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Cardboard Gods: An All-American Tale Told Through Baseball Cards Hardcover – April 20, 2010

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Editorial Reviews


"Josh Wilker's "Cardboard Gods" is a poignant and vivid account of how and why he accessed baseball cards as a survival tool while negotiating a 1970s childhood marked by changing mores and confusing mixed messages. This is a story of brotherly love, survival of the also-ran, and the hope that quickens a kid's heartbeat each time he rips open a fresh pack of baseball cards, gets a whiff of bubble gum, and, holding his breath, sees who he's got as opposed to who and what he needs. If you love the writing of Dave Eggers or Augusten Burroughs, you just may love Josh Wilker's "Cardboard Gods," too. I did."--Wally Lamb, "New York Times" bestselling author of "She's Come Undone" and "The Hour I First Believed" "Josh Wilker writes as beautifully about baseball and life as anyone ever has."--Rob Neyer, ESPN "This is a story, at its heart, about growing up in America. More specifically it's about growing up at a time when country, author, and the great American game of baseball were simultaneously in a state of flux. Hippies, post-Watergate Nixonites, parents, kids, teens, and even baseball, forever altered with the introduction of free agency, all grasping at a murky, anxious future. Josh Wilker, using seemingly random baseball cards pulled from his childhood, and the memories and metaphors they invoke, guides us through the restless and awkward story of his life (so far) with grace, pain, and ultimately vindication. In short, it's a story about baseball and America and his (our) generation."--David Cross, actor, comedian, and author of "I Drink for a Reason" " "Cardboard Gods" is more than just a book. It is something that I lived and live still. I was the older brother. I live on Route 14 like Josh once did. My two sons were those boys in the picture, VW bus and all. "Cardboard Gods" awakened feelings in me that I have long suppressed. It is a growth book, like "Catcher in the Rye" . People, especially people who love baseball, will carryd


“Poignant and vivid . . . If you love the writing of Dave Eggers or Augusten Burroughs, you just may love Cardboard Gods, too. I did.” —Wally Lamb, author of The Hour I First Believed
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 243 pages
  • Publisher: Seven Footer Press; First Edition edition (April 20, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1934734160
  • ISBN-13: 978-1934734162
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 6.5 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (47 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,085,266 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Josh Wilker is the author of eleven books and writes about his life and his childhood baseball cards at Since his first posting in 2006, his site has been featured in The New York Times, the Chicago Sun-Times, and He is a winner of the Howard Frank Mosher Prize for Short Fiction and has an MFA from Vermont College. He lives with his wife in Chicago.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

23 of 26 people found the following review helpful By B. Timmermann on April 28, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I should preface my review that I was a blogger alongside the author at [...] and I'm mentioned in the acknowledgments for the book. However, I bought the book myself.

When I tried to describe what Cardboard Gods was about to some friends, I had a hard time. It's a book that is not just read for pleasure, but it also takes you back in time in a way that even a history book can't do.

Cardboard Gods is, in a nutshell, one man's way of piecing together a narrative about his life (especially his childhood) using baseball cards. But that really doesn't do the book justice. The baseball cards are not just pictures of players from over 30 years ago. Instead, they are launching points to get the reader involved with the life of the author.

Wilker expertly weaves together the two threads about his life (growing up most of his life in Vermont with his mother and her boyfriend while his father lived in New York) and the baseball cards and players of the late 1970s.

For a book of a little over 240 pages, there is so much to learn. Even for someone who had a pretty good idea how Josh Wilker's story would come out, I was captivated by the story. It is a unique contribution to baseball literature. It is a valuable contribution to literature all together.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Larry Underwood on July 23, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Baseball cards have been around forever - at least since the latter part of the 19th century - giving fans from all walks of life a tangible link to the players on display; from the frequently stiff and absurdly posed phony "action shots" on the front, to a statistical summary of the players' on field performance on the back. Holding the players "in the palm of your hand", or on display in protective card albums typically gives fans a wide range of emotions; from the warm fuzzy feeling we have for our personal heroes to the sheer disdain we have for an enemy player, or one of marginal ability who seems to be in every new pack we buy, taunting us with their useless duplication.

