I've been meaning to do this for a while, but was trying to finish reading Keith's book first. Since there's an off day today, it seemed like a good time to get this done. Hopefully it doesn't have to entertain you during a rain delay tomorrow, but just in case...
I've lucked into quite a few books about the Mets in the last couple of years, and I vaguely remember bits I've read before. I'd like to hear more recommendations from folks that have read others of this type. So, here are the books I have around or can remember having read (relatively recently) with capsule reviews for you. Please add on in the comments!
Wherever I Wind Up by RA Dickey (with Wayne Coffey): I'm including this more for completeness than anything else. I think this is recognized as the official Book of Faith for Amazin' Avenue. If you just stumbled in here and don't know, RA Dickey used to throw knuckleballs for the Mets, and this is his fantastic autobiography. To sum up: kid is abused, becomes sports star in high school and college, gets medal at olympics, bizarro photo leads to him losing his baseball fortune, endures ridiculous journey around world pitching mop-up, almost drowns, becomes all-star ace pitcher for the Mets. And there the book ends! At least my copy. Don't look for the epilogue. Also, possibly soon to become a major motion picture? Can't happen too soon or to a nicer guy.
The Bad Guys Won by Jeff Pearlman: This is another one I imagine most here have read. Now, I love Jeff Pearlman books. Think of them as the telenovelas of the sports world. He gets all the dirt on everyone and spills it everywhere. But his stories are eminently readable and hold no cows sacred. Thrill to the exploits of the wild 1986 Mets in all their glory. His book on Barry Bonds, "Love Me, Hate Me" is also a fun (if not essential) read on Bonds.
The Worst Team Money Could Buy by Bob Klapisch and John Harper: The bookend to Pearlman's opus, this tells the epic story of the 1992 Mets who were exactly what the title described. I had just moved to NY, so reading these stories gave me warm fuzzies of Post back page headlines of days past. There are a lot of flashbacks in this book too, re-telling a lot of the stories you'll hear more about in Pearlman's book. It's possible the Mets are the only team since the Seattle Pilots to have a diary written about an epically bad season, and the book is interesting for that alone. I think this is my second favorite of these after Pearlman's book. It's sort of the opposite of...
If at First by Keith Hernandez (and Mike Bryan): Still about a chapter away from finishing this.. This is Keith's autobiography, and it's pretty OK. I dislike the style he chose, which is basically a day-by-day of the 1985 season. Continuity is kind of tough, as you won't remember one road trip to Cincinnati several months on (unless of course you independently remember the season in total detail). However, it's' interesting because it was written the year before the Mets won their surprise title. This was the year he testified in the Pittsburgh drug trial, so if you need to read his mea culpa about that stuff you'll find it here. I expected more, having come to enjoy his many weird pronouncements and non-sequiturs on Mets telecasts, but it's worth reading for any of you that haven't. If I understand the Amazon listing correctly, this is out of print but you can probably find it all over in libraries and used bookstores.
Amazin' by Peter Golenbock: The subtitle is "The Miraculous History of New York's Most Beloved Baseball Team", but I dunno. Golenbock has written several team histories, including the excellent "Dynasty" about the Yankees, "Bums", the oral history of the Brooklyn team [edit: take that, stupid SBN hotlink] and books about the Cubs and Cardinals/Browns (which I haven't read). I think this is probably the worst of all of them, which considering the subject material is kind of an achievement. He starts off with some rehash of his Bums material and genuflecting at 50s NYC baseball, then zips through the early years to 69 to the Midnight Massacre, and again passes pretty quickly to several chapters about the mid-80s teams before a couple chapters at the end culminating in the Subway Series. Unfortunately most of this is derivative of other books, so you have long (sometime multipage) quotes from Keith or Gary Carter or Darling or whoever, connected with sentences here and there. It's a real disappointment, but I got it at the Strand for $9 so I didn't mind so much.
Willie Mays, the Life, The Legend by James Hirsch: The authorized biography of Willie Mays is great, and features a few chapters of Willie's time with the Metsies (including the quote in my signature). I could go on and on about Willie but I won't. It's out in paperback these days and often on a discount, so you really should pick it up if you have any interest in baseball history. This is the story that needs to be made into a movie, featuring Mobile's infamous Bull Conner (former stadium announcer) cancelling Willie Mays Day in Alabama, people at Ebbets Field crying as Willie played his last game before going into the Army, and Willie helping the SF Mayor stop rioting in the 1960s. And the great picture of him leading bloodied Johnny Roseboro off the field after Juan Marichal had clobbered him.
