One of the best books written about the world of professional ski racing.



Inside the world of world-class alpine ski racing.

For generations, the United States Ski Team was a virtual afterthought in alpine ski racing. The Austrians, Swiss and teams from the Nordic nations dominated a sport characterized by swashbuckling athletes undeterred by the speed and risks inherent in hurtling down some of the world’s most treacherous mountains. However, by the turn of the 20th century, change had arrived, and American skiers such as Bode Miller and Lindsey Vonn suddenly found themselves atop podiums. As a result, they became celebrities in Europe and even in the United States, where the sport of skiing only rose to prominence every time the winter Olympics rolled around. New York Daily News investigative reporter Vinton (co-author: American Icon: The Fall of Roger Clemens and the Rise of Steroids in America's Pastime, 2009), a former ski racing coach, ably narrates this story of the rise of American skiing to the sport’s highest levels. The author focuses on the 2009-2010 World Cup season and the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics. Vinton writes vividly and captures the dangers and thrills inherent in the sport, especially its crowning event, the downhill. Although the book purports to look comprehensively at the entire team, Miller and Vonn are the clear stars. Through their stories and those of many of their teammates, Vinton provides compelling insight into a sport that millions enjoy recreationally but that relatively few will ever experience competitively. If there is a quibble about the book, it is that the 2009-2010 season is far enough removed from the present to not be particularly timely—the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics have already come and gone—but is not distant enough to qualify as history. Nonetheless, the book is a winner.

One of the best books written about the world of professional ski racing.

Pub Date: Feb. 2, 2014

ISBN: 978-0393244779

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: Nov. 3, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2014

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An absorbing, wide-ranging story of humans’ relationship with the water.


A study of swimming as sport, survival method, basis for community, and route to physical and mental well-being.

For Bay Area writer Tsui (American Chinatown: A People's History of Five Neighborhoods, 2009), swimming is in her blood. As she recounts, her parents met in a Hong Kong swimming pool, and she often visited the beach as a child and competed on a swim team in high school. Midway through the engaging narrative, the author explains how she rejoined the team at age 40, just as her 6-year-old was signing up for the first time. Chronicling her interviews with scientists and swimmers alike, Tsui notes the many health benefits of swimming, some of which are mental. Swimmers often achieve the “flow” state and get their best ideas while in the water. Her travels took her from the California coast, where she dove for abalone and swam from Alcatraz back to San Francisco, to Tokyo, where she heard about the “samurai swimming” martial arts tradition. In Iceland, she met Guðlaugur Friðþórsson, a local celebrity who, in 1984, survived six hours in a winter sea after his fishing vessel capsized, earning him the nickname “the human seal.” Although humans are generally adapted to life on land, the author discovered that some have extra advantages in the water. The Bajau people of Indonesia, for instance, can do 10-minute free dives while hunting because their spleens are 50% larger than average. For most, though, it’s simply a matter of practice. Tsui discussed swimming with Dara Torres, who became the oldest Olympic swimmer at age 41, and swam with Kim Chambers, one of the few people to complete the daunting Oceans Seven marathon swim challenge. Drawing on personal experience, history, biology, and social science, the author conveys the appeal of “an unflinching giving-over to an element” and makes a convincing case for broader access to swimming education (372,000 people still drown annually).

An absorbing, wide-ranging story of humans’ relationship with the water.

Pub Date: April 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-61620-786-1

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Algonquin

Review Posted Online: Jan. 4, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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


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 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2009

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