Wednesday, October 25, 2023

Murderabilia: A History of Crime in 100 Objects (Harold Schechter)

With podcasts developing like My Favorite Murder and Serial, the popularity of the true crime genre seems to have had a comeback in recent years. Although with older books such as Helter Skelter and In Cold Blood, I'm not sure it ever really wasn't popular.

Harold Schechter's Murderabilia: A History of Crime in 100 Objects is an interesting look at 100 true crime cases in a few pages each. Of course there are the standard cases most people have heard of like the Black Dahlia and the Manson murders. But there are some cases that may have been infamous in their time but are probably more obscure to modern-day people.

Schechter begins each case with an image of an object that has to do with it (such as the shotgun used in the Clutter family murders). I thought that more could have been woven in about each object in the case (sometimes it's barely mentioned), but all in all, I did find Murderabilia a worthwhile book for true crime readers.


Tuesday, October 10, 2023

Once a Giant: A Story of Victory, Tragedy, and Life After Football (Gary Myers)

The 1986 New York Giants were one of the best Super Bowl champions in history, winning all but two of their games and only losing those two games by a combined eight points. The Giants’ first championship since the 1950’s set the stage for another Super Bowl championship four years later. Gary Myers’s book Once a Giant: A Story of Victory, Tragedy, and Life After Football is an account about how these football players and coaches bonded off the field and have continued to maintain strong friendships over 35 years after their Super Bowl championship.

Myers interviews a number of Giants players and coaches, including head coach Bill Parcells and star players Phil Simms and Lawrence Taylor. These interviews cover their time as teammates as well as their lives after football. For many of them, the toll of playing the game and the repeated hitting that is a part of the sport caused nagging long-term effects that included some former players contemplating suicide. Through it all, many of the 1986 Giants have been able to confront and survive these challenges together.

Once a Giant is a great read for Giants fans. The book is balanced, enjoyable to read, and provides several good laughs from some of the anecdotes.


Thursday, October 5, 2023

Ice: From Mixed Drinks to Skating Rinks -- a Cool History of a Hot Commodity (Amy Brady)

Many of us have the ability to get an ice cube on demand from our refrigerator or are within a reasonable drive or walk to get ice cream from a stand or grocery store. The ability to chill and produce frozen concoctions of some sort is one of the modern conveniences that has had a long, winding evolution to get to its current state.  Author and historian Amy Brady chronicles the frozen journey in Ice: From Mixed Drinks to Skating Rinks – a Cool History of a Hot Commodity.

Brady’s book is a mostly entertaining story of how ice evolved from a regional means of keeping things cold to how we use ice today - not just keeping items chilled but also a key ingredient in any chilled drinks and desserts, as well as the year-round recreational pursuit of skating in an indoor rink. Ice shares the invention and technological advancement of ice making and refrigeration and the good (and bad) that resulted from it. Early pioneers in the field of artificial ice making were scoffed upon and ridiculed for their attempts at “playing God” while their technology was eventually co-opted and used in further advancements in refrigeration that became more widespread.

Some individuals who are prominent in the history of America’s ice trade and evolution of ice aren’t included in the story - many in Washington, DC, and in Ohio may know of Mike Uline’s business interests in both the production of ice and the indoor arena that had his name on it in our nation’s capital. However, other unique and even entertaining stories are included. Ice has played a powerful role in transforming American life and our economy over the centuries and Ice (the book) captures much of that story in an effective way.