A finalist for the 2010 Casey Award for baseball writing, Josh Wilker, 42, spent eight years working in liquor stores and bookstores and trying his hand at young-adult nonfiction before he realized that America's pastime was a portal into his childhood. That happened first in '06 when, as a writing exercise, he created a blog with each entry inspired by a baseball card (Carl Yastrzemski, Mark Fidrych, etc.) plucked from a 4,000-card collection he'd amassed between 1975 and '81.
Wilker employed that same format in each chapter of his memoir, Cardboard Gods, using cards as touchstones to transport readers back to the joys and pains of his domestically fractured youth in 1970s rural Vermont. The book was published in April, and its success has reconnected the author with his past off the page as well. Wilker held a reading at the East Randolph, Vt., general store where he used to buy packs of cards; and at a reading in New York City that featured a bubble-gum-blowing contest, he reunited with old high school buddies, a fitting epilogue to a bittersweet story.