Cardboard Gods: A Book Review
- Updated: April 22, 2011
Usually I don’t write book reviews in the first person, but I will make an exception here because I feel it is the best way to illustrate the magnitude of this specific work. “Cardboard Gods: An American Tale” by Josh Wilker is on the surface, a story about a boy and his baseball card collection. To the untrained eye, this seems like a pretty boring story, but to someone who spent most of his childhood, and some of his adulthood so far, collecting these cards, the connection is strong.
To the non-card collecting serious baseball fan, card collectors can come off as the nerds that they just need to put up with in order to get their stats like WHIP strait. After reading Wilker’s story, it will be hard for even the most hard headed of that mentality to not change their mind.
Much of what frames the story for Wilkes is what was going on during the time that he was collecting cards. Since the years of focus are the 1970s, the author touches on things such as the Vietnam War and the Watergate scandal and how his cards carried him through these tough times.
Wilkes story is comical, in part, because it’s simply funny that someone could get tied to little cardboard rectangles as much as he, and I, have. The word that best describes his work, however, is nostalgic. While much of the book centers on the cards and the role the played in his youth, interspersed are the innocent conversations he had with friends as a child. Subjects like considering how big the universe is and what is at the end of it are found amongst these pages. It’s hard not to think back to the seemingly silly conversations I had as a child and how they really mold the person you become.
There are life lessons to be learned from these cards, Wilker points out. He illustrates how a player doesn’t have to be a Hall of Famer for his card to mean something to somebody. This made me think back to the 1990s when I was crazy about collecting cards. I had a Julian Tavarez Cleveland Indians card that for some reason struck a chord with me. He wasn’t an outstanding player by any means, just simply, a serviceable reliever, but it was his card that made it into one of the rare hard plastic cases instead of someone like Mark McGwire.
Another life lesson he points out is that there are far more people doing non extraordinary things than there are those that stand out and without those people, the people who are World Class, would never get the ability to illustrate that.
Wilker’s work continues to be a page turner throughout and while turning those pages, the reader will find full color pictures of the cards that WIlker focuses on, creating a visual depiction for the reader; something that many books lack.
Wilker is not afraid to use some brash language in the book, just like he may have at the time he was collecting these cards. Kids are strange, and he certainly makes that point evident at many parts of the book.
Simply put, there is not another book out there like “Cardboard Gods”. This book should be recommended for everyone. Whether you are a baseball fan or not or even if you don’t like sports at all, give this book a try. It touches on so much more than sports and even if you never collected cards like Wilker and I did, you most certainly did the childish things we both did growing up.
The nearly 250 page work was published by Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill in 2010. The work is now out in paperback and retails for $15.95.
Overall Grade: 4.75/5