IT'S ALL ABOUT THE BIKE

THE PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS ON TWO WHEELS

An enamored history of the bicycle alongside a lifelong cyclist’s personal story of journeying to workshops throughout Europe and the United States to acquire his custom-built dream bike, part by part.

Debut author Penn finds an almost spiritual solace in cycling, riding for “a broad church of practical, physical and emotional reasons.” The author’s ability to describe the joys of bicycling—the space for thought that the rhythm creates, the freedom of swooping down a hill, the satisfaction of having pedaled to the top—is one of the book’s strengths, along with anecdotes of his experiences cycling around the world years earlier. After biking for decades on dozens of models, Penn decided it was time to choose the one: a bicycle perfectly fitted for him and made to last 30 years. He spared no expense or effort, visiting the shops where the components were handmade by craftsmen who still consider building a bike an art. Each chapter is about a different part of the bike: the frame/wheels/saddle, etc., the philosophies and personalities of their makers and the parts’ roles in the history of the machine. The prototype of a bicycle was surprisingly not invented until 1817 during a horse shortage. Pedals, ball bearings, “high-wheelers” and chains followed, and the world’s first modern bicycle, the Rover Safety, was born in 1885. The working class became mobile, the Tour de France was inaugurated in 1903, the arrival of the automobile almost eclipsed the bike and some California hippies saved the industry with the mountain bike. Penn believes the bicycle is now entering another golden age, when health and environmental concerns increase its relevancy. This chronology often folds over on itself with chapters organized around specific bike parts, but the author manages to avoid the stagnancy of linear history or the more common error of making it all about himself. If you don’t long for your own bike at the end of this book, you will at least never look at one the same way again.

 

Pub Date: May 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-60819-538-1

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: April 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2011

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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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