Perhaps not the soul of basketball but certainly the wallet. A fine work of sports journalism and a must for every bookish...

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THE SOUL OF BASKETBALL

THE EPIC SHOWDOWN BETWEEN LEBRON, KOBE, DOC, AND DIRK THAT SAVED THE NBA

A blow-by-blow account of the 2010-2011 NBA season, which reshaped the face of pro basketball in a flurry of big money.

There was no end to the talent assembled when the teams lined up to play out that season, but it had opened on a note that was sour to many ears when LeBron James aired a “curious vanity show” meant to promote his brand and “extend his reach further into the entertainment mainstream.” He did that, taking his free agency option to leave his home-state Cleveland Cavaliers and sign on with the Miami Heat. As fans will remember, and as NBA.com contributor Thomsen (Flutie!, 1985) painstakingly reminds us, James was but one of an extraordinary group of free agent players whose movements shook up long-settled lineups. There were Shaquille O’Neal, Chris Bosh, and Amar’e Stoudemire, among many others, joining contract-bound players like Kobe Bryant, who had lately emerged as the league’s chief bad guy: “Instead of emulating the likability of [Michael] Jordan, Kobe appeared to be following the controversial path of Jordan’s adversary Isaiah Thomas.” Everyone wanted to be Jordan, and by moving to Miami, aside from raking in a fat paycheck, James would find himself on a squad whose combined talent was guaranteed to crush all comers. It didn’t quite work out like that. Thomsen goes deep behind the scenes into locker rooms, conference rooms, and boardrooms to follow what often amounts to a nonstop clash of egos—and a few friendships, too. Notable was the rancor between old-school owners like Detroit Pistons owner Bill Davidson and arrivistes like Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban. “Whereas his rivals tended to see pro sports as a secretive society of sacred traditions,” writes the author, “Cuban viewed the NBA as an entertainment industry that needed to evolve.” Evolve it did, and with sometimes unintended consequences.

Perhaps not the soul of basketball but certainly the wallet. A fine work of sports journalism and a must for every bookish roundball fan.

Pub Date: April 17, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-547-74651-7

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Review Posted Online: Feb. 15, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2018

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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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A quiet delight of a book.

GRANDMA GATEWOOD'S WALK

THE INSPIRING STORY OF THE WOMAN WHO SAVED THE APPALACHIAN TRAIL

A journalist’s biography of the unassuming but gutsy 67-year-old Ohio grandmother who became the first person to walk all 2,050 miles of the Appalachian Trail three times.

When Emma Gatewood (1887–1983) first decided she would hike the A.T., she told no one what she planned to do—not even her 11 children or 23 grandchildren. Instead, she quietly slipped away from her home in May 1955 and began her walk at the southern terminus of the trail in Georgia. Accomplishing this feat—which she often described as “a good lark”—was enough for her. Tampa Bay Times staff writer Montgomery tells the story of Gatewood’s first hike and those that followed, interweaving the story with the heartbreaking details of her earlier life. He suggests that this woman, who eventually came to be known as “Queen of the Forest,” was far from the eccentric others claimed she was. Instead, Montgomery posits that this celebrated hiker used long-distance walking to help her come to terms with a dark secret. At 18, Gatewood married a man she later discovered had a violent temper and an insatiable sexual appetite. Despite repeated beatings over 30 years, she remained with him until he nearly killed her. Afterward, she lived happily with her children for almost 20 years. Montgomery suggests that an article in National Geographic may have been what first inspired Gatewood to hike the trail. However, as her remarkable trek demonstrated, while the A.T. was as beautiful as the magazine claimed, it was also in sore need of maintenance. Gatewood’s exploits, which would later include walking the Oregon Trail, not only brought national attention to the state of hikers’ trails across a nation obsessed with cars and newly crisscrossed with highways; it also made Americans more aware of the joys of walking and of nature itself.

A quiet delight of a book.

Pub Date: April 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-61374-718-6

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Chicago Review Press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 16, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2014

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