A nice job: Like all good sports narratives, this is more about meeting challenges than winning titles.

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TO THE EDGE

A MAN, DEATH VALLEY, AND THE MYSTERY OF ENDURANCE

An evocative account by New York Times reporter Johnson of his participation in the grueling Badwater Ultramarathon, describing the race itself and his reasons for running it.

After Johnson’s brother Gary committed suicide in 1997, Johnson began running again. Unlike Gary, he had never been much of an athlete, but as he neared 40 he found himself thinking more and more about his brother’s death and his own mortality. Assigned to the Times sports desk, he interviewed Liz Smith, who was about to run some race in Death Valley. When Smith told him about her upcoming race (the Badwater) and about other ultramarathons, he became intrigued and eventually decided to run the Badwater himself. Like all ultramarathons, Badwater is about endurance, not speed. The course (135 miles long) begins in Death Valley (282 feet below sea level) and finishes in the Sierra Nevada (at the trail-head to Mount Whitney). It takes place in mid-July, and a successful competitor must finish the course in less than 60 hours. Thinking that running the race might help him to understand some of the questions that troubled him, Johnson took a year’s leave to prepare himself. He learned all that he could about the race and its history, and he interviewed other Badwater competitors—such as the handicapped Vietnam vet Dan Jensen, the legendary Ulrich (who once pulled a rickshaw across Death Valley), and Mick Justin (who advised him that, to finish Badwater, “you just have to want it badly enough”). With his two siblings in charge of supplies, Johnson set off on the 1999 race. Blisters slowed him down, exhaustion brought on terrifying hallucinations, the heat was lethal, but the author endured, choosing to go on rather than give up.

A nice job: Like all good sports narratives, this is more about meeting challenges than winning titles.

Pub Date: July 2, 2001

ISBN: 0-446-52617-7

Page Count: 287

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2001

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An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

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BECOMING

The former first lady opens up about her early life, her journey to the White House, and the eight history-making years that followed.

It’s not surprising that Obama grew up a rambunctious kid with a stubborn streak and an “I’ll show you” attitude. After all, it takes a special kind of moxie to survive being the first African-American FLOTUS—and not only survive, but thrive. For eight years, we witnessed the adversity the first family had to face, and now we get to read what it was really like growing up in a working-class family on Chicago’s South Side and ending up at the world’s most famous address. As the author amply shows, her can-do attitude was daunted at times by racism, leaving her wondering if she was good enough. Nevertheless, she persisted, graduating from Chicago’s first magnet high school, Princeton, and Harvard Law School, and pursuing careers in law and the nonprofit world. With her characteristic candor and dry wit, she recounts the story of her fateful meeting with her future husband. Once they were officially a couple, her feelings for him turned into a “toppling blast of lust, gratitude, fulfillment, wonder.” But for someone with a “natural resistance to chaos,” being the wife of an ambitious politician was no small feat, and becoming a mother along the way added another layer of complexity. Throw a presidential campaign into the mix, and even the most assured woman could begin to crack under the pressure. Later, adjusting to life in the White House was a formidable challenge for the self-described “control freak”—not to mention the difficulty of sparing their daughters the ugly side of politics and preserving their privacy as much as possible. Through it all, Obama remained determined to serve with grace and help others through initiatives like the White House garden and her campaign to fight childhood obesity. And even though she deems herself “not a political person,” she shares frank thoughts about the 2016 election.

An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6313-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2018

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

NIGHT

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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