A worthy addition to the growing body of literature on adventures that test the limits of nature and mankind.

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ONE BREATH

FREEDIVING, DEATH, AND THE QUEST TO SHATTER HUMAN LIMITS

A fatality spurs an inquiry into an extreme sport, illuminating the risks—as well as the rewards—of free diving.

After writing a couple dozen guidebooks for the Lonely Planet series, Skolnick shows sharp reportorial instincts in this multilayered narrative beginning with the 2013 tragedy of Nicholas Mevoli, “the first athlete to die in an international freediving competition.” The obscure sport tests the limits of its athletes, who dive as deep as 100 meters or more, holding their breath for some four minutes, risking blackouts from the pressure or worse. “Their feats dazzled because with each dive they were risking their lives,” the author writes of one such competition. “No one knew where that unknown limit was.” Interspersed with an examination of the sport of free diving—loosely organized, self-governed, with most of the athletes spending considerable sums without sponsorship—is the story of an athlete considered remarkable well before his death and who lived his life with an uncompromising purity—though he always attracted romantic attention, he committed to celibacy for as long as four years—and who made it his priority “to live, not merely exist.” Parallel tracks show Mevoli’s life as he pushed himself toward an early death that quite possibly could have been prevented and the development of the sport as it gained the perspective of mortality that his death underscored. “Nick’s was the first fatality in more than 35,000 dives,” writes Skolnick. “Afterward, they were forced to admit that nobody could say for sure how repeated depths impacted the body….This wasn’t a matter of conflicting science; research was almost nonexistent.” This is a page-turning book about how and why Mevoli died (with a suggestion that a doctor shouldn’t have cleared him to dive), but it’s also about the competitors drawn to the sport, the ones for whom “freediving is both an athletic quest to push the limits of the body and mind, and a spiritual experience.”

A worthy addition to the growing body of literature on adventures that test the limits of nature and mankind.

Pub Date: Jan. 12, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-553-44748-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Crown Archetype

Review Posted Online: Nov. 11, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2015

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Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

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UNTAMED

More life reflections from the bestselling author on themes of societal captivity and the catharsis of personal freedom.

In her third book, Doyle (Love Warrior, 2016, etc.) begins with a life-changing event. “Four years ago,” she writes, “married to the father of my three children, I fell in love with a woman.” That woman, Abby Wambach, would become her wife. Emblematically arranged into three sections—“Caged,” “Keys,” “Freedom”—the narrative offers, among other elements, vignettes about the soulful author’s girlhood, when she was bulimic and felt like a zoo animal, a “caged girl made for wide-open skies.” She followed the path that seemed right and appropriate based on her Catholic upbringing and adolescent conditioning. After a downward spiral into “drinking, drugging, and purging,” Doyle found sobriety and the authentic self she’d been suppressing. Still, there was trouble: Straining an already troubled marriage was her husband’s infidelity, which eventually led to life-altering choices and the discovery of a love she’d never experienced before. Throughout the book, Doyle remains open and candid, whether she’s admitting to rigging a high school homecoming court election or denouncing the doting perfectionism of “cream cheese parenting,” which is about “giving your children the best of everything.” The author’s fears and concerns are often mirrored by real-world issues: gender roles and bias, white privilege, racism, and religion-fueled homophobia and hypocrisy. Some stories merely skim the surface of larger issues, but Doyle revisits them in later sections and digs deeper, using friends and familial references to personify their impact on her life, both past and present. Shorter pieces, some only a page in length, manage to effectively translate an emotional gut punch, as when Doyle’s therapist called her blooming extramarital lesbian love a “dangerous distraction.” Ultimately, the narrative is an in-depth look at a courageous woman eager to share the wealth of her experiences by embracing vulnerability and reclaiming her inner strength and resiliency.

Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

Pub Date: March 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-0125-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

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BECOMING

The former first lady opens up about her early life, her journey to the White House, and the eight history-making years that followed.

It’s not surprising that Obama grew up a rambunctious kid with a stubborn streak and an “I’ll show you” attitude. After all, it takes a special kind of moxie to survive being the first African-American FLOTUS—and not only survive, but thrive. For eight years, we witnessed the adversity the first family had to face, and now we get to read what it was really like growing up in a working-class family on Chicago’s South Side and ending up at the world’s most famous address. As the author amply shows, her can-do attitude was daunted at times by racism, leaving her wondering if she was good enough. Nevertheless, she persisted, graduating from Chicago’s first magnet high school, Princeton, and Harvard Law School, and pursuing careers in law and the nonprofit world. With her characteristic candor and dry wit, she recounts the story of her fateful meeting with her future husband. Once they were officially a couple, her feelings for him turned into a “toppling blast of lust, gratitude, fulfillment, wonder.” But for someone with a “natural resistance to chaos,” being the wife of an ambitious politician was no small feat, and becoming a mother along the way added another layer of complexity. Throw a presidential campaign into the mix, and even the most assured woman could begin to crack under the pressure. Later, adjusting to life in the White House was a formidable challenge for the self-described “control freak”—not to mention the difficulty of sparing their daughters the ugly side of politics and preserving their privacy as much as possible. Through it all, Obama remained determined to serve with grace and help others through initiatives like the White House garden and her campaign to fight childhood obesity. And even though she deems herself “not a political person,” she shares frank thoughts about the 2016 election.

An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6313-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2018

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