting Goods and we went inside. For a kid who loved sports, being in Hayden’s felt like I had died and gone to heaven. There were so many things to look at, so many things to touch. We made our way to the baseball aisle. The display of baseball gloves was like a work of art. And the smell of fresh leather was intoxicating.

My friend Kevin’s dad worked at Hayden’s and he showed us some of the gloves they had for sale. The first few were too big or too expensive. Then he showed us a baseball glove that, at that young age, became the love of my life. It was a light tan, Wilson Sporting Goods Willie Mays model glove. As my dad talked to Kevin’s, I held the glove to my face and took in the aroma. It smelled like baseball.

Kevin’s dad showed us how to break in the glove by placing a softball, not a baseball, in it and tie it up with rubber bands. He showed us how to oil it to keep the leather soft and supple.

On the way home, I held the glove in my arms like it was a newborn. We followed the directions we had been given to break it in, and then I waited. I wanted to take it outside, to show my friends, but Dad said I couldn’t take it out until the breaking-in process was complete. I don’t remember how long it took, but to me, it seemed like an eternity.

I remember getting up from watching TV to check on the glove. I don’t know what I thought might happen to it. I just wanted to see it. I checked on the glove before I went to bed, but I couldn’t stand the thought of being away from it, so I slept with it next to me in the bed. It was the most important possession I had in my life. It stayed that way for years.

Naturally, I had heard of Willie Mays, but since I now owned a Willie Mays model glove, I put in the effort to learn who Willie Mays really was. I saw him play against the Cubs occasionally on WGN and I saw his highlights on This Week in Baseball with Mel Allen. I read about him in Sports Illustrated and Sport Magazine. 

I once read a story about when Willie was first called up to the majors. He had originally played in the Negro Leagues with the Birmingham Black Barons, but had been signed by the New York Giants and assigned to their minor league team in Minneapolis. Willie was hitting great in Minneapolis, so Leo Durocher, the manger of the Giants, called him up to the big league team.

Willie didn’t think he was ready for the big leagues, and he said that to his manager. Durocher disagreed, and Willie proceeded to get just 1 hit in his first 26 at-bats, for a batting average of .038.

“I told you,,” Willie said to Durocher. “I can’t hit the curveball.”

“I don’t care,” Durocher said. “As long as I’m the manager of the Giants, you’re my centerfielder.”

That’s all Willie needed to hear. He didn’t have to worry about being sent back to the minors, and within three weeks his batting average had risen to .322. Turns out he could hit the curveball.

Willie had a presence about him, a grace that I admired. Even at the end of his career, when his body was betraying him and he was performing more out of habit than ability, other players seemed to have a reverence for him. They held him on a pedestal even when his performance no longer deserved it.

For years, I have heard the debates over who was the best baseball player to ever live. There are arguments for Babe Ruth, Henry Aaron, Mickey Mantle, Ted Williams, even Barry Bonds, but none of those arguments have ever convinced me that anyone was better than Willie Mays. He was a great hitter who hit for average and power, a great fielder with a great arm, and he was a great base runner. Others may have been better at one of those things, but no one was as good as him at all of them.

The great Willie Mays died yesterday at the age of 93. He ended his career 50 years ago, which means that he stopped playing when I was just 14 years old. In one sense, it’s sad that in 50 years, I have not seen a better baseball player than Willie Mays. On the other hand, neither has anyone else.

RIP, Willie. Thanks for being such a wonderful part of my childhood.


The 50 Best Novels I’ve Ever Read

For the past several years, I’ve listed the ten best books I read during the previous year. In that review, I included both fiction (novels, novellas, and short story collections) and nonfiction. Recently, I’ve been thinking about some of the novels I’ve read, and began wondering which were my favorites. As it turned out, during the past nine or ten years, I have rated exactly 50 novels as 5-star on Goodreads.

As I viewed the list of these 50 novels, I was surprised at the diversity of the books I rated 5-star. They range from serious works of literary fiction to a few mysteries, crime novels, and legal thrillers.

I wanted to somehow rank these 50 novels, but knew that would take more time than I wanted to devote to this project. So, I’ve ranked the top ten. The remaining 40 novels will be listed alphabetically by the author’s last name. I’ve also included the Goodreads book description for each novel as well as the rating Goodreads readers have given to each book. Note how out-of-step I am with some of these books compared to other readers.

Top Ten

1) The Flamethrowers  by Rachel Kushner

Goodreads Description: The year is 1975 and Reno—so-called because of the place of her birth—has come to New York intent on turning her fascination with motorcycles and speed into art. Her arrival coincides with an explosion of activity in the art world—artists have colonized a deserted and industrial SoHo, are staging actions in the East Village, and are blurring the line between life and art. Reno meets a group of dreamers and raconteurs who submit her to a sentimental education of sorts. Ardent, vulnerable, and bold, she begins an affair with an artist named Sandro Valera, the semi-estranged scion of an Italian tire and motorcycle empire. When they visit Sandro’s family home in Italy, Reno falls in with members of the radical movement that overtook Italy in the seventies. Betrayal sends her reeling into a clandestine undertow.

The Flamethrowers is an intensely engaging exploration of the mystique of the feminine, the fake, the terrorist. At its center is Kushner’s brilliantly realized protagonist, a young woman on the verge. Thrilling and fearless, this is a major American novel from a writer of spectacular talent and imagination.

Goodreads Review: 3.50

My Thoughts: Honestly, any of these top ten books could have ended up at #1. They are all great. The Flamethrowers holds a special place for me because it is the book that made me love literary fiction. It’s well-written, has a great plot, and it held my rapt attention from the first word to the last. Strangely, other Goodreads readers don’t agree.

2) 11/22/63 by Stephen King

Goodreads Description: On November 22, 1963, three shots rang out in Dallas, President Kennedy died, and the world changed. Unless…

In 2011, Jake Epping, an English teacher from Lisbon Falls, Maine, sets out on an insane — and insanely possible — mission to prevent the Kennedy assassination.

Leaving behind a world of computers and mobile phones, he goes back to a time of big American cars and diners, of Lindy Hopping, the sound of Elvis, and the taste of root beer.

In this haunting world, Jake falls in love with Sadie, a beautiful high school librarian. And, as the ominous date of 11/22/63 approaches, he encounters a troubled loner named Lee Harvey Oswald…

Goodreads Rating: 4.34

My Thoughts: I don’t like many of Stephen Kings books, but the ones I do like, I like. a lot. 11/22/63 is a good example. I love this book. The characters are well-rounded and realistic, the storyline is fantastic (I do love novels involving time travel), and the writing is terrific, To my mind, 11/22/63 is Stephen King’s best book.

3) Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders

Goodreads Description: In his long-awaited first novel, American master George Saunders delivers his most original, transcendent, and moving work yet. Unfolding in a graveyard over the course of a single night, narrated by a dazzling chorus of voices, Lincoln in the Bardo is a literary experience unlike any other—for no one but Saunders could conceive it.

February 1862. The Civil War is less than one year old. The fighting has begun in earnest, and the nation has begun to realize it is in for a long, bloody struggle. Meanwhile, President Lincoln’s beloved eleven-year-old son, Willie, lies upstairs in the White House, gravely ill. In a matter of days, despite predictions of a recovery, Willie dies and is laid to rest in a Georgetown cemetery. “My poor boy, he was too good for this earth,” the president says at the time. “God has called him home.” Newspapers report that a grief-stricken Lincoln returned to the crypt several times alone to hold his boy’s body.

From that seed of historical truth, George Saunders spins an unforgettable story of familial love and loss that breaks free of its realistic, historical framework into a thrilling, supernatural realm both hilarious and terrifying. Willie Lincoln finds himself in a strange purgatory, where ghosts mingle, gripe, commiserate, quarrel, and enact bizarre acts of penance. Within this transitional state—called, in the Tibetan tradition, the bardo—a monumental struggle erupts over young Willie’s soul.

Lincoln in the Bardo is an astonishing feat of imagination and a bold step forward from one of the most important and influential writers of his generation. Formally daring, generous in spirit, deeply concerned with matters of the heart, it is a testament to fiction’s ability to speak honestly and powerfully to the things that really matter to us. Saunders has invented a thrilling new form that deploys a kaleidoscopic, theatrical panorama of voices—living and dead, historical and invented—to ask a timeless, profound question: How do we live and love when we know that everything we love must end?

Goodreads Rating: 3.75

My Thoughts: Lincoln in the Bardo was a revelation to me. It was different from anything I had ever read before. In fact, in my review of the book a few years ago, I said that with his book, George Saunders had created a new genre. I’ve never read anything Saunders has written that I didn’t like. He is America’s preeminent short story writer. Lincoln in the Bardo is his only novel. He says he’s not going to write another one. If that’s the case, thank God he wrote this one.

4) Bastard Out of Carolina by Dorothy Allison

Goodreads Description: Greenville County, South Carolina, is a wild, lush place that is home to the Boatwright family—a tight-knit clan of rough-hewn, hard-drinking men who shoot up each other’s trucks, and indomitable women who get married young and age too quickly. At the heart of this story is Ruth Anne Boatwright, known simply as Bone, a bastard child who observes the world around her with a mercilessly keen perspective. When her stepfather Daddy Glen, “cold as death, mean as a snake,” becomes increasingly more vicious toward her, Bone finds herself caught in a family triangle that tests the loyalty of her mother, Anney—and leads to a final, harrowing encounter from which there can be no turning back.

Goodreads Rating: 4.13

My Thoughts: What a great book. As gritty as just about anything I’ve come across. It’s the best southern gothic novel I’ve ever read. Great writing. Great gritty plot. Bastard Out of Carolina is one of my all-time favorite reads.

5) The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway

Goodreads Description: The quintessential novel of the Lost Generation, The Sun Also Rises (Fiesta) is one of Ernest Hemingway’s masterpieces and a classic example of his spare but powerful writing style. A poignant look at the disillusionment and angst of the post-World War I generation, the novel introduces two of Hemingway’s most unforgettable characters: Jake Barnes and Lady Brett Ashley. The story follows the flamboyant Brett and the hapless Jake as they journey from the wild nightlife of 1920s Paris to the brutal bullfighting rings of Spain with a motley group of expatriates. It is an age of moral bankruptcy, spiritual dissolution, unrealized love, and vanishing illusions. First published in 1926, The Sun Also Rises helped to establish Hemingway as one of the greatest writers of the twentieth century.

Goodreads Rating: 3.79

My Thoughts: I first read The Sun Also Rises when I was in high school. I didn’t like it. Years later, in the early days of my career, I was at a party and was talking about the book to the wife of a work colleague who happened to be an English teacher. She loved the book. I told her it was one of the worst things I had ever read. The writing and the characters were stilted, and the dialogue was at times nonsensical. The woman I was talking to thought I was an idiot. Rightly so. I went back to read the book again a few years later and fell in love with it. I think it’s Hemingway’s best (He has two other books in the top 50), and it’s one of my all-time favorites.)

