Very Quick Review: BETABALL by Erik Malinowski (Atria)

MalinowskiE-BetaballUSHow the Warriors came to dominate the league

Betaball is the definitive, inside account of how the Golden State Warriors, under the ownership of venture capitalist Joe Lacob and Hollywood producer Peter Guber, quickly became one of the greatest success stories in both sports and business.

In just five years, they turned a declining franchise with no immediate hope into the NBA’s dominant force — and facilitated the rise of All-Star point guard Stephen Curry. By operating in “beta,” the Warriors morphed into a model organization for American professional sports, instituting the best workplace principles found inside the world’s most successful corporations, and instilling a top-down organizational ethos that allows employees — from the front office to the free-throw line — to thrive.

With in-depth access and meticulous reporting on and off the court, acclaimed journalist Eric Malinowski recounts a gripping tale of a team’s reinvention, of worlds colliding, of ordinary people being pushed to extraordinary heights, and the Golden State Warriors’ chase for a second straight NBA championship during the 2015-’16 season.

Journalist Erik Malinowski offers an engaging, well-written account of how the Golden State Warriors rose from a moribund franchise into the juggernaut of the 2010s. This is the sixth book I’ve read about the Warriors or people connected to the winning organization. Given their dominance during the 2010s, coinciding with a rise in global popularity, it’s not surprising that they have proven such good fodder for books. Betaball is a well-written, engaging and briskly-paced account of the team’s rise, and I enjoyed it. Continue reading

Upcoming: SON OF ELSEWHERE by Elamin Abdelmahmoud (McClellan & Stewart/Ballantine)

AbdelmahmoudE-SonOfElsewhereCAHCI first heard of Elamin Abdelmahmoud‘s upcoming memoir, Son of Elsewhere via Twitter — as is so often the case, I’ve forgotten who it was who Tweeted about it, or re-tweeted a mention. Regardless, my attention was grabbed by the Canadian cover and interest further piqued by the synopsis. As a relatively new Canadian myself, I’m also interested in reading about other people’s immigrant experiences here. Really looking forward to reading this. Check out the synopsis:

From one of the most beloved media personalities of his generation comes a one-of-a-kind reflection on Blackness, faith, language, pop culture, and the challenges and rewards of finding your way in the world.

Professional wrestling super fandom, Ontario’s endlessly unfurling 401 highway, late nights at the convenience store listening to heavy metal — for writer and podcast host Elamin Abdelmahmoud, these are the building blocks of a life. Son of Elsewhere charts that life in wise, funny, and moving reflections on the many threads that weave together into an identity.

AbdelmahmoudE-SonOfElsewhereUSHCArriving in Canada at age 12 from Sudan, Elamin’s teenage years were spent trying on new ways of being in the world, new ways of relating to his almost universally white peers. His isa story of yearning to belong in a time and place where expectation and assumptions around race, faith, language, and origin make such belonging extremely difficult, but it’s also a story of the surprising and unexpected ways in which connection and acceptance can be found.

In this extraordinary debut collection, the process of growing — of trying, failing, and trying again to fit in — is cast against the backdrop of the memory of life in a different time, and different place — a Khartoum being bombed by the United States, a nation seeking to define and understand itself against global powers of infinite reach.

Taken together, these essays explore how we pick and choose from our experience and environment to help us in the ongoing project of defining who we are — how, for instance, the example of Mo Salah, the profound grief practices of Islam, the nerdy charm of The O.C.’s Seth Cohen, and the long shadow of colonialism can cohere into a new and powerful whole.

With the perfect balance of relatable humor and intellectual ferocity, Son of Elsewhere confronts what we know about ourselves, and most important, what we’re still learning.

Elamin Abdelmahmoud’s Son of Elsewhere is due to be published on May 17th by McClellan & Stewart in Canada, and Ballantine Books in the US. (At the time of writing, I couldn’t find any information about a UK edition.)

Follow the Author: Goodreads, Twitter

Upcoming: ROGUES by Patrick Radden Keefe (Doubleday)

KeefePR-RoguesUSHCEmpire of Pain by Patrick Radden Keefe is one of my favourite reads from last year. A detailed, gripping biography of the Sackler family and the scourge they unleashed with the development and aggressive marketing of oxycontin. This summer, Doubleday (North America) and Picador (UK) are due to publish Rogues: a new collection of his New Yorker articles and profiles.

