This will probably be the last thing I write for Campus Pressbox until July. July will also be a very light month as far as writing here is concerned. August is when the heavy hitting begins again. We have slowed the pace down, on our sports site, but August will be here before we know it, and things will then begin to rock. SEC Media Days will be behind us and fall camp will be before us. Pace yourselves, folks. It’s coming!
So what do we do with ourselves until then?
Read. No, not on social media. Get actual books. Hold them in your hand. Feel them. Smell them. Read them. Here are thirteen recommendations, from a variety of types, and in no particular order. All of the books listed below have had a big impact on me.
For fun, I’ll tie a college football team to each title so we can keep the sports theme going for all you fans. Some titles will beg for me to depart from the SEC. See if you can decipher the connections when it’s not obvious.
Fear and Loathing: On The Campaign Trail ’72 – Hunter S. Thompson. The Gonzo journalist is my favorite and this might very well be my top choice of his. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas is a great, iconic work of American literature, and it gets all the press. But The Good Doctor’s take on the Nixon-McGovern presidential race is also essential reading, in my humble opinion. Whittier College.
The Hobbit – J.R.R. Tolkien. Another marvelous novel that resides, somewhat, in the shadow of Tolkien’s opus, the Lord of the Rings Trilogy. I was assigned The Hobbit as my first book to read for freshman English 101 at Auburn. It was a game-changer which then led, of course, to my reading of the trilogy. Alabama. Hint, their coach.
Brother to a Dragonfly – Will D. Campbell. Campbell is my hero, and his life and work had as much, or possibly more, influence on my life than anyone else. This is his masterpiece. We old renegade Baptist preachers have to stick together. Georgia Tech.
The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test – Tom Wolfe. From The New York Times’ Eliot Fremont-Smith, “The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test is not simply the best book on the hippies, it is the essential book… the pushing, ballooning heart of the matter… Vibrating dazzle.” We old hippies have to stick together. Sorry that I have to step out of the SEC, but this one just for the University of California at Berkeley.
On The Road – Jack Kerouac. Not stepping far from the previous Tom Wolfe recommendation. Another essential American novel. Brilliant, lucid, disturbed, wild, cavorting, mesmerizing. We old road warriors have to stick together. Mississippi State.
Ball Four – Jim Bouton. Groundbreaking, rule-breaking, eye-opening, code-of-honor shattering book about life inside the New York Yankees organization back in the 60’s. Bouton pitched for the Bronx Bombers back then. Sparky Lyle’s, The Bronx Zoo, would follow in that tradition. Fordham University.
Mockingbird’s Song, Hettie Keller’s 10 Maxims For Peace And Happiness – Arnold Heflin. Arnold is a friend of mine and an Auburn graduate. He wrote this book, a platonic love story, based on a true story, his story. It will make you laugh and it will make you cry and it might just change your life. It should be made into a movie. Beautiful. Auburn.
They Came To Nashville – Marshall Chapman. Another friend of mine. Required reading if you’re a fan of country music. Marshall interviewed Kris Kristofferson, Emmylou Harris, Rodney Crowell, and Willie Nelson, along with eleven other Nashville singer-songwriters, and she shares their stories in this book that you will not be able to put down. Vanderbilt. Duh!
Skinny-dipping, Wildcat Wine, Bone Valley, and Sweetheart Deal – Claire Matturo. Claire and I studied journalism together at Troy State University, now known as Troy University. We also lived in the same trailer park for a brief period, and a good time was had by all. I am not a huge fan of fiction but this series, featuring protagonist/lawyer Lilly Belle Rose Cleary, is great fun. Smart, sharp-witted and sometimes spine-tingling crime fiction with great characters. Anybody see Kentucky in there?
A Confederacy of Dunces – John Kennedy Toole. “A corker, an epic comedy, a rumbling, roaring, avalanche of a book.” The Washington Post. “A masterwork… the novel astonishes with its inventiveness… it is nothing less than grand comic fugue.” The New York Times Book Review. Ole Miss.
So, take a break from social media. Try to put behind you, if only for a brief period, the madness that seeks to engulf us each and every day. Relax and immerse yourself in some entertaining, inspiring, and excellent reading this summer. And let me hear from you. Tell me what you thought about these great literary works.
But don’t forget, only 78 days remain until South Carolina and Vanderbilt kick it off. 😉