6) The Wettest County in the World by Matt Bondurant

Goodreads Description: Based on the true story of Matt Bondurant’s grandfather and two granduncles, “The Wettest County in the World” is a gripping tale of brotherhood, greed, and murder. The Bondurant Boys were a notorious gang of roughnecks and moonshiners who ran liquor through Franklin County, Virginia, during Prohibition and in the years after. Forrest, the eldest brother, is fierce, mythically indestructible, and the consummate businessman; Howard, the middle brother, is an ox of a man besieged by the horrors he witnessed in the Great War; and Jack, the youngest, has a taste for luxury and a dream to get out of Franklin. Driven and haunted, these men forge a business, fall in love, and struggle to stay afloat as they watch their family die, their father’s business fail, and the world they know crumble beneath the Depression and drought. White mule, white lightning, firewater, popskull, wild cat, stump whiskey, or rotgut — whatever you called it, Franklin County was awash in moonshine in the 1920s. When Sherwood Anderson, the journalist and author of “Winesburg, Ohio”, was covering a story there, he christened it the “wettest county in the world”. In the twilight of his career, Anderson finds himself driving along dusty red roads trying to find the Bondurant brothers, piece together the clues linking them to “The Great Franklin County Moonshine Conspiracy,” and break open the silence that shrouds Franklin County.

In vivid, muscular prose, Matt Bondurant brings these men — their dark deeds, their long silences, their deep desires — to life. His understanding of the passion, violence, and desperation at the center of this world is both heartbreaking and magnificent.

Goodreads Rating: 3.77

My Thoughts: For years, I had heard about what a great writer Matt Bondurant was, but I had never read anything he’d written. I picked up The Wettest County in the World and quickly realized what all the hype was about. The book was made into a movie called Lawless which was also very good.

7) Manhattan Beach  by Jennifer Egan

Goodreads Description: Anna Kerrigan, nearly twelve years old, accompanies her father to visit Dexter Styles, a man who, she gleans, is crucial to the survival of her father and her family. She is mesmerized by the sea beyond the house and by some charged mystery between the two men.

‎Years later, her father has disappeared and the country is at war. Anna works at the Brooklyn Naval Yard, where women are allowed to hold jobs that once belonged to men, now soldiers abroad. She becomes the first female diver, the most dangerous and exclusive of occupations, repairing the ships that will help America win the war. One evening at a nightclub, she meets Dexter Styles again, and begins to understand the complexity of her father’s life, the reasons he might have vanished.

With the atmosphere of a noir thriller, Egan’s first historical novel follows Anna and Styles into a world populated by gangsters, sailors, divers, bankers, and union men. Manhattan Beach is a deft, dazzling, propulsive exploration of a transformative moment in the lives and identities of women and men, of America and the world.

Goodreads Rating: 3.62

My Thoughts: Jennifer Egan–along with George Saunders–is my favorite writer. When I put this list together, I was surprised that she only had one book on the list. I expected she’d have two or three. Even so, Manhattan Beach is one of my favorite books. It’s a great story and incredibly well-written, which is exactly what I would expect from Egan.

8) The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah

Goodreads Description: Alaska, 1974.
Unpredictable. Unforgiving. Untamed.
For a family in crisis, the ultimate test of survival.

Ernt Allbright, a former POW, comes home from the Vietnam war a changed and volatile man. When he loses yet another job, he makes an impulsive decision: he will move his family north, to Alaska, where they will live off the grid in America’s last true frontier.

Thirteen-year-old Leni, a girl coming of age in a tumultuous time, caught in the riptide of her parents’ passionate, stormy relationship, dares to hope that a new land will lead to a better future for her family. She is desperate for a place to belong. Her mother, Cora, will do anything and go anywhere for the man she loves, even if it means following him into the unknown.

At first, Alaska seems to be the answer to their prayers. In a wild, remote corner of the state, they find a fiercely independent community of strong men and even stronger women. The long, sunlit days and the generosity of the locals make up for the Allbrights’ lack of preparation and dwindling resources.

But as winter approaches and darkness descends on Alaska, Ernt’s fragile mental state deteriorates and the family begins to fracture. Soon the perils outside pale in comparison to threats from within. In their small cabin, covered in snow, blanketed in eighteen hours of night, Leni and her mother learn the terrible truth: they are on their own. In the wild, there is no one to save them but themselves.

In this unforgettable portrait of human frailty and resilience, Kristin Hannah reveals the indomitable character of the modern American pioneer and the spirit of a vanishing Alaska―a place of incomparable beauty and danger. The Great Alone is a daring, beautiful, stay-up-all-night story about love and loss, the fight for survival, and the wildness that lives in both man and nature.

Goodreads Ratings: 4.42

My Thoughts: When I was reading this book, I remember thinking, “Why have I never read Kristen Hannah before?” I loved this book. I read a couple of her other novels but I didn’t get nearly as engrossed in those books as I did in The Great Alone. Even so, The Great Alone is a good one.

9) The River by Peter Heller

Goodreads Description: The story of two college friends on a wilderness canoe trip—of a friendship tested by fire, white water, and violence

Wynn and Jack have been best friends since freshman orientation, bonded by their shared love of mountains, books, and fishing. Wynn is a gentle giant, a Vermont kid never happier than when his feet are in the water. Jack is more rugged, raised on a ranch in Colorado where sleeping under the stars and cooking on a fire came as naturally to him as breathing.

When they decide to canoe the Maskwa River in northern Canada, they anticipate long days of leisurely paddling and picking blueberries, and nights of stargazing and reading paperback Westerns. But a wildfire making its way across the forest adds unexpected urgency to the journey.

When they hear a man and woman arguing on the fog-shrouded riverbank and decide to warn them about the fire, their search for the pair turns up nothing and no one. But: The next day a man appears on the river, paddling alone. Is this the man they heard? And, if he is, where is the woman?

Goodreads Rating: 3.85

My Thoughts: A really well-rendered story that takes place on a beautiful Canadian river. The book is well-written, and the location descriptions remind me of Kristin Hannah’s descriptions in The Great Alone. The River is a really good read.

10) The Brief Wonderous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz

Goodreads Description: Things have never been easy for Oscar, a sweet but disastrously overweight, lovesick Dominican ghetto nerd. From his home in New Jersey, where he lives with his old-world mother and rebellious sister, Oscar dreams of becoming the Dominican J. R. R. Tolkien and, most of all, of finding love. But he may never get what he wants, thanks to the Fukœ—the curse that has haunted the Oscar’s family for generations, dooming them to prison, torture, tragic accidents, and, above all, ill-starred love. Oscar, still waiting for his first kiss, is just its most recent victim.

Diaz immerses us in the tumultuous life of Oscar and the history of the family at large, rendering with genuine warmth and dazzling energy, humor, and insight the Dominican-American experience, and, ultimately, the endless human capacity to persevere in the face of heartbreak and loss. A true literary triumph, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao confirms Junot Diaz as one of the best and most exciting voices of our time.

Goodreads Rating: 3.89

My Thoughts: I had the opportunity to meet author Junot Diaz in 2015. I loved The Brief Wonderous Life of Oscar Wao, and I was excited to meet the man who wrote it. I was disappointed. Diaz is a brilliant writer, but he’s also kind of a jerk. I didn’t think very highly of him. A few years later, people found out how big of a jerk he really was when he was accused by several women of sexual harassment.

The Rest

Peace by Richard Bausch

Goodreads Description: From the prize-winning novelist and world-renowned short story writer, recipient of the PEN/Malamud Award and the Academy Award from the Academy of Arts and Letters, a powerful novel about war, trust, and salvation that begs to be read in a single sitting.

Italy, near Cassino. The terrible winter of 1944. A dismal icy rain, continuing unabated for days. Guided by a seventy-year-old Italian man in rope-soled shoes, three American soldiers are sent on a reconnaissance mission up the side of a steep hill that they discover, before very long, to be a mountain. And the old man’s indeterminate loyalties only add to the terror and confusion that engulf them on that mountain, where they are confronted with the horror of their own time—and then set upon by a sniper.

Taut and propulsive—with its spare language, its punishing landscape, and the keenly drawn portraits of the three young soldiers at its center— Peace is a feat of economy, compression, and imagination, a brutal and unmistakably contemporary meditation on the corrosiveness of violence, the human cost of war, and the redemptive power of mercy.

Goodreads Rating: 2.83

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

Goodreads Description: A grumpy yet loveable man finds his solitary world turned on its head when a boisterous young family moves in next door.

Meet Ove. He’s a curmudgeon, the kind of man who points at people he dislikes as if they were burglars caught outside his bedroom window. He has staunch principles, strict routines, and a short fuse. People call him the bitter neighbor from hell, but must Ove be bitter just because he doesn’t walk around with a smile plastered to his face all the time?

Behind the cranky exterior there is a story and a sadness. So when one November morning a chatty young couple with two chatty young daughters move in next door and accidentally flatten Ove’s mailbox, it is the lead-in to a comical and heartwarming tale of unkempt cats, unexpected friendship, and the ancient art of backing up a U-Haul. All of which will change one cranky old man and a local residents’ association to their very foundations.

Goodreads Rating: 4.38

Anxious People by Fredrik Backman

Goodreads Description: A poignant, charming novel about a crime that never took place, a would-be bank robber who disappears into thin air, and eight extremely anxious strangers who find they have more in common than they ever imagined

Looking at real estate isn’t usually a life-or-death situation, but an apartment open house becomes just that when a failed bank robber bursts in and takes a group of strangers hostage. The captives include a recently retired couple who relentlessly hunt down fixer-uppers to avoid the painful truth that they can’t fix up their own marriage. There’s a wealthy banker who has been too busy making money to care about anyone else and a young couple who are about to have their first child but can’t seem to agree on anything, from where they want to live to how they met in the first place. Add to the mix an eighty-seven-year-old woman who has lived long enough not to be afraid of someone waving a gun in her face, a flustered but still-ready-to-make-a-deal real estate agent, and a mystery man who has locked himself in the apartment’s only bathroom, and you’ve got the worst group of hostages in the world.

Each of them carries a lifetime of grievances, hurts, secrets, and passions that are ready to boil over. None of them is entirely who they appear to be. And all of them—the bank robber included—desperately crave some sort of rescue. As the authorities and the media surround the premises, these reluctant allies will reveal surprising truths about themselves and set in a motion a chain of events so unexpected that even they can hardly explain what happens next.

Humorous, compassionate, and wise, Anxious People is an ingeniously constructed story about the enduring power of friendship, forgiveness, and hope—the things that save us, even in the most anxious of times.

Goodreads Rating: 4.18

Beartown by Fredrik Backman

Goodreads Description: A dazzling, profound novel about a small town with a big dream—and the price required to make it come true.

People say Beartown is finished. A tiny community nestled deep in the forest, it is slowly losing ground to the ever encroaching trees. But down by the lake stands an old ice rink, built generations ago by the working men who founded this town. And in that ice rink is the reason people in Beartown believe tomorrow will be better than today. Their junior ice hockey team is about to compete in the national semi-finals, and they actually have a shot at winning. All the hopes and dreams of this place now rest on the shoulders of a handful of teenage boys.

Being responsible for the hopes of an entire town is a heavy burden, and the semi-final match is the catalyst for a violent act that will leave a young girl traumatized and a town in turmoil. Accusations are made and, like ripples on a pond, they travel through all of Beartown, leaving no resident unaffected.

Beartown explores the hopes that bring a small community together, the secrets that tear it apart, and the courage it takes for an individual to go against the grain. In this story of a small forest town, Fredrik Backman has found the entire world.

Goodreads Rating: 4.29

November Road by Lou Berney

Goodreads Description: Set against the assassination of JFK, a poignant and evocative crime novel that centers on a desperate cat-and-mouse chase across 1960s America—a story of unexpected connections, daring possibilities, and the hope of second chances from the Edgar Award-winning author of The Long and Faraway Gone.