ROGUES brings together a dozen of his most celebrated articles from The New Yorker.  As Keefe says in his preface “They reflect on some of my abiding preoccupations:  crime and corruption, secrets and lies, the permeable membrane separating licit and illicit worlds, the bonds of family, the power of denial.”

Keefe brilliantly explores the intricacies of forging $150,000 vintage wines, examines whether a whistleblower who dared to expose money laundering at a Swiss bank is a hero or a fabulist, spends time in Vietnam with Anthony Bourdain, chronicles the quest to bring down a cheerful international black market arms merchant, and profiles a passionate death penalty attorney who represents the “worst of the worst,” among other bravura works of literary journalism.

The appearance of his byline in The New Yorker is always an event, and collected here for the first time readers can see his work forms an always enthralling but deeply human portrait of criminals and rascals, as well as those who stand up against them.

One of my most-anticipated non-fiction books of the year, Rogues is due to be published in North America on June 28th, and in the UK on July 7th.

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads, Twitter

Very Quick Review: ACT LIKE YOU GOT SOME SENSE by Jamie Foxx (Grand Central Publishing)

FoxxJ-ActLikeYouGotSomeSenseFoxx shares the story of being raised by his no-nonsense grandmother, the glamour and pitfalls of life in Hollywood, and the lessons he took from both worlds to raise his two daughters.

Jamie Foxx has won an Academy Award and a Grammy Award, laughed with sitting presidents, and partied with the biggest names in hip-hop. But he is most proud of his role as father to two very independent young women, Corinne and Anelise. Jamie might not always know what he’s doing when it comes to raising girls — especially when they talk to him about TikTok (PlikPlok?) and don’t share his enthusiasm for flashy Rolls Royces — but he does his best to show up for them every single day.

Luckily, he has a strong example to follow: his beloved late grandmother, Estelle Marie Talley. Jamie learned everything he knows about parenting from the fierce woman who raised him: As he puts it, she’s “Madea before Tyler Perry put on the pumps and the gray wig.”

In Act Like You Got Some Sense — a title inspired by Estelle — Jamie shares up close and personal stories about the tough love and old-school values he learned growing up in the small town of Terrell, Texas; his early days trying to make it in Hollywood; the joys and challenges of achieving stardom; and how each phase of his life shaped his parenting journey. Hilarious, poignant, and always brutally honest, this is Jamie Foxx like we’ve never seen him before.

I first came across Jamie Foxx’s work in Any Given Sunday. (In my late teens, I went through a football movie/TV phase.) He stole many of the scenes he was in, easily holding his own opposite Al Pacino and others. Since then, I’ve seen quite a few of his movies. I did not, however, really know anything about him. So, when I had the chance to review his new memoir, I jumped at the chance. It’s an interesting, honest, often funny memoir and examination of his experiences and the choices he’s made in life. I really enjoyed it. Continue reading

Upcoming: THEY SHOULDN’T HAVE KILLED HIS DOG by Edward Gross & Mark A. Altman (St. Martin’s Press)

GrossAltman-TheyShouldntHaveKilledHisDogUSHCLike many, I am a big fan of Keanu Reeves. Ever since his superb supporting part in Parenthood, I’ve always been on the look-out for new projects in which he appears. The Matrix blew my mind, Bill & Ted are totally awesome, The Replacements is still entertaining after multiple re-watches (even if they did rip off a lot of jokes from Little Giants — a movie I watched for the first time last week). And then there’s John Wick: Reeves’s most recent franchise, an extravaganza of action, violence, and superb world-building. Fans of the series will be happy to learn that, in May, St. Martin’s Press is due to publish They Shouldn’t Have Killed His Dog, an oral history of the franchise by Edward Gross and Mark A. Altman.

There have been iconic moments in the action movie genre over the years, but nothing has come close to matching the kinetic, balletic gun-fu of the John Wick films.