Bottom of the Ninth: Branch Rickey, Casey Stengel, and the Daring Scheme to Save Baseball From Itself by Michael Shapiro: This is one of my favorite baseball books of all time, and I only liked half the book. Shapiro made an odd choice, combining what are essentially two separate books. One is about Casey Stengel and the 1960 Yankees and their World Series loss to the Pirates, which is well-written but doesn't really break much new ground. It's the backdrop for the very fascinating story of Branch Rickey, William Shea, and the confederates that almost started a third professional baseball league when the National League deserted NY. Someday I'll write a fanpost about how great that would have been... but this is a blow-by-blow of the nastiness of Walter O'Malley, Robert Moses and his ballpark, Mr. Shea and Mrs. Payson, and Rickey's wheedling to create a new baseball league. It's not mentioned much in the book, but it's important to remember that this all went down juuuuust before Lamar Hunt launched the American Football League and the WHA and ABA fought their way to mergers with the established leagues. Can't recommend it enough, and if you can find it you can probably pick it up for a song.
100 Things Mets Fans Should See and Do Before They Die by Matthew Silverman: I forgot this the first time through, and here's why. It's a totally random collection of things, mostly various milestones or players, jumbled together without much order as I recall. Occasionally international fans come to SBN sites when they first discover baseball and adopt a team; if that is you, this actually might be helpful. Also acceptable as a minor present (hint: not anniversary/Valentine's Day/etc.) for a significant other that is trying to learn about your Mets fetish but doesn't have much actual interest in baseball. Possibly acceptable as a coffee table or toilet tank book. Otherwise, you guys already know all of these things and should save your money.
MetsFan4Decades reminded me of another I can add to the list, not directly Mets-related but definitely worth reading and of special interest to Metsheads:
The Ticket Out: Darryl Strawberry and the Boys of Crenshaw by Michael Sokolove: This is a fantastic book, enjoyable on several levels. Darryl Strawberry is front and center, of course, in this diary of his Crenshaw High School baseball team. Crenshaw High is in a dangerous, downtrodden section of South Central Los Angeles, and Strawberry and Chris Brown (who would later make the majors and become infamous among Giants fans for missing a game because he "slept on his eye wrong") played together on a fantastically-talented high school baseball team, and this is an in-depth following of their years together and a look into the futures many of them found. This is a good book to recommend to friends interested in inner city sociology or who enjoy this sort of nonfiction account. It's well-written and obviously the story is compelling for Mets fans. It goes well alongside "The Bad Guys Won" or "The Worst Team Money Could Buy".
Joy in Mudville by George Vecsey: I couldn't remember this title, but finally had some time to google to refresh my memory. It looks to be long out of print, there's no review on Amazon or info on LibraryThing or goodreads. This blog looks to have been written by Vecsey's son and has a bit of info about the book. I imagine you could find it in some libraries somewhere in the Tri-State, so maybe go for an interlibrary loan. I found it at the Strand, which tells you something about the kind of things they come up with there. This was a really compelling read, an excellent weaving of interviews with players, commentary on the era, and really builds the excitement as the season must have for those of you that lived through it, from "here we go again" to "wait, what's happening" to the happy ending. Vecsey really strove to talk with and/or about ALL the players, which is a bit unusual for this kind of book. For those of you looking for a place to start learning about the 1969 Mets, this is probably the best one for you and worth the effort you'll have to expend looking for it.
Baseball Is My Life by Tom Seaver and Steve Jacobsen by Scholastic Press: So, in the old days when dinosaurs roamed the earth, Scholastic and other school book publishers used to peddle cheap paperbacks on elementary school campuses (in CA anyway, must have done so in NY too). They would give teachers a mini-catalog with an order form, and if you could bamboozle your parents (Thanks, Mom and RIP) you could buy very, very cheap paperback books written for kids. A lot of them were things like "Baseball All-Stars of 1976" or "History of the World Series", and in about 200 pages they'd give you whatever they could. You can still find these kinds of things at Half Price Books or on the discount racks outside the Strand. Anyway, I had this one about Tom Seaver, and I loved it and it stuck with me when I read it as a kid. I came across a tattered copy somewhere a few years ago and re-read it, but can't find it now. Anyway, just a shoutout to something that used to happen in schools that made me a "lifelong reader", as the educational literature terms it, and a way for kids interested in baseball but not school or reading (not me, but many of my friends) to get more interested in learning and reading (glad we don't waste time on that any more). And a suggestion for you when you pass a garage sale or library book sale and see the yellowed pages and ratty covers. Almost free, most like, and worth a read if you come across it (or any of these relics). Get it starting at .01 ¢ at Amazon! You literally cannot beat that price!
IF YOU READ THIS FAR: Several commentors seem to think I intend my list as some complete digest of all books written about the Mets. It's about Mets books that I have actually read. If you have read others, and recommend them (or hate them), please post a comment below and tell people what you thought. Not everyone here has read what you think is a seminal book on the Mets, and many newcomers may wander through AA excited about the Mets and wanting to learn more. Help them out.