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Summer Reading Series: Ryan Smith

Ryan Smith will be providing legal analysis during the Outside the Lines 90-minute special surrounding O.J. Simpson’s parole hearing tomorrow at 1 p.m. ET on ESPN. (Allen Kee/ESPN Images)

This summer, Front Row is highlighting ESPN commentators and other employees who have a passion for reading.

This installment of the “Summer Reading Series” profiles legal analyst and Outside the Lines host Ryan Smith, who will be providing legal analysis during Outside the Lines 90-minute special surrounding O.J. Simpson’s parole hearing tomorrow at 1 p.m. ET on ESPN. Smith discusses some of his favorite books and those that have influenced his life.

I know that sounds strange, but I’m fascinated with the idea of what could happen in this world and how people would survive when their normal life is interrupted.
– Ryan Smith on his preference for “postapocalyptic novels”

What are you reading right now?
The book I’m reading right now is called American War by Omar El Akkad. It’s about civilization 70 years from now after there’s another civil war. Before that I read The Handmaid’s Tale [by Margaret Atwood]. I read that before I even knew there was going to be a show and I read The Man in the High Castle [by Phillip K. Dick] before that.

What’s your favorite genre?
My favorite genre is postapocalyptic novels. I know that sounds strange, but I’m fascinated with the idea of what could happen in this world and how people would survive when their normal life is interrupted.

I love when a sports book can take what happens in the sporting world, whether fictional or nonfictional, and make it about what people experience in life. That’s my definition of a great sports book, when you can give it to non-athletes and they can read it, love it and identify with it.
– Smith

What’s your favorite book?
My favorite book of the last few years is The Art of Fielding, a best seller by Chad Harbach. It’s an extremely well-written story about a guy who was a baseball prodigy and ended up getting an injury and how he deals with that. It’s not really a baseball book, it’s a life book. I love when a sports book can take what happens in the sporting world, whether fictional or nonfictional, and make it about what people experience in life. That’s my definition of a great sports book, when you can give it to a non-athlete and they can read it, love it and identify with it.

Is there any book you find yourself going back to?
I love The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead and Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates. It’s a phenomenal book about a man’s insights on what it’s like to be a black man in the world. These days people try too hard to see things in black and white. And while it comes from the theme of black life, it really is just a book about one man’s experience. It’s a fascinating and wonderful book I go back to again and again.

Has any book really influenced your life?
The Autobiography of Malcolm X [As Told to Alex Haley]. I read it when I was a teenager and I was amazed. Up until that time I thought that your past determined your future. I was about 16 and I thought who I was then was who I was going to be. Here is this man who had this life that was ridden with angst and personal destruction then he has an experience in prison and comes out and leads people to a different way of thinking. This guy lived one life and then became someone completely different; it taught me that my life can be ever-evolving.

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