Golfers and golf-o-philes will gobble this down and no doubt ignore the repetitiveness that may dissuade other readers.

READ REVIEW

A COURSE CALLED SCOTLAND

SEARCHING THE HOME OF GOLF FOR THE SECRET TO ITS GAME

The author of A Course Called Ireland (2009) returns with an account of his recent travels around Scotland, where he played more than 100 courses in 57 days.

Along with his clubs and luggage, Coyne (English/St. Joseph’s Univ.) carries some personal baggage, as he was forced to leave his wife and two young daughters (though they did visit) again for an extended period to play golf. Although he dealt with some guilt early on, the feeling, at least in his account, faded, and he began to focus on his mission: playing as many courses as he could in the birthplace of golf. The author “imagined a search for the soul of the game as a long-bearded seeker, a courier of fine hickory shafts, wandering in the Highlands and playing to the sounds of bagpipes and the smells of clan-stoked bonfires. Far from any driving range, I envisaged lost answers nestled at the bottom of ancient golf holes.” The author entertains us with accounts of foul weather, fair friends (one of whom got hit in the face with a drive), and astonishing courses, some dating back centuries. Although he is an English teacher, Coyne goes light on literary allusions, though he does discuss fellow linksman and poet Billy Collins. The author played a wide variety of courses on his journey, from remote ones in Shetland and the Orkneys to perhaps the most opulent of all: Skibo, the castle and property where Andrew Carnegie once held forth. Coyne also sprinkles in bits about golf history (and the origin of the word “golf”), the design of courses, the meaning of “links.” We learn a lot about pubs, as well. The epiphanies that arrive are generally unsurprising—e.g., families are important; always try hard and pursue your dreams, etc.

Golfers and golf-o-philes will gobble this down and no doubt ignore the repetitiveness that may dissuade other readers.

Pub Date: July 3, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4767-5428-4

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 1, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2018

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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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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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