A vigorously written must-read for exercise enthusiasts primed for the ultimate fitness challenge.

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LEARNING TO BREATHE FIRE

THE RISE OF CROSSFIT AND THE PRIMAL FUTURE OF FITNESS

Former New York Times columnist and Rolling Stone rock critic Herz (Joystick Nation: How Videogames Ate Our Quarters, Won Our Hearts, and Rewired Our Minds, 1997, etc.) shares her enthusiasm for the CrossFit strength and conditioning movement.

The CrossFit fitness craze is based on the model of a maximum-output physical regimen of “diabolically intense” timed movements. Herz explores this exhilarating, addictive activity with equal potency, focusing on the health phenomenon’s diverse aspects, including its genesis in a Santa Cruz, California, gym and the ideals adopted by exercise guru and founder Greg Glassman. After delving into the hormonal, anaerobic and metabolic effects CrossFit can have on the human body, the author energetically presents a vast array of profiles and interviews with exercise, sports, law enforcement and military specialists—all enamored by CrossFit’s exhaustive, unisex physical demands and rational core methodology. Herz adds a dramatic flair to her prose, igniting excitement and an uptick in interest even when discussing the female names for CrossFit’s ritualistic workouts of the day or its buzzword-trendy, disciplined philosophy (“half chivalric code and half Bushido”). The author champions the yearly installations of the global, hypercompetitive CrossFit Games with brio, spotlighting the highs and lows of the competitions’ most elite challengers. Oddly, however, Herz embeds critical information on the inherent risks associated with such high-intensity physical training deep into a chapter devoted to a firefighter who successfully adopted the CrossFit approach. At times, the author’s exuberance for this trendsetting industry reads like boilerplate infomercial copy (“CrossFit HQ protects a culture that embraces competitive fitness. It’s a cult of excellence….It’s a strategy for resilience”), but as the underdog of the exercise world, CrossFit training (at least to the author) remains a “triumph of the generalist.”

A vigorously written must-read for exercise enthusiasts primed for the ultimate fitness challenge.

Pub Date: June 3, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-385-34887-4

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Crown Archetype

Review Posted Online: May 7, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2014

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Skloot's meticulous, riveting account strikes a humanistic balance between sociological history, venerable portraiture and...

THE IMMORTAL LIFE OF HENRIETTA LACKS

A dense, absorbing investigation into the medical community's exploitation of a dying woman and her family's struggle to salvage truth and dignity decades later.

In a well-paced, vibrant narrative, Popular Science contributor and Culture Dish blogger Skloot (Creative Writing/Univ. of Memphis) demonstrates that for every human cell put under a microscope, a complex life story is inexorably attached, to which doctors, researchers and laboratories have often been woefully insensitive and unaccountable. In 1951, Henrietta Lacks, an African-American mother of five, was diagnosed with what proved to be a fatal form of cervical cancer. At Johns Hopkins, the doctors harvested cells from her cervix without her permission and distributed them to labs around the globe, where they were multiplied and used for a diverse array of treatments. Known as HeLa cells, they became one of the world's most ubiquitous sources for medical research of everything from hormones, steroids and vitamins to gene mapping, in vitro fertilization, even the polio vaccine—all without the knowledge, must less consent, of the Lacks family. Skloot spent a decade interviewing every relative of Lacks she could find, excavating difficult memories and long-simmering outrage that had lay dormant since their loved one's sorrowful demise. Equal parts intimate biography and brutal clinical reportage, Skloot's graceful narrative adeptly navigates the wrenching Lack family recollections and the sobering, overarching realities of poverty and pre–civil-rights racism. The author's style is matched by a methodical scientific rigor and manifest expertise in the field.

Skloot's meticulous, riveting account strikes a humanistic balance between sociological history, venerable portraiture and Petri dish politics.

Pub Date: Feb. 9, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-4000-5217-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2010

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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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