Some stellar shots, a few slices and hooks, and a couple putts that hang on the lip.

THE SECRET OF GOLF

THE STORY OF TOM WATSON AND JACK NICKLAUS

An award-winning sports journalist charts the careers of and competition between Watson (the younger) and Nicklaus (the elder) as they dominated golf in the 1970s and beyond.

NBC Sports national columnist Posnanski (Paterno, 2012, etc.) scored numerous interviews with his principals over the years, but his text leans more toward the story of Watson; hovering nearby—always—is Nicklaus, whom the author declares golf’s greatest player. The author organizes the text into 18 “holes” (chapters), each of which is followed by a brief advice chapter—a sort of golfer’s guide to the game. These chapters have titles like “Play with Purpose.” Most feature Watson’s facile commentary and seem to have wandered onto Posnanski’s fairway like duffers in search of their lost balls. The principal interest here is in, well, the principals. We learn a lot about Watson: his difficult father (who never did like a shot his son hit); his obsessive, relentless practicing; his unsurpassed putting (a skill he lost later on); his right-wing politics; his bouts with alcohol when his career began to fade; his psychological makeup. We also learn about Nicklaus, though in less detail. The author reminds us of the Bear’s early-career weight problems, for example, and demonstrates the adaptations he made to his game as he aged. The golf-course battles between the two are among the highlights. Posnanski is at his best when narrating events, at his weakest when waxing philosophical. Occasionally, he clutches at cliché. “The fans were frenzied, the air felt electric,” he writes of the 1977 British Open battle between the two at Turnberry, a classic duel whose highlights readers can now revisit on YouTube. The author ends with Watson’s near-win of the Open in 2009.

Some stellar shots, a few slices and hooks, and a couple putts that hang on the lip.

Pub Date: June 9, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4767-6643-0

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: April 15, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2015

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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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