Most of us will never experience K2. Conefrey leaves readers with both tremendous admiration for and an appreciation of the...

THE GHOSTS OF K2

THE EPIC SAGA OF THE FIRST ASCENT

Chronicling the superhuman efforts to climb, though never conquer, the “Savage Mountain.”

Mount Everest may be the tallest and most famous mountain on Earth, but for real alpinists, K2, the world’s second-tallest peak, is by far the more daunting to climb. Some 800 feet shorter than Everest, K2 makes up the difference with ruthless weather, treacherous terrain, and an isolation that makes even approaching its base a challenge. Conefrey (Everest 1953: The Epic Story of the First Ascent of Everest, 2014, etc.) ably tells the story of the many attempts by hardy souls (and outsized characters) to reach the peak of this most formidable mountain. On July 31, 1954, more than a year after the first ascent of Everest, two Italians reached the summit of K2 against all odds. Achille Compagnoni and Lino Lacedelli were part of a far larger team whose work finally achieved what many thought would never be possible. However, the fleeting joy of accomplishment gave way to controversies and recriminations, elements that the author also revisits and deconstructs. Conefrey writes skillfully about mountaineering, and he knows its history and its many players, stars and bit actors alike. He successfully conveys the complexity and obstacles that these brave men faced. Occasionally, the different efforts to scale K2 take on a subtle repetition, and the book would benefit from both a glossary and an annotated cast of characters. But Conefrey makes the stakes clear and reveals the many rivalries and tensions that plagued even the best-equipped teams. In the epilogue, the author explores some of the lingering debates about the successful 1954 ascension.

Most of us will never experience K2. Conefrey leaves readers with both tremendous admiration for and an appreciation of the consequences for those who succeed in an adventure so physically, mentally, and emotionally taxing.

Pub Date: Nov. 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-78074-595-4

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Oneworld Publications

Review Posted Online: Aug. 17, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2015

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Doesn’t dig as deep as it could, but offers a captivating look at the NBA’s greatest era.

WHEN THE GAME WAS OURS

NBA legends Bird and Johnson, fierce rivals during their playing days, team up on a mutual career retrospective.

With megastars LeBron James and Kobe Bryant and international superstars like China’s Yao Ming pushing it to ever-greater heights of popularity today, it’s difficult to imagine the NBA in 1979, when financial problems, drug scandals and racial issues threatened to destroy the fledgling league. Fortunately, that year marked the coming of two young saviors—one a flashy, charismatic African-American and the other a cocky, blond, self-described “hick.” Arriving fresh off a showdown in the NCAA championship game in which Johnson’s Michigan State Spartans defeated Bird’s Indiana State Sycamores—still the highest-rated college basketball game ever—the duo changed the course of history not just for the league, but the sport itself. While the pair’s on-court accomplishments have been exhaustively chronicled, the narrative hook here is unprecedented insight and commentary from the stars themselves on their unique relationship, a compelling mixture of bitter rivalry and mutual admiration. This snapshot of their respective careers delves with varying degrees of depth into the lives of each man and their on- and off-court achievements, including the historic championship games between Johnson’s Lakers and Bird’s Celtics, their trailblazing endorsement deals and Johnson’s stunning announcement in 1991 that he had tested positive for HIV. Ironically, this nostalgic chronicle about the two men who, along with Michael Jordan, turned more fans onto NBA basketball than any other players, will likely appeal primarily to a narrow cross-section of readers: Bird/Magic fans and hardcore hoop-heads.

Doesn’t dig as deep as it could, but offers a captivating look at the NBA’s greatest era.

Pub Date: Nov. 4, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-547-22547-0

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2009

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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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