Lacks overall depth and scope, but good for vicarious thrill-seeking.




A veteran mountaineer chronicles his colossal quest to scale the Himalayas’ 14 8,000-meter peaks, including the deadliest, Annapurna.

With the assistance of Roberts (Finding Everett Ruess, 2011, etc.), Viesturs (K2, 2009, etc.) returns with another true account of cliffhanging adventure. Viesturs was inspired by mountain-climbing icon Maurice Herzog’s successful ascent of Annapurna in 1950, which was the first time anyone had reached the summit of that treacherous Himalayan monolith. After conquering most of the harrowing Himalayan range, in 2000 Viesturs finally prepared to take on the intimidating Annapurna. Interspersed throughout his own combative history with the Himalayas’ “8,000ers” are historical accounts of other adventurous souls who’ve attempted to conquer these peaks since the 19th century. The author describes his own attachment to mountain-climbing as “tread[ing] between commitment and obsession,” which is believable enough, since Viesturs certainly doesn’t over-romanticize this obsession. Viesturs describes the successful exploits of the most formidable characters taking part in this survival-of-the-fittest competition, but often the most miraculous accounts are rooted in failure: In particular, French climber Jean-Christophe Lafaille’s incredible 8,000-foot descent from Annapurna with a broken arm and no rope, followed by fellow mountaineer Simone Moro surviving a 2,600-foot tumble down the mountain’s rugged face. Reinhold Messner, often considered the greatest mountaineer ever, was the first to conquer all 14 8,000ers. Though Viesturs’ battle with Annapurna ended on a triumphal note, not every successful mountaineer gains a lasting sense of fulfillment from their achievements in the so-called vertical world. Unfortunately, the author only skims the surface of the psychological aspects that drive a person to scale a 29,000-foot mountain.

Lacks overall depth and scope, but good for vicarious thrill-seeking.

Pub Date: Oct. 4, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-307-72042-9

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Sept. 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2011

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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. 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.


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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