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

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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Effectively sobering. Suffice it to say that Pop Warner parents will want to armor their kids from head to toe upon reading...

CONCUSSION

A maddening, well-constructed tale of medical discovery and corporate coverup, set in morgues, laboratories, courtrooms, and football fields.

Nigeria-born Bennet Omalu is perhaps an unlikely hero, a medical doctor board-certified in four areas of pathology, “anatomic, clinical, forensic, and neuropathology,” and a well-rounded specialist in death. When his boss, celebrity examiner Cyril Wecht (“in the autopsy business, Wecht was a rock star”), got into trouble for various specimens of publicity-hound overreach, Omalu was there to offer patient, stoical support. The student did not surpass the teacher in flashiness, but Omalu was a rock star all his own in studying the brain to determine a cause of death. Laskas’ (Creative Writing/Univ. of Pittsburgh; Hidden America, 2012, etc.) main topic is the horrific injuries wrought to the brains and bodies of football players on the field. Omalu’s study of the unfortunate brain of Pittsburgh Steeler Mike Webster, who died in 2002 at 50 of a supposed heart attack, brought new attention to the trauma of concussion. Laskas trades in sportwriter-ese, all staccato delivery full of tough guyisms and sports clichés: “He had played for fifteen seasons, a warrior’s warrior; he played in more games—two hundred twenty—than any other player in Steelers history. Undersized, tough, a big, burly white guy—a Pittsburgh kind of guy—the heart of the best team in history.” A little of that goes a long way, but Laskas, a Pittsburgher who first wrote of Omalu and his studies in a story in GQ, does sturdy work in keeping up with a grim story that the NFL most definitely did not want to see aired—not in Omalu’s professional publications in medical journals, nor, reportedly, on the big screen in the Will Smith vehicle based on this book.

Effectively sobering. Suffice it to say that Pop Warner parents will want to armor their kids from head to toe upon reading it.

Pub Date: Nov. 24, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-8757-7

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Sept. 15, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2015

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

In these insightfully droll essays, Gierach shows us how fishing offers plenty of time to think things over.

DUMB LUCK AND THE KINDNESS OF STRANGERS

The latest collection of interrelated essays by the veteran fishing writer.

As in his previous books—from The View From Rat Lake through All Fishermen Are Liars—Gierach hones in on the ups and downs of fishing, and those looking for how-to tips will find plenty here on rods, flies, guides, streams, and pretty much everything else that informs the fishing life. It is the everything else that has earned Gierach the following of fellow writers and legions of readers who may not even fish but are drawn to his musings on community, culture, the natural world, and the seasons of life. In one representatively poetic passage, he writes, “it was a chilly fall afternoon with the leaves changing, the current whispering, and a pale moon in a daytime sky. The river seemed inscrutable, but alive with possibility.” Gierach writes about both patience and process, and he describes the long spells between catches as the fisherman’s equivalent of writer’s block. Even when catching fish is the point, it almost seems beside the point (anglers will understand that sentiment): At the end of one essay, he writes, “I was cold, bored, hungry, and fishless, but there was still nowhere else I’d have rather been—something anyone who fishes will understand.” Most readers will be profoundly moved by the meditation on mortality within the blandly titled “Up in Michigan,” a character study of a man dying of cancer. Though the author had known and been fishing with him for three decades, his reticence kept anyone from knowing him too well. Still, writes Gierach, “I came to think of [his] glancing pronouncements as Michigan haiku: brief, no more than obliquely revealing, and oddly beautiful.” Ultimately, the man was focused on settling accounts, getting in one last fishing trip, and then planning to “sit in the sun and think things over until it’s time for hospice.”

In these insightfully droll essays, Gierach shows us how fishing offers plenty of time to think things over.

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5011-6858-1

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Jan. 22, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more