Caving exploits, some of them terrifying, elegantly described by Taylor (Journalism/Henderson State Univ.). There is a small, international fraternity of the intrepid and obsessed, whose members actually find it recreational to plunge deep into subterranean darkness, inching forward on their backs or bellies through shoulder-width, seven-inch-high crawlways, often awash in freezing water, sometimes having to gulp air from pockets in the ceiling, not knowing where a passage may lead, the only certainty the constant presence of danger. Call them cavers (``spelunkers'' is dÇclassÇ), and expect to find them most anywhere that limestone gives evidence of stygian glories. They poke about the underworld gloom of Borneo, crawl around deep under the sands of the Sultanate of Oman, wander slack-jawed through Switzerland's Holloch and Russia's Peschtschera Optimistitscheskaya. Taylor, now a dad, has for the moment retired his carbide lamp, but this collection of stitched together magazine articles is testament to his caving credentials. Taylor celebrates both caves and cavers: caves as diverse as the great labyrinths of China's Guizhou and Guangdong provinces (Taoist monks mapped these vast underground networks in the early 17th century) and segments of Manhattan's abandoned Croton aqueduct system (he kisses the brick where an Irish laborer scratched his name a hundred years before); cavers ranging from the Coons, a husband and wife, both 70 years old, who continue to survey South Dakota's depths, to caving legend Sheck Exley, who came home in a box following a 1,000-foot descent in the Mexican desert into what turned out to be a flooded hole. Along the way, Taylor details the winding road of his freelance writing career—interesting, if familiar, terrain; but his true element is down under, with all its geological intricacies—latticeworks and crystals and rushing waterways—and with those curious souls at home in the netherscape. Mesmerizing, but not recommended for anyone with even a hint of claustrophobia.

Pub Date: June 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-684-81854-X

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1996

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One of the NBA’s 50 greatest players scores another basket—a deeply personal one.


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...


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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