A solid work of sports journalism and encouraging reading for jocks who are late to the game but committed to the win all...

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THE NEW SCIENCE OF ELITE PERFORMANCE AT ANY AGE

An exploration of the “elite athletes…who continue to perform and compete at the very highest levels long after the age most of their peers have faded away.”

It’s a strange thing that many of the letter jacket–clad kids you went to high school with dissolve into uncomfortable lumps by the time the 25th reunion comes around. “There’s evidence,” writes technology and business journalist Bercovici, “that the later an individual matures, the more likely he or she is to achieve athletic greatness.” Peaking after 20 is thus not a bad thing at all, particularly with life spans extending as far as they do now. In Plimpton-esque moments, Bercovici tackles various aspects of the fitness-for-elders movement, including an encounter with a VersaClimber machine that threatened to do him in: “After another 30 seconds, I’m not thinking anything because all the glycogen in my body is rushing to my muscles to replace my zonked-out stores of adenosine triphosphate, leaving none left over to power my frontal cortex.” The author examines the changes that occur in the older body, which, perhaps amazingly, can be reversed to some extent with exercise so that the production of hormones and circulation of proteins in the bloodstream in a 60-year-old master athlete is more similar to those of a 30-year-old than to those of a sedentary 60-year-old. Along the way, Bercovici considers various exercise regimes and their effects, the technology of exercise and of sports medicine, and ways of hacking the diet for increased performance, such as eating all the chicken gristle, cartilage, and bone that you can stomach: “Have you ever seen a hyena with bad knees?” It’s a good question, if perhaps a little unappealing to the food-squeamish.

A solid work of sports journalism and encouraging reading for jocks who are late to the game but committed to the win all the same.

Pub Date: May 1, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-544-80998-7

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Review Posted Online: March 5, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2018

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A quirky wonder of a book.

WHY FISH DON'T EXIST

A STORY OF LOSS, LOVE, AND THE HIDDEN ORDER OF LIFE

A Peabody Award–winning NPR science reporter chronicles the life of a turn-of-the-century scientist and how her quest led to significant revelations about the meaning of order, chaos, and her own existence.

Miller began doing research on David Starr Jordan (1851-1931) to understand how he had managed to carry on after the 1906 San Francisco earthquake destroyed his work. A taxonomist who is credited with discovering “a full fifth of fish known to man in his day,” Jordan had amassed an unparalleled collection of ichthyological specimens. Gathering up all the fish he could save, Jordan sewed the nameplates that had been on the destroyed jars directly onto the fish. His perseverance intrigued the author, who also discusses the struggles she underwent after her affair with a woman ended a heterosexual relationship. Born into an upstate New York farm family, Jordan attended Cornell and then became an itinerant scholar and field researcher until he landed at Indiana University, where his first ichthyological collection was destroyed by lightning. In between this catastrophe and others involving family members’ deaths, he reconstructed his collection. Later, he was appointed as the founding president of Stanford, where he evolved into a Machiavellian figure who trampled on colleagues and sang the praises of eugenics. Miller concludes that Jordan displayed the characteristics of someone who relied on “positive illusions” to rebound from disaster and that his stand on eugenics came from a belief in “a divine hierarchy from bacteria to humans that point[ed]…toward better.” Considering recent research that negates biological hierarchies, the author then suggests that Jordan’s beloved taxonomic category—fish—does not exist. Part biography, part science report, and part meditation on how the chaos that caused Miller’s existential misery could also bring self-acceptance and a loving wife, this unique book is an ingenious celebration of diversity and the mysterious order that underlies all existence.

A quirky wonder of a book.

Pub Date: April 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5011-6027-1

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Jan. 2, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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

WHEN THE GAME WAS OURS

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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