A glimpse into the life of a sports legend whose story is still being written.

SHO-TIME

THE INSIDE STORY OF SHOHEI OHTANI AND THE GREATEST BASEBALL SEASON EVER PLAYED

He’s an ace pitcher. He’s a power-hitting designated hitter. And he’s still something of a mystery.

In a sport that has struggled mightily to groom household names in recent years, Shohei Ohtani (b. 1994) is a legitimate celebrity. A once-in-a-generation talent both on the mound and at the plate, the Japanese player became the subject of a bidding frenzy in 2017 when he decided to leave his homeland's major leagues to play in Major League Baseball. Ohtani opted to play for the Los Angeles Angels and struggled to find his footing thanks to injuries, Tommy John surgery, and a pandemic-shortened 2020 season. But he was still the American League Rookie of the Year in 2018, and 2021 was a breakout year: He pitched 157 strikeouts, posted an excellent 3.18 ERA, hit 46 home runs and 10 triples, and was named AL MVP. Who is this guy? Fletcher, a beat reporter for the Angels, scored excellent access to the front-office maneuverings behind Ohtani’s signing and to coaches and teammates amazed at his talents. (Angels manager Joe Maddon wrote the book’s foreword.) But Ohtani himself, who generally avoids one-on-one interviews, offers little beyond game-specific comments, and the book sometimes drowns in stats, details about finger blisters, and innocuous quotes. In fact, the narrative is often livelier when the focus isn’t directly on Ohtani, as when Fletcher catches up with a husband-and-wife pair who obsessively attend Ohtani’s games, details forgotten two-way players in the Negro Leagues, and explores just why two-way players are so rare (partly talent, partly the business of baseball). If Ohtani has interests beyond the game, Fletcher hasn’t uncovered them, but Ohtani’s laser focus plainly pays dividends. He belongs to “a super small class,” one rival GM says. “There’s one in the world.”

A glimpse into the life of a sports legend whose story is still being written.

Pub Date: July 12, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-635-76797-1

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Diversion Books

Review Posted Online: April 27, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2022

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A conversational, pleasurable look into McConaughey’s life and thought.

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GREENLIGHTS

All right, all right, all right: The affable, laconic actor delivers a combination of memoir and self-help book.

“This is an approach book,” writes McConaughey, adding that it contains “philosophies that can be objectively understood, and if you choose, subjectively adopted, by either changing your reality, or changing how you see it. This is a playbook, based on adventures in my life.” Some of those philosophies come in the form of apothegms: “When you can design your own weather, blow in the breeze”; “Simplify, focus, conserve to liberate.” Others come in the form of sometimes rambling stories that never take the shortest route from point A to point B, as when he recounts a dream-spurred, challenging visit to the Malian musician Ali Farka Touré, who offered a significant lesson in how disagreement can be expressed politely and without rancor. Fans of McConaughey will enjoy his memories—which line up squarely with other accounts in Melissa Maerz’s recent oral history, Alright, Alright, Alright—of his debut in Richard Linklater’s Dazed and Confused, to which he contributed not just that signature phrase, but also a kind of too-cool-for-school hipness that dissolves a bit upon realizing that he’s an older guy on the prowl for teenage girls. McConaughey’s prep to settle into the role of Wooderson involved inhabiting the mind of a dude who digs cars, rock ’n’ roll, and “chicks,” and he ran with it, reminding readers that the film originally had only three scripted scenes for his character. The lesson: “Do one thing well, then another. Once, then once more.” It’s clear that the author is a thoughtful man, even an intellectual of sorts, though without the earnestness of Ethan Hawke or James Franco. Though some of the sentiments are greeting card–ish, this book is entertaining and full of good lessons.

A conversational, pleasurable look into McConaughey’s life and thought.

Pub Date: Oct. 20, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-13913-4

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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A virtuoso performance and an ode to an undervalued medium created by two talented artists.

A WEALTH OF PIGEONS

A CARTOON COLLECTION

The veteran actor, comedian, and banjo player teams up with the acclaimed illustrator to create a unique book of cartoons that communicates their personalities.

Martin, also a prolific author, has always been intrigued by the cartoons strewn throughout the pages of the New Yorker. So when he was presented with the opportunity to work with Bliss, who has been a staff cartoonist at the magazine since 1997, he seized the moment. “The idea of a one-panel image with or without a caption mystified me,” he writes. “I felt like, yeah, sometimes I’m funny, but there are these other weird freaks who are actually funny.” Once the duo agreed to work together, they established their creative process, which consisted of working forward and backward: “Forwards was me conceiving of several cartoon images and captions, and Harry would select his favorites; backwards was Harry sending me sketched or fully drawn cartoons for dialogue or banners.” Sometimes, he writes, “the perfect joke occurs two seconds before deadline.” There are several cartoons depicting this method, including a humorous multipanel piece highlighting their first meeting called “They Meet,” in which Martin thinks to himself, “He’ll never be able to translate my delicate and finely honed droll notions.” In the next panel, Bliss thinks, “I’m sure he won’t understand that the comic art form is way more subtle than his blunt-force humor.” The team collaborated for a year and created 150 cartoons featuring an array of topics, “from dogs and cats to outer space and art museums.” A witty creation of a bovine family sitting down to a gourmet meal and one of Dumbo getting his comeuppance highlight the duo’s comedic talent. What also makes this project successful is the team’s keen understanding of human behavior as viewed through their unconventional comedic minds.

A virtuoso performance and an ode to an undervalued medium created by two talented artists.

Pub Date: Nov. 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-26289-9

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Celadon Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 31, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2020

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