Quick Review: CAN’T KNOCK THE HUSTLE by Matt Sullivan (Dey Street Books)

SullivanM-CantKnockTheHustleUSA behind-the-scenes account of the 2019-2020 NBA season, by way of the notorious Brooklyn Nets and basketball’s renaissance as a cultural force beyond the game.

The Nets were already the most intriguing startup in the NBA: a team of influencers, entrepreneurs and activists, starring the controversial Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. But this dynasty-in-the-making got disrupted by the unforeseen. One tweet launched an international scandal, pitting the team’s Chinese owner and the league’s commissioner against its players and LeBron James. The sudden death of Kobe Bryant, after making his final public appearance in Brooklyn, sent shockwaves through a turbulent season.

Then came the unimaginable. A global pandemic and a new civil-rights movement put basketball’s trend-setting status to the ultimate test, as business and culture followed the lead of the NBA and its empowered stars. No team intersected with the extremes of 2020 quite like the Brooklyn Nets, and Matt Sullivan had a courtside view.

Can’t Knock the Hustle crosses from on the court, where underdogs confront A-listers like Jay-Z and James Harden, to off the court, as players march through the streets of Brooklyn, provoke Donald Trump at the White House, and boycott the NBA’s bubble experiment in Disney World. 

Hundreds of interviews — with Hall-of-Famers, All-Stars, executives, coaches and power-brokers across the world — provide a backdrop of the NBA’s impact on social media, race, politics, health, fashion, fame and fandom, for a portrait of a time when sports brought us back together again, like never before. 

Matt Sullivan’s Can’t Knock the Hustle is, quite possibly, one of the best basketball books available. Counterintuitively, this is in large part because it’s not all about basketball — rather, the Brooklyn Nets and other athletes and personnel who make an appearance, are a lens through which readers see the changing political and social landscape of America. Expertly written, I really enjoyed this. Continue reading

Upcoming: CAN’T KNOCK THE HUSTLE by Matt Sullivan (Dey Street Books)

SullivanM-CantKnockTheHustleUSEver since Kevin Durant said he was going to leave the Warriors and go to the Nets, the Brooklyn team has been creating a bigger stir than normal. Fellow superstar Kyrie Irving also joined the team in 2019. Steve Nash was named their new coach. Then, following a rather strange series of events last month, the Nets added another superstar in James Harden. The Nets are currently #2 in the East, and with the three powerhouse players, it’s almost inevitable that they’ll get deep into the playoffs, if not make the finals. It’s safe to say that interest in the team is high. This summer, some of that interest will be served by Matt Sullivan‘s new book, Can’t Knock the Hustle. Pitched as “David Halberstam’s classic The Breaks of the Game meets Michael Lewis’s Moneyball for the modern age”, it covers “the Season of Protest, Pandemic, and Progress with the Brooklyn Nets’ Superstars of Tomorrow”. Here’s the full synopsis:

An award-winning journalist’s behind-the-scenes account from the epicenter of sports, social justice and coronavirus — a lasting chronicle of the historic 2019-2020 NBA season, by way of the notorious Brooklyn Nets and basketball’s renaissance as a cultural force beyond the game.

The Brooklyn Nets were already the most intriguing startup in sports: a team full of influencers, entrepreneurs and activists at the heart of American culture, starring the controversial Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. But this dynasty-in-the-making got disrupted by the unforeseen. One tweet launched an international scandal pitting Brooklyn’s Chinese owner and the NBA’s commissioner against its players and LeBron James. Then came the death of Kobe Bryant, a tragic shock in an already turbulent season, as the league re-launched into a world of uncertainty with the entertainment business following its lead: Covid-19 and a new civil-rights movement put basketball’s role in society to the ultimate test — and no team intersected with the extremes of 2020 quite like the Brooklyn Nets.

Can’t Knock the Hustle crosses from on the court, where underdogs confront A-listers like Jay-Z and James Harden, to off the court, as players march through the streets of Brooklyn, provoke Donald Trump at the White House and fight for social justice from the NBA’s bubble experiment in Disney World. 

Hundreds of interviews — with Hall-of-Famers, All-Stars, executives, coaches and power-brokers from across the globe — provide a backdrop of the NBA’s impact on social media, race, politics, health, fashion, fame and fandom, for a portrait of a time when sports brought us back together again, like never before.

Matt Sullivan’s Can’t Knock the Hustle is due to be published by Dey Street Books in North America and in the UK, on June 22nd, 2021.

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads, Twitter

Review(ish): FARGO ROCK CITY by Chuck Klosterman and TWILIGHT OF THE GODS by Steven Hyden

KlostermanC-FargoRockCityUSChuck Klosterman and Steven Hyden are great guides to the worlds of rock and metal music, and their respective (and oft-overlapping) fandoms. In the two books covered in this feature, they examine the bands that meant the most to them, how their music fandom shaped their youths, and also the changes in the industry and soundscapes of the years that forged their tastes. Klosterman’s book is more connected to his own biography, while Hyden’s takes a more in-depth, long-view examination of what makes some rock music “classic”, and how the genre’s mythology has become ever more contentious and troubling. Both authors are passionate music fans and eloquently opinionated. As a result, they are also great guides to rock and metal music. If you have any interest in rock and metal music, then I would certainly recommend these two books. Continue reading

Eight Quick Audiobook Reviews

AudioBookReviews-20160901

A quick round-up of recent audiobook ‘reads’, with thanks to Audible UK for the review credits (except for the first reviewed, which I borrow from the Toronto Public Library). I’ve kept the reviews very short on purpose. I’ll try to keep on top of these reviews in a more timely manner in the future.