Frank Guidry’s luck has finally run out.

A loyal street lieutenant to New Orleans mob boss Carlos Marcello, Guidry has learned that everybody is expendable. But now it’s his turn—he knows too much about the crime of the century: the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

Within hours of JFK’s murder, everyone with ties to Marcello is turning up dead, and Guidry suspects he’s next: he was in Dallas on an errand for the boss less than two weeks before the president was shot. With few good options, Guidry hits the road to Las Vegas, to see an old associate—a dangerous man who hates Marcello enough to help Guidry vanish.

Guidry knows that the first rule of running is “don’t stop,” but when he sees a beautiful housewife on the side of the road with a broken-down car, two little daughters and a dog in the back seat, he sees the perfect disguise to cover his tracks from the hit men on his tail. Posing as an insurance man, Guidry offers to help Charlotte reach her destination, California. If she accompanies him to Vegas, he can help her get a new car.

For her, it’s more than a car— it’s an escape. She’s on the run too, from a stifling existence in small-town Oklahoma and a kindly husband who’s a hopeless drunk.

It’s an American story: two strangers meet to share the open road west, a dream, a hope—and find each other on the way.

Charlotte sees that he’s strong and kind; Guidry discovers that she’s smart and funny. He learns that’s she determined to give herself and her kids a new life; she can’t know that he’s desperate to leave his old one behind.

Another rule—fugitives shouldn’t fall in love, especially with each other. A road isn’t just a road, it’s a trail, and Guidry’s ruthless and relentless hunters are closing in on him. But now Guidry doesn’t want to just survive, he wants to really live, maybe for the first time.

Everyone’s expendable, or they should be, but now Guidry just can’t throw away the woman he’s come to love.

And it might get them both killed.

Goodreads Rating: 3.87

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

Goodreads Description: Combining magic, mysticism, wisdom, and wonder into an inspiring tale of self-discovery, The Alchemist has become a modern classic, selling millions of copies around the world and transforming the lives of countless readers across generations.

Paulo Coelho’s masterpiece tells the mystical story of Santiago, an Andalusian shepherd boy who yearns to travel in search of a worldly treasure. His quest will lead him to riches far different—and far more satisfying—than he ever imagined. Santiago’s journey teaches us about the essential wisdom of listening to our hearts, recognizing opportunity and learning to read the omens strewn along life’s path, and, most importantly, following our dreams.

Goodreads Rating: 3.91

Deadwood by Pete Dexter

Goodreads Description: DEADWOOD, DAKOTA TERRITORIES, 1876: Legendary gunman Wild Bill Hickcock and his friend Charlie Utter have come to the Black Hills town of Deadwood fresh from Cheyenne, fleeing an ungrateful populace. Bill, aging and sick but still able to best any man in a fair gunfight, just wants to be left alone to drink and play cards. But in this town of played-out miners, bounty hunters, upstairs girls, Chinese immigrants, and various other entrepeneurs and miscreants, he finds himself pursued by a vicious sheriff, a perverse whore man bent on revenge, and a besotted Calamity Jane. Fueled by liquor, sex, and violence, this is the real wild west, unlike anything portrayed in the dime novels that first told its story.

Goodreads Rating: 4.02

Hotel at the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford

Goodreads Description: In 1986, Henry Lee joins a crowd outside the Panama Hotel, once the gateway to Seattle’s Japantown. It has been boarded up for decades, but now the new owner has discovered the belongings of Japanese families who were sent to internment camps during World War II. As the owner displays and unfurls a Japanese parasol, Henry, a Chinese American, remembers a young Japanese American girl from his childhood in the 1940s—Keiko Okabe, with whom he forged a bond of friendship and innocent love that transcended the prejudices of their Old World ancestors. After Keiko and her family were evacuated to the internment camps, she and Henry could only hope that their promise to each other would be kept. Now, forty years later, Henry explores the hotel’s basement for the Okabe family’s belongings and for a long-lost object whose value he cannot even begin to measure. His search will take him on a journey to revisit the sacrifices he has made for family, for love, for country.

Goodreads Rating: 4.04

Replay by Ken Grimwood

Goodreads Description: Jeff Winston was 43 and trapped in a tepid marriage and a dead-end job, waiting for that time when he could be truly happy, when he died.

And when he woke and he was 18 again, with all his memories of the next 25 years intact. He could live his life again, avoiding the mistakes, making money from his knowledge of the future, seeking happiness.

Until he dies at 43 and wakes up back in college again…

Goodreads Rating: 4.15

The Partner by John Grisham

Goodreads Description: A man will do almost anything for ninety million dollars. So will its rightful owners. They found him in a small town in Brazil. He had a new name, Danilo Silva, and his appearance had been changed by plastic surgery. The search had taken four years. They’d chased him around the world, always just missing him. It had cost their clients $3.5 million. But so far none of them had complained.

The man they were about to kidnap had not always been called Danilo Silva. Before he had had another life, a life which ended in a car crash in February 1992. His gravestone lay in a cemetery in Biloxi, Mississippi. His name before his death was Patrick S. Lanigan. He had been a partner at an up-and-coming law firm. He had a pretty wife, a young daughter, and a bright future. Six weeks after his death, $90 million disappeared from the law firm.

It was then that his partners knew he was still alive. And the chase was on.

Goodreads Rating: 3.97

For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway

Goodreads Description: In 1937 Ernest Hemingway traveled to Spain to cover the civil war there for the North American Newspaper Alliance. Three years later he completed the greatest novel to emerge from “the good fight,” For Whom the Bell Tolls. The story of Robert Jordan, a young American in the International Brigades attached to an antifascist guerilla unit in the mountains of Spain, it tells of loyalty and courage, love and defeat, and the tragic death of an ideal. In his portrayal of Jordan’s love for the beautiful Maria and his superb account of El Sordo’s last stand, in his brilliant travesty of La Pasionaria and his unwillingness to believe in blind faith, Hemingway surpasses his achievement in The Sun Also Rises and A Farewell to Arms to create a work at once rare and beautiful, strong and brutal, compassionate, moving and wise. “If the function of a writer is to reveal reality,” Maxwell Perkins wrote to Hemingway after reading the manuscript, “no one ever so completely performed it.” Greater in power, broader in scope, and more intensely emotional than any of the author’s previous works, it stands as one of the best war novels of all time.

Goodreads Rating: 3.98

The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway

Goodreads Description: This short novel, already a modern classic, is the superbly told, tragic story of a Cuban fisherman in the Gulf Stream and the giant Marlin he kills and loses — specifically referred to in the citation accompanying the author’s Nobel Prize for literature in 1954.

Goodreads Rating: 3.80

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

Goodreads Description: Aldous Huxley’s profoundly important classic of world literature, Brave New World is a searching vision of an unequal, technologically-advanced future where humans are genetically bred, socially indoctrinated, and pharmaceutically anesthetized to passively uphold an authoritarian ruling order–all at the cost of our freedom, full humanity, and perhaps also our souls. “A genius [who] who spent his life decrying the onward march of the Machine” (The New Yorker), Huxley was a man of incomparable talents: equally an artist, a spiritual seeker, and one of history’s keenest observers of human nature and civilization. Brave New World, his masterpiece, has enthralled and terrified millions of readers, and retains its urgent relevance to this day as both a warning to be heeded as we head into tomorrow and as thought-provoking, satisfying work of literature. Written in the shadow of the rise of fascism during the 1930s, Brave New Worldd likewise speaks to a 21st-century world dominated by mass-entertainment, technology, medicine and pharmaceuticals, the arts of persuasion, and the hidden influence of elites.

Goodreads Rating: 3.99

Remember Me Like This by Bret Anthony Johnston

Goodreads Description: A gripping novel with the pace of a thriller but the nuanced characterization and deep empathy of some of the literary canon’s most beloved novels, Remember Me Like This introduces Bret Anthony Johnston as one of the most gifted storytellers writing today. With his sophisticated and emotionally taut plot and his shimmering prose, Johnston reveals that only in caring for one another can we save ourselves.
Four years have passed since Justin Campbell’s disappearance, a tragedy that rocked the small town of Southport, Texas. Did he run away? Was he kidnapped? Did he drown in the bay? As the Campbells search for answers, they struggle to hold what’s left of their family together.
Then, one afternoon, the impossible happens. The police call to report that Justin has been found only miles away, in the neighboring town, and, most important, he appears to be fine. Though the reunion is a miracle, Justin’s homecoming exposes the deep rifts that have diminished his family, the wounds they all carry that may never fully heal. Trying to return to normal, his parents do their best to ease Justin back into his old life. But as thick summer heat takes hold, violent storms churn in the Gulf and in the Campbells’ hearts. When a reversal of fortune lays bare the family’s greatest fears—and offers perhaps the only hope for recovery—each of them must fight to keep the ties that bind them from permanently tearing apart.

Goodreads Rating: 3.63

On the Road by Jack Kerouac

Goodreads Description: A quintessential novel of America & the Beat Generation On the Road chronicles Jack Kerouac’s years traveling the N. American continent with his friend Neal Cassady, “a sideburned hero of the snowy West.” As “Sal Paradise” & “Dean Moriarty,” the two roam the country in a quest for self-knowledge & experience. Kerouac’s love of America, compassion for humanity & sense of language as jazz combine to make On the Road an inspirational work of lasting importance. This classic novel of freedom & longing defined what it meant to be “Beat” & has inspired every generation since its initial publication.

Goodreads Rating: 3.61

Heat 2 by Michael Mann

Goodreads Description: Michael Mann, four-time Oscar-nominated filmmaker and writer-director of Heat, Collateral, Thief, Manhunter, and Miami Vice, teams up with Edgar Award-winning author Meg Gardiner to deliver Mann’s first crime novel—an explosive return to the world and characters of his classic film Heat—an all-new story that illuminates what happened before and after the iconic film.

Described by Michael Mann as both a prequel and sequel to the renowned, critically acclaimed film of the same name, Heat 2 covers the formative years of homicide detective Vincent Hanna (Oscar winner Al Pacino) and elite criminals Neil McCauley (Oscar winner Robert De Niro), Chris Shiherlis (Val Kilmer), and Nate (Oscar winner Jon Voight), and features the same extraordinary ambition, scope, rich characterizations, and attention to detail as the epic film.

This new story leads up to the events of the film and then moves beyond it, featuring new characters on both sides of the law, new high-line heists, and breathtakingly cinematic action sequences. Ranging from the streets of L.A. to the inner sancta of rival Taiwanese crime syndicates in Paraguay to a massive drug cartel money-laundering operation just over the border in Mexico, Heat 2 illuminates the dangerous workings of international crime organizations and the agents who pursue them as it provides a full-blooded portrait of the men and women who inhabit both worlds. Operatic in scope, Heat 2 is engrossing, moving, and tragic—a masterpiece of crime fiction from one of the most innovative and influential filmmakers in American cinema.

Goodreads Rating: 4.26

Bearskin by James A. McLaughlin

Goodreads Description: Rice Moore is just beginning to think his troubles are behind him. He’s found a job protecting a remote forest preserve in Virginian Appalachia where his main responsibilities include tracking wildlife and refurbishing cabins. It’s hard work, and totally solitary—perfect to hide away from the Mexican drug cartels he betrayed back in Arizona. But when Rice finds the carcass of a bear killed on the grounds, the quiet solitude he’s so desperately sought is suddenly at risk.

