A truly rounded, fully fleshed portrait of a significant 20th-century figure.

JIM BROWN

LAST MAN STANDING

One of the greatest—and most controversial—athletes of all time gets a well-balanced biographical and historical treatment.

Jim Brown (b. 1936) is arguably the best football player in the history of the sport, a truly larger-than-life figure who may have also been the best lacrosse player ever. “From the moment he stepped onto a playing field,” writes Nation sports editor Zirin (Brazil's Dance with the Devil: The World Cup, the Olympics, and the Fight for Democracy, 2014, etc.), “the operative emotion expressed in describing Jim Brown has been reverence.” Few would argue, but as always in Zirin’s books, the playing field is only one element of the narrative equation. The author ticks all the biographical boxes—multisport star in both high school and college; tumultuous career at Syracuse, where he truly began to understand the scourge of racism; Hall of Fame career with the Cleveland Browns; up-and-down forays into Hollywood; lifelong activism—but what is most refreshing about this book is Zirin’s focus on Brown’s character, both awe-inspiring and highly flawed. Brown has spent his life fighting racism and advocating for economic and social justice for the black community, but he has also been accused of rampant misogyny and instances of violence against women. He has brought together rival gang members in his own home but also managed to shut out some of those closest to him due to stubbornness to remain on top in a “world of competing male egos and unfettered ids.” As Zirin notes, for Brown, maintaining his manhood—however he conceives of it—has been the most important driving factor of his life. Brown simply refuses to be “soft” in any way, and he is not shy about criticizing the current athletes who, writes the author, “have fumbled the baton passed to them and surrendered an awesome opportunity to affect seismic social change.” Zirin, who spent considerable time with Brown, deftly navigates this rocky terrain, providing ample room for Brown to tell his own story and for others to weigh in as well.

A truly rounded, fully fleshed portrait of a significant 20th-century figure.

Pub Date: June 12, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-399-17344-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Blue Rider Press

Review Posted Online: March 19, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2018

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Skloot's meticulous, riveting account strikes a humanistic balance between sociological history, venerable portraiture and...

THE IMMORTAL LIFE OF HENRIETTA LACKS

A dense, absorbing investigation into the medical community's exploitation of a dying woman and her family's struggle to salvage truth and dignity decades later.

In a well-paced, vibrant narrative, Popular Science contributor and Culture Dish blogger Skloot (Creative Writing/Univ. of Memphis) demonstrates that for every human cell put under a microscope, a complex life story is inexorably attached, to which doctors, researchers and laboratories have often been woefully insensitive and unaccountable. In 1951, Henrietta Lacks, an African-American mother of five, was diagnosed with what proved to be a fatal form of cervical cancer. At Johns Hopkins, the doctors harvested cells from her cervix without her permission and distributed them to labs around the globe, where they were multiplied and used for a diverse array of treatments. Known as HeLa cells, they became one of the world's most ubiquitous sources for medical research of everything from hormones, steroids and vitamins to gene mapping, in vitro fertilization, even the polio vaccine—all without the knowledge, must less consent, of the Lacks family. Skloot spent a decade interviewing every relative of Lacks she could find, excavating difficult memories and long-simmering outrage that had lay dormant since their loved one's sorrowful demise. Equal parts intimate biography and brutal clinical reportage, Skloot's graceful narrative adeptly navigates the wrenching Lack family recollections and the sobering, overarching realities of poverty and pre–civil-rights racism. The author's style is matched by a methodical scientific rigor and manifest expertise in the field.

Skloot's meticulous, riveting account strikes a humanistic balance between sociological history, venerable portraiture and Petri dish politics.

Pub Date: Feb. 9, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-4000-5217-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2010

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A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor...

INTO THE WILD

The excruciating story of a young man on a quest for knowledge and experience, a search that eventually cooked his goose, told with the flair of a seasoned investigative reporter by Outside magazine contributing editor Krakauer (Eiger Dreams, 1990). 

Chris McCandless loved the road, the unadorned life, the Tolstoyan call to asceticism. After graduating college, he took off on another of his long destinationless journeys, this time cutting all contact with his family and changing his name to Alex Supertramp. He was a gent of strong opinions, and he shared them with those he met: "You must lose your inclination for monotonous security and adopt a helter-skelter style of life''; "be nomadic.'' Ultimately, in 1992, his terms got him into mortal trouble when he ran up against something—the Alaskan wild—that didn't give a hoot about Supertramp's worldview; his decomposed corpse was found 16 weeks after he entered the bush. Many people felt McCandless was just a hubris-laden jerk with a death wish (he had discarded his map before going into the wild and brought no food but a bag of rice). Krakauer thought not. Admitting an interest that bordered on obsession, he dug deep into McCandless's life. He found a willful, reckless, moody boyhood; an ugly little secret that sundered the relationship between father and son; a moral absolutism that agitated the young man's soul and drove him to extremes; but he was no more a nutcase than other pilgrims. Writing in supple, electric prose, Krakauer tries to make sense of McCandless (while scrupulously avoiding off-the-rack psychoanalysis): his risky behavior and the rites associated with it, his asceticism, his love of wide open spaces, the flights of his soul.

A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor will it to readers of Krakauer's narrative. (4 maps) (First printing of 35,000; author tour)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-679-42850-X

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Villard

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1995

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