Steve Buckley of the Boston Herald shares his list of summer reads. His five picks include The Last Boyi:
Virtually everyone who follows baseball (and a lot of people who don’t) has taken a course in Mickey Mantle 101: truly great baseball player, beset with injuries, drank too much, caroused too much, stumbled into an uncomfortable post-baseball existence, received a new liver in his last days, sought contrition by speaking out on the evils of alcohol abuse, and then died. But our post-it-note encapsulation of Mantle’s life seems cruel and insensitive, which is why Leavy’s book is an important work of baseball biography.
But proceed with caution: The Yankees legend doesn’t come off much better in Leavy’s in-depth, richly reported book. She does an outstanding job in her attempt to understand what made Mantle tick, and why he chose his various roads to nowhere. The story runs from chillingly disturbing, as when she explores troubling aspects of Mantle’s childhood, to hugely entertaining and interesting, as when she turns Washington upside-down in her quest to get the lowdown on the slugger’s legendary 1953 home run at old Griffith Stadium.
There are times, though, when Leavy’s writing is ponderous and meandering, and, sorry, her decision to inject herself into the story is an uncomfortable reach. She took a shot; it didn’t work. Where she does succeed — and we’re talking about a tape-measure literary home run here — is in inspiring the reader to stop thinking of Mantle as good or bad, but, rather, as a man who was so very sad for much of his life.
Click here to read about his other summer choices, including Dan Barry’s “Bottom of the 33rd: Hope, Redemption, and Baseball’s Longest Game” and Laura Hillenbrand ’s “Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption”