A colorful and captivating account of a college football team’s defeats and glories.

LORDS OF SMASHMOUTH

THE UNLIKELY RISE OF AN AMERICAN PHENOMENON

Baskin, with co-author O’Bryant, offers a history of Ohio State University’s football team and its culture.

The chronicle of the famed OSU football franchise begins with a classic “If you build it, they will come” moment, reminiscent of the 1989 film Field of Dreams: “Early in the twentieth century there was an unlikely—but epochal—sports-related moment from which all other such moments derived,” he writes. “It came when a small group of like-minded men with the apparent ability to see into the future devised plans for a stadium so large it would hold three times the largest crowd that had previously seen an Ohio State game.” Baskin follows Ohio State’s story from its primitive beginnings in the spring of 1890 (when it was, as the author puts it, a “Johnny Football-come-lately” when compared to other college teams) through a procession of its greatest founding figures. Readers meet coach Francis Schmidt, “a tall fellow wearing a bow tie” who had “the talent and the stage to go national with his razzle-dazzle.” They note that famed author James Thurber was a fervent Buckeye fan who wrote, “We give place to no man in our ardor for the game as it is played at Ohio State,” adding that football “has more beauty in it than any other competitive game in the world, when played by college athletes.” They introduce coach John Cooper, Ohio State’s “first administrator,” and, most notably, legendary coach Woody Hayes, “a tough guy with an egghead streak.” And always, in the background, there’s the game itself—always changing, becoming bigger business and bigger entertainment.

The authors follow the team’s story all the way to the present day and paint a masterful portrait of Buckeye Nation. The book’s pacing is skillful, refusing the temptation to hurry things along so that they might savor choice anecdotes and bits of dialogue. Their task is immensely aided by Kale’s illustrations, which crop up throughout—languid, sketchy pen-and-ink drawings of key figures that complement the text perfectly. But it’s the authors’ storytelling powers that carry the book and make it inviting reading, even for people who have no knowledge of and little interest in the sport. One key technique that assures this is a regular broadening of its scope from the specific (with many individual games dramatically reconstructed) to the general and even the ideological: “If ever a team had been favored by the gods, it was this one,” they write of the 2002 National Championship, keeping readers hooked into the grand story they’re telling. “The entire season was an old-fashioned movie serial that ended with a cliffhanger every Saturday.” Baskin and O’Bryant don’t shy away from play-by-play specifics, but they always draw readers into the drama and the passion of Ohio State football, and they do so with gusto. Even football newcomers will finish the book wishing that Baskin and O’Bryant would give other Big Ten schools the same terrific treatment.

A colorful and captivating account of a college football team’s defeats and glories.

Pub Date: Nov. 25, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-949248-52-4

Page Count: 395

Publisher: Orange Frazer Press

Review Posted Online: June 27, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2022

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Basketball fans will enjoy Pippen’s bird’s-eye view of some of the sport’s greatest contests.

UNGUARDED

The Chicago Bulls stalwart tells all—and then some.

Hall of Famer Pippen opens with a long complaint: Yes, he’s a legend, but he got short shrift in the ESPN documentary about Michael Jordan and the Bulls, The Last Dance. Given that Jordan emerges as someone not quite friend enough to qualify as a frenemy, even though teammates for many years, the maltreatment is understandable. This book, Pippen allows, is his retort to a man who “was determined to prove to the current generation of fans that he was larger-than-life during his day—and still larger than LeBron James, the player many consider his equal, if not superior.” Coming from a hardscrabble little town in Arkansas and playing for a small college, Pippen enjoyed an unlikely rise to NBA stardom. He played alongside and against some of the greats, of whom he writes appreciatively (even Jordan). Readers will gain insight into the lives of characters such as Dennis Rodman, who “possessed an unbelievable basketball IQ,” and into the behind-the-scenes work that led to the Bulls dynasty, which ended only because, Pippen charges, the team’s management was so inept. Looking back on his early years, Pippen advocates paying college athletes. “Don’t give me any of that holier-than-thou student-athlete nonsense,” he writes. “These young men—and women—are athletes first, not students, and make up the labor that generates fortunes for their schools. They are, for lack of a better term, slaves.” The author also writes evenhandedly of the world outside basketball: “No matter how many championships I have won, and millions I have earned, I never forget the color of my skin and that some people in this world hate me just because of that.” Overall, the memoir is closely observed and uncommonly modest, given Pippen’s many successes, and it moves as swiftly as a playoff game.

Basketball fans will enjoy Pippen’s bird’s-eye view of some of the sport’s greatest contests.

Pub Date: Nov. 9, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-982165-19-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Sept. 15, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2021

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Harari delivers yet another tour de force.

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    Best Books Of 2018

  • New York Times Bestseller

21 LESSONS FOR THE 21ST CENTURY

A highly instructive exploration of “current affairs and…the immediate future of human societies.”

Having produced an international bestseller about human origins (Sapiens, 2015, etc.) and avoided the sophomore jinx writing about our destiny (Homo Deus, 2017), Harari (History/Hebrew Univ. of Jerusalem) proves that he has not lost his touch, casting a brilliantly insightful eye on today’s myriad crises, from Trump to terrorism, Brexit to big data. As the author emphasizes, “humans think in stories rather than in facts, numbers, or equations, and the simpler the story, the better. Every person, group, and nation has its own tales and myths.” Three grand stories once predicted the future. World War II eliminated the fascist story but stimulated communism for a few decades until its collapse. The liberal story—think democracy, free markets, and globalism—reigned supreme for a decade until the 20th-century nasties—dictators, populists, and nationalists—came back in style. They promote jingoism over international cooperation, vilify the opposition, demonize immigrants and rival nations, and then win elections. “A bit like the Soviet elites in the 1980s,” writes Harari, “liberals don’t understand how history deviates from its preordained course, and they lack an alternative prism through which to interpret reality.” The author certainly understands, and in 21 painfully astute essays, he delivers his take on where our increasingly “post-truth” world is headed. Human ingenuity, which enables us to control the outside world, may soon re-engineer our insides, extend life, and guide our thoughts. Science-fiction movies get the future wrong, if only because they have happy endings. Most readers will find Harari’s narrative deliciously reasonable, including his explanation of the stories (not actually true but rational) of those who elect dictators, populists, and nationalists. His remedies for wildly disruptive technology (biotech, infotech) and its consequences (climate change, mass unemployment) ring true, provided nations act with more good sense than they have shown throughout history.

Harari delivers yet another tour de force.

Pub Date: Sept. 4, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-525-51217-2

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: June 27, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2018

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