More bears are killed on the preserve and Rice’s obsession with catching the poachers escalates, leading to hostile altercations with the locals and attention from both the law and Rice’s employers. Partnering with his predecessor, a scientist who hopes to continue her research on the preserve, Rice puts into motion a plan that could expose the poachers but risks revealing his own whereabouts to the dangerous people he was running from in the first place.

James McLaughlin expertly brings the beauty and danger of Appalachia to life. The result is an elemental, slow burn of a novel—one that will haunt you long after you turn the final page.

Goodreads Rating: 3.75

Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry

Goodreads Description: A love story, an adventure, and an epic of the frontier, Larry McMurtry’s Pulitzer Prize-winning classic, Lonesome Dove, the third book in the Lonesome Dove tetralogy, is the grandest novel ever written about the last defiant wilderness of America.

Journey to the dusty little Texas town of Lonesome Dove and meet an unforgettable assortment of heroes and outlaws, whores and ladies, Indians and settlers. Richly authentic, beautifully written, always dramatic, Lonesome Dove is a book to make us laugh, weep, dream, and remember.

Goodreads Rating: 4.54

Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell

Goodreads Description: A postmodern visionary who is also a master of styles of genres, David Mitchell combines flat-out adventure, a Nabokovian lore of puzzles, a keen eye for character, and a taste for mind-bending philosophical and scientific speculation in the tradition of Umberto Eco, Haruki Murakami, and Philip K. Dick. The result is brilliantly original fiction as profound as it is playful. Now in his new novel, David Mitchell explores with daring artistry fundamental questions of reality and identity.

Cloud Atlas begins in 1850 with Adam Ewing, an American notary voyaging from the Chatham Isles to his home in California. Along the way, Ewing is befriended by a physician, Dr. Goose, who begins to treat him for a rare species of brain parasite. . . .

Abruptly, the action jumps to Belgium in 1931, where Robert Frobisher, a disinherited bisexual composer, contrives his way into the household of an infirm maestro who has a beguiling wife and a nubile daughter. . . . From there we jump to the West Coast in the 1970s and a troubled reporter named Luisa Rey, who stumbles upon a web of corporate greed and murder that threatens to claim her life. . . . And onward, with dazzling virtuosity, to an inglorious present-day England; to a Korean superstate of the near future where neocapitalism has run amok; and, finally, to a postapocalyptic Iron Age Hawaii in the last days of history.

But the story doesn’t end even there. The narrative then boomerangs back through centuries and space, returning by the same route, in reverse, to its starting point. Along the way, Mitchell reveals how his disparate characters connect, how their fates intertwine, and how their souls drift across time like clouds across the sky.

As wild as a videogame, as mysterious as a Zen koan, Cloud Atlas is an unforgettable tour de force that, like its incomparable author, has transcended its cult classic status to become a worldwide phenomenon.

Goodreads Rating: 4.01

Falling by TJ Newman

Goodreads Description: You just boarded a flight to New York.

There are one hundred and forty-three other passengers onboard.

What you don’t know is that thirty minutes before the flight your pilot’s family was kidnapped.

For his family to live, everyone on your plane must die.

The only way the family will survive is if the pilot follows his orders and crashes the plane.

Enjoy the flight.

Goodreads Rating: 3.87

A Day in the Death of Walter Zawislak by Molly O’Keefe

Goodreads Description: If, at the end of your life, you got to pick one day to relive, what day would you pick?

Walter Zawislak wants none of it. Not a day to relive, not a trip down memory lane through a life he wasted. His wife, Rosie, died twenty years ago, and without her he hasn’t done much living. So if it’s lights out for him, then just turn them off already and let him get some peace and quiet.

But Peter, the mysterious young man in charge of Walter’s afterlife, isn’t listening to Walter. In Peter’s eyes there is beauty in every day, even the bad ones. Even the really bad ones. Of which Water has had more than a few. But there are also days of bravery and heroism. Selflessness and grace.

And Rosie…there are lots of days of Rosie.

Before it’s too late for both of them, Peter has to remind Walter that there’s more to life than dying.

Goodreads Rating: 4.06

Lake Life by David James Poissant

Goodreads Description: From the award-winning author of the acclaimed story collection The Heaven of Animals, called “a wise debut…beautiful [stories] with a rogue touch” (The New York Times Book Review), comes a sweeping, domestic novel about a family that reunites at their North Carolina lake house for one last vacation before the home is sold—and the long-buried secrets that are finally revealed.

The Starling family is scattered across the country. Parents Richard and Lisa live in Ithaca, New York, and work at Cornell University. Their son Michael, a salesperson, lives in Dallas with his elementary school teacher wife, Diane. Michael’s brother, Thad, an aspiring poet, makes his home in New York City with his famous painter boyfriend, Jake. For years they’ve traveled to North Carolina to share a summer vacation at the family lake house.

That tradition is coming to an end, as Richard and Lisa have decided to sell the treasured summer home and retire to Florida. Before they do, the family will spend one last weekend at the lake. But what should to be a joyous farewell takes a nightmarish turn when the family witnesses a tragedy that triggers a series of dramatic revelations among the Starlings—alcoholism, infidelity, pregnancy, and a secret the parents have kept from their sons for over thirty years. As the weekend unfolds, relationships fray, bonds are tested, and the Starlings are forced to reckon with who they are and what they want from this life.

Set in today’s America, Lake Life is a beautifully rendered, emotionally compelling novel in the tradition of Jonathan Franzen’s The Corrections, Elizabeth Strout’s Olive Kitteridge, and Ann Patchett’s Commonwealth.

Goodreads Rating: 3.71

The Heavenly Table by Donald Ray Pollack

Goodreadss Description: From Donald Ray Pollock, author of the highly acclaimed The Devil All the Time and Knockemstiff, comes a dark, gritty, electrifying (and, disturbingly, weirdly funny) new novel that will solidify his place among the best contemporary American authors.

It is 1917, in that sliver of border land that divides Georgia from Alabama. Dispossessed farmer Pearl Jewett ekes out a hardscrabble existence with his three young sons: Cane (the eldest; handsome; intelligent); Cob (short; heavy set; a bit slow); and Chimney (the youngest; thin; ill-tempered). Several hundred miles away in southern Ohio, a farmer by the name of Ellsworth Fiddler lives with his son, Eddie, and his wife, Eula. After Ellsworth is swindled out of his family’s entire fortune, his life is put on a surprising, unforgettable, and violent trajectory that will directly lead him to cross paths with the Jewetts. No good can come of it. Or can it?

In the gothic tradition of Flannery O’Connor and Cormac McCarthy with a healthy dose of cinematic violence reminiscent of Sam Peckinpah, Quentin Tarantino and the Coen Brothers, the Jewetts and the Fiddlers will find their lives colliding in increasingly dark and horrific ways, placing Donald Ray Pollock firmly in the company of the genre’s literary masters.

Goodreads Rating: 4.09

Reincarnation Blues by Michael Poore

Goodreads Description: A magically inspiring tale of a man who is reincarnated through many lifetimes so that he can be with his one true love: Death herself.

What if you could live forever—but without your one true love? Reincarnation Blues is the story of a man who has been reincarnated nearly 10,000 times, in search of the secret to immortality so that he can be with his beloved, the incarnation of Death. Neil Gaiman meets Kurt Vonnegut in this darkly whimsical, hilariously profound, and wildly imaginative comedy of the secrets of life and love. Transporting us from ancient India to outer space to Renaissance Italy to the present day, is a journey through time, space, and the human heart.

Goodreads Rating: 3.88

The Roots of the Olive Tree by Courtney Miller Santo

Goodreads’Description: Set in a house on an olive grove in northern California, The Roots of the Olive Tree is a beautiful, touching story that brings to life five generations of women–including an unforgettable 112 year-old matriarch determined to break all Guinness longevity records–the secrets and lies that divide them and the love that ultimately ties them together.

Goodreads Rating: 3.38

Murder by Other Means by John Scalzi

Goodreads Description: In the world of the Dispatchers, a natural or accidental death is an endpoint; a murder pushes the do-over button and 99.99% of the time the victim comes back to life. Tony Valdez is a Dispatcher who’s been taking shadier and shadier gigs in financial tough times, and after witnessing a crime gone wrong, he finds people around him permanently dying in a way that implicates him. He has to solve the mystery of these deaths to save the lives of others–and keep himself out of trouble with the law.

Goodreads Rating: 4.04

The Dispatcher by John Scalzi

Goodreads Description: One day, not long from now, it becomes almost impossible to murder anyone – 999 times out of a thousand, anyone who is intentionally killed comes back. How? We don’t know. But it changes everything: war, crime, daily life.

Tony Valdez is a Dispatcher – a licensed, bonded professional whose job is to humanely dispatch those whose circumstances put them in death’s crosshairs, so they can have a second chance to avoid the reaper. But when a fellow Dispatcher and former friend is apparently kidnapped, Tony learns that there are some things that are worse than death and that some people are ready to do almost anything to avenge a supposed wrong.
It’s a race against time for Valdez to find his friend before it’s too late…before not even a Dispatcher can save him.

Goodreads Rating: 3.98

Travel by Bullet by John Scalzi

Goodreads Rating: The world has changed. Now, when someone is murdered, they almost always come back to life—and there are professionals, called “dispatchers,” who kill in order to save lives, to give those near the end a second chance. Tony Valdez is a dispatcher, and he has never been busier.

But for as much as the world has changed, some things have stayed the same. Greed, corruption and avarice are still in full swing. When Tony is called to a Chicago emergency room by an old friend and fellow dispatcher, he is suddenly and unwillingly thrown into a whirlpool of schemes and plots involving billions of dollars, with vast caches of wealth ranging from real estate to cryptocurrency up for grabs.

All Tony wants to do is keep his friend safe. But it’s hard to do when friends keep secrets, enemies offer seductive deals, and nothing is ever what it seems. The world has changed… but the stakes are still life and death.

Goodreads Rating: 4.02

The Lovely Bones  by Alice Sebold

Goodreads’Description: “My name was Salmon, like the fish; first name, Susie. I was fourteen when I was murdered on December 6, 1973.”

So begins the story of Susie Salmon, who is adjusting to her new home in heaven, a place that is not at all what she expected, even as she is watching life on earth continue without her — her friends trading rumors about her disappearance, her killer trying to cover his tracks, her grief-stricken family unraveling. Out of unspeakable tragedy and loss, The Lovely Bones succeeds, miraculously, in building a tale filled with hope, humor, suspense, even joy.

Goodreads’Rating: 3.85

A Land Remembered by Patrick D. Smith

Goodreads Description: A Land Remembered has been ranked #1 Best Florida Book eight times in annual polls conducted by Florida Monthly Magazine.

In this best-selling novel, Patrick Smith tells the story of three generations of the MacIveys, a Florida family who battle the hardships of the frontier to rise from a dirt-poor Cracker life to the wealth and standing of real estate tycoons. The story opens in 1858, when Tobias MacIvey arrives in the Florida wilderness to start a new life with his wife and infant son, and ends two generations later in 1968 with Solomon MacIvey, who realizes that the land has been exploited far beyond human need. The sweeping story that emerges is a rich, rugged Florida history featuring a memorable cast of crusty, indomitable Crackers battling wild animals, rustlers, Confederate deserters, mosquitoes, starvation, hurricanes, and freezes to carve a kingdom out of the swamp. But their most formidable adversary turns out to be greed, including finally their own. Love and tenderness are here too: the hopes and passions of each new generation, friendships with the persecuted blacks and Indians, and respect for the land and its wildlife.

