A bold deed that’s rattling and—given the character displayed by Washburn and Bates—exemplary. (Photographs)

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ESCAPE FROM LUCANIA

AN EPIC STORY OF SURVIVAL

As adamantine as its protagonists, this chilling and exhilarating story of the travails on the ascent of the Yukon’s Mount Lucania is ably retold by Roberts (Points Unknown, 2000, etc.).

It was 1937 when Brad Washburn and Bob Bates made their bid to climb Mount Lucania, in back-of-beyond Canada, a peak then unscaled. The two young men were veterans of the Harvard Mountain Club (as is Roberts), which specialized in remote Canadian and Alaskan climbs, so they were no strangers to the area. But when it became clear that the plane they took into base camp would not be able to return with supplies and their two climbing mates—not to mention providing planned extrication—Washburn and Bates trusted their talents and resourcefulness, “not yet willing to abandon the expedition’s original goal just to ensure an outcome so mundane as survival.” It falls to Roberts, with his own experience on North American peaks, to tether Washburn and Bates’s aw-shucks panache—the now nonagenarian men were interviewed at length for the book, and Washburn’s diary liberally dipped into—to the reality of the adventure, and to give it dramatic curve. He captures both the personality of the climbers—one salty, the other serene, a combination that likely helped avoid the apoplexy of cabin fever—and the arduousness of their achievement. They managed to scale Lucania and another nearby peak, climbing in whiteout conditions in bitter cold, hauling loads back and forth until they were essentially forced to pioneer the light-and-fast technique, with one sleeping bag they shared, then making the horrendous walk out—dodging quicksand, scrabbling through the taiga’s fiendish terrain, winding through ankle-spraining tussocks, crawling on their knees through alder thickets, then fording (and nearly drowning in) a glacial-melt river—with little food and less luck.

A bold deed that’s rattling and—given the character displayed by Washburn and Bates—exemplary. (Photographs)

Pub Date: Oct. 9, 2002

ISBN: 0-7432-2432-9

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 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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