In They Shouldn’t Have Killed His Dog: The Complete Uncensored Ass-Kicking Oral History of John Wick, Gun-Fu and The New Age of Action, bestselling authors Mark A. Altman and Edward Gross take you behind the scenes of a franchise that includes three films with more on the way, while exploring the action classics that led to John Wick as well as the films it inspired, like Atomic Blonde. They bring you right into the middle of the action of the John Wick films, detailing how the seemingly impossible was achieved through exclusive interviews with the cast, writers, directors, producers, stuntmen, fight choreographers, cinematographers, studio executives, editors, critics, and more. Together, they break down key action sequences while also providing a look back at the road the action genre has taken that led to John Wick, and a look at the character itself, an anti-hero who carries on the grand tradition of Clint Eastwood’s Man with No Name, but with a twist — and a never-ending supply of ammo — while showcasing the enduring appeal of the action movie as well as John Wick’s unique reinvention of the genre.

Really looking forward to reading this. They Shouldn’t Have Killed His Dog is due to be published by St. Martin’s Press in North America and in the UK, on May 17th.

Follow the Author (Gross): Website, Goodreads, Twitter
Follow the Author (Altman):
Goodreads, Twitter

Upcoming: BLOOD, SWEAT & CHROME by (William Morrow)

BuchananK-BloodSweath&ChromeUSHCIs it just me, or are we living in a bit of a golden age for movie and TV oral histories? It’s still not a massive sub-field in publishing, true, but I’ve seen quite a few upcoming books announced, and have also read quite a few over the past couple of years. As someone who very much enjoys behind-the-scenes content, I fully support this. To that end, let me draw your attention to Blood, Sweat & Chrome by Kyle BuchananNew York Times pop culture reporter and “The Projectionist” (awards season columnist). It is the “wild and true” oral history of Mad Max: Fury Road!

A full-speed-ahead oral history of the nearly two-decade making of the cultural phenomenon Mad Max: Fury Road — with more than 130 new interviews with key members of the cast and crew, including Charlize Theron, Tom Hardy, and director George Miller, from the pop culture reporter for The New York Times, Kyle Buchanan.

It won six Oscars and has been hailed as the greatest action film ever, but it is a miracle Mad Max: Fury Road ever made it to the screen… or that anybody survived the production. The story of this modern classic spanned nearly two decades of wild obstacles as visionary director George Miller tried to mount one of the most difficult shoots in Hollywood history.

Production stalled several times, stars Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron clashed repeatedly in the brutal Namib Desert, and Miller’s crew engineered death-defying action scenes that were among the most dangerous ever committed to film. Even accomplished Hollywood figures are flummoxed by the accomplishment: As the director Steven Soderbergh has said, “I don’t understand how they’re not still shooting that film, and I don’t understand how hundreds of people aren’t dead.”

Kyle Buchanan takes readers through every step of that moviemaking experience in vivid detail, from Fury Road’s unexpected origins through its outlandish casting process to the big-studio battles that nearly mutilated a masterpiece. But he takes the deepest dive in reporting the astonishing facts behind a shoot so unconventional that the film’s fantasy world began to bleed into the real lives of its cast and crew. As they fought and endured in a wasteland of their own, the only way forward was to have faith in their director’s mad vision. But how could Miller persevere when almost everything seemed to be stacked against him?

With hundreds of exclusive interviews and details about the making of Fury Road, readers will be left with one undeniable conclusion: There has never been a movie so drenched in sweat, so forged by fire, and so epic in scope.

Really looking forward to reading this. Blood, Sweat & Chrome is due to be published by William Morrow in North America and in the UK, on February 22nd, 2022.

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads, Twitter

Quick Review: UNGUARDED by Scottie Pippen w. Michael Arkush (Atria Books)

PippenS-UnguardedUSHCHow the six-time NBA Champion, two-time Olympic gold medalist, and Hall of Famer, the youngest of twelve, overcame two family tragedies and universal disregard by college scouts to become an essential component of the greatest basketball dynasty of the last fifty years.

Scottie Pippen has been called one of the greatest NBA players for good reason.

Simply put, without Pippen, there are no championship banners — let alone six — hanging from the United Center rafters. There’s no Last Dance documentary. There’s no “Michael Jordan” as we know him. The 1990s Chicago Bulls teams would not exist as we know them.

So how did the youngest of twelve go from growing up poor in the small town of Hamburg, Arkansas, enduring two family tragedies along the way, to become a revered NBA legend? How did the scrawny teen, overlooked by every major collegiate basketball program, go on to become the fifth overall pick in the 1987 NBA Draft? And, perhaps most compelling, how did Pippen set aside his ego (and his own limitless professional ceiling) in order for the Bulls to become the most dominant basketball dynasty of the last half century?

