Good Books for Pool Players

jay helfert

Shoot Pool, not people
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As for instructional books, here's my list,

Robert Byrne -- four books: Standard, Advanced, Wonderful World, Trick Shots
Straight Pool: Capelle, Cranfield and Moy, Mosconi
General: Martin, Alciatore, Wilson, Fels
Oldies (which are under $10 now): Cottingham, Knuchell, Lassiter, Crane, Mosconi red book, Hoppe (1942), Joe Davis
The Rules -- pick your own set. Few of your opponents will have read any set.

I don't much care for the psychology books. but I have found The Inner Game of Tennis and The Pleasures of Small Motions useful in my own game. And that is the test for such books: do they make a difference in the way you play? I think most fail. I don't think any of the general pool books that venture into that area succeed.

The first group -- instructional -- also need to pass tests. Is what the author says on a particular point true? Is it useful? Can you use it in your current game? Will you be able to use it later? And for advanced students: What are the limitations and extensions of what the author says?
Jimmy Caras' "Trick and Fancy Shots" belongs on every list imo. Probably tbe best book on trick shots ever published. Good illustrations and equally good explanations how to shoot each shot.
 

Boxcar

AzB Silver Member
Silver Member
It's a good lesson on becoming a good man. Not sure how much of it resonates with pool players. I mean, Joe Rogan said it best when he was doing his Earl the Pearl impression. He said...

"Pool is beautiful game played by ugly people."

I'm not saying I agree with this, because I've met quite a bit more awesome people than I have "ugly" or seedy people when it comes to playing pool. But it's still a funny line. Joe Rogan is a funny dude, and smart too.
Thanks for the acknowledgement. The reference was more for your benefit than the population at large. Your efforts are not unnoticed.

Your prosaic portrait of the rail yard was flattering. The wheels may be a little rusty, but the rhythm of the road is still young and wild. I wonder if you don't know just a little about the C & O. When I was a freshman in college, I hopped an empty car coming out of Richmond heading west. What a night. I'd do it again tomorrow night if I could.

Peace.

Boxcar
 

BC21

Poolology
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Shooting from Within By J Michael Plaxco.

Plaxco was a very successful pistol competitor. He was also able to break down what he did and why. Finally, he understood the zone as I did and had a lot to say about it compared to most. He had broken the zone down into three levels and detailed how to get to the first two. The first was where we normally operated so obviously no big deal. The second was narrow focus. The third was an an expanded focus which seems unrealistic to many that haven't been there. He detailed how to try to get to the third level but said nobody was always successful doing that. Reading about Simone Biles and her troubles performing made me wonder if perhaps gymnasts usually perform in that third level zone. As a side comment, I always entered the third level zone driving a circle track car. After decades of interest in the zone I do believe I know how to get there the vast majority of the time.

People can mean different things when they say "the zone". I was very interested in a book by a competitor who was also a MD and titled his book "Finding the Zone" or something similar. After reading the entire book I had to conclude he had never been in the level three zone and didn't even recognize that it existed.

You can search old posts and archives and probably dig up many threads with me discussing the zone. Many dismiss it as something mystical or supernatural, it isn't. It is real and something most of us can access, possibly all of us. Got to pay your dues though! I am interested in any book that is about finding that zone that J Michael calls the level three zone. Until then, Shooting from Within has more about it than any book I know of. Besides the section on the mental game he drops tidbits all through the book. Would be tough digging for someone who wasn't interested in shooting a pistol.

Hu

Well..... I don't have that book. But I want it!

Probably two of the best books I've read that go into some detail about "the zone" and how to achieve that state of mind are "Peak Performance", by Stulberg and Magness (2017), and "Bounce", by Matthew Syed (2010). Both books dive pretty deep into the inner workings of the mind and body as it relates to performing at a level beyond mere body mechanics. Not sure if either book can live up to "Shooting from Within", as I haven't read that particular book. But they are very good and well worth looking into.

