It is this historic perspective that will appeal to the diehard sports historian and to fans of old-time baseball.

CY YOUNG

A BASEBALL LIFE

An academic biography of one of the best-known figures in baseball history.

Denton Young was born in 1867 and began to play baseball semi-professionally while still in his teens. During one game in Canton, Ohio, he threw some fastballs that hit the fence so hard they tore off some boards. The local newspaper tagged Young “the Cyclone,” and eventually the shortened nickname stuck. For 22 years, the right-hander demonstrated a pitching skill that became legendary. Browning (History/Kenyon Coll.) relies on extensive written sources in order to give a historically placed picture of Young and his sport, although he is hampered by the fact that Young played before the advent of photojournalism and the development of sportswriting. His task was made all the more difficult by Young himself, who was an extremely private man even by the standards of his day. Browning writes about Young’s best games (including his famous perfect game of 1904) and describes Young (who for a time played and managed simultaneously) as a relentless innovator, continually experimenting and developing mastery over the fastball, curveball, change-up (known as the “slow ball”), and spitball. Russell also puts forward the arguments for and against declaring Young the greatest pitcher of all time (and the namesake of the major leagues’ pitching award): he won more games than anyone else (511 victories), after all, and he compiled more innings pitched than any other pitcher in baseball history (more than 7,350 innings). Browning’s dull prose, unfortunately, leaves much to be desired, but he does give an accurate (and fascinating) account of the development of baseball that took place during Young’s career. In 1890, for example, the pitcher would deliver from a marked-off rectangular box; by 1893, the pitching rubber had replaced the box and the pitching distance was lengthened; and in 1903, the foul strike rule was adopted.

It is this historic perspective that will appeal to the diehard sports historian and to fans of old-time baseball.

Pub Date: June 1, 2000

ISBN: 1-55849-262-3

Page Count: 304

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2000

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Skloot's meticulous, riveting account strikes a humanistic balance between sociological history, venerable portraiture and...

THE IMMORTAL LIFE OF HENRIETTA LACKS

A dense, absorbing investigation into the medical community's exploitation of a dying woman and her family's struggle to salvage truth and dignity decades later.

In a well-paced, vibrant narrative, Popular Science contributor and Culture Dish blogger Skloot (Creative Writing/Univ. of Memphis) demonstrates that for every human cell put under a microscope, a complex life story is inexorably attached, to which doctors, researchers and laboratories have often been woefully insensitive and unaccountable. In 1951, Henrietta Lacks, an African-American mother of five, was diagnosed with what proved to be a fatal form of cervical cancer. At Johns Hopkins, the doctors harvested cells from her cervix without her permission and distributed them to labs around the globe, where they were multiplied and used for a diverse array of treatments. Known as HeLa cells, they became one of the world's most ubiquitous sources for medical research of everything from hormones, steroids and vitamins to gene mapping, in vitro fertilization, even the polio vaccine—all without the knowledge, must less consent, of the Lacks family. Skloot spent a decade interviewing every relative of Lacks she could find, excavating difficult memories and long-simmering outrage that had lay dormant since their loved one's sorrowful demise. Equal parts intimate biography and brutal clinical reportage, Skloot's graceful narrative adeptly navigates the wrenching Lack family recollections and the sobering, overarching realities of poverty and pre–civil-rights racism. The author's style is matched by a methodical scientific rigor and manifest expertise in the field.

Skloot's meticulous, riveting account strikes a humanistic balance between sociological history, venerable portraiture and Petri dish politics.

Pub Date: Feb. 9, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-4000-5217-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2010

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

INTO THE WILD

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 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1995

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