Cohen’s accounts of the team, the players, the games and the culture surrounding the Cubs are brisk and informative, and his...

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THE CHICAGO CUBS

STORY OF A CURSE

In 2016, the Chicago Cubs won the World Series for the first time since 1908—and thereby hangs this tale.

Vanity Fair and Rolling Stone contributing editor Cohen (The Sun & the Moon & the Rolling Stones, 2016, etc.), a lifelong Cubs fan, rehearses in swift, entertaining fashion the genesis of the team and its glory years (there were many early on) and long decades of mediocrity, and he introduces us to some key players over the years. Grover Cleveland Alexander, Ernie Banks, Bill Buckner, Hack Wilson, Ron Santo, Sammy Sosa: these and many other celebrated, even infamous names populate the early pages of this love story so full of broken hearts, the author’s included. The Cubs' frequent losses—and the dominance of the curse, whose origins and manifestations Cohen considers throughout—eventually drove the author to give up on the team and to quit following them. Until, of course, the resurrection, which, Cohen shows, began in 2009 when the Ricketts family purchased the franchise and made key hires, including team president Theo Epstein and manager Joe Maddon, and promising acquisitions. Finally, hope returned to reign at Wrigley Field, whose story the author also tells us. The concluding 60 or so pages deal with the newly risen Cubs, who didn’t quite make it in 2015 but who defeated the Cleveland Indians in seven games in 2016 to finally break the curse. The author provides smooth summaries of each of the seven contests, calling Game 7 “the greatest baseball game of all time.” (Tribe fans may disagree.)

Cohen’s accounts of the team, the players, the games and the culture surrounding the Cubs are brisk and informative, and his many personal stories, strung like holiday lights throughout the narrative, illuminate a fan’s frangible heart that annually repaired itself.

Pub Date: Oct. 3, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-374-12092-4

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Aug. 21, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2017

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

WHY WE SWIM

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. 5, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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