The Zone is certainly not a mystical or supernatural thing. It's a mind over body thing, walking that fine line between conscious effort and subconscious action.

I recall a story about a Vietnamese Buddhist monk who sat down in the street during a protest march in Saigon back in 1963. He sat perfectly still, legs crossed, hands on his thighs, while two other monks poured 5 gallons of gasoline over him. Then he struck a match and set himself on fire. He was immediately engulfed in flames, but remained perfectly still and quiet in that same meditative posture while his clothes and skin burned to a crisp.

Onlookers screamed and cried and covered their mouths and faces, and then a firetruck arrived but it was blocked by the monks. And this burning man remained completely motionless, completely silent, until his face and body was charred black and the flames turned to crackling smoke. Then the monks declared him dead. They wrapped the blackened corpse in a blanket, put it in a casket and took it away.

That's a gruesome story, but it's also the ultimate example of how the mind can control the body. This man didn't move a muscle, didn't make one noise or one facial expression. He just sat there in the flames. His body was there in the street, burning, but his mind was at rest.

I'm not suggesting any of us should try such extreme mind over body practices. But in a way, this monk was in the zone.
 
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Bob Jewett

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Jimmy Caras' "Trick and Fancy Shots" belongs on every list imo. Probably tbe best book on trick shots ever published. Good illustrations and equally good explanations how to shoot each shot.
Added to my Oldies in the instructional list.
 

ShootingArts

Smorg is giving St Peter the 7!
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That's a gruesome story, but it's also the ultimate example of how the mind can control the body. This man didn't move a muscle, didn't make one noise or one facial expression. He just sat there in the flames. His body was there in the street, burning, but his mind was at rest.

I'm not suggesting any of us should try such extreme mind over body practices. But in a way, this monk was in the zone.

Perhaps in the zone, perhaps a different place entirely which I am more inclined to believe. A good friend of mine who was as pragmatic a person as I ever met told me he had an out of body experience. Personal activities and his job had kept him without sleep for many hours, he certainly wasn't trying to achieve an out of body experience, it just happened. Others, including monks, I have read are capable of deliberately having out of body experiences. Something else I was interested in at one time but just out of curiosity. I read enough about the dangers to decide it wasn't something you meddled with just to satisfy curiosity.

I talked to someone that came very near the zone and it was a disaster for him. He had all of this information pouring in but instead of effortlessly sorting it to use what was helpful and put the other information on a back burner to be examined later he just overloaded and performed terribly. I knew him casually but I decided not well enough to try to explain what seemed to have happened to him.

I don't believe in the supernatural but I do believe that in one hundred years or five hundred years most of what we consider supernatural will be understood and considered totally natural. Find a science textbook from a hundred or two years ago and read the odd things people believed. That far in the future people will be chuckling just as much about some of what we accept as fact!

I will note the names of the books you noted talk about the zone. No way to know if they are better or worse than Plaxco's or perhaps they approach from a different direction.

I had a book I read for laughs for years, a MD with some crackpot ideas about dieting and such wrote it in the early sixties. Funny thing, about ninety percent of his crackpot ideas turned out to be right! Unfortunately his idea that the digestive system doesn't wake up early and you can eat all you want for breakfast doesn't seem to fly. A shame, I sure did like Shoney's breakfast buffet!

Hu
 

Stickman9

Member
For the mental aspect of the game, the best book I have read is "The Mental Game of Baseball." It is practical, and there are a lot of good stories about some of baseball's greats. Rick Pitino's book "Success is a Choice" is also good.
 

markjames

AzB Silver Member
Silver Member
well the thread title is good books

i have to mention “Me and the Table”
by stephen hendry
 

rexus31

AzB Silver Member
Silver Member
For the mental aspect of the game, the best book I have read is "The Mental Game of Baseball." It is practical, and there are a lot of good stories about some of baseball's greats. Rick Pitino's book "Success is a Choice" is also good.
Great book. This was required reading for our team all four years in college. I think I read that book more than any other while I was in school...lol.
 

