67. The Buzzard: Inside the Glory Days of Cleveland Rock Radio, by John Gorman and Tom Feran. I admit, I don't recall a lot about this era other than the ubiquity of the Buzzard logo (I was too young) so this was a nice local history lesson. Gorman relates the days of WMMS, from when he joined - in the days when FM was new and, to the more jaded in the industry, stood for Find Me - to his departure. WMMS went from the neglected company stepchild into a nationally-known station. An amusing story was when the management was looking over the radio ratings numbers, and lamenting how the flagship station in Cleveland wasn't doing well, then saw a station that was doing incredibly well- then realizing the station doing so well was one of theirs. There are some great stories - one of my favorites involves a tray of doctored brownies. I also enjoyed Gorman's tales of how he and the other staff one-upped the other radio stations. The ending is rather sad, where Gorman details how things began to splinter (basically due to bad corporate management).
68. Politician Extraordinaire: The Tempestuous Life and Times of Martin L. Davey, by Frank P. Vazzano. This was an interesting look at two people, actually: Martin L. Davey, who was Kent mayor, served in the U.S. House of Representatives and was Ohio governor; and his father John Davey, who pioneered the concept and techniques of tree surgery and arboreal studies, and founded the Davey Tree Company in Kent. John Davey was seen as the town eccentric for his passion for tree preservation, and his family was often poor. Martin Davey, from these roots, became a driven person and learned how to become a competent, even gifted salesman, to help his family, starting with selling family produce as a young teen. That salesman gift and talent for reading people, along with his love of a challenge, led to his career in politics. He served well as mayor, taking the city from a backwater to a modern town and did well in Congress, but the governor role I think may have ruined him. Davey, as described by Vazzano, was a staunch Democrat but was known to be a maverick who even exasperated and worried Franklin D. Roosevelt, who also was regarded as a bit unconventional himself. Vazzano gives the reader a detailed look at all the wheelings and dealings in politics, as well as a good background of the eras covered. One thing about the books is the organization, especially with the chapters: it jumps around too much with the years. It starts off, for example, saying how tough it was for Kent and the Daveys during the Great Depression, then a few paragraphs later jumps unexpectedly back a few years, then comes back to the current topic, then goes back, etc. That made a lot of the middle part of the book hard to follow. It should have been more linear. Also, I think I caught a mistake, a small one but I'm surprised it wasn't caught in editing. There's a passing mention about Summit County Council; Summit County did not form its charter form of government, with a council, until the 1980s; before then I'm pretty sure Summit County would have still been governed by the county commissioner system. Martin Davey died in 1946, long before a Summit County Council was formed. Other than that, though, this was a nice read, and a pretty thorough look at not only this area but that time in general.
69. Above and Beyond: Tim Mack, The Pole Vault and the Quest for Olympic Gold, by Bill Livingston. This was a very inspiring book. Tim Mack, the 2004 gold medalist in the pole vault at the Athens Olympics, got there through a lot of blood, sweat and tears. Mack, who grew up in the Cleveland area, learned pole vaulting in high school, where he showed some competency but never any signs of super talent at the sport. He was never seen as a "natural." His talent lay more in his determination, his doggedness and his methodical nature- and this not only gets him the gold, but sets an Olympic record. Mack made a lot of sacrifices to get to that point, including working several low-paying jobs to keep training. Livingston also goes into other well-known pole vaulters, the history of the sport and some of the controversies (such as the safety requirements). There are a lot of interviews from key people in the sport, including Sergey Bubka, the Ukrainian pole vaulter who continues to hold the all-time world record for highest vault. It helps to know something about track and field; there is a glossary towards the back but I found a could of the terms and the numbers a bit confusing. But for anyone looking for a good inspirational read, looking for a book that shows the power of dedication, this is the best thing I've read.
70. There Was A Country: A Personal History of Biafra, by Chinua Achebe. I admit I never heard of Achebe until I came across this book; I think it was one that was sent to the office. Also, save for a short fictional story I had read in Gods and Soldiers, I was unfamiliar with the Biafra and Nigerian war. Achebe relates his own account of his time growing up under British-controlled Nigeria, to the British leaving and, essentially, chaos slowly taking hold. The new government, says Achebe, started to discriminate heavily against the Igbo people, of which Achebe is a part of. As a result, they attempted to split off from Nigeria and formed their own short-lived country Biafra. This started what in essence was a civil war, the repercussions of which are still felt. It's very sad, and it just makes me thankful that, when the colonies here rebelled against the British we had the leadership we did. So many revolutions fail because, alas, there are more Idi Amins and Mugabes then Nelson Mandelas. Achebe laments the lost potential, the lost resources, the lost human capital, and the brutal blockades that resulted in the deaths of millions, mostly children and mostly from starvation. He includes several of his poems, a copy of the most moving one, Mother in a Refugee Camp, can be found here: http://ghpoetryplace.blogspot.com/2011/07/mother-in-refugee-camp.html That one really got to me. Wow. It is hardly an unbiased account, but then it is not meant to be. It is a thoughtful, nuanced and researched account. All in all, an excellent read. I might have to check out his other writings.