Continued on p. 16
survey of how NBA teams are—or aren’t—
using the mountain of data now available at the
click of a mouse. Results are varied, as Glockner shows in profiles of three “all-in” teams:
the playoff-caliber Houston Rockets, the woeful Philadelphia 76ers, and, most successfully,
the San Antonio Spurs, four-time champs this
century. There’s also a fine profile of a Santa
Barbara–based company that uses individualized, cutting-edge kinesthetics technology to
heal and even prevent injuries, and to improve
quickness and power. Solid, and just in time
for this year’s playoffs. —Alan Moores
A Different Kind of Daughter: The Girl
Who Hid from the Taliban in Plain Sight.
By Maria Toorpakai and Katharine
May 2016. 368p. Twelve, $27 (9781455591411); e-book,
$12.99 (9781455591404). 796.43.
The Taliban was watching Toorpakai. The
young squash player in Pakistan was breaking
one of the group’s cardinal rules, simply by
playing, because she was a girl. So she would
smuggle herself to practice in the trunk of the
car, where security was in place to try to keep
her—and everyone around her—safe. The story of how Toorpakai, from the fractious tribal
lands on the fringe of Pakistan, grew up defying the restrictive role assigned to women in
her society is inspiring. With the support of her
open-minded father, Toorpakai was allowed to
live most of her childhood as a boy, forsaking
her confining dresses for shorts and shirts and
playing on the streets. But it was the game of
squash, a national pastime, which captured
her single-minded passion. Her determination
would see her rise to become a national champion, and bring her to the attention of the terrorist
group. With clarity and captivating sincerity,
Toorpakai illuminates the struggles of living
under the threat of violence simply because
she dreamed of becoming her own champion.
YA: A perfect crossover book for YA
readers, who will connect with the story
of a teen’s determination in the face of
absurd restrictions. BT.
Here Comes Exterminator! The Longshot
Horse, the Great War, and the Making of
an American Hero.
By Eliza McGraw.
Apr. 2016. 320p. illus. St. Martin’s/Thomas Dunne, $26.99
(9781250065698); e-book, $12.99 (9781466872721). 798.4.
Contrary to its infomercial title, this is a be-
guiling tale of an ungainly gelding—“gawky,
awkward, and practically lop-eared,”—who
held the racing world in thrall during his ca-
reer (1917–24) and still holds the record of
33 stakes wins by a Thoroughbred raced in
North America. Under the steady hand of fu-
ture Hall of Fame trainer Henry McDaniel,
while skeptically owned by a patent-medicine
magnate, Willis Sharpe Kilmer (“That horse
isn’t fast enough to run past me”), Extermina-
tor was first used merely as a training partner
for Kilmer’s beloved Sun Briar. However, when
both trainer and owner found something amiss
with Sun Briar in the days just before the 1918
Kentucky Derby, Exterminator was substituted
and, remarkably, took the Derby by a length.
Unfolding without the fanfare of, say, a Seabis-
cuit or Man o’ War, Exterminator’s story, and
that of the quietly competent and humane Mc-
Daniel, will still secure both horse and trainer a
place in the hearts of animal lovers, and in horse
racing’s pantheon of champions. —Alan Moores
I’m Fascinated by Sacrifice Flies: Inside
the Game We All Love.
By Tim Kurkjian.
May 2016. 256p. St. Martin’s, $26.99 (9781250077936);
e-book, $12.99 (9781466890275). 796.357.
Longtime ESPN baseball analyst Kurkjian
lays out a nice seasonal platter of snacks for
fans: a salute to the box score, quirky baseball
stats (Quirkjians), player superstitions, an appreciation of Padres great Tony Gwynn (.338
lifetime batting average, five Gold Gloves as a
right fielder), the hit-by-pitch (how it looks and
feels to the batter: not good), and the punchlines only baseball, of all the major sports,
provides, like Orioles pitcher Mike Flannery’s
comment after his team’s mascot, the Bird, fell
off the roof of the dugout and needed help off
the field: “I told him to take two worms and
call me in the morning.” Ephemeral? Sure. Ungainly title? Yep. But Kurkjian’s celebrity and
the joyous contents within the covers merit the
investment. —Alan Moores
Running: A Love Story: 10 Years, 5
Marathons, and 1 Life-Changing Sport.
