Let's be honest: 2014 ended up a memorable year -- but not always in a good way. Certainly not if you wanted a new Congress that cares about inequality and injustice in America, or if you wanted any Philadelphia sports team to go deep into the playoffs, or make the playoffs, or win one lousy home game...but I digress. Even if you were a right-wing ideologue San Francisco Giants fan (and how weird would that be?!) you saw your share of heartache and frustration over the last 12 months.
But the good news is that we're humans -- we work hard for the money, and we produce some great things along the way. Like books, Some Friends of Attytood (what did you think FOA stood for?) wrote some amazing tomes over the last year -- several released just in the last couple of weeks. If you're like me and most people, you're just starting your holiday shopping today -- and so here's a quick guide to some stocking stuffers worthy of stuffing down your stockings.
BEFORE EUREKA!: The Adventures of Young Archimedes, by Bryan Bunch. Possibly the very first Attytood commenter in those lonely days of the Middle Bush Era (yes, my father is What Media Bias?....ha, ha, that's a joke), the original Friend of Attytood has published his first novel -- aimed at young readers -- and it's the happy meeting of the author's lifelong love of science, of language, but mainly of discovery. If you think of Archimedes as just some crazy Greek guy displacing bathwater and running naked down the street shooting "Eureka!.," you may be right, but there's much, much more to the story. Before Eureka! fills in the blanks about an epic time of war, false gods, kidnappings and scientific discovery...that faintly echoes our own troubled days, but in robes and sandals.
GREAT MEN DIE TWICE: The Selected Works of Mark Kram, edited by Mark Kram Jr.: The biggest question about this forthcoming anthology of the iconic Sports Illustrated writer of the 1960s and '70s is why was there not such a book sooner. Collected by his son -- a friend and former colleague here at the Daily News -- who's a remarkable writer in his own right, Great Men Die Twice is a knockout book for fans of the last great era of boxing, when the likes of Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier roamed the canvass. It's a tome that reeks of gin-soaked nights and a time when sportswriters weren't so busy sending out tweets that they wrestled hard with every tap of a manual typewriter key to produce sports poetry.
ODE TO BILLY JOE: A 33 1/3 book by Tara Murtha: Every record tells a story, don't it? The 33 1/3 series that the publisher Bloomsbury has been spinning for a couple of years is one of the most exciting things going in books today. The idea is to pair one great record with one great writer, and let 'er rip. Tara Murtha's short history of arguably the greatest country 45 of the 1960s -- the haunting, mesmerizing No. 1 single by Bobbie Gentry -- arrived on my desk this afternoon, and I can't wait to read it. I doubt Murtha will truly solve the mystery of what Billie Joe McAllister threw off the Tallahatchie Bridge -- but she will try to explain how and why Gentry all but vanished from the music scene, and from everything else.
THERE'S A HOUSE IN THE LAND (WHERE A BAND CAN TAKE A STAND) by Shaun D. Mullen. You know the saying, if you remember the 1960s, you weren't really there. But what if you remember the 1970s? Mullen, another former Daily News colleague who writes the excellent blog Kiko's House, tells the story of those who returned from Vietnam (or from the hippie scene), retreated to a farm in the countryside, and recovered with a dose of rock 'n' roll (among other things). The '70s may not have been a long trip, but it was certainly a strange one.
THE KENNEDY HALF-CENTURY: The Presidency, Assassination and Lasting Legacy of John F. Kennedy, by Larry J. Sabato. OK, maybe I'm cheating here -- this book actually came out in 2013, but it was just released in paperback and it's fresher than ever. I know, you may saying..."Another book about JFK?" But our views of the 35th president -- still ranked iin most opinion polls as the greatest of modern times -- and what he meant for America continue to evolve with the times and Sabato (a great source going back two decades) really captures that complicated zeitgeist. President Obama's reversal on Cuba just the other day reminds us Kennedy's past isn't past yet.