A sharp taste of Himalayan climbing and the way harsh terrain can make a person disappear as if from the face of the earth.

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EVEREST

THE UNCLIMBED RIDGE

Two climbing-team members recount a doomed 1982 attempt at Everest from the Chinese side with mounting uneasiness as the expedition falls apart.

Team physician Clarke and leader Bonington take turns charting the progress of the first try at Everest via the unclimbed North East Ridge, a route that was “elegant, unknown and [that] looked, from the few photographs we had, difficult but possible.” Clarke contributes material on the history of the region, earlier British exploration, British-Chinese relations, and the logistical aspects of the climb, including commentary about the road to Everest from Lhasa, the monasteries and nunneries, pilfering of camp supplies by yak herders, and the deplorable condition of base camp, a garbage dump of earlier climbs, where the greatest danger was broken glass. Clarke’s writing, straightforward as it is, is welcome leavening to Bonington’s story of the climb once it reached high altitude. Bonington’s tale follows the slow but steady progress up the mountain, the team’s digging snow caves and getting acclimatized, the brutal wind and blinding conditions. But the climbers were all at altitude for too long, and gradually worsening health claimed two of the team’s four summit members: one climber who experienced a minor but decidedly threatening stroke, and Bonington himself, a mountaineering legend who realized fairly early that he hadn’t the strength to make the top. This was a no-oxygen, no-porter climb, so there was room for few mistakes. Two climbers fast making their name in the sport, Joe Tasker and Peter Boardman, took their chances along the absurdly steep ridgeline, where a series of pinnacles had to be overcome before the long sweep to the summit. Bonington followed their progress with binoculars for a day and a half. Then they disappeared. No trace of them has ever been found.

A sharp taste of Himalayan climbing and the way harsh terrain can make a person disappear as if from the face of the earth.

Pub Date: July 1, 2002

ISBN: 1-56025-390-8

Page Count: 202

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2002

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

CONCUSSION

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. 15, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2015

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