The Blind Side

Welcome to our new contributor Deb, a youth librarian and consumer of just about anything readable. In her words, "I like to read all sorts of things, especially young adult novels, speculative fiction and oddball fantasy, pop science essays, nonfiction that reads like fiction, tales set in places I’ve been or hope to visit, glimpses into other cultures, retold fairy tales, wry memoirs, and field guides. Also anything my sister recommends."

I grew up in an active family. We hiked, gardened, went camping, and (in between reading) generally were seldom idle. What we did not do is play organized sports, and so I never learned how. In elementary school I found that the other kids already knew the rules to the games, whereas I, in confusion, would invariably kick the ball or smack the puck or flubble the gimlet to exactly the wrong person and everyone would holler at me in disgust. Unsurprisingly, in my own personal iteration of that familiar bookworm's story, I developed an aversion to sport. It wasn't until my Ultimate Frisbee days in graduate school that I tapped my latent athletic streak.

This is all to say that I do not read sports books. I am not versed in sports strategy or history, my heroes aren't sports figures, and sporty play-by-play bores me. So hear me, my people, the sporty and the unsporty alike, when I tell you that to my astonishment Michael Lewis' book The Blind Side--a book about football* -- was one of the best books I read in 2008. 

I understand that the movie (I haven't seen it yet) plays up Sandra Bullock's role as the mother who takes in a disadvantaged young football player, but in the book her whole family's role, while interesting, is merely part of the framework for the real meat of the story. Or should I say, stories: One thread follows the unlikely tale of Michael Oher, a huge and athletically talented African-American kid (and a natural left tackle, even though he doesn’t know it) who grew up destitute in the Memphis ghettos and through a weird series of events was essentially adopted by a rich white family. The other thread -- and I kid you not, sports non-fans, it's absolutely fascinating and clear as a window -- explains the development of the passing game in football, and why it led to quarterback sacks (usually by the pass rusher), which in turn led to the increasing importance of the left tackle, whose job it is to guard the quarterback’s blind side.

I can see your eyes glazing from here, non-football fans. But trust me, and treat yourselves, and get in line for a copy of The Blind Side. (Both the book and the downloadable audiobook are available at the library.)

* So why did I pick up a book about football in the first place?, I hear you cry. Because I saw it listed among the Alex Awards of 2007, and I have found that the Alex Awards can point you toward some very fine reading.