Monday, December 30, 2013

12 in 12 - December Review

Well, much like my October, 2012 quest to watch 30 documentaries in 30 days (actually 31 in 31), my 2013 challenge of reading 12 sport books in 12 months has been a tremendous success.

I have rediscovered an enjoyment for the written word, an excitement for the numerous undiscovered titles out there and a real appreciation for the craft of writing.  What started off as a vehicle to get me reading again has turned into a passion to seek out quality authors and intriguing subjects.

My final book of the 2013 year fits that bill perfectly.

I decided to call an audible early in the month.  I had started reading the new Mike Tyson biography (which I have since purchased) but with it being a beast of nearly 600 pages, I knew the likelihood of finishing it before the end of the month was thin.  So I had another book on the docket.  Mint Condition  is a story of baseball cards and how they have woven into the fabric of who we are throughout the decades.

I was all ready to plunge into that subject until I got the call from the library that a long-awaited (and highly anticipated) title was ready to be picked up.  I immediately made it the must-read book of the month.

Keon And Me
Dave Bidini
295 pages

I was excited for this book for a number of reasons.  First, I knew Dave Bidini was a huge....and I mean HUGE Dave Keon fan.  Being a player collector in this hobby makes me immediately relate to the unwavering admiration and appreciation of a person's "favourite player".  I really gravitated towards that.

Secondly, I had read a great essay (linked by Dave Bidini via Twitter) on the subject of Keon And Me and the power of "truth vs. memory".  It was a fun read and had me jumping in anticipation of the book.

Lastly, I was really looking forward to reading a book written by a musician.  For those who don't know, Dave Bidini was a member of the Canadian rock group The Rheostatics.  He also writes a weekly column for The National Post newspaper.  So I know the guy can write.  But what I wanted to see how someone with the creativeness of a musician writes.  I was not disappointed.

Keon And Me is just what it says on the cover - "My search for the lost soul of the Leafs".  Dave Bidini writes this book as a lifelong fan of Dave Keon.  The passion and intensity of his love for Keon is definitely at the forefront.  It is so strong that by the end of the book.....I felt like a huge fan of Keon's.

But this book is more than just a gush-fest for Dave Keon.  It's told in two narratives - the present day Bidini coping with the Leafs of today and the discovery that Keon's number hasn't been honoured by the Toronto team and a young Bidini growing up in Ontario, bullied relentlessly and struggling with adolescence in general....having Keon as a focal point and at times a guide.

The book takes us through Dave's quest for Keon and his unresolved feelings towards his childhood bully.  The back and forth writing style really works well and created a layered knowledge of who Dave Bidini is and the feelings he's harboured for a number of key people in his life.

What I really loved about the book (and what I was hoping for....written by a musician) is the fantastic pace and temp and creativeness in his words.  Dave Bidini takes me to the schoolyard, takes me to Maple Leaf Gardens, takes me to the numerous places throughout the book as he searches for the backstory of who Dave Keon is.  The word "page-flipper" comes to mind, and in this case it's true.  Bidini would end a chapter in such a way as to leave you reflecting on what you've just read while anxiously flipping to the start of the next chapter.

The book is so well laid out.  As a whole body of work, it seems so simple, yet the people and places, details in the moments are so rich in description and meaning that it feels so complex.  A great mixture of the two.

I won't reveal the ending, but if there was one area that I would've liked to have seen change, it was just that.  I'll say's a 295 page book.  It would have been better as a 310 page read.

Regardless, this book is one that should be mandatory for any Leafs fan and would easily be enjoyed by someone who has a strong link to a favourite player.  Conversational, witty and thorough, Dave Bidini is a name I will be re-visiting over the next few months (he has quite a back-catalogue).

4 out of 5

And with 12 for 12 quest is complete.  In the future I will be continuing my reading (I've got 4 books on the go right now).  I might get a book done in a month, I might not.  I might get 2 or 3 titles read in a month, I might not.  And I'll be sure to share some of the titles I've read here on my blog (just not all of them).

And to those of you who have enjoyed my ramblings....thanks!  Now get out there and read a book.


  1. Great book review. I saw a Dave Keon web site that was fantastic with cards, photos and memorabilia. Keon was one of those players from the no-helmet era that was the face of Candian hockey. Today's Maple Leafs are a shadow of that age.
    Thanks for the story.

  2. Mission accomplished! Nice job. I'll be checking out that Keon book just because of your review, so keep posting when you read a good book.

    1. Thanks. I'm really happy with the goal I set and the fact that I accomplished it. The Keon book rakes high on the list of titles I read this year. So much so that I'm going to track down a copy of it (as I got mine from the library).

      I just finished (a non-sports book) the Jim Henson biography. Excellent read as well. Very nostalgic and perfect for an age group like mine who remembers a lot of the shows/movies he did.

      Now I'm on to Chris Nilan's book Fighting Back.