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



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...


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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Doesn’t dig as deep as it could, but offers a captivating look at the NBA’s greatest era.


NBA legends Bird and Johnson, fierce rivals during their playing days, team up on a mutual career retrospective.

With megastars LeBron James and Kobe Bryant and international superstars like China’s Yao Ming pushing it to ever-greater heights of popularity today, it’s difficult to imagine the NBA in 1979, when financial problems, drug scandals and racial issues threatened to destroy the fledgling league. Fortunately, that year marked the coming of two young saviors—one a flashy, charismatic African-American and the other a cocky, blond, self-described “hick.” Arriving fresh off a showdown in the NCAA championship game in which Johnson’s Michigan State Spartans defeated Bird’s Indiana State Sycamores—still the highest-rated college basketball game ever—the duo changed the course of history not just for the league, but the sport itself. While the pair’s on-court accomplishments have been exhaustively chronicled, the narrative hook here is unprecedented insight and commentary from the stars themselves on their unique relationship, a compelling mixture of bitter rivalry and mutual admiration. This snapshot of their respective careers delves with varying degrees of depth into the lives of each man and their on- and off-court achievements, including the historic championship games between Johnson’s Lakers and Bird’s Celtics, their trailblazing endorsement deals and Johnson’s stunning announcement in 1991 that he had tested positive for HIV. Ironically, this nostalgic chronicle about the two men who, along with Michael Jordan, turned more fans onto NBA basketball than any other players, will likely appeal primarily to a narrow cross-section of readers: Bird/Magic fans and hardcore hoop-heads.

Doesn’t dig as deep as it could, but offers a captivating look at the NBA’s greatest era.

Pub Date: Nov. 4, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-547-22547-0

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2009

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