Piffcast Book Club: The March Reading List

As promised to listeners of The Piffcast (and an effort to bring people of similar and different interests together), we’re kicking off the first of multiple show “clubs”.

This one…?

The Piffcast Book Club!

Here’s a list of recommended reading material for you to choose from. At the end of the month, those in the Chicagoland area can meet up with me for some pizza and brews while others can join us digitally…either by Twitter tChat or a possible livestream chat on this site. Stay tuned!

In the meantime, let me know which books you choose to read on either Facebook or Twitter.

Midnight Sun

by Jo Nesbo

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A fugitive Norwegian hitman attempts to find himself in the Arctic wilderness.

Released: November 5th, 2015. Can order on Amazon here.


Gumption: Relighting the Torch of Freedom with America’s Gutsiest Troublemakers

by Nick Offerman

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Nick Offerman, aka Ron Swanson from ‘Parks and Recreation’, humorously highlights twenty-one figures from our nation’s history, from her inception to present day—his personal pantheon of “great Americans.”

Released: May, 2015. Available on Amazon here.


The Yiddish Policemen’s Union: A Novel

by Michael Chabon

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A detective story set in an alternative history version of the present day, based on the premise that during World War II, a temporary settlement for Jewish refugees was established in Sitka,Alaska, in 1941, and that the fledgling State of Israel was destroyed in 1948.

Released: May, 2007. Available on Amazon here. (Recommended by Johnna Silver)


Songs of a Dead Dreamer

by Thomas Ligotti

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Short-story collection, acknowledged as one of the seminal collections of modern weird horror fiction, that shows the influence of Ligotti’s literary idols of horror such as H.P. Lovecraft and Edgar Allan Poe.

Released: March, 2010. Available on Amazon here. (Recommended by Andrew W.K. on The Piffcast)


A Just Cause

by James H. Holzrichter Sr. 

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When a seemingly ordinary and seriously underestimated family man discovers evidence of potentially massive mismanagement and fraud on the part of the US defense contractor he works for, his desire to help the company itself and his need to protect his newly healing family and newfound sobriety crash headlong into the seventeen-year-long corporate assault on everything he holds dear for knowing too much and refusing to ignore or help bury the truth.

Released: May, 2013. Available on Amazon here. (Recommended by Dan Doherty)


The Nightingale

by Kristin Hannah

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Despite their differences, sisters Viann and Isabelle have always been close. Younger, bolder Isabelle lives in Paris while Viann is content with life in the French countryside with her husband Antoine and their daughter. But when the Second World War strikes, Antoine is sent off to fight and Viann finds herself isolated so Isabelle is sent by their father to help her.

Released: February, 2015. Available on Amazon here.

Blood Brothers

by Randy Roberts & Johnny Smith

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Based on previously untapped sources, from Malcolm X’s personal papers to FBI records, Blood Brothers is the first book to offer an in-depth portrait of this complex bond between he and Cassius Clay. Acclaimed historians Randy Roberts and Johnny Smith reconstruct the worlds that shaped Malcolm and Clay, from the boxing arenas and mosques, to postwar New York and civil rights–era Miami.

Released: February, 2016. Available on Amazon here.



by Colleen Hoover

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Following the unexpected death of her father, eighteen-year-old Layken becomes the rock for both her mother and younger brother. She appears resilient and tenacious, but inside, she’s losing hope. Then she meets her new neighbor Will, a handsome twenty-one-year-old whose mere presence leaves her flustered and whose passion for poetry slams thrills her.

Released: September, 2012. Available on Amazon here. (Recommended by Libbey Hanley)


Risk Savvy: How To Make Good Decisions

by Gerd Gigerenzer 

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In this age of big data we often trust that expert analysis—whether it’s about next year’s stock market or a person’s risk of getting cancer—is accurate. But, as risk expert Gerd Gigerenzer reveals, most of us, including doctors, lawyers, and financial advisors, often misunderstand statistics, leaving us misinformed and vulnerable to exploitation…Here, showing how ordinary people can make better decisions for their money, their health, and their families.

Released: March, 2015. Available on Amazon here. (Recommended by Jamie Duff)


Indentured: The Inside Story of the Rebellion Against the NCAA

by Joe Nocera & Ben Strauss

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Fans have begun to realize that the athletes involved in the two biggest college sports, men’s basketball and football, are little more than indentured servants. This is the dramatic story of a loose-knit group of rebels who decided to fight the hypocrisy of the NCAA, which blathers endlessly about the purity of its “student-athletes” while exploiting many of them: The ones who get injured and drop out because their scholarships have been revoked. The ones who will neither graduate nor go pro. The ones who live in terror of accidentally violating some obscure rule in the four-hundred-page NCAA rulebook.

Released: February, 2016. Available on Amazon here.


