On Homecoming and Belonging
Thoughtful short book on what it means to be a part of a community. I saw parallels in the ultimate Frisbee community.
The Ultimate Outsider
Called "the first novel about ultimate," this book is pretty much that. It's a simple story of a new ultimate player falling in love with the game and leading his highschool team to a tournament win. The author put a lot of effort into explaning the game, the rules, the Spirit Of The Game, and threw in a lot of game situations—almost too many to be really believable. I found the characters not terribly deep (and male-heavy), the opposing players cartoonishly mean for no apparent reason, and the overall attitude of "others" about the game to be unrealistically shallow. Also, the book was amateurishly formatted and riddled with typos and poorly constructed sentences. Overall, not terrible, though.
The Secret Life of Shyness
This was a difficult book to get through. I kept losing focus on what i was reading. I was hoping that it would offer some sharp insights into shyness, but it was a string of small sketches of shy people throughout history and how they dealt with (or didn't deal with) their individual shyness.
A Book About Ultimate
Here's the review i wrote for Ultiworld.
I was prepared to not like this book. It looked like another one of a number of ultimate-related books to hit the market in the past six months and i was fully expecting it to be, well, amateurish. I mean, really, "Universe Point?" Isn't that just an over-used ultimate-related name to slap onto a book? And clocking in at a bit under 500 pages, i was even less excited to dive into it, knowing that it could be a slog i wasn't prepared to push through.
I was wrong. Kevin Cramer is an excellent writer, effortlessly describing times and places that will be familiar to almost any ultimate player. He weaves straight-up narrative with silly asides, alternating between intense showdowns on the field with unchecked revelry off. The book is essentially a memoir of Kevin's life as it revolved around discovering and playing ultimate, from a small college in Florida to summer league in Pittsburgh to graduate school in California and eventually to (almost) the AUDL.
Kevin Cramer is someone that almost every ultimate player knows. He's not the star, he's not the guy on the highlight video, he's just a player. And that makes him akin to the majority of ultimate players out there—the ones who will never play at Nationals or even Regionals. The ones who love ultimate but don't push themselves to that next level, don't have the drive to participate in more than pickup or league play, or don't live in an area where there's any access to a good team. There are a lot of types of ultimate players that are ubiquitous—the player who played with the greats back in the day, the player who takes 45 minutes to warm up and is ready to play when everyone else is done, the player who wears the same shirt at every practice... Kevin is the guy who always gets hurt. His ultimate career was practically defined by the injuries that altered both his career and personal paths, but every time he came back to play more.
This book made me smile and brought back a lot of memories of road trips, tournaments, parties, and friends, all attained through this great culture of ultimate that we all share. And i was forced to accept that yes, "Universe Point" was indeed an appropriate title, as the near-unbelievable volume of universe-point games that Kevin participated in are described in all of their tense glory within the pages. I can only remember two universe point games that i've ever played in, one where we lost, one where we won. I'm sure there must be more, but even if i could dredge up a half-dozen more, Kevin's got me beat.
If you're an old Grand Master player like me, "Universe Point" will bring you back to your glory days of ultimate. If you're a newcomer to this great sport, well, take a read and see how your dad played and partied all those years ago. A lot of things in ultimate have changed in the past few decades—some things never will.
A Wrinkle In Time
I'd never read this book and i'd heard that a movie was soon to be made of it so i wanted to read it before that happened. Maybe i had too-high expectations, but i found it to be less of a grand sweeping story than i'd thought. The characters seemed a bit wooden and the writing was perhaps old-fashioned. The story was uncomplicated and direct and it ended awfully abruptly. Also there was much more religion in it than i would have liked or expected from a fantasy/science fiction novel. I can see how people might relate to it, but it didn't make me want to continue on to the other four books in the series.