Vivid rodeo life and lore for armchair cowpokes and bowlegged hands alike, by a devoted “kicker with a literary bent.”



A quixotic son of the Southwest hits the road to follow a truly American sport and, incidentally, chase his own history as well.

Stratton (Backyard Brawl, 2002), a journalist based in Austin, Texas, hailing first out of Guthrie, Okla., takes to the rodeo trail (usually leaving wife Luscaine at home) and travels to cowboy circuit venues Prescott, Cheyenne, Oklahoma City, Portland, even Las Vegas. He reports on the small-time ranch-hand contests and the major meets, on the bruising sport of the rough stock and saddle bronc riders, on the baggy pants clowns, the steer wrestlers, cowgirl barrel racers and stock contractors. Here are the professional cowboys, the ass-kickers and assorted feckless adepts of the dirt arena and open air. Here are the fierce animals and the fabled heroes. Here are Tom Mix, Bill Pickett, Yakima Canutt, Freckles Brown and Tornado, the bull he rode in on. Our guide Stratton, shod in his Luccheses, crowned in his Stetson, sketches the history of the sport from the Spanish inheritance and Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show. There may have been a touch of racism in the past, he indicates. Now, judging from the author’s research, the raw and wild rodeo world is still redolent of the smell of the stockyard along with the tang of human musk. We learn the rules of proper cowboy demeanor and appropriate dress as well as the rules of the various standard events. Certainly, it is show business, traditional and commercial. But it’s more: It’s a primeval, fierce contest between beasts and men, with rough lives and sad endings. Stratton ties his own family history into his account, including an embezzler grandfather, colorful ladies and Cowboy Don, the runaway father he never met. He chases the rodeo and Cowboy Don’s specter, and he catches and hogties them both.

Vivid rodeo life and lore for armchair cowpokes and bowlegged hands alike, by a devoted “kicker with a literary bent.”

Pub Date: May 2, 2004

ISBN: 0-15-101072-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2005

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

An absorbing, wide-ranging story of humans’ relationship with the water.


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.


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