It’s. Nice. Outside.

by Jim Kokoris

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An ex-basketball player, husband, english teacher and author is secretly planning to do something to change his family forever. Funny, heartbreaking, and generous..This story asks: What happens when you have to let go of the person who has been holding you up?
Released: December, 2015. Available on Amazon here.


by Kevin Barry

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It is 1978, and John Lennon has escaped New York City to try to find the island off the west coast of Ireland he bought eleven years prior. Leaving behind domesticity, his approaching forties, his inability to create, and his memories of his parents, he sets off to calm his unquiet soul in the comfortable silence of isolation. But when he puts himself in the hands of a shape-shifting driver full of Irish charm and dark whimsy, what ensues can only be termed a magical mystery tour.
Released: November, 2015. Available on Amazon here. 

Let me know what you choose to read on Facebook or Twitter. Feel free to make recommendations for April’s list too.

Movember Mustache Matchup of the Day: Nick Offerman vs. Sam Elliott

As our clocks fall back an hour, we move forward to one of the best months of the year. The NFL, NHL, NBA and NCAA Football & Basketball are in full swing. Christmas displays are already up in stores. Thanksgiving is rapidly approaching…But it’s also a month that raises awareness for Men’s Health (Prostate Cancer, Testicular Cancer, Mental Health, and Physical fitness included). 

How do we promote this cause? With mustaches of course! 

Dunphy stache

Many of your friends will be sporting their upper lip sweaters for the next several weeks to support MOVEMBER. To learn more about it and the fundraising pages you can contribute to, click here

In MichaelPiff.com fashion (and because I have Bare-Upper-Lip Disorder), we will be featuring a matchup every morning between famous mustaches for YOU to vote on! 

If you are participating in Movember (or have a friend who is), submit a photo with the link to your fundraising page on Facebook or Twitter and we’ll  have you compete in your own matchup with another mustache enthusiast! 

So without further ado…

Ron Swanson

Nick Offerman Movember


Sam Elliott

Sam Elliott Movember

Vote NOW and share with your friends to do the same! 

For more, follow along on Facebook and Twitter!

Chicago Celebrities We’d Rather See At Games

From afar, I’ve admired what the Chicago Cubs are doing. Not just at the plate and from the mound, but also from a promotional standpoint. Rather than trot out any famous person who can afford a ticket with what they find between their couch cushions, the Cubs had players who appreciate where the team is now and put in blood, sweat and tears wearing the blue pinstripes to throw out first pitches in Games 3 and 4.

After Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg and 2-time All-Star Kerry Wood kicked off each game, the Cubs utilized their new video boards at Wrigley Field with videos of the late Ernie Banks and Harry Caray singing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.” That’s classy. That’s also what they should do from now on, but that’s a discussion for another day. (Never let Ryan Dempster do his impression of Will Ferrell’s impression of Harry Caray again)

Amidst the bat-flipping, opposing pitcher name chanting, and hardcore partying, we’ve seen the celebrity faces that we expected (some dreaded) to see at the ballpark. Billy Corgan and his new get-off-my-lawn attitude. Northside/Southside flipping John Cusack. And the worst front-runner on the planet, Jim Belushi (I cringe typing his name like he’s Voldemort). New assistant to Cubs President Theo Epstein (probably) Eddie Vedder has been fun. As an avid Pearl Jam fan, I get a kick out of him partying as hard as the players after each game.

It’s also hard to imagine that Bill Murray isn’t too far away, despite his media tour next week for the upcoming release of Rock the Kasbah. If anything, he could make it an epic cross promotion for his film and the MLB playoffs.

Bill Murray Harry

Vedder and Murray are awesome but it’s time to bring out the big hitters to the seats in Chicago, and not just at Wrigley Field. Last summer, I countered recently-outed heavyweight racist Hulk Hogan’s baiting for angry Blackhawks fans during the Stanley Cup with my own list of better celebrity hockey fans. Those mentioned in that list (CM Punk, Mr. T, Vince Vaughn, etc) get a hat-tip, but the following names will represent star power that we’d rather see regularly, similar to the likes at New York and Los Angeles events.

1. Harrison Ford

Harrison Ford Chicago

We’re talking about Han Solo AND Indiana Jones here. How can you deny the idea of either baseball stadium in Chicago playing the “Imperial Death March” music announcing the Yankees lineup, then following it with a shot of Harrison Ford behind home plate with the Rebel Victory score over it? Maybe it’s a the geek in me, but any opportunity to implement Star Wars, especially with the new film coming out, is super sexy to me.

Note: I also refer to White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu as #Baseball Jedi, so there’s that. 

Ford has Chicago in his blood, being born here and spending his college summers working on a boat in Burnham Park Harbor or managing the first Crate and Barrel on Wells. In an Michigan Ave Magazine interview, Ford said:

I’ve been out in Los Angeles for 35 years, and I think there are some things about my upbringing that reflect the values and the attitudes of the Midwest…. a kind of work ethic that I find particular to the Midwest. I can say that those were important, formative years for me, living in Chicago.”

Cool, Indy. I’ll buy you a beer next time you’re in town, if it gets you to a ballgame.

2. Nick Offerman

Nick Offerman Cubs

Currently featured in the new season of Fargo, Nick Offerman isn’t slowing down since the end of Ron Swanson and Parks and Recreation. Offerman isn’t shy about his baseball allegiance either.

