A bright, uplifting biography about determination and giving back.

THE BOY WHO RUNS

THE ODYSSEY OF JULIUS ACHON

The inspiring life of a Ugandan middle-distance runner and his journey from bush village to Olympic hopeful.

Julius Achon was born during Idi Amin’s terrifying reign. A firstborn son who barely survived a potentially fatal measles outbreak, he became charged with the care of his siblings after being frequently abandoned by his herdsman father, who spent the family’s meager income on alcohol and gambling. At age 12, Achon was captured by the Lord’s Resistance Army and physically and mentally primed for combat. His already “sinuous, efficient, straight-backed stride” and fierce running speed allowed him to escape during an ambush attack and return home. In this segment, sports journalist Brant (Duel in the Sun: Alberto Salazar, Dick Beardsley, and America’s Greatest Marathon, 2006) demonstrates his flair for building suspense. Achon’s father advised him to learn to run and “become like John Akii-Bua,” who won the gold medal in the 400-meter hurdles at the 1972 Olympics. Empowered and increasingly fearless, the young man trained relentlessly and began advancing in contests within larger arenas and eventually paid for boarding school. In the mid-1990s, having relocated to America, Achon swiftly ascended the competitive ranks in more challenging races. While attending George Mason University, his coach cautioned him not to become preoccupied with the “African witch-doctor tribal stuff, all this rebel civil war junk” in his past. Professional racing beckoned, as did Olympic trials, but after a bittersweet reunion back in Uganda, a return to the States was dampened by the news of his mother’s violent death at the hands of the LRA. Achon refocused himself with more philanthropic endeavors, including a children’s fund financed by a businessman eager to construct an ultramodern medical facility back in Uganda. With breezy, accessible prose, Brant’s profile incorporates African history and insider details on the physical demands of race-running, strategies for success, and how Achon personally paved the way for others like him to succeed with pride and humanitarianism both on the track and in everyday life.

A bright, uplifting biography about determination and giving back.

Pub Date: Aug. 16, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-553-39215-9

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: June 1, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2016

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor...

INTO THE WILD

The excruciating story of a young man on a quest for knowledge and experience, a search that eventually cooked his goose, told with the flair of a seasoned investigative reporter by Outside magazine contributing editor Krakauer (Eiger Dreams, 1990). 

Chris McCandless loved the road, the unadorned life, the Tolstoyan call to asceticism. After graduating college, he took off on another of his long destinationless journeys, this time cutting all contact with his family and changing his name to Alex Supertramp. He was a gent of strong opinions, and he shared them with those he met: "You must lose your inclination for monotonous security and adopt a helter-skelter style of life''; "be nomadic.'' Ultimately, in 1992, his terms got him into mortal trouble when he ran up against something—the Alaskan wild—that didn't give a hoot about Supertramp's worldview; his decomposed corpse was found 16 weeks after he entered the bush. Many people felt McCandless was just a hubris-laden jerk with a death wish (he had discarded his map before going into the wild and brought no food but a bag of rice). Krakauer thought not. Admitting an interest that bordered on obsession, he dug deep into McCandless's life. He found a willful, reckless, moody boyhood; an ugly little secret that sundered the relationship between father and son; a moral absolutism that agitated the young man's soul and drove him to extremes; but he was no more a nutcase than other pilgrims. Writing in supple, electric prose, Krakauer tries to make sense of McCandless (while scrupulously avoiding off-the-rack psychoanalysis): his risky behavior and the rites associated with it, his asceticism, his love of wide open spaces, the flights of his soul.

A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor will it to readers of Krakauer's narrative. (4 maps) (First printing of 35,000; author tour)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-679-42850-X

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Villard

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1995

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