Fascinating, surprisingly disturbing look at the layers of corruption behind the sleek facade of professional cycling.

THE SECRET RACE

INSIDE THE HIDDEN WORLD OF THE TOUR DE FRANCE: DOPING, COVER-UPS, AND WINNING AT ALL COSTS

With the assistance of Coyle (Lance Armstrong’s War, 2005, etc.), Olympic gold medalist and former professional cyclist Hamilton dishes the dirt on the clandestine culture of doping so endemic to his sport.

“I’m good at pain,” writes the author, who was a longtime U.S. Postal cycling squad teammate of Lance Armstrong. Readers soon learn that this addiction to pain is an absolute requirement to survive his pressure-cooker life as a professional cyclist, a masochistic existence that makes the physical risks run in sports like football and pro boxing look trivial. Hamilton’s story is also partly the story of once-revered cycling celeb (and now disgraced doper) Armstrong, as the two were rivals for years. Hamilton chronicles the entire rise-and-fall arc of his professional career, going from his beginnings as a clean-living anti-doping idealist in the early 1990s to becoming a slave to the intense competitive pressure to ingest a chemical smorgasbord of performance-enhancing substances just to keep up with everyone else. Any notions of cycling as a clean sport go out the window immediately. Hamilton’s unsparing account of the damaging (and often dope-fueled) physical and mental toll that top-level cycling takes on its practitioners, not to mention the constant pressure to evade drug testers and beat the drug tests themselves, is a decidedly bleak and unglamorous portrait of the sporting life. For Hamilton, compounding this maniacal all-or-nothing quest for victory was the fact that he had to constantly deal with Armstrong, who comes off as Stalin on a bike: a sociopathic rage-prone prima donna who went to great lengths to destroy the lives of those who threatened his reputation.

Fascinating, surprisingly disturbing look at the layers of corruption behind the sleek facade of professional cycling.

Pub Date: Sept. 5, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-345-53041-7

Page Count: 306

Publisher: Bantam

Review Posted Online: Oct. 23, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2012

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

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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more