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FMIA Special: Peter King’s Annual Father’s Day Book List

Mike Florio and Peter King play a round of “Which doesn’t belong and why” with Wild Card teams from last season who have tough early schedules in 2023.

Hi everyone. As you may know, I’m on hiatus till late July. This is a little non-football bonus to your world if you care to read it.

In early June for maybe the last 15 years or so, I’ve written in brief about a few books to recommend. I call it the Father’s Day Book List because I hope you might give that guy in your life—dad, granddad, brother who’s a dad, uncle who’s a dad, good friend who’s a dad—a book instead of something like a tie. He’s got 63 ties already. That’s my theory. That plus the likely reality that Dad doesn’t read enough. He reads emails and web stuff, sure, but that doesn’t count. How many books has he read this year? Zero? Maybe one, if he’s lucky.

Over the years I’ve tried to find books not necessarily on the Best Sellers list, but some that I really took to. This year I’m going to highlight seven, in a few different genres.

I’m not much of a golf fan, but there’s an excellent golf book here by Michael Bamberger that captured me because it’s about three average people—plus Bamberger—who are passionate about the sport and the purity of golf. Stories about passionate people are a great way to reel me in. My favorite bit of “The Ball in the Air: A Golfing Adventure” is getting to know a woman, Pratima Sherpa, raised in near-poverty in an equipment shed on the only golf course in Kathmandu, Nepal. The path to her becoming one of Tiger Woods’ favorite people is truly incredible.

I’m also not much of a history buff, but there’s a counter-culture history book here by David Fleming that pretty much trashes Thomas Jefferson’s role in American history. Harsh but true. “Who’s Your Founding Father?” is a passion project by a longtime sportswriter who’s as shocked as anyone that he spent months and months pulling on a string that discovered real evidence that the first group of Americans who declared independence from England 248 years ago was from Charlotte, not Boston.

And I never heard of Charlie White, who died a day after turning 109 in 2014 in Kansas City. We’re lucky a Washington Post writer, David Von Drehle, moved into White’s neighborhood and befriended him in 2007, or we never would have gotten this rich oral history of how an adventurous, smart, good-hearted person navigated American life. Like the time, as a medical student in Chicago in the gangster wars of the twenties, he treated a mortally wounded bad guy by transfusing his own blood directly into the arm of the doomed victim, bleeding out on a street.

So that’s a taste of my choices this year. Here they are, along with links to the books from, the independent web bookseller I support:

A Golfing Adventure

The Ball in the Air: A Golfing Adventure, by Michael Bamberger (Avid Reader Press).

Around the time LIV Golf was born and so many soured on the material crassness of golf, Bamberger’s editor had an idea: Isn’t this a great time to celebrate the amateur game? So Bamberger, the longtime SI golf writer, set out to find people who love the game the way he does. He found three. My favorite: Pratima Sherpa, who, in most of her youth and adolescent years slept next to the mowers and groundskeeping equipment managed by her dad (a former sherpa named Sherpa, which you cannot make up) on this nine-hole golf course. Her dad saw Pratima staring at golfers outside the shed/home on the par-3 third hole and imitating them with sticks from the trees. So her dad got a machete, went into the woods, cut down a branch and fashioned something that looked like a golf club. That’s how this golf adventure started. How it progressed says so much about the goodness of people, and about the dedication of this young girl with nothing but a family who loved her and a desire to hit golf shots all day long.

Bamberger writes artfully. That’s part of the joy of this book. Pratima ended up on a college golf team in California, and her story got noticed by Golf Digest and ESPN, and Tiger Woods saw the ESPN piece and wrote her a note of admiration, and they met, and he loved her swing. In 2019, she went to see him play in a tournament at Riviera Country Club in Los Angeles. A friend put her in a spot by the clubhouse where Woods might see her.

“I’ve covered Tiger for a long time,” Bamberger, who witnessed the scene and wrote about it, told me. “Nothing gets him to stop after a round. And here he was, dog tired, played lousy that day. I see him stop, make eye contact, smile and greet this girl.” The power of Pratima. The power of golf. What a good read this is.

A History Adventure

Who’s Your Founding Father?: One Man’s Epic Quest to Uncover the First, True Declaration of Independence, by David Fleming (Hatchette Books).

I always like to know after encountering such an unusual page-turner of a book how it came to be. How, exactly, does a veteran sportswriter write a book throwing immense shade on one of our founding fathers and questioning who the first real revolutionaries in this country were? This is how: Fleming and his wife have raised their family in Davidson, N.C. “I dropped my daughter Kate off at Davidson Elementary one day,” Fleming said, “and they have the North Carolina state flag there, and I noticed the date on it. May 20, 1775. I thought, ‘That’s strange.’ Once I started looking into it, the story got in my blood, and it had to come out.”

The May 1775 date hit Fleming because it’s before we gained our independence from the British. Fleming found evidence that this was the night a group of patriots around Charlotte, tired of what they considered British tyranny, wrote the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence (Charlotte is in Mecklenburg County). As Fleming writes: “… A year later, in 1776, Thomas Jefferson is believed to have plagiarized the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence and then, as he is wont to do, covered the whole damn thing up.”

Whoa. Much of Fleming’s claim is backed by a trove of 178 letters exchanged between Jefferson and fellow founder John Adams. “Adams had always suspected Jefferson of being a lightweight, erudite poser who covertly cultivated far too much credit for authoring the Declaration of Independence … Only now, with the discovery of the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence, Adams had the receipts.”

