A thoughtful book-length essay on a taken-for-granted human activity.

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WALKING

ONE STEP AT A TIME

An homage to walking by a man who believes it to be more beneficial to human health than any medicine or drug.

Norwegian explorer and publisher Kagge (Silence: In the Age of Noise, 2017, etc.) knows his subject matter intimately: He has walked to the North and South Poles and to the top of Mount Everest (he was the first person to complete the “Three Poles Challenge”), through the tunnels under New York City (“the architecture wilderness of subterranean tunnels is a living organism…the underground train is constantly in flux”), and along the sidewalks of Los Angeles, and he has traced the footsteps of characters in James Joyce’s Ulysses (Dublin) and Knut Hamsun’s Hunger (Oslo). Besides his own walking experiences, Kagge draws on thinkers and writers from ancient times to the present—Herodotus, Montaigne, Thoreau, Kierkegaard, Steve Jobs—and on scientists currently studying walking in cockroaches and penguins. Throughout this brief but eloquent meditation, the author makes a convincing case for the importance of walking. For him, walking is not simply taking a series of steps; it is something thrilling and amazing, “a combination of movement, humility, balance, curiosity, smell, sound, light and—if you walk long enough—longing….It can be the thought of something joyful that disturbs you, or something disturbing that brings you plenitude.” In addition to expressing his love for walking, he clearly conveys his sorrow about its disappearance in the modern world. Bipedalism, he writes, enabled Homo sapiens to become who we are; now that we sit more often, including driving, what will be the effect on our evolution as a species? Possibly, he speculates, as we nonpedestrians give up experiencing the tangible world around us, we will become more open to intangibles, such as emotion and spirituality. Kagge also offers a too-short but fascinating section on Nan Madol, “a forgotten city in the Western Pacific Ocean that is reminiscent of Venice.”

A thoughtful book-length essay on a taken-for-granted human activity.

Pub Date: April 23, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5247-4784-8

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Pantheon

Review Posted Online: Feb. 13, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2019

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An eye-opening glimpse into the attempted self-unmaking of one of Hollywood’s most recognizable talents.

OPEN BOOK

The debut memoir from the pop and fashion star.

Early on, Simpson describes the book she didn’t write: “a motivational manual telling you how to live your best life.” Though having committed to the lucrative deal years before, she “walked away,” fearing any sort of self-help advice she might give would be hypocritical. Outwardly, Simpson was at the peak of her success, with her fashion line generating “one billion dollars in annual sales.” However, anxiety was getting the better of her, and she admits she’d become a “feelings addict,” just needing “enough noise to distract me from the pain I’d been avoiding since childhood. The demons of traumatic abuse that refused to let me sleep at night—Tylenol PM at age twelve, red wine and Ambien as a grown, scared woman. Those same demons who perched on my shoulder, and when they saw a man as dark as them, leaned in to my ear to whisper, ‘Just give him your light. See if it saves him…’ ” On Halloween 2017, Simpson hit rock bottom, and, with the intervention of her devoted friends and husband, began to address her addictions and underlying fears. In this readable but overlong narrative, the author traces her childhood as a Baptist preacher’s daughter moving 18 times before she “hit fifth grade,” and follows her remarkable rise to fame as a singer. She reveals the psychological trauma resulting from years of sexual abuse by a family friend, experiences that drew her repeatedly into bad relationships with men, most publicly with ex-husband Nick Lachey. Admitting that she was attracted to the validating power of an audience, Simpson analyzes how her failings and triumphs have enabled her to take control of her life, even as she was hounded by the press and various music and movie executives about her weight. Simpson’s memoir contains plenty of personal and professional moments for fans to savor.

An eye-opening glimpse into the attempted self-unmaking of one of Hollywood’s most recognizable talents.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-289996-5

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Dey Street/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 16, 2020

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An absorbing, wide-ranging story of humans’ relationship with the water.

WHY WE SWIM

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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