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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

An absorbing, wide-ranging story of humans’ relationship with the water.

WHY WE SWIM

A study of swimming as sport, survival method, basis for community, and route to physical and mental well-being.

For Bay Area writer Tsui (American Chinatown: A People's History of Five Neighborhoods, 2009), swimming is in her blood. As she recounts, her parents met in a Hong Kong swimming pool, and she often visited the beach as a child and competed on a swim team in high school. Midway through the engaging narrative, the author explains how she rejoined the team at age 40, just as her 6-year-old was signing up for the first time. Chronicling her interviews with scientists and swimmers alike, Tsui notes the many health benefits of swimming, some of which are mental. Swimmers often achieve the “flow” state and get their best ideas while in the water. Her travels took her from the California coast, where she dove for abalone and swam from Alcatraz back to San Francisco, to Tokyo, where she heard about the “samurai swimming” martial arts tradition. In Iceland, she met Guðlaugur Friðþórsson, a local celebrity who, in 1984, survived six hours in a winter sea after his fishing vessel capsized, earning him the nickname “the human seal.” Although humans are generally adapted to life on land, the author discovered that some have extra advantages in the water. The Bajau people of Indonesia, for instance, can do 10-minute free dives while hunting because their spleens are 50% larger than average. For most, though, it’s simply a matter of practice. Tsui discussed swimming with Dara Torres, who became the oldest Olympic swimmer at age 41, and swam with Kim Chambers, one of the few people to complete the daunting Oceans Seven marathon swim challenge. Drawing on personal experience, history, biology, and social science, the author conveys the appeal of “an unflinching giving-over to an element” and makes a convincing case for broader access to swimming education (372,000 people still drown annually).

An absorbing, wide-ranging story of humans’ relationship with the water.

Pub Date: April 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-61620-786-1

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Algonquin

Review Posted Online: Jan. 5, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more