COACH WOODEN AND ME

OUR 50-YEAR FRIENDSHIP ON AND OFF THE COURT

A pleasant expression of deep appreciation for a man who changed the author’s life by enriching it.

One of the greatest basketball players in history reflects on one of the greatest coaches in history.

Abdul-Jabbar—the NBA’s all-time leading scorer who is now a writer of essays and books (Writings on the Wall: Searching for a New Equality Beyond Black and White, 2016, etc.)—notes several times the oddity of the friendship between a towering, urban African-American and a much smaller white Midwesterner with deep Christian convictions. But their friendship continued until Wooden died in 2010 at the age of 99. After summarizing his boyhood, the author tells how he decided on UCLA (he was the nation’s most sought-after high school player) and how he adjusted to West Coast life and Wooden-style basketball. During his college days, freshmen couldn’t play varsity, and dunking was proscribed, so who knows what wonders he could have otherwise achieved? Throughout, Abdul-Jabbar asserts continually that it was Wooden’s example that became most meaningful to him. The coach believed in physical fitness and team play, and he lived by a high ethical standard that deeply impressed the author, who can hardly bear to mention the coach’s (few) stumbles—though he does devote a chapter to them, a chapter that pales in comparison to the positive ones. Abdul-Jabbar’s style is free and easy, with some flashes of humor. An occasional error appears on the score sheet—Carl Stokes was the mayor of Cleveland, not Detroit—but the author is candid about his attitudes toward the racial turmoil of the 1960s, his conversion to Islam, his experiences suffering racial taunts from fans of opposing teams—and, in one grim case, from his high school coach, a conflict since reconciled. The author’s account of his visit to Wooden on his deathbed is wrenching.

A pleasant expression of deep appreciation for a man who changed the author’s life by enriching it.

Pub Date: May 16, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4555-4227-7

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: April 1, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2017

NIGHT

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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WHEN BREATH BECOMES AIR

A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular...

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A neurosurgeon with a passion for literature tragically finds his perfect subject after his diagnosis of terminal lung cancer.

Writing isn’t brain surgery, but it’s rare when someone adept at the latter is also so accomplished at the former. Searching for meaning and purpose in his life, Kalanithi pursued a doctorate in literature and had felt certain that he wouldn’t enter the field of medicine, in which his father and other members of his family excelled. “But I couldn’t let go of the question,” he writes, after realizing that his goals “didn’t quite fit in an English department.” “Where did biology, morality, literature and philosophy intersect?” So he decided to set aside his doctoral dissertation and belatedly prepare for medical school, which “would allow me a chance to find answers that are not in books, to find a different sort of sublime, to forge relationships with the suffering, and to keep following the question of what makes human life meaningful, even in the face of death and decay.” The author’s empathy undoubtedly made him an exceptional doctor, and the precision of his prose—as well as the moral purpose underscoring it—suggests that he could have written a good book on any subject he chose. Part of what makes this book so essential is the fact that it was written under a death sentence following the diagnosis that upended his life, just as he was preparing to end his residency and attract offers at the top of his profession. Kalanithi learned he might have 10 years to live or perhaps five. Should he return to neurosurgery (he could and did), or should he write (he also did)? Should he and his wife have a baby? They did, eight months before he died, which was less than two years after the original diagnosis. “The fact of death is unsettling,” he understates. “Yet there is no other way to live.”

A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular clarity.

Pub Date: Jan. 19, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-8129-8840-6

Page Count: 248

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Sept. 29, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2015

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