Next book



A captivating account from one of baseball’s most formidable pitchers.

Gibson relives in detail, and with many asides, the brilliant first game he threw against the Detroit Tigers in the 1968 World Series.

A tumultuous year politically and culturally, 1968 was also the Year of the Pitcher. Denny McLain, pitching for the Tigers, won 31 games, and Gibson, unfurling on the mound like a mad stork, compiled a staggering 1.12 ERA. Fortunately for baseball fans, the two would face off in the first game of that year’s World Series. Gibson, working with veteran baseball writer Wheeler (Intangiball: The Subtle Things that Win Baseball Games, 2015, etc.), writes with both brio and control, in perfect imitation of his pitching. One moment he sounds lawyerly—“the pregame machinations on the Cardinal clubhouse were mostly beyond the pale of my cognizance”—while the next, like the menacing presence he showed his opponents: the button over his locker read, “I’m not prejudiced. I hate everybody.” But that is not true, as the vest-pocket profiles of his teammates attest: Lou Brock, Curt Flood, Orlando Cepeda, Tim McCarver, and Roger Maris. Nor does the level of particulars slow the swiftness of the narrative. Simply, this is a fun book to read. The game was not much of a contest; Gibson was in complete command, masterfully working his backdoor slide and the four-stitch fastball. The author works plenty of local color into the story, as well: Al Kaline’s high school baseball talent, Gibson playing for the Harlem Globetrotters, why American League umpires have a better look at the strike zone, finding a hole in the swing of Hall of Famer Eddie Mathews, “whose swing had been described as perfect by no less than Ty Cobb.” One of the best parts of the book is the author’s evocation of the atmosphere of a big-league game—e.g., “sometimes you just have to go with the currents of the game.”

A captivating account from one of baseball’s most formidable pitchers.

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2015

ISBN: 978-1250061041

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2015

Next book


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

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. 4, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

Next book


Effectively sobering. Suffice it to say that Pop Warner parents will want to armor their kids from head to toe upon reading...

A maddening, well-constructed tale of medical discovery and corporate coverup, set in morgues, laboratories, courtrooms, and football fields.

Nigeria-born Bennet Omalu is perhaps an unlikely hero, a medical doctor board-certified in four areas of pathology, “anatomic, clinical, forensic, and neuropathology,” and a well-rounded specialist in death. When his boss, celebrity examiner Cyril Wecht (“in the autopsy business, Wecht was a rock star”), got into trouble for various specimens of publicity-hound overreach, Omalu was there to offer patient, stoical support. The student did not surpass the teacher in flashiness, but Omalu was a rock star all his own in studying the brain to determine a cause of death. Laskas’ (Creative Writing/Univ. of Pittsburgh; Hidden America, 2012, etc.) main topic is the horrific injuries wrought to the brains and bodies of football players on the field. Omalu’s study of the unfortunate brain of Pittsburgh Steeler Mike Webster, who died in 2002 at 50 of a supposed heart attack, brought new attention to the trauma of concussion. Laskas trades in sportwriter-ese, all staccato delivery full of tough guyisms and sports clichés: “He had played for fifteen seasons, a warrior’s warrior; he played in more games—two hundred twenty—than any other player in Steelers history. Undersized, tough, a big, burly white guy—a Pittsburgh kind of guy—the heart of the best team in history.” A little of that goes a long way, but Laskas, a Pittsburgher who first wrote of Omalu and his studies in a story in GQ, does sturdy work in keeping up with a grim story that the NFL most definitely did not want to see aired—not in Omalu’s professional publications in medical journals, nor, reportedly, on the big screen in the Will Smith vehicle based on this book.

Effectively sobering. Suffice it to say that Pop Warner parents will want to armor their kids from head to toe upon reading it.

Pub Date: Nov. 24, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-8757-7

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Sept. 14, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2015

Close Quickview