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An amiably witty book about sailing that will appeal as strongly to the uninitiated as to the addicted.

In a new edition of a book first published in 1999, the National Book Award–winning author recalls a “watershed” year in the early 1990s when he seriously took up sailing, a sport he had abandoned when he was in his 20s.

At the time, Philbrick (Valiant Ambition: George Washington, Benedict Arnold, and the Fate of the American Revolution, 2016, etc.) was a stay-at-home dad working on a book about Nantucket, where he and his wife and two kids lived, while his old, “dirt-encrusted” Sunfish, the “VW bug” of sailboats, leaned against the house. Deciding to spiff it up and get back on the water, the author set a goal of competing in the 1993 Sunfish North Americans, to be held the following July “on a man-made lake in Springfield, Illinois.” To get back in shape, Philbrick hauled the boat to one after another of Nantucket's many ponds and, during the winter, rented a boat to compete in a regatta in Florida. The narrative is wryly honest. The author performed respectably in Florida and Illinois, but he didn’t blow the competition away in any last-minute comebacks. Instead, he took pleasure—and pain—in the experiences of sailing on a regular basis. He describes with infectious joy the experience of catching a stray bit of wind or surging over the waves in a harbor, and he relays with astonishment the luck he feels at having survived some questionable sailing choices. Since much of his sailing was done under adverse conditions—in water so cold that he had to break the ice to sail or in air so still that races were postponed because boats couldn't move—readers will feel lucky to share the experiences vicariously. The author keeps his chapters short and punchy, and his obscure sailing terminology to a minimum, while revealing much about his connection to a supportive if sometimes-skeptical family.

An amiably witty book about sailing that will appeal as strongly to the uninitiated as to the addicted.

Pub Date: March 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-14-313209-7

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Penguin

Review Posted Online: Dec. 6, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2018

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A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor...

The excruciating story of a young man on a quest for knowledge and experience, a search that eventually cooked his goose, told with the flair of a seasoned investigative reporter by Outside magazine contributing editor Krakauer (Eiger Dreams, 1990). 

Chris McCandless loved the road, the unadorned life, the Tolstoyan call to asceticism. After graduating college, he took off on another of his long destinationless journeys, this time cutting all contact with his family and changing his name to Alex Supertramp. He was a gent of strong opinions, and he shared them with those he met: "You must lose your inclination for monotonous security and adopt a helter-skelter style of life''; "be nomadic.'' Ultimately, in 1992, his terms got him into mortal trouble when he ran up against something—the Alaskan wild—that didn't give a hoot about Supertramp's worldview; his decomposed corpse was found 16 weeks after he entered the bush. Many people felt McCandless was just a hubris-laden jerk with a death wish (he had discarded his map before going into the wild and brought no food but a bag of rice). Krakauer thought not. Admitting an interest that bordered on obsession, he dug deep into McCandless's life. He found a willful, reckless, moody boyhood; an ugly little secret that sundered the relationship between father and son; a moral absolutism that agitated the young man's soul and drove him to extremes; but he was no more a nutcase than other pilgrims. Writing in supple, electric prose, Krakauer tries to make sense of McCandless (while scrupulously avoiding off-the-rack psychoanalysis): his risky behavior and the rites associated with it, his asceticism, his love of wide open spaces, the flights of his soul.

A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor will it to readers of Krakauer's narrative. (4 maps) (First printing of 35,000; author tour)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-679-42850-X

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Villard

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1995

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Well-told and admonitory.

Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

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