Goodreads Rating: 4.45

The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks

Goodreads’ Description: Set amid the austere beauty of the North Carolina coast begins the story of Noah Calhoun, a rural Southerner recently returned from the Second World War. Noah is restoring a plantation home to its former glory, and he is haunted by images of the beautiful girl he met fourteen years earlier, a girl he loved like no other. Unable to find her, yet unwilling to forget the summer they spent together, Noah is content to live with only memories…until she unexpectedly returns to his town to see him once again.

Like a puzzle within a puzzle, the story of Noah and Allie is just the beginning. As it unfolds, their tale miraculously becomes something different, with much higher stakes. The result is a deeply moving portrait of love itself, the tender moments and the fundamental changes that affect us all. It is a story of miracles and emotions that will stay with you forever.

Goodreads Rating: 4.15

The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein

Goodreads Description: Enzo knows he is different from other dogs: a philosopher with a nearly human soul (and an obsession with opposable thumbs), he has educated himself by watching television extensively, and by listening very closely to the words of his master, Denny Swift, an up-and-coming race car driver.

Through Denny, Enzo has gained tremendous insight into the human condition, and he sees that life, like racing, isn’t simply about going fast. On the eve of his death, Enzo takes stock of his life, recalling all that he and his family have been through.

A heart-wrenching but deeply funny and ultimately uplifting story of family, love, loyalty, and hope, The Art of Racing in the Rain is a beautifully crafted and captivating look at the wonders and absurdities of human life … as only a dog could tell it.

Goodreads Rating: 4.23

The Help by Kathryn Stockett

Goodreads Description: Three ordinary women are about to take one extraordinary step.

Twenty-two-year-old Skeeter has just returned home after graduating from Ole Miss. She may have a degree, but it is 1962, Mississippi, and her mother will not be happy till Skeeter has a ring on her finger. Skeeter would normally find solace with her beloved maid Constantine, the woman who raised her, but Constantine has disappeared and no one will tell Skeeter where she has gone.

Aibileen is a black maid, a wise, regal woman raising her seventeenth white child. Something has shifted inside her after the loss of her own son, who died while his bosses looked the other way. She is devoted to the little girl she looks after, though she knows both their hearts may be broken.

Minny, Aibileen’s best friend, is short, fat, and perhaps the sassiest woman in Mississippi. She can cook like nobody’s business, but she can’t mind her tongue, so she’s lost yet another job. Minny finally finds a position working for someone too new to town to know her reputation. But her new boss has secrets of her own.

Seemingly as different from one another as can be, these women will nonetheless come together for a clandestine project that will put them all at risk. And why? Because they are suffocating within the lines that define their town and their times. And sometimes lines are made to be crossed.

In pitch-perfect voices, Kathryn Stockett creates three extraordinary women whose determination to start a movement of their own forever changes a town, and the way women, mothers, daughters, caregivers, friends, view one another. A deeply moving novel filled with poignancy, humor, and hope, The Help is a timeless and universal story about the lines we abide by, and the ones we don’t.

Goodreads Rating: 4.47

Beneath a Scarlett Sky by Mark T. Sullivan

Goodreads Description: Based on the true story of a forgotten hero, Beneath a Scarlet Sky is the triumphant, epic tale of one young man’s incredible courage and resilience during one of history’s darkest hours.

Pino Lella wants nothing to do with the war or the Nazis. He’s a normal Italian teenager—obsessed with music, food, and girls—but his days of innocence are numbered. When his family home in Milan is destroyed by Allied bombs, Pino joins an underground railroad helping Jews escape over the Alps, and falls for Anna, a beautiful widow six years his senior.

In an attempt to protect him, Pino’s parents force him to enlist as a German soldier—a move they think will keep him out of combat. But after Pino is injured, he is recruited at the tender age of eighteen to become the personal driver for Adolf Hitler’s left hand in Italy, General Hans Leyers, one of the Third Reich’s most mysterious and powerful commanders.

Now, with the opportunity to spy for the Allies inside the German High Command, Pino endures the horrors of the war and the Nazi occupation by fighting in secret, his courage bolstered by his love for Anna and for the life he dreams they will one day share.

Fans of All the Light We Cannot See, The Nightingale, and Unbroken will enjoy this riveting saga of history, suspense, and love.

Goodreads Rating: 4.43

The Devil May Dance by Jake Tapper

Goodreads Description: In this thriller, the husband-and-wife heroes of The Hellfire Club head to Hollywood to investigate Frank Sinatra —​ and become mired in a world of blackmail, the mob, and Hollywood scandal.

Charlie and Margaret Marder, political stars in 1960s Washington DC, know all too well how the tangled web of power in the nation’s capital can operate. But while they long to settle into the comforts of home, Attorney General Robert Kennedy has other plans. He needs them to look into a potential threat not only to the presidency, but to the security of the United States itself.

Charlie and Margaret quickly find themselves on a flight to sunny Los Angeles, where they’ll face off against a dazzling world of stars and studios. At the center of their investigation is Frank Sinatra, a close friend of President John F. Kennedy and a rumored mob crony, whom Charlie and Margaret must befriend to get the inside scoop. But in a town built on illusions, where friends and foes all look alike, nothing is easy, and drinks by the pool at the Sands and late-night adventures with the Rat Pack soon lead to a body in the trunk of their car. Before they know it, Charlie and Margaret are being pursued by sinister forces from Hollywood’s stages to the newly founded Church of Scientology, facing off against the darkest and most secret side of Hollywood’s power.

As the Academy Awards loom, and someone near and dear to Margaret goes missing, Charlie and Margaret find the clock is not only ticking but running out. Someone out there knows what they’ve uncovered and can’t let them leave alive. Corruption and ambition form a deadly mix in this fast-paced sequel to The Hellfire Club.

Goodreads Rating: 3.60

A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles

Goodreads Description: The mega-bestseller with more than 2 million readers—Now a Paramount+ with Showtime series starring Ewan McGregor as Count Alexander Rostov

From the #1 New York Times-bestselling author of The Lincoln Highway and Rules of Civility, a beautifully transporting novel about a man who is ordered to spend the rest of his life inside a luxury hotel

In 1922, Count Alexander Rostov is deemed an unrepentant aristocrat by a Bolshevik tribunal, and is sentenced to house arrest in the Metropol, a grand hotel across the street from the Kremlin. Rostov, an indomitable man of erudition and wit, has never worked a day in his life, and must now live in an attic room while some of the most tumultuous decades in Russian history are unfolding outside the hotel’s doors. Unexpectedly, his reduced circumstances provide him entry into a much larger world of emotional discovery.

Brimming with humor, a glittering cast of characters, and one beautifully rendered scene after another, this singular novel casts a spell as it relates the count’s endeavor to gain a deeper understanding of what it means to be a man of purpose.

Goodreads Rating: 4.33

The Lincoln Highway by Amor Towles

Goodreads Description: The bestselling author of A Gentleman in Moscow and Rules of Civility and master of absorbing, sophisticated fiction returns with a stylish and propulsive novel set in 1950s America

In June, 1954, eighteen-year-old Emmett Watson is driven home to Nebraska by the warden of the work farm where he has just served a year for involuntary manslaughter. His mother long gone, his father recently deceased, and the family farm foreclosed upon by the bank, Emmett’s intention is to pick up his eight-year-old brother and head west where they can start their lives anew. But when the warden drives away, Emmett discovers that two friends from the work farm have hidden themselves in the trunk of the warden’s car. Together, they have hatched an altogether different plan for Emmett’s future.

Spanning just ten days and told from multiple points of view, Towles’s third novel will satisfy fans of his multi-layered literary styling while providing them an array of new and richly imagined settings, characters, and themes.

Goodreads Rating: 4.23

Shibumi  by Trevanian

Goodreads Description: A classic spy novel from the bestselling author, Trevanian, about a westerner raised in Japan who becomes one of the world’s most accomplished assassins.

Nicholai Hel is the world’s most wanted man. Born in Shanghai during the chaos of World War I, he is the son of an aristocratic Russian mother and a mysterious German father and is the protégé of a Japanese Go master. Hel survived the destruction of Hiroshima to emerge as the world’s most artful lover and its most accomplished—and well-paid—assassin. Hel is a genius, a mystic, and a master of language and culture, and his secret is his determination to attain a rare kind of personal excellence, a state of effortless perfection known only as shibumi.

Now living in an isolated mountain fortress with his exquisite mistress, Hel is unwillingly drawn back into the life he’d tried to leave behind when a beautiful young stranger arrives at his door, seeking help and refuge. It soon becomes clear that Hel is being tracked by his most sinister enemy—a supermonolith of international espionage known only as the Mother Company. The battle lines are drawn: ruthless power and corruption on one side, and on the other . . . shibumi .

Goodreads Rating: 4.18

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

Goodreads Description: Cora is a slave on a cotton plantation in Georgia. Life is hell for all the slaves, but especially bad for Cora; an outcast even among her fellow Africans, she is coming into womanhood–where even greater pain awaits. When Caesar, a recent arrival from Virginia, tells her about the Underground Railroad, they decide to take a terrifying risk and escape. Matters do not go as planned–Cora kills a young white boy who tries to capture her. Though they manage to find a station and head north, they are being hunted.

In Whitehead’s ingenious conception, the Underground Railroad is no mere metaphor–engineers and conductors operate a secret network of tracks and tunnels beneath the Southern soil. Cora and Caesar’s first stop is South Carolina, in a city that initially seems like a haven. But the city’s placid surface masks an insidious scheme designed for its black denizens. And even worse: Ridgeway, the relentless slave catcher, is close on their heels. Forced to flee again, Cora embarks on a harrowing flight, state by state, seeking true freedom.

Like the protagonist of Gulliver’s Travels, Cora encounters different worlds at each stage of her journey–hers is an odyssey through time as well as space. As Whitehead brilliantly re-creates the unique terrors for black people in the pre-Civil War era, his narrative seamlessly weaves the saga of America from the brutal importation of Africans to the unfulfilled promises of the present day. The Underground Railroad is at once a kinetic adventure tale of one woman’s ferocious will to escape the horrors of bondage and a shattering, powerful meditation on the history we all share.

Goodreads Rating: 4.06

The Winter of Frankie Machine by Don Winslow

Goodreads Description: The author of The Death and Life of Bobby Z. and The Power of the Dog now gives us a fierce and funny new novel—and a blistering new take on the Mafia story.

Frank Machianno is a late-middle-aged ex–surf bum who runs a bait shack on the San Diego waterfront when he’s not juggling any of his other three part-time jobs or trying to get a quick set in on his longboard. He’s a stand-up businessman, a devoted father to his daughter, and a beloved fixture in the community.

Frank’s also a hit man. Specifically: a retired hit man. Back in the day, when he was one of the most feared members of the West Coast Mafia, he was known as Frankie Machine. Years ago Frank consigned his Mob ties to the past, which is where he wants them to stay. But a favor being called in now by the local boss is one Frank can’t refuse, and soon he’s sucked back into the treacherous currents of his former life. Someone from the past wants him dead. He has to figure out who, and why, and he has to do it fast.

