Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The Book of ...

One of my favorite websites is, a site that covers sports and pop culture, mainly because it has such a great stable of writers. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve read a great article and thought, I wish someone would pay this person to write an in-depth book on this topic. So, inspired by Bill Simmons' The Book of Basketball, which covers the 96 greatest NBA players of all time here are four Grantland writers and the three best of books that I wish they’d write.

Steven Hyden: The Book of Rock

I first came across Hyden’s work when he was writing for the AV Club, the Onion’s entertainment website. Hyden’s 10 part feature, Whatever Happened to Alternative Nation was just a pure dose of nostalgia for a guy like me who grew up listening to Pearl Jam and Soundgarden. Each part of the series focuses on a year from 1990 to 1999 and covers the highs and lows of alternative music beginning with the emergence of Nirvana and ending with the Woodstock '99 debacle. Once he moved to Grantland, Hyden was at it again discussing the rise and fall of rock and roll within mainstream culture with articles on the most important rock bands through the ages: Led Zeppelin, Kiss, Bon Jovi, Aerosmith, Metallica, Linkin Park, and The Black Keys in a series called The Winner’s History of Rock and Roll. I would love nothing more than for Hyden to expand this stuff out to a full size Book of Rock. I'd assume to make Hyden's Rock Pantheon bands would have to pass the five album test: has the band released five great albums in a row? Based on this rubric Hyden would include Queen, The Beatles, and Led Zeppelin, but not The Rolling Stone or MetallicaHey I'm with you. Kill 'Em All, Ride the Lightning, Master of Puppets, And Justice for All, and The Black Album are all awesome. I hope one day Hyden can look past his distaste for the lack of bass on And Justice for All, but I fear I hope in vain.. Whatever the metric, Hyden needs to get on this before, as he puts it, books disappear.

David Shoemaker: The Book of Wrestling

I absolutely loved professional wrestling when I was a kid. While all the other kids were drawn to Hulkamania I was a Macho Man Randy Savage guy. As I grew older I stopped watching wrestling and was only vaguely aware of the WWE’s attitude era with guys like Stone Cold Steve Austin and The Rock. However, when Macho Man passed away at an early age due to a heart attack I tuned into Monday Night Raw that night to watch the tribute. I was immediately sucked back into wrestling and of course was drawn to an anti-hero named CM Punk, who immediately struck me as the Macho Man to John Cena’s Hulk Hogan. When CM Punk raised his arms and delivered the Macho Man elbow off the top rope my inner 8 year old went nuts. And no one has captured the rise of CM Punk like David Shoemaker, who prior to contributing to Grantland wrote this Dead Wrestler of the Week Column. Luckily Shoemaker has a book coming out in October called The Squared Circle: Life, Death, and Professional Wrestling which I’m looking forward to. But what I really want to know is who is at the top of the rankings? I think obviously Hogan has to be #1 right? But where is everyone else? I need an expert to figure it out. Do it Shoemaker!

Louisa Thomas and Brian PhillipsAnd after reading Phillips' awesome article (and website design clinic) on the Iditarod, I'd read a book ranking the Iditarod finishers as well.: The Book of Tennis

I grew up playing tennis and I have fond memories of Breakfast at Wimbledon during summer vacation. I’m always on the lookout for great books on tennis but they are inevitably either guides to playing well, biographies of one player, or discussions of a specific important match. What I crave, what I need is a book that compares and ranks players against each other. Is Serena better than Steffi Graf?It's Graf. Accomplishments mean more than potential.. Federer is #1 on the men’s sideYes Nadal owns an advantage in their one on one battles, but here’s the statistic that is mind blowing. The record for most consecutive Grand Slam finals appears is Federer with 10. Second place? Federer with 8. The next highest? Nadal with 5. Nadal is the greatest on clay, but Fed is still the GOAT. but is Nadal #2 or is Pete Sampras? How many Grand Slams would Don Budge have won if professionals could have still played in the slams back then? To answer these questions I need to turn to Grantland’s tennis pros, Louisa Thomas and Brian Phillips. Just read Phillip’s piece on Federer winning Wimbledon in 2012 or and Thomas’ piece of Sloane Stephens beating Serena Williams. Make this book happen!

So what about you? What best of books would you like to see and who would you like to see write them?

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