Few won’t wish they were riding in Mitchell’s slipstream, sharing in all the sun and stories and places, the wine and the...

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FOLLOWING THE SUN

A BICYCLE PILGRIMAGE FROM ANDALUSIA TO THE HERBIDES

The exquisite chronicler of Scratch Flat, Massachusetts, rolls far afield in this gladdening excursion that follows the emerging of spring into summer from Spain to the Hebrides.

Mitchell (Trespassing, 1998, etc.) follows a bicycle journey he took in the early 1960s from Cadiz, Spain, to the Isle of Lewis in Scotland, starting on the vernal equinox and ending on the summer solstice. The author is a sensualist, a lover of literature, deep time, and old night, and his ramble is tailor-made to feed those passions. He follows the lengthening days, the blessings of the sun after the winter months, and approaches the pilgrimage in the spirit of a pagan oblate—he is taken with “the richness of ancient rituals and primal gods and goddesses” and is well versed in the sun’s symbolism and myths; indeed, there are enough mythological tales here—Helios to Ra to Sol—to keep even Edith Hamilton happy, and his curiosity leads him down the strange paths of Mithraism, Aztec sacrifices, and stone circles. But it’s his willingness to stop and smell the flowers that makes him such a companionable writer. He’s always ready to stop for a coffee or to shuffle off into the greenwood just to poke around; always ready to take a long gander at a stonechat or chaffinch or jackdaw. He never met a bed of bluebells that wasn’t made the better by the taking of a nap in their midst, and there’s always time to investigate a megalith. Give him a good meal and a weird conversation, give him the back lanes (“At Crow I skirted the town of Ringwood, taking a little country road”—as if Ringwood were Calcutta), allow him to dally and be diverted: “It was here, during these short excursions from my excursion, that I came to better appreciate the landscape.”

Few won’t wish they were riding in Mitchell’s slipstream, sharing in all the sun and stories and places, the wine and the food.

Pub Date: May 7, 2002

ISBN: 1-58243-136-1

Page Count: 280

Publisher: Counterpoint

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2002

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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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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

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