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Ask a Bookseller: ‘There’s Always This Year: On Basketball and Ascension’

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Ask a Bookseller
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Donna Garban of Little City Books in Hoboken, N.J., recommends a memoir that’s perfect for March Madness. It’s called “There’s Always This Year: On Basketball and Ascension” by Hanif Abdurraqib.

The book of interconnected essays is organized into the four quarters of a basketball game, complete with half-time and time-outs that explore side stories.

There's Always This Year book cover
"There's Always This Year: On Basketball and Ascension."
Courtesy of Penguin Random House

It’s a love letter to growing up in Columbus, Ohio, and to basketball, whether played on the neighborhood court where the home team has the advantage of knowing every crack in the pavement, to high school courts and beyond. (And yes, of course, LeBron James is in there, as are people he played against in high school.)

The writing is gorgeous, Garban says, and filled with beautiful moments about neighborhoods, music and community.

She recalls one story about watching a local kid compete in the McDonald’s All-American High School Dunk competition.

Abdurraqib stretches the moment over several pages, starting with his shoes leaving the line and ending with the judges leaping to their feet holding up all ten fingers.

He writes, “A dunk contest is where one goes to execute some far-flung dream of what the body is capable of. It is where one goes to fail, often spectacularly. I wish all failure could be as beautiful as the failures that arrive to us in midair, a reality setting in that we are incapable and yet still in flight.”

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