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Book 36 (from 2011)

  1. Portis, Charles — True Grit (215 pages)
  2. Simpson, Joe — Touching the Void (210 pages)
  3. Bardin, John Franklin — The Last of Philip Banter (207 pages)
  4. Millar, Martin — The Good Fairies of New York (278 pages)
  5. Millar, Mark — Kick-Ass (190 pages)
  6. Sachar, Louis — Holes (225 pages)
  7. Baxter, Stephen — Moonseed (523 pages)
  8. Buchan, John — The Thirty-Nine Steps (152 pages)
  9. Bukowski, Charles — Post Office (167 pages)
  10. Palahniuk, Chuck — Fight Club (211 pages)
  11. Bemelmans, Ludwig — Madeline's Rescue (50 pages)
  12. Rennison, Nick — Bloomsbury Good Reading Guide, Eighth Edition (508 pages)
  13. Rucka, Greg & Steve Lieber — Whiteout (120 pages)
  14. Rucka, Greg & Steve Lieber — Whiteout: Melt (106 pages)
  15. Orwell, George — Homage to Catalonia (267 pages)
  16. Moore, Brian — Catholics (87 pages)
  17. Chatwin, Bruce — The Songlines (296 pages)
  18. Funke, Cornelia — Inkheart (555 pages)
  19. Eddison, E.R. — The Worm Ouroboros (521 pages)
  20. Milligan, Spike — Puckoon (152 pages)
  21. Jones, Diana Wynne — Power of Three (293 pages)
  22. Juster, Norton — The Phantom Tollbooth (264 pages)
  23. Jeffreys, Daniel — America's Back Porch (286 pages)
  24. Robinson, Marilynne — Housekeeping (217 pages)
  25. Stevenson, Robert Louis — Treasure Island (212 pages)
  26. Bissinger, Buzz — 3 Nights in August (296 pages)
  27. Rennison, Nick & Ed Wood — 100 Must-Read American Novels (185 pages)
  28. Cassar, Vincent & Nik Kalinowski — Bloomsbury Good Reading Guide: World Fiction (351 pages)
  29. Williams, Niall — Four Letters of Love (340 pages)
  30. Maxwell, Virginia & Duncan Garwood — Lonely Planet: Sicily (349 pages)
  31. Dumas, Alexandre (Robin Buss, transl.) — The Count of Monte Cristo (1117 pages)
  32. Straub, Peter — Ghost Story (497 pages)
  33. Crockford, Douglas — JavaScript: The Good Parts (149 pages)
  34. Brontë, Emily — Wuthering Heights (316 pages)
  35. Foreman, Michael — Cat in the Manger (24 pages)
  36. Peterson, Robert W. — Pigskin: The Early Years of Pro Football (216 pages)

Page count: 10,152.

So many great baseball books have been written that I try to read one each summer and feel I'll never run out of great summer reads. However, the sport I am passionate about is American football, and one could probably count the number of great football books on one hand. Pigskin is one of them.

Pigskin, as the subtitle suggests, recounts the history of professional football, beginning with the first paid players in the late 19th century (the first most likely being William W. (Pudge) Heffelfinger, who was paid by Yale) and culminating with the 1958 NFL championship game. Peterson's research includes not only the standard league archives, newspaper clippings, scholarly work, etc., but also relies on anecdotal evidence, interviews with former players, journalists, spouses — anyone who was connected with the game in its early days. This gives flavour and colour to an otherwise straightforward (but nonetheless fascinating) history of the game.

I first read Pigskin some 10 or 15 years ago and decided it would be fun to re-read it this year as an accompaniment to the recent NFL season. I began in August and finished the first week of January. Along the way I noticed one fact that, improbably, had changed since my first reading. Talking about developments in the game, Peterson noted that the last successful drop-kick in the pros happened in 1948 on a broken play when the San Francisco 49ers holder mishandled a snap. I took delight in writing in the margin: "Jan. 1, 2006, Doug Flutie as N.E. Patriot extra point against Miami Dolphins in his last game as a pro," as this is now the last successful drop-kick in the pros.

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