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

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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Effectively sobering. Suffice it to say that Pop Warner parents will want to armor their kids from head to toe upon reading...

CONCUSSION

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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