Boukreev was tough as nails and measured others by the same standards; he suffered no fools in the mountains, as is made...

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ABOVE THE CLOUDS

THE DIARIES OF A HIGH-ALTITUDE MOUNTAINEER

Mountaineer Boukreev (The Climb, 1997), who died in an avalanche on Annapurna in 1997, gives a glimpse of his heart-pounding expeditions in this unadorned collection of his climbing journals and occasional articles.

Boukreev was a fixture in the Himalayas during the 1990s. He climbed the toughest peaks by difficult routes, often with almost no oxygen and always on a shoestring. He developed a reputation for brashness and unpredictability—he did things his way and didn't give a hoot what others thought about it—and an aloofness that was more a product of his difficulty with languages other than Russian. The writings gathered here are post-climb ruminations and chronicles: how the expeditions worked, who impressed him with climbing abilities, how he felt things should have been done differently. If there is one uniform sentiment these pieces convey, it’s that Boukreev was always thinking. For instance, how his body was adjusting to the altitude: “My rate of ascent inspired confidence. Given my body’s ability to perform, I determined that I would have the strength necessary for the descent.” He hated to turn back before reaching his goal and he took risks—mountaineering is all about risks—and a good number of his companions died: “It is easy to lose in the mountains if you step over the border of what is possible. Where are those borders?” Surely they were close by that fateful night on Everest in 1996 when he single-handedly dove time and again into a raging storm to rescue climbers lost in their descent, rescues that are sharply captured in these pages. So, too, are elements of his climbing philosophy—how to become physically prepared, and then how to be spiritually available to the mountain’s magic—that complete this rough portrait.

Boukreev was tough as nails and measured others by the same standards; he suffered no fools in the mountains, as is made clear here. He was also a first-class climber and his awesome speed ascents still cast a thrall over the climbing world. (32 pages color photos, not seen)

Pub Date: Nov. 16, 2001

ISBN: 0-312-26970-6

Page Count: 272

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2001

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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

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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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