Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Great stories now available @ your library

Imperfect: An Improbable Life by Jim Abbott and Tim Brown

Kirkus Reviews –

Former Major League pitcher Abbott recounts the ups and downs of his career--and how he managed to succeed despite being born without a right hand. Abbott's athletic success was perpetually viewed through the lens of his disability. His achievements, while impressive, were deemed extraordinary relative to what the average one-handed person might expect to accomplish. Such judgment rankled the principled, hard-working lefty, however, as he recounts in this chronicle of his childhood growing up in hardscrabble Flint, Mich., and subsequent rise to the majors, where he pitched for the California Angels and New York Yankees (among others). Throughout his career, Abbott fought to be evaluated based not on his remarkable ingenuity and dexterity in learning to both pitch and field so well with one hand, but rather on the merits of what he achieved on the mound. He could not, however, fail to acknowledge his status as a hero to the disabled, a burden he willingly bore throughout his career. Overall, Abbott enjoyed a marginally successful pro career with a lifetime record of 87-108. He excelled for a few seasons and even threw a no-hitter in fabled Yankee Stadium, all after being one of the nation's best college pitchers at the University of Michigan; he also won a gold medal in the 1988 Olympics. Still, as much as Abbott sought to be known solely as a pitcher rather than a one-handed pitcher, it's impossible to contextualize his career without acknowledging the incredible odds he overcame. His retrospective is appropriately modest and self-effacing, and able co-author Brown punches up an inning-by-inning recap of the no-hitter, but there's a predictability to the narrative that makes it somewhat less remarkable than it should be. Inspirational paint-by-numbers, but a worthy addition to the category of moving athlete memoirs.

Driving Mr. Yogi: Yogi Berra, Ron Guidry, and Baseball's Greatest Gift by Harvey Araton

Kirkus Reviews –

An exploration and celebration of deep friendship under the cloak of a baseball book. Other than starring in Yankee pinstripes, though not at the same time, Yogi Berra and Ron Guidry wouldn't seem to have much in common. The Hall of Fame catcher from the Italian ghetto of St. Louis and the pitcher young enough to be his son, from the Cajun swamp country of Louisiana, might not even seem to speak the same language, unless that language was baseball. Yet baseball isn't the focus of this book about the transgenerational bond forged by the two men, a story that germinated in a New York Times spring-training column written last year by Araton (When the Garden Was Eden: Clyde, the Captain, Dollar Bill, and the Glory Days of the New York Knicks, 2011, etc.). It's the story of a younger player and the idol who became his best friend. There is no talk of steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs, nor of salaries exponentially inflated since the two played. There is little about games that mattered, since much of the book concerns the spring training rituals that annually reunite the two. It's also the story of two genuinely likable, admirable athletes, though the nuanced portrait of Berra is pricklier than the cuddly caricature so often depicted. He adheres strictly to routines, from a rigid schedule to his rotation of restaurants and the meals he orders there. Guidry understands Berra well enough to know when to poke fun at him and when to protect him from the attention he most certainly doesn't crave. Other indelible characters play a part--including George Steinbrenner, whose alienation of Berra and reconciliation with him proved key in the lives of both--but this is mainly the story of two buddies and the sport over which they have bonded. A well-told tale if friendship with baseball as the backdrop.

Until Tuesday: A Wounded Warrior and the Golden Retriever Who Saved Him by Luis Carlos Montalvan and Bret Witter

Publishers Weekly –

Man's best friend stars in this memoir by an Iraq vet who returns to New York and enlists the help of a golden retriever named Tuesday to help him re-acclimate in a new world marked by a severe case of post-traumatic stress disorder. Montalván, a former captain of the US Army, is most compelling when zoning in on specifics, especially related to his psychological disorder: "The subway was a horror for my PTSD-addled brain, a nail-gripping, muscle-tensing ride in a claustrophobic tube full of faces my mind compulsively studied for signs of malicious intent." Although provided the assistance of a doctor and therapist, the commute to and from these sessions caused Montalván immense anxiety filled with hypothetical dangers. Public-speaking engagements similarly were racked with anxiety, and described vividly. Tuesday, a gentle golden retriever, became the perfect remedy for the veteran's neurosis. Though canine assistance and the Iraq war are both major characters, this is a valuable first-person glimpse into how someone with PTSD thinks.

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