Essential reading for runners both competitive and casual.

READ REVIEW

KINGS OF THE ROAD

HOW FRANK SHORTER, BILL RODGERS, AND ALBERTO SALAZAR MADE RUNNING GO BOOM

A focused survey of three unmatched American long-distance runners.  

Frank Shorter, Bill Rodgers and Alberto Salazar were trailblazers in popularizing the sport of distance racing in the late 1970s, and journalist and former competitive mile–runner Stracher (Dinner with Dad: How I Found My Way Back to the Family Table, 2007, etc.) expressively reveals the personal lives and professional development of the New England triplet from that pivotal decade. He describes Shorter as a Yale-educated medical-school dropout and self-taught racer who had to outrun thugs in his youth; the former chain-smoking Rodgers and determined Cuban prodigy Salazar, who trained together, also ran to escape their demons. Though the Munich massacre and memories of an abusive childhood marred Shorter’s confidence in running the Summer Olympics marathon in 1972, he still won a gold medal, solidifying his status as the top racer in the world and successfully launching the American running craze. Rodgers overcame the “hyperfocus” of ADHD to claim his fame, while Salazar, the youngest of the three, battled and defeated chronic illnesses to emerge victorious. In addition to historical factoids on the sport of running, anecdotes about the interpersonal rivalries shared by all three and the then-strict rules governing a runner’s compensation, Stracher weaves into the narrative Tommy Leonard and Fred Lebow, two Boston-area athletes instrumental in the formation of the Falmouth Road Race and the New York City Marathon, respectively. With the same passion used to describe its ascent, the author mourns the evaporating allure of the sport and notes the fates of his famed trio, who must now attend to the physical “damage done by racing,” including hip, knee and heart problems.

Essential reading for runners both competitive and casual.

Pub Date: April 9, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-547-77396-4

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Review Posted Online: March 12, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2013

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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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