I'm not a professional book reviewer. I didn't Google instructions for how to write a proper report. I didn't stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night. (I did, however, eat some blueberry multi-grain baked snack crackers with my lunch, and I gotta tell ya, they're surprisingly scrumptious. And I do realize how tired Holiday Inn Express jokes are.)
But I don't think that most prospective readers of "Fantasy Life," ESPN senior fantasy sports analyst Matthew Berry's biography-slash-anthology, are looking for a sophisticated book review. At least not one in the style of The New York Times or some other periodical with pages (online or in print) devoted to authors' opinions of other authors' works.
And even if they are, I'm just not that refined. Sorry, people.
Here's my straight-up, no-nonsense recommendation of "Fantasy Life" -- complete with prologue, which should make it plain that this volume was up against a worthy adversary:
I was a little worried that my disposition (explanation forthcoming) would affect my impression negatively. But I didn't want to wait any longer to read the book. It had just been released, and I promised a review of it once I'd finished. Typical of me, I put it off for a bit to wait for the "right time," when really, as I have to remind myself, there is no right time. So. ...
I don't have a great attention span, especially to read. It doesn't take long before I become restless and need to find something else to do. Or the text sparks a neuron that begins an idea chain with which the reading material simply competes.
I saved this book -- reluctantly, because of the nature of the material; I'd looked forward to reading it -- for my late-July vacation. I went to my grandmother's house in rural western Virginia, where, unless I drive for a good 20 or 30 minutes, I'm without a cell signal and Wi-Fi. I didn't care to think much about work, so, I didn't care to think much about fantasy sports.
Plus, and I imagine this is true of many analysts, I don't get excited about rivalries, trash talk, wild traditions, etc., to which fantasy sports give rise and a lot of people love. I used to do so, and I get it. But this should give you some idea of my mindset when I cracked this sucker open on Delta Flight 1592. And how easily the outcome could have been different.
I really liked this book.
"Fantasy Life" contains two basic narratives. Berry shares his personal journey, from Hollywood script writer to fantasy star, as well as from ambivalent bachelor to (spoiler alert) confident and fulfilled family man. He weaves that tale with a lot of colorful episodes about fantasy submitted to him by his countless fans as well as some of his own tales of fantasy lore.
It's honest. The author bares his soul a bit. It's the kind of thing one can't accomplish unless he's introspective. That's what appealed to me most. He reveals what he's learned at his jobs and from fantasy sports, as well as how those things have been more applicable to life than he realized. From there, it was easy for me to enjoy just about anything else in the work.
You may relish the fantasy anecdotes more than the memoirs. And there are some incredible fantasy sports fables. (No matter how prepared you think you are, you will be surprised. The stuff of legend.) The writer tells stories that demonstrate how fantasy impacts lives in ways we might not imagine. Hey, it's all good. You like what you like.
"Fantasy Life" was just fun to read. I laughed out loud. I was a little misty-eyed. I looked forward to the next time I'd have a chance to pick it up. That's the mark of a good book, to me.
And so, that's what I recommend. Go pick it up.
About Nicholas Minnix
Minnix is baseball editor and a fantasy football analyst at KFFL. He plays in LABR and Tout Wars and won the FSWA Baseball Industry Insiders League in 2010.
The University of Delaware alum is a regular guest on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio and Baltimore's WNST AM 1570.
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