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Ron Kaplan


Ron Kaplan

Ron Kaplan is an award-winning journalist and blogger, and is the author of three books: 501 BASEBALL BOOKS FANS MUST READ BEFORE THEY DIE (2013), THE JEWISH OLYMPICS: The History of the Maccabiah Games (2015) and HANK GREENBERG IN 1938: Hatred and Home Runs in the Shadow of War (2017). His freelance articles and reviews have appeared in such publications as Baseball America, Mental Floss, American Book Review, American History, ForeWord Magazine and Verbatim, among others. He also hosts Ron Kaplan’s Baseball Bookshelf, a blog about baseball literature.

Ron Kaplan

Reviews by Ron Kaplan

by Philip Norman - Biography, Music, Nonfiction

Despite being hailed as one of the best guitarists of his era, George Harrison, particularly in his early decades, battled feelings of inferiority. He was often the butt of jokes from his bandmates owing to his lower-class background and, typically, was allowed to contribute only one or two songs per Beatles album out of the dozens he wrote. Now, acclaimed Beatles biographer Philip Norman examines Harrison through the lens of his numerous self-contradictions. This rich biography captures him at his most multifaceted: devoted friend, loyal son, master guitar player, brilliant songwriter, cocaine addict, serial philanderer, global philanthropist, student of Indian mysticism, self-deprecating comedian, and, ultimately, iconic artist and man beloved by millions.

edited by Holly Gleason - Biography, Music, Nonfiction

John Prine hated giving interviews, but he said much when he talked. Embarrassed by fame, delighted by the smallest things, the first songwriter to read at the Library of Congress, and winner of the Pen Award for Literary Excellence, Prine saw the world unlike anyone else. The songs from 1971’s John Prine remain spot-on takes of the human condition today, and his writing only got richer, funnier and more incisive. The interviews in PRINE ON PRINE trace his career evolution, his singular mind, his enduring awareness of social issues, and his acute love of life.

by Joe Posnanski - History, Nonfiction, Sports

In WHY WE LOVE BASEBALL, Joe Posnanski writes of major moments that created legends, and of forgotten moments almost lost to time. It's Willie Mays’ catch, Babe Ruth’s called shot and Kirk Gibson’s limping home run; the slickest steals; the biggest bombs; and the most triumphant no-hitters. But these are also moments raw with the humanity of the game, the unheralded heroes and the mesmerizing mistakes drenched in pine tar. Every story, from the immortal to the obscure, is told from a unique perspective. Whether of a real fan who witnessed it, or the pitcher who gave up the home run, the umpire, the coach, the opposing player --- these are fresh takes on moments so powerful they almost feel like myth.

by Tim Brown, with Erik Kratz - Nonfiction, Sports

In baseball, there are superstars, stars and everyday players...and then there are the rest. Within the rest are role players, specialists and journeymen...and then there are the backup catchers. THE TAO OF THE BACKUP CATCHER is about them, the backup catchers, who exist near the bottom of the roster, the end of the bench, and between the numbers in a sport --- and a society --- increasingly driven by cold, hard analytics. It is a story of grown men who once dreamed of stardom and generational wealth. Instead, they were handed a broom and a deeper understanding of who wins and why, who stands tall and who folds, and who will invest their own lives in catching bullpens and the back ends of doubleheaders.

by Jon Michaud - Memoir, Nonfiction

Coogan’s Bar and Restaurant opened in New York City’s Washington Heights in 1985 and closed its doors for good in the pandemic spring of 2020. Sometimes called Uptown City Hall, it became a staple of neighborhood life during its 35 years in operation --- a place of safety and a bulwark against prejudice in a multi-ethnic, majority-immigrant community undergoing rapid change. LAST CALL AT COOGAN’S tells the story of this beloved saloon --- from the challenging years of the late ’80s and early ’90s, when Washington Heights suffered from the highest crime rate in the city, to the 2010s, when gentrification pushed out longtime residents and nearly closed Coogan's itself. Only a massive community mobilization including local politicians and Lin-Manuel Miranda kept the doors open.

by Marc Myers - Entertainment, History, Music, Nonfiction, Popular Culture

Songs that sell the most copies become hits, but some of those hits become something more --- iconic recordings that not only inspire a generation but also change the direction of music. In ANATOMY OF 55 MORE SONGS, based on his column for the Wall Street Journal, music journalist and historian Marc Myers tells the story behind 55 rock, pop, R&B, country and soul-gospel hits through intimate interviews with the artists who wrote and recorded them. The book ranges from Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Bad Moon Rising” to Dionne Warwick’s “Walk On By,” The Beach Boys’ “Good Vibrations” and Black Sabbath’s “Paranoid.” Through an absorbing, chronological, song-by-song analysis of the most memorable post-war hits, Myers provides a sweeping look at the evolution of pop music between 1964 and today.

by Jeanine Basinger and Sam Wasson - History, Nonfiction, Performing Arts

From the archives of the American Film Institute comes a unique picture of what it was like to work in Hollywood from its beginnings to its present day. Gleaned from nearly 3,000 interviews, involving 400 voices from the industry, HOLLYWOOD lets a reader “listen in” on candid remarks from the biggest names in front of the camera (Bette Davis, Meryl Streep, Tom Hanks, Harold Lloyd) to the biggest behind it (Frank Capra, Steven Spielberg, Alfred Hitchcock, Jordan Peele), as well as the lesser known individuals who shaped what was heard and seen on screen. The result is like a conversation among the gods and goddesses of film: lively, funny, insightful, historically accurate and, for the first time, authentically honest in its portrait of Hollywood. It’s the insider’s story.

written by Steve Martin, drawings by Harry Bliss - Memoir, Nonfiction

Steve Martin has never written about his career in the movies before. In NUMBER ONE IS WALKING, he teams up with New Yorker cartoonist Harry Bliss to produce an illustrated memoir in which he shares anecdotes from the sets of his beloved films --- Father of the Bride, Roxanne, The Jerk, Three Amigos and many more --- bringing readers directly into his world. He shares charming tales of antics, moments of inspiration, and exploits with the likes of Paul McCartney, Diane Keaton, Robin Williams and Chevy Chase. Martin details his 40 years in the movie biz, as well as his stand-up comedy, banjo playing, writing and cartooning, all with his unparalleled wit.

by William Shatner with Joshua Brandon - Essays, Memoir, Nonfiction

Long before Gene Roddenberry put him on a starship to explore the galaxy, long before he actually did venture to space, William Shatner was gripped by his own quest for knowledge and meaning. Though his eventful life has been nothing short of extraordinary, Shatner is still never so thrilled as when he experiences something that inspires him to simply say, “Wow.” Within these affecting, entertaining and informative essays, he demonstrates that astonishing possibilities and true wonder are all around us. By revealing stories of his life --- some delightful, others tragic --- Shatner reflects on what he has learned along the way to his ninth decade and how important it is to apply the joy of exploration to our own lives.

by Tyler Kepner - History, Nonfiction, Sports

The World Series is the most enduring showcase in American team sports. It’s the place where legends are made, where celebration and devastation can hinge on a fly ball off a foul pole or a grounder beneath a first baseman’s glove. In THE GRANDEST STAGE, New York Times national baseball columnist Tyler Kepner delivers an indelible portrait of baseball’s signature event. He digs deep for essential tales dating back to the beginning in 1903, adding insights from Hall of Famers like Reggie Jackson, Mike Schmidt, Jim Palmer, Dennis Eckersley and many others who have thrived --- and failed --- when it mattered most.