Nonfiction on Irv Cross, Bitcoin, Courageous Leadership, and Travels to Distilleries | Xpress Reviews

Cross's autobiography lacks the spice that readers might seek; a great choice for anyone interested in technology, finance, politics; for readers looking to investigate leadership; for those wanting to read more about distillers and distilling, this may not be the best starting point

Week ending July 21, 2017


Cross, Irv with Clifton Brown. Bearing the Cross: My Inspiring Journey from Poverty to the NFL and Sports Television. Sports Pub. Sept. 2017. 304p. notes. ISBN 9781683581178. $24.99. SPORTS

Cross played cornerback at a professional level for nine years with the Philadelphia Eagles and Los Angeles Rams in the 1960s. He then worked as a broadcaster for more than 20 years, notably being the first African American to be the studio analyst for the long-running CBS show The NFL Today, a position he held from 1975 to 1989. By all accounts, Cross has always been an unfailingly decent and courteous person known for being thoroughly prepared and proficient in all endeavors. Coming from a family of 15 children raised by a widowed father, Cross attributes his academic, athletic, and professional success to hard work and the power of faith. The bulk of the book concerns his work on TV and his more colorful colleagues: Brent Musburger, Phyllis George, and Jimmy “The Greek” Snyder. Although beset by a host of physical and mental debilitations in recent years, the 78-year-old Cross asserts he would do it all again because he loved the game and his teammates.

Verdict Cross has lived an admirable life, so his autobiography lacks the spice that readers might seek.—John Maxymuk, Rutgers Univ. Lib., Camden, NJ


Eha, Brian Patrick. How Money Got Free: Bitcoin and the Fight for the Future of Finance. Oneworld. May 2017. 496p. notes. index. ISBN 9781780746586. $27.99; ebk. ISBN 9781780746593. ECON

Anyone who is interested in electronic money and the future of finance should be familiar with Bitcoin, a cryptocurrency released in 2009. Here, journalist Eha pieces together the puzzle of Bitcoin’s history in an engaging and accessible narrative. As a new technology, Bitcoin has operated in a bit of a Wild West, with banks, regulators, and the technology world not sure of its boundaries. Working his way through Bitcoin’s history and introducing each major player (including Bitcoin designer Satoshi Nakamoto, programmer Ross Ulbricht, entrepreneur Charlie Shrem, and more) and event instrumental to the currency’s development, Eha boils down the important ideas so general readers can understand the rise of cryptocurrency.

Verdict A great choice for anyone interested in technology, finance, politics, or the currency they spend.—Elizabeth Nelson, McHenry Cty. Coll. Lib., Crystal Lake, IL


Koehn, Nancy. Forged in Crisis: The Power of Courageous Leadership in Turbulent Times. Scribner. Oct. 2017. 528p. maps. notes. index. ISBN 9781501174445. $35; ebk. ISBN 9781501174469. BIOG

Koehn, a Harvard Business School historian, premises this new book on the observation that in the present day there is a dearth of great leaders. She looks back in history and identifies five individuals she believes embody great leadership—Ernest Shackleton, Abraham Lincoln, Frederick Douglass, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and Rachel Carson—and investigates how they came to be pioneers. The author makes clear that she thinks that leaders are made, not born. There is not a predetermined checklist of characteristics that a leader need possess; instead, leaders are formed through crises. Such a belief is reinforced by the apparent disparity among her chosen individuals. Koehn provides biographical information for each person as well as a summary of the crisis or challenge they endured in order to become successful. Most of the historical and biographical information comes from previously published biographies, or published writings by the people involved; as a result, there is little new to be learned about any person or event in the book.

Verdict For readers looking to investigate leadership or improve their own leadership abilities, this book will prove useful and perhaps offer a new appreciation for the historical figures featured here.—Timothy Berge, SUNY


Oswego Lib. Vogler, Thaddeus. By the Smoke and the Smell: My Search for the Rare and Sublime on the Spirits Trail. Ten Speed. Sept. 2017. 304p. ISBN 9780399578601. $27; ebk. ISBN 9780399578618. COOKING

San Francisco bar owner Vogler brings readers along with him (and colleagues or even family) as he prospects for new sources of artisanal spirits and revisits favored distillers. The book is similar to others wherein authors visit wineries and breweries, but Vogler’s focus on such products as brandies, whiskies, and rums makes this offering unique. What also distinguishes the narrative is the greater emphasis on the author’s experiences and his travels rather than the liquors. The writing is personal, blunt, and even pungent in its critical assessment of people, places, and events. Vogler and his colleagues aren’t always likable, but there will be many who find that refreshing. For those wanting to read more about distillers and distilling, however, this may not be the best starting point.

Verdict A peek into the world of distilleries but somewhat limited in breadth, depth, and appeal.—Peter Hepburn, Coll. of the Canyons Lib., Santa Clarita, CA

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