Readers will learn almost as much about long-distance rowing as the author did—without the chapping and blistering.

SALT, SWEAT, TEARS

THE MEN WHO ROWED THE OCEANS

Rackley’s account of rowing across the Atlantic Ocean, interspersed with stories of the heroes and casualties who preceded him.

Though the sport of rowing lacks the glamour (and the high-finance profile) of sailing, there are long-distance competitions that attract those with all sorts of motivations and previous experiences. “Why would anyone want to spend their savings and years of their life, to exhaust the generosity of friends and the understanding of loved ones, just for the opportunity to endure disappointment, frustration, isolation and terrible, grinding boredom?” the author asks himself, as well as readers. Particularly someone “having never rowed before, and lacking any experience of the ocean.” Perhaps partly because he thought there was a book in it, one in which the stories of others who had attempted the same (initially for some sort of commercial gain) would provide respite from a personal account of endless waves over monotonous months on the open seas. For if such an adventure is a physical challenge, it is mental as well—sustaining motivation, combating despair, coexisting with a rowing partner (as the author did) who gets to know you from a different perspective than anyone else will. A former British Army platoon commander and fund manager and first-time author, Rackley does a good job with the researching and reporting, achieving an effective balance between personal experience and historical context. The first to make the attempt were Norwegian immigrants, in 1896, hoping that their accomplishment would lead to renown that would give them a foothold on the American dream. Their legacy inspired a competitive race 70 years later, followed by a series of subsequent races, which provide the book with plenty of colorful characters. Ultimately, the author learns what readers might suspect from the start: “The best part of rowing an ocean is the feeling when it’s over.”

Readers will learn almost as much about long-distance rowing as the author did—without the chapping and blistering.

Pub Date: Sept. 30, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-14-312666-9

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Penguin

Review Posted Online: Aug. 13, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2014

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Doesn’t dig as deep as it could, but offers a captivating look at the NBA’s greatest era.

WHEN THE GAME WAS OURS

NBA legends Bird and Johnson, fierce rivals during their playing days, team up on a mutual career retrospective.

With megastars LeBron James and Kobe Bryant and international superstars like China’s Yao Ming pushing it to ever-greater heights of popularity today, it’s difficult to imagine the NBA in 1979, when financial problems, drug scandals and racial issues threatened to destroy the fledgling league. Fortunately, that year marked the coming of two young saviors—one a flashy, charismatic African-American and the other a cocky, blond, self-described “hick.” Arriving fresh off a showdown in the NCAA championship game in which Johnson’s Michigan State Spartans defeated Bird’s Indiana State Sycamores—still the highest-rated college basketball game ever—the duo changed the course of history not just for the league, but the sport itself. While the pair’s on-court accomplishments have been exhaustively chronicled, the narrative hook here is unprecedented insight and commentary from the stars themselves on their unique relationship, a compelling mixture of bitter rivalry and mutual admiration. This snapshot of their respective careers delves with varying degrees of depth into the lives of each man and their on- and off-court achievements, including the historic championship games between Johnson’s Lakers and Bird’s Celtics, their trailblazing endorsement deals and Johnson’s stunning announcement in 1991 that he had tested positive for HIV. Ironically, this nostalgic chronicle about the two men who, along with Michael Jordan, turned more fans onto NBA basketball than any other players, will likely appeal primarily to a narrow cross-section of readers: Bird/Magic fans and hardcore hoop-heads.

Doesn’t dig as deep as it could, but offers a captivating look at the NBA’s greatest era.

Pub Date: Nov. 4, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-547-22547-0

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2009

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One of the NBA’s 50 greatest players scores another basket—a deeply personal one.

BACK FROM THE DEAD

A basketball legend reflects on his life in the game and a life lived in the “nightmare of endlessly repetitive and constant pain, agony, and guilt.”

Walton (Nothing but Net, 1994, etc.) begins this memoir on the floor—literally: “I have been living on the floor for most of the last two and a half years, unable to move.” In 2008, he suffered a catastrophic spinal collapse. “My spine will no longer hold me,” he writes. Thirty-seven orthopedic injuries, stemming from the fact that he had malformed feet, led to an endless string of stress fractures. As he notes, Walton is “the most injured athlete in the history of sports.” Over the years, he had ground his lower extremities “down to dust.” Walton’s memoir is two interwoven stories. The first is about his lifelong love of basketball, the second, his lifelong battle with injuries and pain. He had his first operation when he was 14, for a knee hurt in a basketball game. As he chronicles his distinguished career in the game, from high school to college to the NBA, he punctuates that story with a parallel one that chronicles at each juncture the injuries he suffered and overcame until he could no longer play, eventually turning to a successful broadcasting career (which helped his stuttering problem). Thanks to successful experimental spinal fusion surgery, he’s now pain-free. And then there’s the music he loves, especially the Grateful Dead’s; it accompanies both stories like a soundtrack playing off in the distance. Walton tends to get long-winded at times, but that won’t be news to anyone who watches his broadcasts, and those who have been afflicted with lifelong injuries will find the book uplifting and inspirational. Basketball fans will relish Walton’s acumen and insights into the game as well as his stories about players, coaches (especially John Wooden), and games, all told in Walton’s fervent, witty style.

One of the NBA’s 50 greatest players scores another basket—a deeply personal one.

Pub Date: March 8, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4767-1686-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Dec. 19, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2016

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