BC21

Poolology
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Silver Member
After reviewing Ray Martin's 99 Critical Shots again, I admit I was thinking of a different book with inaccurate diagrams. It was "How Would You Play This?", by George Fels. Good information but lousy examples.

The 99 Critical Shots is a good book. The reason I didn't include it is because there are too many shots discussed in the book. I first got this book in about 1987 (still have that copy), and though there are quite a few valuable shots to know, most are what I would consider "fluff", making the book bigger than it needed to be. It could be overhauled and renamed "The 20 Critical Shots".

There is nothing in the book about combination shots, other than when the balls are froze. There is nothing in the book about safety play, other than 3 or 4 standard straight pool safety shots. There is nothing about shot selection or strategy. Phil Capelle's books are more comprehensive with less fluff. They are geared toward playing to win, and that was my main consideration when choosing what I believe are the best books to help players win more often.
 

rexus31

AzB Silver Member
Silver Member
Shooting from Within By J Michael Plaxco.

Plaxco was a very successful pistol competitor. He was also able to break down what he did and why. Finally, he understood the zone as I did and had a lot to say about it compared to most. He had broken the zone down into three levels and detailed how to get to the first two. The first was where we normally operated so obviously no big deal. The second was narrow focus. The third was an an expanded focus which seems unrealistic to many that haven't been there. He detailed how to try to get to the third level but said nobody was always successful doing that. Reading about Simone Biles and her troubles performing made me wonder if perhaps gymnasts usually perform in that third level zone. As a side comment, I always entered the third level zone driving a circle track car. After decades of interest in the zone I do believe I know how to get there the vast majority of the time.

People can mean different things when they say "the zone". I was very interested in a book by a competitor who was also a MD and titled his book "Finding the Zone" or something similar. After reading the entire book I had to conclude he had never been in the level three zone and didn't even recognize that it existed.

You can search old posts and archives and probably dig up many threads with me discussing the zone. Many dismiss it as something mystical or supernatural, it isn't. It is real and something most of us can access, possibly all of us. Got to pay your dues though! I am interested in any book that is about finding that zone that J Michael calls the level three zone. Until then, Shooting from Within has more about it than any book I know of. Besides the section on the mental game he drops tidbits all through the book. Would be tough digging for someone who wasn't interested in shooting a pistol.

Hu
For me, "The Zone" is very real and if I could connect with it consistently, I'd be a US Open winner. For me "The Zone" is a completely still mind devoid of any afterthoughts and indecisiveness; thinking about the play without fear of failure with extreme focus on the task at hand with keen awareness of how decisions and execution are impacting the game as a whole. Decisiveness and confidence abound; visualizing each shot and position play with precise execution. The mind is completely out of the body's way, completely unaware of what has happened with intent focus on what is happening and will happen. When I've been in this state, I've run racks without even realizing it. I've only attained this extreme level of focus and concentration a dozen or so times but it is like a drug that I am constantly chasing because the feeling is other worldly.
 

Banger

AzB Silver Member
Silver Member
"Talent is Overrated", by Geoff Colvin.

I haven't read it yet (just starting it), but a buddy read it, and recommended it. Some say it as a rehash of other books that cover the same type of subject. But if you haven't read any of those, it's probably worth the time.
 

BC21

Poolology
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"Talent is Overrated", by Geoff Colvin.

I haven't read it yet (just starting it), but a buddy read it, and recommended it. Some say it as a rehash of other books that cover the same type of subject. But if you haven't read any of those, it's probably worth the time.

This topic is very important for aspiring pool players, musicians, or whatever. Believing that talent is something you have to be born with provides a good excuse to quit or to not put your best effort into learning how to do something you really want to do.