The problem is that the list of candidates is about the size of his local phone book and Frank’s rapidly running out of time.

And then things go really bad.

Goodreads Rating: 4.18


The Costs of Being Married

I was married for 28 years before being divorced in 2016. Naturally, I got married because I was in love, but there was another pressure pushing me to tie the knot. I was 27 years old and all of my friends were already married. I never stopped to think about why I was getting married. It was just the next box that needed to be checked on the script that each of us is given in life.

Don’t get me wrong. I wanted to be married. I had sowed a lot of wild oats up until that point in my life, and I was ready to settle down with one person. I looked forward to building our life together, to starting a family, and to growing old together. What I didn’t realize on the day we said our vows was how hard marriage can be, how much work it takes, and in some ways, how unnatural it can feel.

I’ve always been the type of person who enjoys spending time with friends. As a kid and young adult, I was involved in a ton of different activities with a ton of different people. That continued when we were first married. We socialized with friends, both old and new. We’d take annual vacations with other couples. Our social network remained strong and active.

That changed when our friends started having kids. We didn’t see each other as often. My ex and I were the last in our group to have kids. By that time, we weren’t as involved in as many outside-the-home activities and we didn’t see our closest group of friends nearly as often. We were busy with other priorities. We were building careers, expanding our family, and enjoying all that young family life had to offer. At the time, we barely noticed that our social network was fraying and that we were much more isolated than we had ever been.

I’m a fan of long-term, monogamous relationships and believe such a relationship is necessary to have happiness and success in the rest of life. But I wonder if marriage, especially at my age where my kids are grown and out of the house, is a good idea. I’m not alone. According to a study conducted by Pew Research, only about 50% of American over the age of 18 are married. That’s down significantly from where it was in 1960, when 72% of American adults 18-years and older were married.

One shift we have seen in the past several decades is that people are getting married later in life. The median age for Americans getting married for the first time is 30 for men and 28 for women. While most never-married people plan to marry eventually, 41% say they aren’t sure if marriage is right for them. Of that group, about one-third says they don’t plan to ever marry. Despite these numbers, Americans still marry at higher percentages than in most Western countries, and we divorce at a rate higher than any other country.

There are reasons for this decline in marriage. It involves economic considerations (housing prices, student loans, etc.) and  job demands. Getting married and starting a family isn’t quite as easy as it used to be. But the thing that interests me more is the loneliness that comes along with being married.

I know that last sentence sounds counterintuitive. On the surface, being married should be less lonely than being single, right? In practice, it doesn’t work out that way.

As the great Russian writer, Anton Chekov once wrote, “If you’re afraid of loneliness, don’t marry.” According to two separate studies–one conducted at Boston College by Natalia Sarkisian, the other at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst by Naomi Gerstel–marriage tends to weaken, rather than build, ties. Married people tend to call or visit their extended family less often than their single peers, and they are less likely to offer a helping hand or emotional support. In addition, married people are less likely to socialize with friends and neighbors.

By contrast, single people (especially those that have never been married) are more likely to take care of ill and aging parents and siblings. They are also more likely to socialize with friends and neighbors, and offer support when help is needed.

Extrapolating this out, the researchers found that the trends continued, even after kids grew up and moved out. Older married couples found themselves together, but lonely. After years of not calling or visiting family, not socializing with friends nor neighbors, and not lending or asking for help, former social ties were frayed, if not broken. Friends had moved away from each other, making socializing more difficult. And meeting new people–especially in a post-Covid world–was not as simple as it had once been.

In recent years, I have had the opportunity to meet and date several women. One thing I have found is that the longer they have been without a serious relationship, the busier they tend to be. For some, so busy that they no longer have time for a committed relationship, despite the fact that they often yearn for such a relationship. They have rebuilt their life to include activities and friendships that keep them busy, and to a certain extent, fulfilled.

By contrast, women who have only gone a few years without a serious relationship tend to be more ready and available for another relationship. They haven’t yet jumped back into activities, organizations, and friendships that take up the majority of their time.

What does this mean? It appears that the farther away people get from marriage, the less lonely they tend to be and the more busy they become. There is a cost that comes with being married, a cost with raising a family and stretching, if not breaking, social ties.

When I look at my kids, I’m happy I got married and started a family. They are my heart. Yet, I mourn the damage done to friendships and my social life. We are quick to question the cost paid by someone who never marries nor has children, but we seldom question the cost of getting married and starting a family.

I wonder how my married friends feel about this. I’m certain that none of them would say that getting married and having kids was a mistake. But I wonder if they too feel the loneliness that comes once the kids are gone, the socialization with friends and neighbors has dwindled, and the days unfold uncertainly.

The older I get, the more I realize the importance of being around other people, supporting them, encouraging them, and being supported and encouraged in return. I want to be in a committed relationship, but I also want to spend time with friends and family. To me, that’s what life is all about.



Donald Trump’s Conviction is a Cause for Joy and Sorrow

If you’ve read anything I’m written about Donald Trump. you know that I am not a fan of the man. Among other things, I believe that he is a clear and present danger to our country and our democracy. I base that opinion not only on the actions Trump previously took as President, but on the man’s own words that he will act as an authoritarian if elected this November and will use the immense power of the federal government to reward his friends and punish his enemies.

That being the case, you might think that I am overjoyed that Trump was convicted on all 34 counts he was charged with in New York. However, I’m not. Let me explain.

I paid close attention to Trump’s trial, reading testimony from the trial during the day and watching coverage of the proceedings at night. I think I’m pretty knowledgeable about what went on in court. From that perspective, I feel the jury got it right. The evidence was overwhelming. Trump’s former attorney, Michael Cohen, got a lot of the attention and criticism because he is a convicted felon who previously lied in court. However, the most damning evidence against Trump came from his friend, David Pecker, and witness Stormy Daniels, both of whom corroborated much of Cohen’s testimony.

I’m also satisfied with the verdict because I think it’s imperative that leading up to the most important election in the history of our country, that all Americans have a full and clear picture of who Donald Trump really is and what lengths he went to to influence the 2016 Presidential election. An acquittal of the FPOTUS might have given people the mistaken belief that Donald Trump is an innocent man. That’s not what the evidence against him showed, and it’s important that everyone see that fact as clearly as possible before they have the opportunity to reject his Presidential candidacy or return him to the White House.

But I’m also sad. I’m sad that a person that once served our country in its highest office has left an indelible stain on that office. I’m sad that a court in this country was put in the position of having to judge the illegal behavior of a FPOTUS. And I’m sad that for the first time in our nation’s 248 year history, a President of the United States, after leaving office, was found guilty of felonious illegal behavior. Even though I contend that the verdict was correct, it was nonetheless sad.

The verdict was sad for another reason. Actually, let me rephrase that. The reaction to the verdict by people who should be supporting our nation’s institutions is sad. Let me give you a few examples.

Rep. Mike Collins (R-GA): “Time for Red State AGs and DAs to get busy.”

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL): “The verdict in New York is a complete travesty that makes a mockery of our system of justice. A political show trial conducted by an openly pro-Biden judge whose daughter makes money off the case, a jury from the most liberal county in America, absurd and ridiculous charges and outrageous jury instructions that guaranteed guilty verdicts. Biden and the Trump deranged left will stop at nothing to remain in power.”

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI): “After this travesty of justice, our judicial system will never be the same. How can this not be considered the most egregious example of election interference?”

Speaker of the House, Rep. Mike Johnson (R-LA): “Today is a shameful day in American history. Democrats cheered as they convicted the leader of the opposing party on ridiculous charges, predicated on the testimony of a disbarred, convicted felon. This was a purely political exercise, not a legal one. The weaponization of our justice system has been a hallmark of the Biden Administration, and the decision today is further evidence that Democrats will stop at nothing to silence dissent and crush their political opponents.   The American people see this as lawfare, and they know it is wrong—and dangerous. President Trump will rightfully appeal this absurd verdict—and he WILL WIN!”

These comments (and others) are a disgrace. The are shameful. You can’t be a fan of our judicial system and the rule of law only when your side wins. You also can’t be a good and faithful public servant while tearing down one of the pillars of our democracy.

No one is above the law, not even a FPOTUS. That is a good thing. That is a necessary thing if we are to have a government of, by, and for the people. And when people like those elected officials quoted above attack the judiciary and the rule of law, they weaken our democracy and our Constitutional form of government, and push us ever closer toward an authoritarian future.

These people were elected to carry out the will of the people, to maintain and strengthen our democracy. Instead, they attack our country and our governmental institutions, damaging the very democracy and Constitution they were elected to protect.

It’s a travesty that any of these people, would attack the court, the prosecution, the jury, and the very law involved in the case, rather than accept that the system worked the way it was supposed to work. The way it works on a daily basis, holding wrongdoers to account for their illegal behavior.

Just as a reminder, the Manhattan DAs office investigated the case against Trump and took the gathered evidence to a grand jury. The grand jury issued an indictment against the FPOTUS. Trump had the opportunity to mount a vigorous defense against those charges, and a jury of his peers considered both sides of the case. This was not a witch hunt. These were not trumped up charges. This was not a kangaroo court. The case was not rigged.

During every step of the process, Trump was treated like every other citizen (often better). He was notified of the charges against him, he was allowed to defend himself in open court, he was allowed to speak on his own behalf (he chose not to), and a jury of his fellow citizens found that the evidence against him was sufficient to convict him on all counts.

I have no doubt that Donald Trump will appeal the verdict. That is his right. However, in addition to being adjudicated liable for fraud and sexual assault in separate civil trials, Donald Trump is also now a convicted felon. It’s important that voters know all of this before casting their vote.


Dr. Timothy Snyder: Lessons on Fighting Tyranny (Lesson #20)

This is a series of posts involving Dr. Timothy Snyder’s book On Tyranny. In the book, Snyder, a professor at Yale University who specializes in the history of tyrannical movements, shares twenty lessons on how to address and defeat tyranny.

Each lesson contains a short amount of text as well as a video featuring Snyder expanding on the text. This is lesson #20:

Lesson #20: Be as Courageous as You Can

“If none of us is prepared to die for freedom, then all of us will die under tyranny.”


Dr. Timothy Snyder: Lessons on Fighting Tyranny (Lesson #19)

This is a series of posts involving Dr. Timothy Snyder’s book On Tyranny. In the book, Snyder, a professor at Yale University who specializes in the history of tyrannical movements, shares twenty lessons on how to address and defeat tyranny.

Each lesson contains a short amount of text as well as a video featuring Snyder expanding on the text. This is lesson #19:

Lesson #19: Be A Patriot

“Set a good example for what America means for the generations to come. They will need it.”


Updated Indy 500 Predictions

The 108th Indianapolis 500 will be held this Sunday at the famed Indianapolis Motor Speedway. You may recall that in early March of this year I posted my way too early prediction for the race. Here’s my March 2024 prediction:

108th Running of the Indianapolis 500 (March 2024)

  1. Kyle Kirkwood
  2. Scott McLaughlin
  3. Colton Herta
  4. Marcus Ericsson
  5. Josef Newgarden
  6. Alexander Rossi
  7. Scott Dixon
  8. Christian Lundgaard
  9. Conor Daly
  10. Pato O’Ward

This prediction was made long before practice and qualifying, which took place this past week and weekend. That was before Team Penske locked out the front row in qualifying, before Chevy engines began experiencing “plenum events,” before much of Rahal, Letterman, Lanigan (RLL) cars–with the exception of their fourth driver, Takuma Sato–struggled to qualify, and before Marcus Ericsson wrecked his primary car and barely got his backup car into the show.

