The authors leave no aspect of surfing unexplored—as rewarding for those addicted to pursuing the “stoke” as for others...




An encyclopedic history of riding the waves.

Drawing as much from their professional specialties in science, technological, and environmental history as on their mutual love for surfing, Westwick (History/Univ. of Southern California) and Neushul (History/Univ. of Southern California, Santa Barbara) present a tidal wave of surfing history and analysis. Looking at more than a century’s worth of data from a mainly sociohistorical perspective, the authors present the compelling case that surfing offers a tantalizing stew of contradictions, at once an activity pairing “subversive social rebellion” with the “middle-class mainstream” and juxtaposing lifestyle with sport, “modern society” with the “natural world.” Today’s multibillion-dollar surfing industry traces its roots to the popular pastime of Hawaiian natives, who rode 100-pound redwood planks through the roiling Waikiki surf. While early-19th-century missionaries helped spawn surfing’s “cool” image by deeming it slightly immoral, the authors argue their greater effect on surfing stemmed not from their conservative views so much as the disease these Westerners brought with them, causing the Hawaiian population to drop from an estimated 800,000 to 40,000 in the 1890s. Despite that gross literal decline in those able to surf, the sport caught on in California, thanks in part to writers like Richard Henry Dana and Jack London, whose late-19th- and early-20th-century accounts of surfing helped bring it to the mainstream. Those for whom surfing represents the apotheosis of countercultural living may be shocked to learn that some of the most radical innovations in surfing technology came from the American aeronautical industry, which helped introduce polyurethane foam for boards, and the Navy, whose combination of neoprene with nylon in the early 1950s resulted in the modern wetsuit.

The authors leave no aspect of surfing unexplored—as rewarding for those addicted to pursuing the “stoke” as for others merely smitten by surfing’s idyllic island allure.

Pub Date: July 23, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-307-71948-5

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: July 21, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2013

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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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