The myth of natural talent (like child prodigies) holds a lot of people back. It's easier to say "I just wasn't born to be great at this", than it is to actually work your ass off and become great at it.
 
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Banger

AzB Silver Member
Silver Member
This topic is very important for aspiring pool players, musicians, or whatever. Believing that talent is something you have to be born with provides a good excuse to quit or to not put your best effort into learning how to do something you really want to do.

The myth of natural talent (like child prodigies) holds a lot of people back. It's easier to say "I just wasn't born to be great at this", than it is to actually work your ass off and become great at it.
Along the same lines....

Charlie "Bird" Parker is considered by many, to be the greatest, or most influential, jazz saxophone player of all times. Many people believe he was just born with some super musical talent that "normal" people don't possess. But Jamey Aebersold (jazz musician/teacher) pointed out there is a rare interview with Charlie (it's actually on YouTube now), where Charlie states that during a 3-4 year period of his life, he was practicing 11-15 hours per day. Jamey said it was like an epiphany to realize that maybe Charlie wasn't born with some special talent, but rather, maybe he was a musical wizard because he worked so hard at it, and practiced so much.
 

Bob Jewett

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... Jamey said it was like an epiphany to realize that maybe Charlie wasn't born with some special talent, but rather, maybe he was a musical wizard because he worked so hard at it, and practiced so much.
I think it is not unreasonable to say that the inclination to go at something with tremendous, sustained intensity and interest is a special talent. In contrast, consider someone who spends five minutes at something slightly hard, gets frustrated, and wanders off to watch some cat videos.
 

BC21

Poolology
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Along the same lines....

Charlie "Bird" Parker is considered by many, to be the greatest, or most influential, jazz saxophone player of all times. Many people believe he was just born with some super musical talent that "normal" people don't possess. But Jamey Aebersold (jazz musician/teacher) pointed out there is a rare interview with Charlie (it's actually on YouTube now), where Charlie states that during a 3-4 year period of his life, he was practicing 11-15 hours per day. Jamey said it was like an epiphany to realize that maybe Charlie wasn't born with some special talent, but rather, maybe he was a musical wizard because he worked so hard at it, and practiced so much.

Charlie Parker was a badass. And the same storyline fits most of the greatest musicians, artists, and sports figures of all time, from Mozart to Van Gogh to Jack Nicklaus or Tiger Woods or Sam Snead, from Stevie Ray Vaughn to Joe Bonnamassa to Serena and Vanessa Williams or Roger Federer or Ted Williams or Ken Griffey jr, Joe Montana, Tom Brady, Earl Strictland, Efren Reyes, Shane van Boening, Dale Earnhardt, Richard Petty....

The names are endless. And these people were not born genetically gifted or talented. Research indicates that talent is a factor of genetics and environment, environment and opportunity playing the greater role over genetic inheritances. In other words, there is no music gene or sports gene or artistic gene, though you could be born with a genetic advantage that allows you to tap into one of these areas of potential more easily, IF the opportunity/environment is there.

Jack Nicklaus was once asked what he thought separated him from all the other great golfers, asked what made him the greatest golfer in tge world. Jack said it was opportunity. Like with Tiger Woods, his dad had him hitting golf balls at a very young age. And then comes desire. You have to enjoy it and have the desire to do it. Nicklaus said he honestly believes that if the kid down the street had had the same opportunities he had, and the desire, he could've been the greatest golfer in the world. And the latest research, when it comes to developing skills and talents, suggests that Jack was correct in that belief. It's more about opportunity and desire than genetic advantages. Talent isn't something you're born with...it's something you develop through dedicated work.
 

Fatboy

AzB Silver Member
Silver Member
I have read all the pool books many times over the years. Even Buddy Halls book with a magnifying glass(if you have seen it-you know what I’m talking about)

I’m not much of a storybook reader but one book I did read was called “one of a kind” about the poker player Stu Ungar. That’s a good book for most pool players to read.
 
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