There are many grown men and women who would scream like a 90’s tween at a Backstreet Boys concert if they saw the Joliet native, University of Illinois grad, and professional canoe craftsman down the foul line at a ballgame.

If he’s willing, during a the Crosstown Cup series, there’s plenty of bacon-on-a-stick awaiting his consumption at US Cellular Field.

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Double-thick maple bacon. You know you want it, Nick…

3. Gillian Anderson

Gillian Anderson Chicago

Yep, X-Files fans, Scully is from Chicago. With The X-Files revival series coming soon to FOX, they’d be making a huge mistake not having Gillian Anderson at Wrigley Field fending off the paranormal and extraterrestrial that I’m sure some Cubs fans still believe will prevent the Cubs from going to the World Series…At least come out to a Men and/or Women’s basketball game at DePaul, where Anderson finished college…something she and I have in common.

4. President Barack Obama

President Obama Chicago

Partisan opinions aside, he’s the MF’n President of the United States. He’s also a hardcore sports fan, which I thoroughly laid out on his birthday, and loves his Chicago teams…

When his term is up, I would welcome the president taking in as much Bulls basketball, White Sox baseball, Bears football, and whatever as he wants.

5. John C. Reilly

John C. Reilly Chicago

Would you really argue with me on this? Who doesn’t want south side native John C. Reilly in their corner?

That’s exactly who you want in games against New York when Billy Crystal, Jerry Seinfeld, Chris Rock, Jay-Z and Beyonce are behind the opponent’s bench.

6. Stephen Colbert

Stephen Colbert Chicago

For someone who has spent a lot of his career recently in New York City, Stephen Colbert has not been bashful at all about his time in Chicago. Leading up to the new Late Show’s premiere, Colbert dedicated multiple podcasts to his years at Northwestern and doing improv in Chicago. While interviewing Jane The Virgin star Gina Rodriguez this week, the two bonded over their love for the city and living there. Most notably, as tongue-in-cheek as it sounded, Colbert predicted a Cubs World Series win…a proclamation he believes “in no way will come back to haunt” him.

If the NLCS goes to New York, I would be shocked if Colbert wasn’t in attendance. Heck, he should catch a weekend game in Chicago if the opportunity is there.

More Chicago Celebrities You’d Rather See:

John Landis, Director – Animal House, Blues Brothers

Robert Zemeckis, Director – Back to the Future Trilogy

Patricia Arquette, Actress – Boyhood, True Romance

Common, Hip-Hop Artist & Actor – Selma

Fred Savage, Actor & Director – The Wonder Years

Ben Savage, Actor – Boy Meets World

Chloe Bennet, Actress – Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. 

Mandy Patinkin, Actor – The Princess Bride, Homeland

Gina Rodriguez, Actress – Jane The Virgin

Michael Pena, Actor – Ant-Man, The Martian

Frances McDormand, Actress – Fargo, Almost Famous

Shonda Rhimes, Writer – Scandal, Grey’s Anatomy

Michael Madsen, Actor – Reservoir Dogs, Kill Bill

Jennifer Morrison, Actress – House M.D.

Michael Mann, Director – Heat

Tom Berenger, Actor – Major League

Dan Castellanata, Actor – The Simpsons

Bruce Dern, Actor – Nebraska, The Cowboys

Andre Braugher, Actor – Brooklyn Nine-Nine

Wood Harris, Actor – The Wire, Remember the Titans

Bob Balaban, Actor – Moonrise Kingdom

Jennifer Hudson, Singer & Actress – Dreamgirls

Chi McBride, Actor – Boston Public, The Terminal

Craig Robinson, Actor – The Office, Knocked Up

Jay Chandrasekhar, Actor & Director – Super Troopers

Jim O’Heir, Actor – Parks and Recreation

Did I miss anyone? Let me know on Facebook or Twitter

Post Ron Swanson, Nick Offerman Still Rules

Even after the Ultimate American Character was retired on-air…

Ron Swanson Gif

Nick Offerman isn’t going away any time soon.

It’s well known that Offerman is as interesting as his “Parks and Recreation” character. He is an accomplished wood craftsman who builds furniture and canoes at his Offerman Woodshop in East Los Angeles…while sometimes reading tweets from young female celebrities. He has released two semi-autobiographical books,Paddle Your Own Canoe: One Man’s Fundamentals for Delicious Living in 2013 and Gumption: Relighting the Torch of Freedom with America’s Gutsiest Troublemakers in May of 2015. Offerman also tours regularly with his wife of 12 years, Megan Mullally, performing comedy and music.

You can see Offerman as a philosophy professor dad who only wears robes in my favorite film of the year so far, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl . You’ll also see him in the second installment of FX’s “Fargo“, premiering in September this year.

In the meantime, I recommend filling your void for more Ron Swanson with Offerman’s fantastic “Pizza Farm” PSA from Funny or Die…because “french fries are practically salads”.

The Adventure Continues on Facebook and Twitter