Sidecountry: Tales of Death and Life from the Back Roads of Sports

Norton. Jun. 2021. 320p. ISBN 9781324006695. $27.95. SPORTS
Branch, a Pulitzer Prize–winning reporter for the New York Times and author of The Last Cowboys, presents a collection of sports stories that he found impossible to forget; he specifically seeks out stories that readers might not have known they wanted to read. “Sidecountry” refers to the place just outside of the controlled parts of a ski area; a place that is within reach, but still considered to be out of bounds. With that in mind, Branch brings attention to the outlying world of sports. He profiles Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson as they climb El Capitan in Yosemite National Park; horseshoes pitcher Alan Francis as he seeks success in an overlooked sport; and a fast-paced Rubik’s Cube competition as seen through the eyes of Branch’s son. Some of the strongest essays focus on basketball, from a profile of a team operated by the Carroll County Juvenile Court, to a candid interview with Warriors head coach Steve Kerr about the intertwining of politics and sports
VERDICT Branch’s essays depict ordinary people doing extraordinary things at the fringes of the sporting world. This collection can be enjoyed by a wide range of readers and sports fans.
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