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

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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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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