A treat for avid tennis fans.

READ REVIEW

THE CIRCUIT

A TENNIS ODYSSEY

The Paris Review sports columnist follows a nail-biting tour of men’s professional tennis.

For award-winning poet Phillips (Heaven: Poems, 2015, etc.), tennis became a “private joy” even after he stopped playing.” That sense of joy imbues his vivid recounting of one historic, emotionally roiling year: the 2017 Association of Tennis Professionals Tour. The author begins in Australia, where the first tournament of the year occurs in Brisbane on Jan. 1, in the summer heat. At that point, the two top-ranked players were Britain’s Andy Murray and Serbia’s Novak Djokovic, competitors, the author observes, who seem to be “heralds of tennis’s new form of dominance: sadistic resilience and rugged precision.” Meanwhile, “the best two players on the planet,” were Rafael Nadal, ranked 9, and Roger Federer, 16. Despite a short explanation about scoring and a 20-page glossary of terms, readers who don’t know a bagel (“to be winning or have won no games in a set”) from a breadstick (“to be winning or have won only one game in a set”) may be challenged to follow some descriptions of particular matches and the variables involved in players’ rankings, which “position players in a tournament like pieces on a chessboard,” indicating who gets to compete in qualifiers and where a player is arranged within the tournament draw. Nevertheless, Phillips conveys the relentless tension of a game where “one step in the wrong direction in the middle of one point can cause an avalanche that sweeps away any advantage, no matter its size.” Throughout the winter, Federer and Nadal crept up in rankings, and spring heralded tournaments around the world on clay courts, distinguished from other surfaces “in its erratic effects. Clay forces a player’s body to adapt or fail, a player’s mind to obey or die.” By fall, competitors’ face-offs, injuries, and brilliant strategies had eroded the “air of inevitability around the Murray-Djokovic rivalry” and led to an astonishing outcome.

A treat for avid tennis fans.

Pub Date: Nov. 20, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-374-12377-2

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Aug. 21, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2018

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more