In Unguarded, the six-time champion and two-time Olympic gold medalist finally opens up to offer pointed and transparent takes on Michael Jordan, Phil Jackson, and Dennis Rodman, among others. Pippen details how he cringed at being labeled Jordan’s sidekick, and discusses how he could have (and should have) received more respect from the Bulls’ management and the media.

Pippen reveals never-before-told stories about some of the most famous games in league history, including the 1994 playoff game against the New York Knicks when he took himself out with 1.8 seconds to go. He discusses what it was like dealing with Jordan on a day-to-day basis, while serving as the facilitator for the offense and the anchor for the defense.

On the 30th anniversary of the Bulls’ first championship, Pippen is finally giving millions of adoring basketball fans what they crave; a raw, unvarnished look into his life, and role within one of the greatest, most popular teams of all time.

I think this may have been one of the fastest review copy requests I’ve ever submitted. A long time fan of basketball, albeit a relative newcomer to basketball history and publishing, I was very eager to read Pippen’s side of the story: that story, of course, including his time as a key member of the six-time NBA champions Chicago Bulls squad. Pippen gives readers the full sweep of his story, from his difficult upbringing, his shaky start in basketball, and ultimate rise to the pinnacle of the sport. It’s by turns interesting, illuminating, and also amusing. I really enjoyed this. Continue reading

Quick Review: UNREQUITED INFATUATIONS by Stevie Van Zandt (Hachette)

VanZandtS-UnrequitedInfatuationsUSHCA fascinating and fun memoir from one of rock’s great guitarists and characters

Uncover never-before-told stories in this epic tale of self-discovery by a Rock n Roll disciple and member of the E Street Band.

What story begins in a bedroom in suburban New Jersey in the early ’60s, unfolds on some of the country’s largest stages, and then ranges across the globe, demonstrating over and over again how Rock and Roll has the power to change the world for the better? This story.

The first true heartbeat of Unrequited Infatuations  is the moment when Stevie Van Zandt trades in his devotion to the Baptist religion for an obsession with Rock and Roll. Groups like the Beatles and the Rolling Stones created new ideas of community, creative risk, and principled rebellion. They changed him forever. While still a teenager, he met Bruce Springsteen, a like-minded outcast/true believer who became one of his most important friends and bandmates. As Miami Steve, Van Zandt anchored the E Street Band as they conquered the Rock and Roll world.

And then, in the early ’80s, Van Zandt stepped away from E Street to embark on his own odyssey. He refashioned himself as Little Steven, a political songwriter and performer, fell in love with Maureen Santoro who greatly expanded his artistic palette, and visited the world’s hot spots as an artist/journalist to not just better understand them, but to help change them. Most famously, he masterminded the recording of “Sun City,” an anti-apartheid anthem that sped the demise of South Africa’s institutionalized racism and helped get Nelson Mandela out of prison.

By the ’90s, Van Zandt had lived at least two lives — one as a mainstream rocker, one as a hardcore activist. It was time for a third. David Chase invited Van Zandt to be a part of his new television show, the Sopranos — as Silvio Dante, he was the unconditionally loyal consiglieri who sat at the right hand of Tony Soprano (a relationship that oddly mirrored his real-life relationship with Bruce Springsteen).

Underlying all of Van Zandt’s various incarnations was a devotion to preserving the centrality of the arts, especially the endangered species of Rock. In the twenty-first century, Van Zandt founded a groundbreaking radio show (Little Steven’s Underground Garage), created the first two 24/7 branded music channels on SiriusXM (Underground Garage and Outlaw Country), started a fiercely independent record label (Wicked Cool), and developed a curriculum to teach students of all ages through the medium of music history. He also rejoined the E Street Band for what has now been a twenty-year victory lap.