For Fleming, the letters (one in particular) were the equivalent of Adams saying to Jefferson: “BUSTED.”

Your first reaction after reading this book, guaranteed, is going to be: How on earth is Thomas Jefferson such a great, pure American hero? Story after story disputes Jefferson’s goodness. “If the ghost of Thomas Jefferson wants to sue me, bring it on,” Fleming told me. “His own biographer said the two declarations are too similar to be a coincidence.”

This is a book that reads like a personal travelog. You’re along for a historic ride that legitimately questions the roots of our country. Kudos to Fleming for going down an important rabbit hole.

A Life Adventure

The Book of Charlie: Wisdom from the Remarkable American Life of a 109-Year-Old Man, by David Von Drehle (Simon & Schuster).

Right away in 2007, Von Drehle recognized his great fortune in moving into a house just down the street from a living, breathing and all-there 102-year-old. He was an extraordinarily interesting American doctor, who drove a primitive vehicle to California on mostly dirt roads and paths and sailed to China as a young man. The story of Charlie White is a delightful you-are-there story of hardship and optimism. This passage, from Charlie working as a de facto weekend EMT while in med school in Chicago in the late twenties, is one of a hundred memorable passages mined by Von Drehle from countless conversations with the old man:

One wild night in Capone’s Chicago, his ambulance was called to the scene of a gangland shootout. A mobster lay on the sidewalk with a severe case of lead poisoning. The man’s female companion was distraught and pleaded with Charlie to do something. When the doctor-in-training knelt beside the fallen gangster and checked his fluttering pulse, it was obvious there was no hope. A spreading pool of crimson told the tale.

“He can’t survive without a transfusion,” Charlie announced—though in those days you could fit everything known to physicians about the infant science of blood transfusion onto a couple of index cards with room left for a grocery list.

… The gangster’s girlfriend offered to pay handsomely for last-ditch heroics. So, digging into his ambulance supplies, Charlie produced a length of rubber tubing and two IV needles. Plunging one needle into his own arm and the other into the arm of the dying man, Charlie and the moll watched as the rubber tube filled with Charlie’s blood. The rash experiment failed to save the wounded man. But the bereaved girlfriend was moved by the attempt and, true to her word, she produced a wad of cash from which she peeled a generous sum and pressed the bills into Charlie’s hand.

I haven’t read anything as vivid about life in America in the first 30 years of the 1900s. Well worth your $24.18 at

Now, in brief (I am on vacation, after all):

A Modern Adventure

Demon Copperhead, by Barbara Kingsolver (Harper).

Hat tip to Judy Battista for the recommendation here—and she told me all about it before “Demon Copperhead” won the 2023 Pulitzer Prize for fiction. It’s a vivid modern tale of the life of Damon Fields, born into Appalachian poverty in the eighties, told in the voice of Demon Fields himself. (A bad attitude gives Damon the nickname of Demon.) When I say “modern tale,” I mean the ills of today’s American society—opioid addiction, awful medical care, endless waits for said care, fentanyl use, forced into crime by the intense drug need. Few overcome those things. But Damon, who cheats death more often than Aaron Judge hits home runs, arduously and somehow logically survives to live a life no one could have imagined.

A European Adventure

The Night Gate, by Peter May (Riverrun).

A note about prolific Scotsman Peter May: This book is 486 pages long. It is his 27th book. He has sold 5.5 million books in his life. May’s output reminds me of a certain Football Morning in America author. What makes this book work so well is the connection of events three-quarters of a century apart—a murder in World War II France, and the murder of an art dealer nearby during Covid lockdown. A strange connection, but wait till you see how the Mona Lisa connects them. It’s fun to read a riveting story from Europe, with obscure references like: “Bauer’s Wilhelminian-style apartment was on the third floor of a restored building on Paul-Lincke Ufer.” And single-quote-marks instead of our double-. But the riveting story is universal.

A Divisive Adventure

G-Man: J. Edgar Hoover and the Making of the American Century, by Beverly Gage (Viking).

Hoover is divisive figure in American history. Power-hungry tyrant to some, greatest law-and-order figure ever the U.S. to others. Understandable, after serving as FBI director for 48 years. Forty-eight years! Worked for four Democrat presidents, four Republican ones! What a life! But Hoover, of course, ended up scarred by his lies about Martin Luther King Jr. as King relentlessly ripped into the FBI for prejudicial “law enforcement.” But history is history, and it’s all covered here, no holds barred. The first new work on Hoover in three decades is the ultimate work on an important American life.

A Mob Adventure

Father of Mine, by Mike Florio (PFT Publishing).

Well, how about this: Mike Florio wrote a mob tale! And it’s good! I found myself engrossed by the tales in here, all rooted in Florio by his father’s association with the mob in Wheeling, W.Va. (Dad Florio was a bookie, taking bets on NFL games.) The stories are so real I wondered to Mike about the reality of them and he said, No, no, no. Fiction. But it’s a tribute to him that the stories ring so true to form—like the one about the daughter who visits her mobbed-up father once a year in prison. On his birthday. He’s in for murder. The dad hates it and tells her he hates her checking the box and then just leaving. The rebuke crushes Leslie, and when she goes out to her car—she’d been told to always check the car for a bomb—she thinks about the bomb advice. “When I put the key in the ignition and turned it, part of me was hoping there was one,” Florio writes, in Leslie’s voice. You’ll be surprised that your voice of the NFL can write so vividly in the voices of mobsters.

Peter King’s Lineup