If you’re wondering why Ali is called “The Greatest,” this unchallenging but pleasant memoir makes for a good place to start.

RUNNING WITH THE CHAMP

MY FORTY-YEAR FRIENDSHIP WITH MUHAMMAD ALI

An affectionate portrait of boxing legend Muhammad Ali.

Shanahan, a medical technology salesman whose job required him to be on hand during some gnarly surgeries, met Ali as a volunteer with a Chicago-area charity that put athletes together with at-risk kids from the city’s “poorest and most crime-ridden neighborhoods,” not much different from the ones surrounding the boxer’s childhood home in Louisville. He approached Ali in the fall of 1975 to enlist his help, and, somewhat to his surprise, he found Ali both willing to participate and much more affable than his tough exterior might suggest, with “a million closest friends” in the bargain. Not that Ali—as fascinated by Shanahan’s up-close looks into the body as Shanahan was in Ali (“I think he still had a hard time imagining that I started my workday looking into open chest cavities”)—wasn’t plenty tough in the ring, but this account is mostly set in the world outside the arena. Charming moments abound, as when Ali and Shanahan head out for ice cream and encounter a roomful of customers made nervous by the presence of someone so famous, to which Ali responds by waving them over and saying to one young girl, “I am Muhammad Ali, the heavyweight champion of the world, and now you can tell your children and grandchildren that you and your daddy had ice cream with me at 31 Flavors.” One example of kindness follows another, with pointed contrasts with other famous figures in Ali’s circle—Bill Cosby, for instance, who emerges looking every bit as bad as in recent headlines. One of the finest episodes goes even further, though, and finds Ali behaving as nothing short of a hero, talking a trouble Vietnam veteran out of suicide high atop a Los Angeles building.

If you’re wondering why Ali is called “The Greatest,” this unchallenging but pleasant memoir makes for a good place to start.

Pub Date: June 7, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5011-0230-1

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 2, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2016

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Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

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UNTAMED

More life reflections from the bestselling author on themes of societal captivity and the catharsis of personal freedom.

In her third book, Doyle (Love Warrior, 2016, etc.) begins with a life-changing event. “Four years ago,” she writes, “married to the father of my three children, I fell in love with a woman.” That woman, Abby Wambach, would become her wife. Emblematically arranged into three sections—“Caged,” “Keys,” “Freedom”—the narrative offers, among other elements, vignettes about the soulful author’s girlhood, when she was bulimic and felt like a zoo animal, a “caged girl made for wide-open skies.” She followed the path that seemed right and appropriate based on her Catholic upbringing and adolescent conditioning. After a downward spiral into “drinking, drugging, and purging,” Doyle found sobriety and the authentic self she’d been suppressing. Still, there was trouble: Straining an already troubled marriage was her husband’s infidelity, which eventually led to life-altering choices and the discovery of a love she’d never experienced before. Throughout the book, Doyle remains open and candid, whether she’s admitting to rigging a high school homecoming court election or denouncing the doting perfectionism of “cream cheese parenting,” which is about “giving your children the best of everything.” The author’s fears and concerns are often mirrored by real-world issues: gender roles and bias, white privilege, racism, and religion-fueled homophobia and hypocrisy. Some stories merely skim the surface of larger issues, but Doyle revisits them in later sections and digs deeper, using friends and familial references to personify their impact on her life, both past and present. Shorter pieces, some only a page in length, manage to effectively translate an emotional gut punch, as when Doyle’s therapist called her blooming extramarital lesbian love a “dangerous distraction.” Ultimately, the narrative is an in-depth look at a courageous woman eager to share the wealth of her experiences by embracing vulnerability and reclaiming her inner strength and resiliency.

Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

Pub Date: March 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-0125-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

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BECOMING

The former first lady opens up about her early life, her journey to the White House, and the eight history-making years that followed.

It’s not surprising that Obama grew up a rambunctious kid with a stubborn streak and an “I’ll show you” attitude. After all, it takes a special kind of moxie to survive being the first African-American FLOTUS—and not only survive, but thrive. For eight years, we witnessed the adversity the first family had to face, and now we get to read what it was really like growing up in a working-class family on Chicago’s South Side and ending up at the world’s most famous address. As the author amply shows, her can-do attitude was daunted at times by racism, leaving her wondering if she was good enough. Nevertheless, she persisted, graduating from Chicago’s first magnet high school, Princeton, and Harvard Law School, and pursuing careers in law and the nonprofit world. With her characteristic candor and dry wit, she recounts the story of her fateful meeting with her future husband. Once they were officially a couple, her feelings for him turned into a “toppling blast of lust, gratitude, fulfillment, wonder.” But for someone with a “natural resistance to chaos,” being the wife of an ambitious politician was no small feat, and becoming a mother along the way added another layer of complexity. Throw a presidential campaign into the mix, and even the most assured woman could begin to crack under the pressure. Later, adjusting to life in the White House was a formidable challenge for the self-described “control freak”—not to mention the difficulty of sparing their daughters the ugly side of politics and preserving their privacy as much as possible. Through it all, Obama remained determined to serve with grace and help others through initiatives like the White House garden and her campaign to fight childhood obesity. And even though she deems herself “not a political person,” she shares frank thoughts about the 2016 election.

An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6313-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2018

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