I’m not running away from my previous prediction (well, maybe a little bit), but if I were to predict the top 10 finishers today, here’s what my list would look like:

108th Running of the Indianapolis 500 (May 2024)

  1. Alexander Rossi
  2. Scott McLaughlin
  3. Will Power
  4. Colton Herta
  5. Josef Newgarten
  6. Kyle Kirkwood
  7. Pato O’Ward
  8. Rinus Veekay
  9. Scott Dixon
  10. Santino Ferrucci

Team Penske looks incredibly stout. They locked out the front row in qualifying and were clearly the class of the field.

Arrow McLaren looks really good, with Alexander Rossi looking especially racey. Pato O’Ward was good, but maybe not as good as I expected. Callum Illot, driving his final race for Arrow McLaren this year, did an acceptable job. Finally, NASCAR star Kyle Larson was exceptional, qualifying fifth in his first-ever IndyCar race.

Chip Ganassi Racing isn’t as strong at IMS as they usually are. Even so, Scott Dixon always seems to find his way to the pointy end of the field. Don’t count out Alex Palou. I didn’t include him in my top 10 and I’m already afraid I’m going to regret it.

Andretti Global had an up-and-down practice week, having had trouble finding pace. Even so, in the end they qualified Colton Herta and Kyle Kirkwood near the front of the field, Marco Andretti in 19th position, and barely got Ericsson into the fastest thirty-three., qualifying him in the 32nd position.

RLL struggled again this year, qualifying Christian Lungaard in 28th position, Pietro Fittipaldi in 30th, and Graham Rahal in 33rd. The one positive note for RLL was qualifying Takuma Sato in 10th.

Meyer Shank Racing looked fair to fairly good at different times throughout practice and qualifying, landing Felix Rosenquist in 9th position, Helio Castroneves in 20th, and Tom Bloomqvist in 26th.

AJ Foyt Racing showed improved pace, qualifying Santino Ferrucci in the fast 6 and Sting Ray Robb in 23rd. Look out for Ferrucci. He may not be very popular with his fellow drivers, but he knows his way around the Speedway.

Juncos Hollinger Racing showed speed at times, but could only muster a 22nd for Augustin Canapino and 26th for Romain Grossjean.

Dale Coyne really struggled, qualifying Katherine Legge–the only female in the race–in 31st position, and failing to qualify Nolan Seigel into the race.

Ed Carpenter Racing was kind of all over the board. Rinus Veekay was the highest qualifying ECR car in 7th position. Team owner Ed Carpenter qualified in 17th, and Christian Rasmussen qualified 24th.

Finally, Dreyer & Reinbold Racing (running two one-off programs) qualified Ryan Hunter Reay in a surprising 12th position, and Conor Daly–who got bit bad by the “plenum event” bug–in 29th. Don’t count out Daly. He has a fast car that was hit with some bad luck. If he can keep his nose clean in the race, expect Daly to be a big mover.

That’s it. I’m looking forward to a great race. And although I’m certain my predictions are correct, please remember that such predictions are intended for entertainment purposes only and are not offered for the purpose of wagering. 😉


The 33 Greatest IndyCar Drivers in History

With the 108th running of the Indianapolis 500 coming up in just a couple of days, I thought I’d put together a list of the 33 greatest drivers to ever compete in IndyCar. Note I didn’t say “to compete in the Indy 500.” That would be a different list.

I’ve been thinking recently about the best to ever strap into an IndyCar because I think we are witnessing some of the best drivers in history competing in the series right now. That led me to do some research and come up with this list.

Sadly, I think we tend not to appreciate the greatness of drivers until their time in the sport comes to an end. That’s a shame, because we too often witness greatness without realizing it until some time later. Wouldn’t it be nice to recognize it now, while we’re watching it?

Before we get into the list, let me share my biases and criteria. I’m biased against drivers from long ago who competed in the AAA and USAC days. I’m sure they were great drivers, but the series competed sporadically, at times only having a few races in a season. In addition, the competition was not as stacked as it is today. I did consider drivers who competed in AAA and USAC. I even included a couple. But overall, I gave more credit to drivers from the late USAC, ChampCar, IRL, and IndyCar days.

I’m also biased against drivers who only competed in a handful of races. You could make an argument the Graham Hill and Jim Clark are two of the best drivers to ever compete in IndyCar. After all, they are two of the greatest drivers to ever compete in any racing series. But they only dabbled in IndyCar. They weren’t full-time competitors.

The criteria I used to rank the drivers included number of victories, winning percentage, championships won, and Indy 500s won. Including Indy 500 victories was a little tricky because some of the drivers never had the chance to compete at Indy due to the ChampCar/IRL split. I tried to be as subjective as possible, but I’m sure my own opinions crept in here and there.

Okay, enough prelude. Here are the 33 best IndyCar drivers in history:

33. Tony Kanaan

Race Starts: 389
Race Victories: 17 (4.37)
Championships: 1
Indy 500 Starts/Victories: 22/1

Tony Kanaan has been a fan favorite for years, and routinely got the loudest ovation during driver introductions when he competed at Indianapolis. His career was marked with inconsistent rides, which often didn’t allow him to showcase his talent. But he checked two very important boxes during his career: a championship and an Indy 500 victory.

32. Ryan Hunter Reay

Race Starts:  293
Race Victories: 18 (6.14)
Championships: 1
Indy 500 Starts/Victories: 15/1

Hunter Reay, known by the nickname “Captain America,” has the 22nd most victories in IndyCar history. He is most well-known for his time in the DHL car for Andretti Global. And like Kanaan, Hunter Reay checked both the championship and Indy 500 victory boxes on his career. Unlike Kanaan, Hunter Reay is still competing, albeit on a part-time basis now.

31. Simon Pagenaud

Race Starts: 207
Race Victories: 15 (7.25)
Championships: 1
Indy 500 Starts/Victories: 12/1

I mean no offense when I say this, but I was surprised that Simon Pagenaud earned his way onto this list. But with 15 IndyCar victories, a championship, and a win at the Indy 500, Pagenaud deserves his spot on the list. Sadly, due to a nasty practice accident at Mid-Ohio in 2023, Pagenaud is at least temporarily retired. But even if he doesn’t come back to the series, he is already one of the all-time greats.

30. Kenny Brack

Race Starts: 105
Race Victories: 9 (8.57)
Championships: 1
Indy 500 Starts/Victories: 6/1

I thought Kenny Brack had competed in more races than he actually had. With barely over 100 starts, Brack has 9 race victories, including a victory in the Indianapolis 500. A product of Sweden, Brack inspired a generation of racers, including today’s crop of Swedish drivers such as Marcus Ericsson and Felix Rosenquist.

29. Cristiano da Matta

Race Starts: 101
Race Victories: 12 (11.88)
Championships: 1
Indy 500 Starts/Victories: 0/0

In my memory, Cristiano da Matta was a field filler. My memory could not be more wrong. The Brazilian driver only competed in 101 IndyCar races, but he won 12 of them and earned a championship. Like a few other drivers on the list, da Matta never had the opportunity to tackle Indy.

28. Danny Sullivan

Race Starts: 172
Race Victories: 17 (9.89)
Championships: 1
Indy 500 Starts/Victories: 12/1

Sullivan will forever be known for his “spin to win” victory in the 1985 Indy 500 (I was there. Other than Sullivan’s spin, it was one of the most uneventful races in Indy 500 history.). In some ways, I think the “spin to win” kind of overshadows Sullivans career. With 17 race victories, Sullivan is 23rd all-time on the IndyCar win list.

27. Gil de Ferran

Race Starts: 158
Race Victories: 12 (7.59)
Championships: 2
Indy 500 Starts/Victories: 4/1

The late, great Gil de Ferran was a racer through and through. In fact, he died of a heart attack while in a race car, long after his driving career had ended. Despite a rather small number of race starts (158), de Ferran earned two championships and a coveted Indy 500 victory.

26. Helio Castroneves

Race Starts: 379
Race Victories: 31 (8.18)
Championships: 0
Indy 500 Starts/Victories: 23/4

Castroneves is deservedly best known for his four Indy 500 wins. He’s going for a fifth this year. But he is a long-time IndyCar competitor, with 379 IndyCar race starts and 31 victories, putting him 12th all-time on the wins list. So, why is he only ranked 26th on the list of the greatest IndyCar drivers of all time? There are two chinks in his armor. First, his win percentage is just average. It’s not bad, but neither is it great. And, despite 31 race wins, Castroneves never won a championship. In fact, he is the only driver on this list without a championship.

25. Paul Tracy

Race Starts: 282
Race Victories: 31 (11.00)
Championships: 1
Indy 500 Starts/Victories: 7/0

Paul Tracy has become a bit of a punchline during his retirement years, both for his on-air commentary and his performance in the made-for-TV SRX racing series. Neither if these things is necessarily bad. I love that Tracy speaks his mind. In fact, I hated to see him get booted from the NBC coverage of IndyCar races. But his more recent reputation somewhat overshadows what a great racer he was. Winning a total of 31 races, tying him for 12th all-time, Tracy was a fierce competitor who earned himself the IndyCar (CART) championship in 2003. Unfortunately, in 7 tries, Tracy never got that all-important Indy 500 victory.

24. Tom Sneva

Race Starts: 215
Race Victories: 13 (6.05)
Championships: 3
Indy 500 Starts/Victories: 18/1

Tom Sneva was a thinking man’s driver. I remember many years ago he was interviewed on the Today show in the days leading up to the Indy 500. The interviewer couldn’t understand how someone could be so comfortable driving in excess of 200 mph for 500 miles. Sneva explained how the brain works, and how 200 mph seems fast to someone who hasn’t done it, but once you do it, the brain adjusts and it doesn’t seem so fast. I think there’s an argument to be made that Sneva doesn’t deserve to be ahead of Castroneves and Tracy. However, for me, the thing that put Sneva ahead was the three championships.

23. Alex Palou

Race Starts: 69
Race Victories: 10 (14.49)
Championships: 2
Indy 500 Starts/Victories: 4/0

Palou has only been competing in IndyCar a little over four years. How can he be an all-time great? So far, he has won more than 14% of the races he has run, and he already has two championships. If he were to retire tomorrow, he’d still be in the conversation. But he has many more years to compete, and many more chances to win an Indy 500.

22. Gordon Johncock

Race Starts: 270
Race Victories: 25 (9.26)
Championships: 1
Indy 500 Starts/Victories: 24/2

Johncock is an all-time great in IndyCar. With two Indy 500 victories and a championship to his credit, there’s no doubt that he deserves to be on this list. Before putting the list together, I would have guessed Johncock would have been in the top 20 drivers of all-time. But there are so many good ones, he ended up just outside the top 20.

21. Johnny Rutherford

Race Starts: 323
Race Victories: 27 (8.36)
Championships: 2
Indy 500 Starts/Victories: 24/3

It seems fitting that Johncock and Rutherford should end up next to each other on this list. They were two of Robin Miller’s favorites, and in my mind, I can’t think of one without the other. Rutherford ended his career with 27 race victories (15th all-time), 2 championships and 3 Indy 500 wins.