Guitarist in the E Street Band, long-time friend of Bruce Springsteen, Silvio Dante in The Sopranos, political activist, standard bearer for rock ‘n’ roll. Stevie Van Zandt has been, and still is, many things. As evidenced by this memoir, he is also a great storyteller. I had high hopes for Unrequited Infatuations, but it absolutely exceeded them. Fascinating and fun, I really enjoyed this. Continue reading

Very Quick Review: THE ANTISOCIAL NETWORK by Ben Mezrich (Grand Central)

MezrichB-AntisocialNetworkUSHC“The GameStop Short Squeeze and the Ragtag Group of Amateur Traders That Brought Wall Street to Its Knees”

The definitive take on the wildest story of the year — the David-vs.-Goliath GameStop short squeeze, a tale of fortunes won and lost overnight that may end up changing Wall Street forever.

Bestselling author Ben Mezrich offers a gripping, beat-by-beat account of how a loosely affiliate group of private investors and internet trolls on a subreddit called WallStreetBets took down one of the biggest hedge funds on Wall Street, firing the first shot in a revolution that threatens to upend the establishment.

It’s the story of financial titans like Gabe Plotkin of hedge fund Melvin Capital, one of the most respected and staid funds on the Street, billionaires like Elon Musk, Steve Cohen, Mark Cuban, Robinhood co-CEOs Vlad Tenev and Baiju Bhatt, and Ken Griffin of Citadel Securities. Over the course of four incredible days, each in their own way must reckon with a formidable force they barely understand, let alone saw coming: everyday men and women on WallStreetBets like nurse Kim Campbell, college student Jeremy Poe, and the enigmatic Keith “RoaringKitty” Gill, whose unfiltered livestream videos captivated a new generation of stock market enthusiasts.

The unlikely focus of the battle: GameStop, a flailing brick-and-mortar dinosaur catering to teenagers and outsiders that had somehow held on as the world rapidly moved online. At first, WallStreetBets was a joke — a meme-filled, freewheeling place to share shoot-the-moon investment tips, laugh about big losses, and post diamond hand emojis. Until some members noticed an opportunity in GameStop — and rode a rocket ship to tens of millions of dollars in earnings overnight.

Like many readers, I was first introduced to Mezrich’s work with the excellent The Accidental Billionaires, the story of how Zuckerberg et al founded, launched and grew Facebook. Since then, he’s published a number of interesting and timely books, and The Antisocial Network is no different. A fascinating and well-told narrative of the GameStop drama of last year, I really enjoyed this. Continue reading

Very Quick Review: THE LAST ENFORCER by Charles Oakley, w. Frank Isola (Gallery)

OakleyC-LastEnforcerAn interesting, albeit limited memoir

A memoir from Charles Oakley — one of the toughest and most loyal players in NBA history — featuring unfiltered stories about the journey that basketball has taken him on and his relationships with Michael Jordan, LeBron James, Charles Barkley, Patrick Ewing, Phil Jackson, Pat Riley, James Dolan, Donald Trump, George Floyd, and so many others.

If you ask a New York Knicks fan about Charles Oakley, you better prepare to hear the love and a favorite story or two. But his individual stats weren’t remarkable, and while he helped power the Knicks to ten consecutive playoffs, he never won a championship. So why does he hold such a special place in the minds, hearts, and memories of NBA players and fans?

Because over the course of nineteen years in the league, Oakley was at the center of more unbelievable encounters than Forrest Gump, and nearly as many fights as Mike Tyson. He was the friend you wish you had, and the enemy you wish you’d never made. If any opposing player was crazy enough to start a fight with him, or God forbid one of his teammates, Oakley would end it.

“I can’t remember every rebound I grabbed but I do have a story — the true story — of just about every punch and slap on my resume,” he says.

In The Last Enforcer, Oakley shares one incredible story after the next — all in his signature, unfiltered style — about his life in the paint and beyond, fighting for rebounds and respect. You’ll look back on the era of the 1990s NBA, when tough guys with rugged attitudes, unflinching loyalty, and hard-nosed work ethics were just as important as three-point sharpshooters. You’ll feel like you were on the court, in the room, can’t believe what you just saw, and need to tell everyone you know about it.

I was looking forward to reading this memoir. Like many people, Michael Jordan’s prime years with the Chicago Bulls was my introduction to basketball. Oakley was one of Jordan’s earlier teammates, and is one of his closest friends, but was traded away to the Knicks just before the Bulls embarked on their epic six-championships run. This is his story, complete with honest, blunt appraisals of his teammates, the League (now and then), and more. It’s got plenty of interesting insights and illuminating stories. But in many ways, it also comes across as rather one-note. Continue reading