Caesar’s winning prose will keep even armchair readers turning pages, perhaps tuning in to watch the next marathon.



A wide-ranging and compelling account of marathons and the very fastest men who run them.

Caesar, a British journalist with many American credits (New York Times Magazine, Outside, the Atlantic, etc.), explores the world of high-speed long-distance running. The dream of running the 26.2-mile race in less than two hours has not yet been achieved, and the author shows us the pursuit of that dream. Besides giving a capsule history of the race, from its mythical beginnings in Greece through its 20th-century ups and downs in popularity to its present dominance by East Africans, Caesar reveals its personalities and delves into its economics, science, and psychology. While the author depicts a host of runners, both well-known and otherwise, at the center of the story is Geoffrey Kiprono Mutai, a Kenyan runner whose personal best is 2:03:02. Caesar spent time with Mutai, observing the lives of Kenyan runners and how and why they run. Their mastery of marathon running has been variously attributed to geography (altitude, terrain), lifestyle (diet, arduous training), biology (genetic makeup, physique), and to an overwhelming desire to escape a difficult life. Caesar, whose admiration for his subjects is palpable, examines all of these, including the question of possible drug use. He also looks into the role of the runners' managers, the efforts of shoe companies to create the perfect running shoe, the varying design of marathon courses in different cities, and the outside factors affecting speed, such as wind and temperature. Readers should not skip the endnotes: this usually dry addendum is unexpectedly entertaining and informative. “Whatever science or common sense one uses to rebut the possibility of a two-hour marathon,” writes the author, “we still cannot resist its lure.”

Caesar’s winning prose will keep even armchair readers turning pages, perhaps tuning in to watch the next marathon.

Pub Date: Oct. 27, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4516-8584-8

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: June 17, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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A tiny book, not much bigger than a pamphlet, with huge potential impact.

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A collection of articulate, forceful speeches made from September 2018 to September 2019 by the Swedish climate activist who was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.

Speaking in such venues as the European and British Parliaments, the French National Assembly, the Austrian World Summit, and the U.N. General Assembly, Thunberg has always been refreshingly—and necessarily—blunt in her demands for action from world leaders who refuse to address climate change. With clarity and unbridled passion, she presents her message that climate change is an emergency that must be addressed immediately, and she fills her speeches with punchy sound bites delivered in her characteristic pull-no-punches style: “I don’t want you to be hopeful. I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day. And then I want you to act.” In speech after speech, to persuade her listeners, she cites uncomfortable, even alarming statistics about global temperature rise and carbon dioxide emissions. Although this inevitably makes the text rather repetitive, the repetition itself has an impact, driving home her point so that no one can fail to understand its importance. Thunberg varies her style for different audiences. Sometimes it is the rousing “our house is on fire” approach; other times she speaks more quietly about herself and her hopes and her dreams. When addressing the U.S. Congress, she knowingly calls to mind the words and deeds of Martin Luther King Jr. and John F. Kennedy. The last speech in the book ends on a note that is both challenging and upbeat: “We are the change and change is coming.” The edition published in Britain earlier this year contained 11 speeches; this updated edition has 16, all worth reading.

A tiny book, not much bigger than a pamphlet, with huge potential impact.

Pub Date: Nov. 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-14-313356-8

Page Count: 112

Publisher: Penguin

Review Posted Online: Nov. 3, 2019

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A quirky wonder of a book.



A Peabody Award–winning NPR science reporter chronicles the life of a turn-of-the-century scientist and how her quest led to significant revelations about the meaning of order, chaos, and her own existence.

Miller began doing research on David Starr Jordan (1851-1931) to understand how he had managed to carry on after the 1906 San Francisco earthquake destroyed his work. A taxonomist who is credited with discovering “a full fifth of fish known to man in his day,” Jordan had amassed an unparalleled collection of ichthyological specimens. Gathering up all the fish he could save, Jordan sewed the nameplates that had been on the destroyed jars directly onto the fish. His perseverance intrigued the author, who also discusses the struggles she underwent after her affair with a woman ended a heterosexual relationship. Born into an upstate New York farm family, Jordan attended Cornell and then became an itinerant scholar and field researcher until he landed at Indiana University, where his first ichthyological collection was destroyed by lightning. In between this catastrophe and others involving family members’ deaths, he reconstructed his collection. Later, he was appointed as the founding president of Stanford, where he evolved into a Machiavellian figure who trampled on colleagues and sang the praises of eugenics. Miller concludes that Jordan displayed the characteristics of someone who relied on “positive illusions” to rebound from disaster and that his stand on eugenics came from a belief in “a divine hierarchy from bacteria to humans that point[ed]…toward better.” Considering recent research that negates biological hierarchies, the author then suggests that Jordan’s beloved taxonomic category—fish—does not exist. Part biography, part science report, and part meditation on how the chaos that caused Miller’s existential misery could also bring self-acceptance and a loving wife, this unique book is an ingenious celebration of diversity and the mysterious order that underlies all existence.

A quirky wonder of a book.

Pub Date: April 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5011-6027-1

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Jan. 2, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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