Sleep in and have a beer: There’s a winning regimen. A smart, engaging book.

An in-depth exploration of recovery, “something that athletes—pros and weekend warriors alike—do with almost as much gusto and drive as their training.”

Everybody knows that strenuous activity takes it out of a person; it’s why we drink Gatorade between tennis sets and suck down chocolate milk after a marathon. However, as with everything else, science and big bucks alike have entered the picture. In Colorado, where Washington Post health columnist and FiveThirtyEight lead science writer Aschwanden lives, she is able to use a facility packed with massage tables, saunas, Bio-mats, infrared therapy machines, and other gadgets. Her initial diagnosis after a 5K run: “soft tissue work, electrical stimulation, compression, and vibration.” That’s just the beginning, and though Colorado is known as a New Age–y place, there’s good science behind the whole enterprise. The author takes a leisurely tour through the available modalities, though with a knowing wink from start to finish. As she writes of the recovery business, “we’ve somehow managed to make every aspect of it—nutrition, relaxation, and sleep—vastly more complicated, expensive, and time-consuming than it was before.” Still, who doesn’t like a nice spa? Or a cold brew—for, as Aschwanden learned, there is reason to believe that alcohol and pasta may be good as recovery tools for some runners, if, strangely, better for women than for men. The author is refreshingly skeptical throughout, and she turns in some observations along the way that go against received wisdom and practice but, again, have science behind them—e.g., the revised schedule for drinking water while engaging in strenuous activities or in arid environments. “After examining the science,” she writes, reiterating a theme, “I can’t help thinking we’ve made hydration unduly complicated.” But so it is throughout this spry narrative, which makes a good guide for those contemplating adding recovery to their routines.

Sleep in and have a beer: There’s a winning regimen. A smart, engaging book.

Pub Date: Feb. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-393-25433-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: Nov. 10, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2018


Skloot's meticulous, riveting account strikes a humanistic balance between sociological history, venerable portraiture and...

A dense, absorbing investigation into the medical community's exploitation of a dying woman and her family's struggle to salvage truth and dignity decades later.

In a well-paced, vibrant narrative, Popular Science contributor and Culture Dish blogger Skloot (Creative Writing/Univ. of Memphis) demonstrates that for every human cell put under a microscope, a complex life story is inexorably attached, to which doctors, researchers and laboratories have often been woefully insensitive and unaccountable. In 1951, Henrietta Lacks, an African-American mother of five, was diagnosed with what proved to be a fatal form of cervical cancer. At Johns Hopkins, the doctors harvested cells from her cervix without her permission and distributed them to labs around the globe, where they were multiplied and used for a diverse array of treatments. Known as HeLa cells, they became one of the world's most ubiquitous sources for medical research of everything from hormones, steroids and vitamins to gene mapping, in vitro fertilization, even the polio vaccine—all without the knowledge, must less consent, of the Lacks family. Skloot spent a decade interviewing every relative of Lacks she could find, excavating difficult memories and long-simmering outrage that had lay dormant since their loved one's sorrowful demise. Equal parts intimate biography and brutal clinical reportage, Skloot's graceful narrative adeptly navigates the wrenching Lack family recollections and the sobering, overarching realities of poverty and pre–civil-rights racism. The author's style is matched by a methodical scientific rigor and manifest expertise in the field.

Skloot's meticulous, riveting account strikes a humanistic balance between sociological history, venerable portraiture and Petri dish politics.

Pub Date: Feb. 9, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-4000-5217-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2010


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

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