on April 28, 2010
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.
on July 23, 2010
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. I'm sure the folks at Topps had no idea this guy was going to be the best leadoff hitter in baseball history when they doled them out to buyers in time for the '80 season.
Whether you're a big baseball fan or simply interested in American pop culture, you'll more than likely find this "All-American Tale" a fascinating, compelling, and highly enlightening journey through Josh Wilker's childhood. It's quite a story and one that I highly recommend reading for yourself.
on May 14, 2011
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.
on November 10, 2015
I bought this book for my dad, who has been a great lover of baseball all of his life, and an avid baseball card collector. Although, I can't personally vouch for the quality of the content of this book, my dad completed this book in about a day in a half, and that is a rave review in itself! My dad doesn't read many books, and to see him so enthralled by this one, and unable to put it down, showed me that without a doubt, this was a good gift for him. That alone would me have made me praise this book, but he also told me he enjoyed it very much, and wanted to know where I had heard about it. I would recommend this book for the baseball lover or baseball card collector in your life!
on May 28, 2015
This has risen to the status of being one of my favorite books published during my lifetime. Wilker is an incredibly talented writer and this book, with its quirky 70s family saga, humorously self-loathing autobiographical details, and above all the BASEBALL CARDS is him at his very best.
on May 19, 2016
This is a genuinely beautiful memoir. There is so much great about it that I can only point out one negative - people will think it's just about baseball cards. Yes, if you were someone like me who collected cards as a kid, you will feel a strong attachment to Wilker's stories and emotions and find great joy in the device. However, you don't need to have any attachment to, let alone understanding of, baseball cards in order to be moved by this book. It is a very naked and raw memoir, beginning in Wilker's rural childhood and reaching his life as an adult in the city. Wilker writes in a way that makes even his unique parental situation (basically three parents) relatable and every success and setback will resonate. A great memoir should not just evoke the author's experience but some shared, universal one, and Wilker nails it with every chapter/card. I have given this book to more people than I can count, and I will continue to do so with it and Benchwarmer (his incredible follow-up). One of my favorite books!
on May 19, 2016
This book is incredible. It's about sports and brotherhood, in a melancholic fashion that isn't frequently paired, but is immensely powerful. It's firmly rooted in its time as a memoir of a kid growing up in the 1970s, but has an ageless quality that was a real thrill to me, who never got a chance to see that decade. It's sports cards as metaphor: for brotherhood, for youth, for everything we attain and everything we can never attain. If Malamud's "The Natural" defines the literary baseball book and Kinsella's "Shoeless Joe" reinvented it as a metaphor for America, then Wilker has invigorated the form anew with this intensely personal meditation on fandom, heroism, and the passage of time.
on May 20, 2016
If you collected baseball cards, this is a must read. It's really good vacation read, because the chapters are really short and it gives you time to relax and reflect on how it relates to your own life when you were a little kid opening packs of cards. I recommend following this on facebook as well because 1) there are more cardboard gods to read about there. and 2) I think this author is getting better with age and really coming into his own as a writer.
on January 4, 2011
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 cardboardgods.net.
on May 20, 2016
I mentally connected with Josh's writings earlier, through his blog, also called Cardboard Gods. His stories reminded me so much of my childhood, and re-living it through the viewing and analysis of baseball cards. To me as well they signified much more than just a picture, a team, a position, but rather were more like windows into a glorious world. And, much like Josh, this lasted throughout my younger childhood, until puberty ushered in other more adult thoughts (however, many years later, I wonder if I was ever happier than when opening packs of 84 Donruss, hoping for Donny Baseball). Josh's writing style is unique; I've never quite read any quite like it. I'm no literary genius, so I can't talk finer points, but I'll just say it is highly relatable and has humor that breaks on you like a late breaking backdoor curve...seemingly benign until it has just crossed the plate as a strike, and you are left in stitches. A must read for anyone who has ever a) grown up in the 70's or 80's b) loves baseball c) loved baseball cards or d) ever struggled mightily and later found humor and a stronger character as a result. Baseball cards figure strongly in Josh's book, only this book is a much broader story of the sense of wonder of childhood, brotherhood, and growing up in the last decades of 20th century America.