Featuring: Philip Delves-Broughton, Irin Carmon, Jessi Klein, Shana Knizhnik, Antonio Garcia Martinez, Randall Munroe, Nick Offerman, Richard Porter, Amy Schumer Continue reading

Upcoming: THE WORLD ACCORDING TO STAR WARS by Cass R. Sunstein (Dey Street)

SunsteinCR-WorldAccordingToStarWarsUKJust spotted this on Harper Collins UK’s website, and thought it looked interesting. Cass R. Sunstein is a law professor at Harvard, and also worked for the Obama administration during the first term. I’m familiar with some of Sunstein’s scholarly work, and I think it’ll be interesting to see what he has to say about Star Wars. Here’s the synopsis:

An original celebration of George Lucas’s masterpiece as it relates to history, presidential politics, law, economics, fatherhood, and culture by a Harvard legal scholar and former White House advisor

There’s Santa Claus, Shakespeare, Mickey Mouse, The Bible, and then there’s Star Wars. Nothing quite compares to sitting with down with a young child and hearing the sound of John Williams’ score as those beloved golden letters fill the screen. In this fun, erudite and often moving book, Cass R. Sunstein explores the lessons of Star Wars as they relate to childhood, fathers, the Dark Side, rebellion, and redemption. As it turns out, Star Wars also has a lot to teach us about constitutional law, economics, and political uprisings.

In rich detail, Sunstein tells story of the films’ wildly unanticipated success and what it has to say about why some things succeed while others fail. Ultimately, Sunstein argues, Star Wars is about the freedom of choice and our never-ending ability to make the right decision when the chips are down. Written with buoyant prose and considerable heart, The World According to Star Wars shines new light on the most beloved story of our time.

The World According to Star Wars is due to be published on May 31st in the US and Canada, and June 2nd in the UK. I’m looking forward to reading this book.

Review: SLASH by Slash, w. Anthony Bozza (Dey Street Books)

SlashMy second Guns ‘n’ Roses autobiography

Guns ‘n’ Roses’ Use Your Illusion I was the first album I ever bought for myself. It remains one of my favourite albums. I have always been interested in Guns ‘n’ Roses. After the initial break-up of the original line-up, I followed and waited for news about what the band would get up to. As with many fans, though, I eventually lost interest in waiting for new GnR music and found more enjoyment in following the members’ other bands — for example, Velvet Revolver and Slash’s Snakepit and, now, Slash’s eponymous solo-project (R&F’nR is one of my favourite albums of his music).

I recently read and loved Duff McKagan’s autobiography, It’s So Easy, which gave a fantastic, readable account of Guns ‘n’ Roses (relatively) short rocket to fame and stardom from the perspective of a single member. McKagan was respectful of others’ perspectives, and never guessed his bandmates’ opinions or positions, nor spoke for them. As soon as I finished It’s So Easy, I went out and picked up Slash. I think it’s safe to say that Slash is one of the greatest living guitar players, and I was eager to learn his side of the G’n’R story, and also read about his other music endeavours (Velvet RevolverSlash’s Snakepit, for example). This eponymous memoir is very good, quite exhaustive (without being exhausting), brutally honest, and accessibly written. It has a few minor flaws, but it was certainly a good read. Continue reading

Audio Review: YES PLEASE by Amy Poehler (Harper Collins/Audible)

PoehlerA-YesPleaseAn amusing, interesting idiosyncratic memoir

Do you want to get to know the woman we first came to love on Comedy Central’s Upright Citizens Brigade? Do you want to spend some time with the lady who made you howl with laughter on Saturday Night Live, and in movies like Baby Mama, Blades of Glory, and They Came Together? Do you find yourself daydreaming about hanging out with the actor behind the brilliant Leslie Knope on Parks and Recreation? Did you wish you were in the audience at the last two Golden Globes ceremonies, so you could bask in the hilarity of Amy’s one-liners?

If your answer to these questions is “Yes Please!” then you are in luck. In her first book, one of our most beloved funny folk delivers a smart, pointed, and ultimately inspirational read. Full of the comedic skill that makes us all love Amy, Yes Please is a rich and varied collection of stories, lists, poetry (Plastic Surgery Haiku, to be specific), photographs, mantras and advice. With chapters like “Treat Your Career Like a Bad Boyfriend,” “Plain Girl Versus the Demon” and “The Robots Will Kill Us All” Yes Please will make you think as much as it will make you laugh. Honest, personal, real, and righteous,Yes Please is full of words to live by.

I’m not actually too familiar with Poehler’s most famous work — save for a few SNL skits (mostly those with Tina Fey), Undeclared, and a couple of episodes of Parks & Recreation, I haven’t really seen much of what she’s done and been in. Nevertheless, I’ve enjoyed what I have seen, so I was interested in listening to Yes Please. I was not disappointed: this is a fun, lively and welcoming memoir. It’s not linear, and Poehler jumps about a bit in her narrative, but it is always interesting and entertaining. Continue reading