By Jen A. Miller.
Apr. 2016. 226p. Seal, paper, $17 (9781580056106).
As a high-school athlete, Miller viewed running as a training tool rather than a sport. Today
she is a successful freelance journalist who often
writes about running for publications ranging
from Runner’s World to the New York Times. She
frames her story around the 2013 New Jersey
Marathon, prefacing each chapter with her progression through the race and flashing back to
earlier times as she navigates personal relationships, occupational aspirations, and her goals
relating to running. Her personal story is at once
laugh-out-loud funny and heartbreaking, as she
describes her emotional and physical struggles
and triumphs. Amid the failed boyfriends,
loathing of South Philly, and love of the Jersey
Shore, Miller also includes some interesting
facts on the growing popularity of long-distance
running in America, especially among women.
The book offers a strange mix of sports and self-reflection, but anyone who has ever laced up
their trainers and set off for a jog will recognize
that duality as key to the appeal of running.
Charlotte Brontë: A Fiery Heart.
By Claire Harman.
Mar. 2016. 480p. Knopf, $30 (9780307962089). 823.
While many writers treat the talented and
intriguing Brontë sisters (Charlotte, Emily,
and Anne) as a unit, award-
winning literary biographer
Harman (Jane’s Fame: How
Jane Austen Conquered the
World, 2010) extracts the
fiery, feisty Charlotte, per-
haps the most well-known
of the talented trio, out
of the family cocoon and
straight into the hearts and minds of read-
ers who cut their literary teeth on Jane Eyre.
According to Harman, who has unearthed a
treasure trove of correspondence, Charlotte’s
remarkable fiction was grounded in her own
fervent passions. Harman reveals two episodes
of unrequited love which she argues fueled
Charlotte’s writing, experiences that now serve
to humanize a lionized literary figure who has
too often been set in stone and trapped in a
narrowly held view of her time, place, and
circumstances. Timed to coincide with the
two-hundredth anniversary of Brontë’s birth,
Harman’s knowledgeable and refreshing new
look at a familiar yet largely unknown and
routinely trivialized life is a welcome tribute
to a worthy subject. —Margaret Flanagan
Chasing the Last Laugh: Mark Twain’s
Raucous and Redemptive Round-the-
World Comedy Tour.
By Richard Zacks.
Apr. 2016. 480p. Doubleday, $29.95 (9780385536448). 818.
Who knew that for a talented author a
mountain of debts could provoke laughter
heard round the planet? In this fast-paced
chronicle, Zacks recounts how the 60-year-
old Mark Twain dissolves a huge debt incurred
through imprudent business dealings as he
sets out on a world tour exploiting his singular gift for deadpan mirth. Readers join Twain
on lecture platforms in the American West,
Australia, India, and Africa, sharing in the
mock drama and real hilarity of routines such
as “Grandfather’s Old Ram,” with its corn-pone storytelling laced with sly impiety, and
“The Golden Arm,” with its explosively amusing finale. But even as Twain draws crowds
with his jokes, he experiences the serious trials
of nineteenth-century travel—including illness and long-distance family troubles—trials
that Zacks exposes to view. And excerpts from
journals and correspondence uncover private
reflections at odds with Twain’s persona as a
gypsy comedian, as the author fumes over
the human stupidity and chicanery he sees. A
diverting—and revealing—look at a neglected episode in Twain’s life. —Bryce Christensen
The Whole Harmonium: The Life of
By Paul Mariani.
Apr. 2016. 512p. Simon & Schuster, $30
Poet and poet’s biographer Mariani (Hart
Crane, Robert Lowell, William Carlos Williams) takes on the colossally enigmatic life