Commentary

Now for something completely different

Originally Published: January 11, 2012
By Duff McKagan | Special to ESPN.com

For a writer like myself, there doesn't seem a way to add much to the written drag and hum that has come as a result of this past weekend of excellent playoff football in the NFL. It was epic. It was surprising. It was just good (unless you are a Lions, Falcons, Steelers or Bengals fan).

I received an email, here at ESPN, from a fellow I had a chat with whilst I was in Brazil last November. This guy (Pete, below), is a lion of a man -- a badass who has traveled the world and been very successful in myriad industries. Pete is a sports fan. Pete is a British expat living in Brazil. Pete is a father. To put it bluntly, Pete is smarter than me -- and we ended up talking about books that we had currently read.

Since a lot of you reading now also fit the profile of Pete (the "being smarter than me" part), I thought it might be a good time to perhaps pass around a few good ideas about the books that we read. I will start by simply answering Pete's email. As follows …

(As a side note: When I suggest a book, I will simply inform about the subject matter. Take it as a given, from where I sit, that these books are well-written and truly engaging to read).

Hi, Duff. Had a pleasant conversation with you over breakfast coffee outside the hotel in Curitiba last week. (I was Pepper's guitar tech on the Down tour … Brit, Brazilian wife.) You promised to send me some interesting book titles, so whenever you get some time off I'd love to read what you recommend. My hot tips are (1) "One River: Science, Adventure and Hallucinogenics in the Amazon Basin" by Wade Davis. (2) "In Patagonia" by Bruce Chatwin. (If you like Chatwin's style, then his best book is called "On the Black Hill.") You were right and wrong about Phil Anselmo and the sports bar in the Buenos Aires airport; no TV pictures, so Phil was listening on his iPhone giving a running commentary for the whole bar, most of whom, being either Argentine travelers or Brit road crew, hadn't the faintest idea what he was talking about. Luckily the Saints won. We live in Maceio, Northeast Brasil. Anytime you're passing drop us a line.
Pete Beresford
Maceio, Alagoas, Brasil

"Blood Meridian" by Cormac McCarthy: Those of you who already might read me over at the Seattle Weekly know by now that I am a big fan of the prose and rhythm of Mr. McCarthy. "Blood Meridian" takes the reader through a relentless and bloody campaign of revenge between a Mexican army-U.S. cavalry mashup of figures, and the Comanche band they are after. This is a book for men!

"The Things They Carried" by Tim O'Brien: Maybe the most poignant book written about the U.S. involvement in Vietnam. O'Brien was a 19-year-old kid when he went to Vietnam as an Army enlistee -- with a huge talent for writing and observation -- all the while being scared to death for his own life. This is a "must-read" for anyone with an interest in reading about war.

"Undaunted Courage" by Stephen Ambrose: Ambrose is probably most famous for his book "Band of Brothers," which in turn was turned into the epic HBO miniseries. But Ambrose was a prolific historic writer, and his interests and expertise were wide. "Undaunted Courage" unravels the journals of the Lewis and Clark expedition of the uncharted parts of the U.S-owned parts of North America circa 1805. Ambrose is perhaps the best American history writer to come along thus far.

"The Jungle" by Upton Sinclair: A lot of you probably already read this in your senior year of high school. I didn't have a senior year in high school and thus didn't read Sinclair until just a couple of years ago. A genius. "The Jungle" is one of the darkest accounts of industrial early 20th-century Chicago that we have. It'll make you think twice before you eat that next ballpark hot dog!

"Lamb" by Christopher Moore: If you like Jesus and adventure and Kung Fu and hookers, please read "Lamb." If you have no sense of humor, and follow religion blindly, this book may or may not be for you. As a student of theology myself, at a fine Jesuit university in Seattle, I found "Lamb" to be brilliant, well-informed and genius. And, funny as hell.

"The Devil All of the Time" by Donald Ray Pollack: If you are from somewhere around Knockemstiff, Ohio, you may find this book too close to home. But for a good ol' peek inside the underbelly of America, try anything by Pollack.

"Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption" by Laura Hillenbrand: The best nonfiction book of the past few years. If you haven't read it yet, just go do it now. A very fascinating story of an Olympic runner who found himself shot down in the Pacific and as a result, an eventual prisoner of the Japanese. An epic adventure.

Musician Duff McKagan -- who writes for Seattle Weekly, has written for Playboy.com and now has his autobiography out -- writes a weekly sports column for ESPN.com. To send him a note, click here and fill out the form.

Michael "Duff" McKagan, a founding member of Guns N' Roses, writes a weekly column for Playbook Sounds and is a passionate sports fan. McKagan is currently playing in Loaded and Velvet Revolver, is a prolific writer, including an autobiography, "It's So Easy: And Other Lies."