With every passing day, our world seems ever more gender-neutral. Nevertheless, some topics still fit pretty comfortably into the category of the “historical purview of men,” and some fine new publications have arrived to stake their claim as appropriate holiday gifts for special guys.
THE SPORTING LIFE
Bob Ryan recently retired after clocking in close to 50 years as a print sports reporter. But Ryan’s career also encompassed television, and through the miracle of ESPN, this less-than-obviously-telegenic fellow came to be known far and wide for his knowledge of sports and no-nonsense opinions about the controversial personalities who played them. In Scribe: My Life in Sports, Ryan offers an enjoyable memoir that spans his early days as a sports-crazy lad in Trenton, New Jersey, the launching of his career with The Boston Globe and on to the decades spent covering local teams, in particular his beloved Celtics. Ryan also covered baseball, football, the Olympics and golf, but it is no surprise that his most interesting words here concern basketball figures such as Red Auerbach, Bobby Knight and Larry Bird. Ryan’s on-air activities with ESPN continue, so this volume really serves as the capper to his newspaper days as a man on a steady beat.
Guys are certainly not alone these days when it comes to home repairs and general Mr. (or Ms.) Fix It concerns. Yet the phrase remains “nice to have a man around the house,” and the new fourth edition of The Complete Do-It-Yourself Manual updates a volume that’s been of value to amateur handymen since 1973. The coverage is exhaustive, from descriptions of the basic tools and accessories necessary to tackle any job to wonderfully detailed instructions for completing all manner of interior and exterior repair and remodeling projects. The editors assume the reader’s can-do spirit and dive right in with thorough descriptions of plumbing, electrical, landscaping, masonry and woodworking projects, along with step-by-step instructions supplemented by color photos and drawings. Even for those guys who may not muster the chutzpah to actually replace a toilet or asphalt shingles, this hefty tome will serve as a superior, safety-conscious general guide and reference for home use.
FIRE IT UP
In a health-conscious modern world, meat—especially red meat—has endured its share of revisionist dietary criticism. But that doesn’t stop acclaimed U.K. food writer Nichola Fletcher from providing endlessly supportive and knowledgeable text for The Meat Cookbook, which emerges as a salutary—and heavily illustrated—celebration of all things carnivorous. Fletcher’s lengthy opening section, “Meat Know-How,” is a storehouse of general info on meat, from assessing the various cuts to using cutlery, from modes of cooking to preparing sauces. The individual chapters focus on the specific meat categories—poultry, pork, beef, lamb, game and even offal (organ meats that require special cooking attention). A final section, “Home Butchery,” goes where most of us regular folks fear to tread, but it provides valuable information and useful diagrams for home kitchen prep, including good reminders on hygiene and safety. The hundreds of recipes by Christopher Trotter, Elena Rosemond-Hoerr and Rachel Green look nothing short of spectacular and provide a survey of meat dishes from across the globe.
FULL STEAM AHEAD
“Stunning” is one word that describes Train: The Definitive Visual History. This massive, gorgeously produced volume is nothing short of a feast for the eyes, at once an impressive publishing achievement and probably the definitive popular work on its subject. Produced under the supervision of the Smithsonian and general consultant Tony Streeter, the book’s beauty and authority outweigh even its serious poundage as it chronicles the development of locomotives and railroads, describes more than 400 train engines and railcars, explores worldwide rail journeys and features plenty of side trips over bridges and through tunnels. The detailing of the trains themselves is spectacular, all in vivid color and including the minutiae of technical specifications, which will enthrall any train buff. For those happy enough with the history alone, the text is enjoyable and comprehensive, filled with profiles of early 19th-century pioneer inventors, interesting facts about the industry’s expansion from England to Europe to the U.S., plus sidebars on the train’s roles as a prime mover of people and an engine of war.
WHAT A MARVEL
Finally, there’s Marvel Comics: 75 Years of Cover Art, yet another gloriously hefty volume. This one celebrates that perennial obsession of just about every young guy—and even some older ones. Historically, there was always a divide between lovers of DC Comics (Superman, Batman, etc.) and those who favored Marvel Comics, purveyors of Captain America, the Incredible Hulk, Wolverine, X-Men and many other iconic superheroes. Yet comparisons are odious, and at their best, Marvel’s covers were (and are) wonderful. This compelling gallery of enlarged examples pops with dazzling color and dramatic action, backed by Alan Cowsill’s captions and sidebars describing each print, along with capsule profiles of important artists such as Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko and John Romita Sr. The covers are divided into four historical periods—Golden Age, Silver Age, Bronze Age and Modern Age—offering a striking overview of the development of the art form’s style, as well as comics’ reflection of societal changes. One cover even features President Obama!
This article was originally published in the December 2014 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.