Book review of The Bear

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Buy your copy from The Bear: The Legendary Life of Coach Paul "Bear" Bryant starstarstarstarno star Author: Don Keitha
Publisher: Cumberland House (2006)
Genre: Non-Fiction

Paul “Bear” Bryant was perhaps the greatest college football coach ever. If he’s not, he’s certainly in the top five.

Based on a screenplay by the late former sportswriter Al Browning, Don Keith’s “The Bear: The Legendary Life of Coach Paul ‘Bear’ Bryant” effectively chronicles the highs and lows of Bryant from his days growing up as a kid in Arkansas, to various defining moments in his life and in his career.

Some of those moments include wrestling a bear as a teenager, hence giving him the nickname that would stick with Bryant throughout his life; playing a bowl game for Alabama with a broken leg; and turning losing programs into winning ones as a coach at the University of Kentucky and Texas A&M, and then ultimately at his alma mater while winning six national championships. He became the winningest coach in history, though he was later surpassed by Joe Paterno and Bobby Bowden.

In the case of legends like Bryant, the story has already been scripted and a book like this can take various approaches to tell it. Keith does a spectacular job telling a multitude of stories within the story, effectively bridging them from one into the next. That style leaves no fluff, rather focusing on the moments that stood out and had meaning in Bryant’s life.

Though Bryant’s career was remarkable, Keith somehow captures the highlights in a way that is both descriptive and informative, making for a quick, easy read. He also brings Bryant’s character to life on the pages of the book, showing various sides to a man who could be tough, caring, reckless, and unpredictable all at once. But all of those qualities aside, Bryant was ultimately a winner, and this book is a must-read for anyone who has ever been a fan of the game of football.

~Mike Farley