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3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (327 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Josh Wilker Narrator: Jim Meskimen Publisher: Blackstone Audio Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date:
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Cardboard Gods is the memoir of Josh Wilker, a brilliant writer who has marked the stages of his life through the baseball cards he collected as a child. It also captures the experience of growing up obsessed with baseball cards and explores what it means to be a fan of the game. Along the way, as we get to know Josh, his family, and his friends, we also get Josh’s classic observations about the central artifacts from his life—the baseball cards themselves.

Josh writes about an imagined correspondence with his favorite player, Carl Yastrzemski; he uses the magical bubble-blowing powers of journeyman Kurt Bevacqua to shed light on the weakening of the powerful childhood bond with his older brother; he considers the doomed utopian back-to-the-land dreams of his hippie parents against the backdrop of inimitable 1970s baseball figures such as pinch runner Herb Washington and Mark “The Bird” Fidrych. Cardboard Gods is more than just the story of a man who can’t let go of his past, it’s proof that—to paraphrase Jim Bouton—as children we grow up holding baseball cards, but that in the end, we realize it’s really the other way around.

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Quotes & Awards

  • 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 carry this book with them everywhere.”

    Bill “Spaceman” Lee, Red Sox legend and bestselling author of The Wrong Stuff

  • “Josh Wilker writes as beautifully about baseball and life as anyone ever has.”

    ESPN

  • “Using the unlikely device of his childhood collection of baseball cards as a series of metaphors, Josh Wilker recounts his life growing up in a changing America. Narrator Jim Meskimen lends a likable credibility to the story, which began as a blog on the joys of baseball and its players. Wilker particularly delights in talking about little-known facts relating to lesser-known players from the 1970s and 1980s. The skillful part comes when he blends the world of baseball cards with his own successes and failures in coming-of-age, including his growing estrangement from his family. Meskimen’s breezy, conversational style makes listeners feel Wilker’s enthusiasms—from the heady delights of opening up a new packet of baseball cards in childhood to the delightful memories associated with them decades later.”

    AudioFile

  • “Josh Wilker’s Cardboard Gods is a poignant and vivid account…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 The Hour I First Believed

  • “A warm, rich, and funny recollection of one American boyhood as viewed through the unimpeachable prism of baseball cards. Literate, nostalgic and sneaky fast.”

    Brendan Boyd, author of Great American Baseball Card Flipping, Trading and Bubble Gum Book

  • “Every baseball card is a story, a player, a history eroding. Josh Wilker understands this profoundly, and scrambles to bring those stories, his stories, to life in uproarious and moving fashion. Just don’t put this book in your bike spokes.”

    Will Leitch, author of God Save the Fan, contributing editor for New York Magazine, and founding editor at Deadspin.com

  • “Josh Wilker has pulled off as nifty a double play as Tinkers-Evers-and-Chance ever executed in Cardboard Gods, reimagining the baseball cards of his youth and effortlessly turning them into a lamp to shine on his own memories in this fascinating read.”

    Bert Randolph Sugar, author of Bert Sugar’s Baseball Hall of Fame: A Living History of America’s Greatest Game

Listener Opinions

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 by Ted | 2/19/2014

    " Highly idiosyncratic, personal and aware persective of New England/Northeast life, baseball, baseball cards mostly during the uncertainty and fading possibilities of the Carter-era. Wilker has the gift of really connecting to readers and striking some universals of trying to grow up during the time of gas crisis II, plastic batting helmets and red shoelace hiking boots. I previouly believed I was the only one thought Kent Tekulve looked out-of-place and time on the '79 Pirates. (Now he reminds me of Dale Gribble from King of the Hill or even Cyril Jordan from the Flamin' Groovies.) The entry on the tragedy of Thurman Munson makes you feel it once again or for the the first time, while his broad brush treatment of Gorman Thomas captures why 1982 was such a bottom-scraping year on the cusp of the painter cat era. Also, his recollections of attending a AC/DC & Ted Nugent show at MSG (under the wing of his dad and brother) was one of the evocative renderings of the arena-rock-a-rama experience since Lester Bangs wrote about going to Midwestern Grand Funk Railroad shows. Actually, it was not a quick read because I wanted to make sure I was soaking in some of Wilker's care and conviction he places in his word choices and thoughts between-the-lines. Notes-Yaz appears throughout the book like Frank Gifford in Exley's A Fan Notes and is as elusive to Wilker as a diploma from Notre Dame would be to Yaz. (Yaz signed to the Red Sox after one year at ND.) Be sure to check out Wilker's blog for more writing featuring his acute insights and sweeping observations. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 by Brad Herzog | 2/18/2014

    " As an author of creative nonfiction, I occasionally come across examples of the genre and think, "Man, I wish I would have written that." THE KNOW-IT-ALL by AJ Jacobs (about his mission to read the entire Encyclopedia Brittanica) was certainly one of those books. Brilliantly funny. CARDBOARD GODS is another. I bought the book for the concept -- using baseball cards to tell the story of childhood angst and exploration. Great idea. But I'm writing this rare (for me) review because I just LOVED the way that concept played out. Josh Wilker really knows how to extrapolate profundity from the seemingly mundane, how to turn a 3-page essay into a story that touches the soul, how to turn a phrase as smoothly as Trammell and Whitaker used to turn the double play. Reading CARDBOARD GODS was like watching Greg Maddux pitch, like watching Carew wield a bat. Sure, I was a 1970s baseball card collector,too, and I got a kick out seeing those names and faces -- Ivan Dejesus! Biff Pocoroba! Kurt Bevacqua! -- that were such a vivid part of my childhood. But this book is a very adult reminiscence. And it is written beautifully. So for me, there was some envy and surprise involved in the reading. It was an unexpected home run -- sort of the way Wilker must have felt when Bucky Dent took his infamous swing... "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 by Keith | 2/17/2014

    " I saw myself in this book in so many places that it was kind of spooky at times. Josh's feelings on baseball, baseball cards and growing up really resonated with me and brought back memories that I haven't recalled in many years. Like Josh, my obsession with baseball cards met an inevitable conclusion, but my love for the game continues even if it will never again reach that fevered pitch of youth where I would live and die by how my Astros did that night. I thought this book would be gimmicky with the baseball cards theme being forced and feeling contrived, but Wilker did a great job of tying each card into the story of his life in a way that sent my mind back to my collection time and time again. I cried when Josh surprisingly said that his childhood was happy, and my heart soared when his Red Sox finally won the World Series and he got to celebrate with his brother. I never have the desire to reach out to an author and personally tell him how his story impacted me, but I found myself wanting to do that with Cardboard Gods, probably because in many ways his story is my story. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 by Robert | 2/16/2014

    " The concept of using baseball cards to tell the story of the author's life is a cool concept. "

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About the Author

Josh Wilker writes about his life and childhood baseball cards at CardboardGods.net. Since his first posting in 2006, his site has been featured in The New York Times, the Chicago Sun-Times, and ESPN.com. 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.