Without a doubt, we're hooked on collecting these little "cardboard gods"; and the author of this book, Josh Wilker, has paid a personal tribute to many of the cards he collected as a kid from the mid '70s - early '80s, with a wonderful narrative that is well-written, at times humorous, and at times quite poignant, as he relives the memories - some good, some not so good - that each card evokes.

From Bake McBride to Thurman Munson; from Jim Rice to Rickey Henderson; each story is told with refreshing candor and eloquence as Wilker rehashes various events from his rather difficult and mundane childhood; always, it's the memories which are attached directly to his personal collection. For every memory the author shares, the reader will more than likely relive their own personal anecdotes that are directly related to that particular card. As an avid collector for many years, I have most of the cards the author shares, including the 1980 Rickey Henderson rookie card, which by chance, seemed to be the most common card that came in the batch of "random" cards I purchased.
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16 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Andy Shuping on May 14, 2011
Format: Paperback
Couple of things right off the bat:
1) This is NOT a book about baseball cards or how to collect them or anything like that
2) This book is a memoir of the author
3) Recommended ages for this book 16+

With that out of the way...I've collected baseball cards for over 25 years now so when I saw this book and saw images of baseball cards from the 70's and 80's throughout the book I was excited. I thought "Here's a book that's going to talk about how collecting cards influenced the writer's life" or how it impacted his life in some amazing way and that each of the cards had some great significance. But...honestly I was left disappointed. Yes baseball card's were a major part of his life and was one of the ways the writer connected with his brother and at some points the cards did have an impact in his life. But, often times it felt like the card chosen was tacked on to the story and really had no bearing. Even worse this story was, I don't want to say boring, but it was depressing. It seems like he didn't really have any happy moments growing up. He was called names constantly, his family life was weird, he and his brother didn't always get along, and on and on. Even moments that should have been happy, such as going to a concert, become depressing because a) they didn't really know anything about the guy playing and b) they didn't realize that there was an act beforehand the main guy and left before he ever came on.

Honestly I wish I could have liked this book. I even tried picking it up on different days in hopes that I just wasn't in the right mindset when I started...but the feeling didn't change. The book, while well written, is just depressing to me. It is a creative way to tell a memoir, using baseball cards as the starting points for the chapters, but it just doesn't work for me. Perhaps it will for others though.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Moxie Man on January 4, 2011
Format: Hardcover
They were gods. Of course. Why didn't I think of that? Unattainable. Above all. Beside all. Surrounding all. They permeated my life.

From his love of Yastrzemski to his views askew at Rowland Office, Carmen Fanzone, et al, Josh Wilkers has written a marvel of a book that hit home for me.

My era was 1967 through 1975; my cards wound up elsewhere. Not because my mother tossed them, but because in a few fits of perceived adult behavior I threw a bunch away and later sold a batch at a moving sale to an old woman who signed her Social Security check over to me. On occasion, my gods scream to me from their grubby graves, and some return via eBay.

As for some reviewers who point out that this book is not for kids, I argue that it is. With supervision. You don't protect kids from predatory adults by hiding their existence. This book would have thrilled me as a twelve to fifteen year old and it would have opened my eyes to the very real potential of encountering bad people at a time when I could have used a lesson in that sort of reality. It would have given me a better grasp on the fact that adults are just older kids: good, bad, ugly.

Josh Wilkers' honesty is refreshing, his language considered but never forced, and his insights worthwhile. On the cover, Comedian David Cross jokes that even Canadians might enjoy this book - but probably not Mexicans. I would argue that most card-collecting baseball fans will enjoy this book, but probably not Yankees fans. The author's childish, inappropriate reaction to the untimely death of Thurman Munson was jarring and unexpected. Not the reaction, but the guts it took to share. Raw, real stuff.

Thanks, Josh. I'll be hanging around
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