20. Bobby Rahal

Race Starts: 265
Race Victories: 24 (9.06)
Championships: 3
Indy 500 Starts/Victories: 13/1

I struggled with where to put Bobby Rahal in relation to Johncock and Rutherford. Rahal has fewer victories than either man, but he has a higher win percentage than Rutherford, and very close to Johncock. The thing that made me decide to put him ahead of both Johncock and Rutherford was the fact that Rahal has as many championships as the other two combined. You could put the three drivers in almost any order and it would be hard to argue with. For me, Rahal gets the nod.

19. Dan Wheldon

Race Starts: 134
Race Victories: 16 (11.94%)
Championships: 1
Indy 500 Starts/Victories: 9/2

Dan Wheldon was so much better than I remember. With 16 race victories (in just 134 starts), a championship, and two Indy 500 wins, Wheldon deserves to be on the list. But when he died in a race in Las Vegas, Wheldon was just 33 years old and had several good years of racing ahead of him. To be sure, he could have done more.

18. Emerson Fittipaldi

Race Starts: 197
Race Victories: 22 (11.17%)
Championships: 1
Indy 500 Starts/Victories: 11/2

You have to be impressed with Emerson Fittipaldi. IndyCar was his second act. He had already had a successful career in Formula 1, winning two championships, Then he came to IndyCar and competed in 197 races, winning 22, and earning a championship and two Indy 500 victories. Not bad for a second act.

17. Juan Pablo Montoya

Race Starts: 97
Race Victories: 15 (15.46%)
Championships: 1
Indy 500 Starts/Victories: 7/2

I have always considered Juan Pablo Montoya to be one of the great drivers of all time; not just in IndyCar, but in any series. I’ve also always thought that his move to NASCAR, where he competed for eight seasons, was a mistake. I like that he challenged himself and tried something new, but he did it for too long and at the expense of what could have been a top ten IndyCar career. He was still great, but I wanted more.

16. Alex Zanardi

Race Starts: 66
Race Victories: 15 (22.73%)
Championships: 2
Indy 500 Starts/Victories: 0/0

Let me confess to some bias on my part. Alex Zanardi is my all-time favorite race car driver. I loved his approach and his energy. In just 66 IndyCar races, Zanardi won 15 and earned two championships in just four seasons. The story of his crash at Lausitzring is heartbreaking, and the story of his recovery is inspiring. Zanardi never had the opportunity to race at Indy, but he nonetheless deserves his place as one of IndyCar’s all-time greats.

15. Rodger Ward

Race Starts: 153
Race Victories: 26 (17.00%)
Championships: 2
Indy 500 Starts/Victories: 15/2

Rodger Ward competed in the AAA/USAC Championship from 1950 to 1966. His career overlapped with the #13 driver on this list, Jimmy Bryan. During his years of competition, Ward only ran two full seasons (but several partial seasons). Even so, he recorded 26 race victories, 2 championships, and two wins at Indy.

14. Sam Hornish Jr.

Race Starts: 117
Race Victories: 19 (16.24%)
Championships: 3
Indy 500 Starts/Victories: 8/1

More bias to report. I’ve never cared much for Sam Hornish. I can’t even tell you why. He just rubbed me the wrong way. I’ve heard some stories in recent years that make me think my intuition was correct. Regardless, Hornish had an impressive IndyCar career. In just 117 races, Hornish compiled 19 wins, 3 championships, and an Indy 500 victory.

13. Jimmy Bryan

Race Starts: 62
Race Victories: 19 (30.65%)
Championships: 3
Indy 500 Starts/Victories: 9/1

Jimmy Bryan is probably not a name most IndyCar fans are familiar with. He competed in AAA/USAC (the forerunners to more recent iteration of the series) from 1951 to 1960. During that time, Bryan won more than 30% of the races he competed in. He also won three championships in a four year period, and won the Indy 500 in 1958. That’s impressive for any era of the sport.

12. Al Unser Jr.

Race Starts: 330
Race Victories: 34 (10.30%)
Championships: 2
Indy 500 Starts/Victories: 19/2

It’s hard to overstate what a star Al Unser Jr. was during the height of his career. In many ways, he was the face of IndyCar in those days. He is ninth all-time on the IndyCar wins list, won two championships and two Indy 500s. Sadly, his impressive career was somewhat overshadowed by his post-career legal and personal troubles. It always seemed to me that “Little Al” was more comfortable in the cockpit of a race car than he was living life off the track. I felt bad for him. In recent years, with his personal life heading in the right direction, Unser has been around the track more, serving as a driver coach and a consultant.

11. Bobby Unser

Race Starts: 275
Race Victories: 35 (12.72%)
Championships: 2
Indy 500 Starts/Victories: 19/3

Bobby Unser was one of IndyCar’s truly great characters. If you’ve never heard the late Robin Miller talk about Bobby, you’ve really missed out. His interview with Dinner with Racers was also great. On the track, Bobby was also one of IndyCar’s all-time greats. With 35 victories, he is 8th on IndyCar’s all-time wins list. He also earned two championships and won the Indy 500 three times. What a career. What a character.

10. Michael Andretti

Race Starts: 310
Race Victories: 42 (13.55)
Championships: 1
Indy 500 Starts/Victories: 16/0

If you had asked me before I compiled this list where I thought Michael Andretti would be ranked, I would have said somewhere in the top five. After all, with 42 race victories, Michael is number four on the all-time wins list. But when I started comparing his career to others, he fell a bit down the list. For instance, his win total and percentage are both impressive. But his single championship and lack of an Indy 500 win hurt his case. Michael was a hell of a racer. I loved watching him compete. To be sure, he is an all-time great. But I just couldn’t find a way to sneak him any higher.

9. Sebastien Bourdais

Race Starts: 225
Race Victories: 37 (16.44%)
Championships: 4
Indy 500 Starts/Victories: 9/0

I’ve always felt that Sebastien Bourdais’ IndyCar career was underrated. True, he never won the Indy500, a race he seemed to run begrudgingly. But with 37 victories, a 16.44% win percentage, and most of all, four championships, Bourdais is well-deserving of his place on the list.

8. (tie) Josef Newgarden

Race Starts:  203
Race Victories: 29 (14.29%)
Championships: 2
Indy 500 Starts/Victories: 12/1

8. (tie) Will Power

Race Starts: 289
Race Victories: 41 (14.19%)
Championships: 2
Indy 500 Starts/Victories: 16/1

Who has had the better career: Will Power or Josef Newgarden? They each have two championships and an Indy 500 victory. They both win at about the same rate. So, what separates them? Power has 13 more race wins, but he’s also run 86 more races than Newgarden. To catch Power in the next 86 races, Newgarden would have to increase his win percentage by a couple percent. Can he do it? It’s not out of the question. For now, I’m ranking them both as 8th all-time. It will be interesting to see where they end up when both of their careers are done.

6. Dario Franchitti

Race Starts: 266
Race Victories: 31 (11.65%)
Championships: 4
Indy 500 Starts/Victories: 10/3

Dario Franchitti has always been one of my favorite drivers. I loved the way he had this congenial personality outside the car, always with a joke or a ready laugh, but inside the car, he was merciless. His 4 championships is tied for third all time, along with Mario Andretti and Rick Mears. His three victories in the Indy 500 is only surpassed by AJ Foyt, Al Unser Sr., Rick Mears, and Helio Castroneves, all 4-time winners.

5. Al Unser Sr.

Race Starts: 332
Race Victories: 39 (11.75%)
Championships: 3
Indy 500 Starts/Victories: 27/4

What separates Dario Franchitti’s career from Al Unser’s? Franchitti has 4 championship and 3 Indy 500 victories while Unser has 3 championships and 4 Indy 500 victories. Franchitti won 11.65% of his races and Unser won 11.75% of his. I’m giving the nod to Unser because of his 39 race wins versus Franchitti’s 31. I understand that Unser ran 66 more races than Franchitti, but it was Franchitti who left IndyCar for an ill-fated foray into NASCAR. In my mind, that’s only a tiny ding. But a tiny ding is all it takes to separate these two great drivers.

4. Rick Mears

Race Starts: 211
Race Victories: 29 (13.74%)
Championships: 4
Indy 500 Starts/Victories: 15/4

Rick Mears is tied for the most Indy 500 victories with four. I attended and predicted two of them. I was a big Mears fan. He was a racer through-and-through. I’m sure I’m wrong about this, but I always had the impression that if Rick Mears couldn’t race, he wouldn’t (or couldn’t) do anything else. Because of his four Indy 500 victories, I’m afraid that people forget that he won other places as well. He won a total of 29 IndyCar races and earned a championships. He was much more than just an Indy 500 specialist.

3. Mario Andretti

Race Starts: 408
Race Victories: 52 (12.75%)
Championships: 4
Indy 500 Starts/Victories: 29/1

When I started compiling this list, I wanted to find a way to put Mario Andretti first. I’ve always felt that he was one of the most talented drivers in the world, regardless of series or driving era. I have deep respect and admiration for him. Unfortunately, I couldn’t in good conscience find a way to rank him as the best IndyCar driver in history. He is third all-time in victories with 52, trailing only AJ Foyt and Scott Dixon, and his four series championships ties him for third place all time. For me, Mario is the all-time face of IndyCar. But when it comes to driver rankings, he comes home third.

2. Scott Dixon

Race Starts: 390
Race Victories: 57 (14.62%)
Championships: 6
Indy 500 Starts/Victories: 21/1

Scott Dixon never fails to impress me. I love the way his competitors have so much respect for him that they shrug off the miracles he seems to pull out constantly as just “Dixon doing Dixon things.” His 57 victories is more than the great Mario Andretti in fewer races, and is second to AJ Foyt. He trails Foyt in championships by one, but he is still competing and is showing no signs of slowing down. I know he desperately wants to win another Indy 500, and I suspect that he views just having one as a bit of a blemish on his otherwise stellar record. Maybe this is the years for his second 500 win.

1..AJ Foyt

Race Starts: 277
Race Victories: 67 (24.19%)
Championships: 7
Indy 500 Starts/Victories: 35/4

I didn’t want Foyt to fill the top spot on the list. I’ve never been a big AJ Foyt fan, and every time I see a list like this, it gnaws at me that people just blindly accept that AJ is the best ever. Even so, I’m ranking AJ as the best ever. How can you not? He has 67 race victories, the most all-time, he won 7 championships (the only man to do that), and he won the Indy 500 4 times, one of only four people to ever do that. Over the course of AJ’s career, he won nearly one out of every four races in which he competed. There’s no way I can dismiss or discount that kind of career.


Dr. Timothy Snyder: Lessons on Fighting Tyranny (Lesson #18)

This is a series of posts involving Dr. Timothy Snyder’s book On Tyranny. In the book, Snyder, a professor at Yale University who specializes in the history of tyrannical movements, shares twenty lessons on how to address and defeat tyranny.

Each lesson contains a short amount of text as well as a video featuring Snyder expanding on the text. This is lesson #18:

Lesson #18: Be Calm When the Unthinkable Arrives

“Modern tyranny is terror management. When the terrorist attack comes, remember that authoritarians exploit such events in order to consolidate power. The sudden disaster that requires the end of checks and balances, the dissolution of opposition parties, the suspension of freedom of expression, the right to a fair trial, and so on, is the oldest trick in the Hitlerian book. Do not fall for it.”