Tag Archives: Anthony Ervin

Book Review: Chasing Water by Anthony Ervin and Constantine Markides

28 Jul

I’ve had this book on my shelves for a long time. I’ve talked about it before, but I’m a big fan of my local bookstore, Literati, and I’m even more excited that one of the owners used to write for a swimming magazine and has a lot of famous swimmers visit the store to promote their books. Anthony Ervin was the first swimmer I met in this capacity back in 2016. He was doing a press tour for his book, co-written with Constantine Markides, and had just won the gold medal for the 50 freestyle at the Rio games. It was one of the coolest M&Gs of my life.

Cover image via Amazon

Chasing Water: Elegy of an Olympian by Anthony Ervin and Constantine Markides

Summary from Amazon:

Ervin won a gold medal at the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games at the age of nineteen. He is an athlete branded with a slew of titles including being the first US Olympic swimmer of African American descent, along with Jewish heritage, who also grew up with Tourette’s syndrome. He shocked the sporting world by retiring soon after claiming two world titles following the 2000 Olympics. Auctioning off his gold medal for charity, he set off on a part spiritual quest, part self-destructive bender that involved Zen temples, fast motorcycles, tattoo parlors, and rock ‘n’ roll bands. Then Ervin resurfaced in 2012 to not only make the US Olympic team twelve years after his first appearance, but to continue his career by swimming faster than ever before.

I’ve been swimming since 1999 and I’ve always loved following the sport. The 2000 Olympics are the first I remember vividly watching. While I don’t remember Ervin’s race in particular, I remember falling in love with my swimming icons and I’ve been following them ever since. Ervin was a big name at the 2012 games in London, talking about a come-back 12 years in the making. (I embedded the race below, they mention it when he walks out. Spoiler, he comes in 5th.) He was an old man by pro swimming standards and even making the finals was crazy. Flash forward to 2016 and the Rio games and his feat seemed even more amazing. But this book focuses on what happens outside of the pool more than inside it. (I’ve embedded that one, too. It makes me cry every time. Especially after reading this book.)

Ervin is very honest and real about his life. It wasn’t the typical athlete’s journey. He always seemed to resent his talent growing up and after Sydney, he fell into sex, drugs, and rock and roll. That’s not the person you expect to come back and win Olympic gold. His story had a lot of soul searching and it was sometimes hard to read. As a swimmer, I’m absolutely repulsed by smoking, a habit Ervin had for both marijuana and tobacco. As an athlete, I avoid risks that could end in injuries like motorcycles, which Ervin rode hard and crashed. He seems hard to believe. His journal entries and writing from the times show his state of mind and how confused he seemed to be. Markides’s journalistic narration was a great way to connect these writings and show how Ervin morphed with time.

Me, my friend Evan, Ervin, and Markides. Evan and I are wearing Ervin’s Gold Medals from the 2016 games.

I loved hearing about Ervin’s mother. I thought she was such an interesting character. She was very controlling, as some mothers are, and pushed her boys to be great. I thought she gave Ervin a good structure and the ability to be disciplined. Perhaps he rebelled against her. But in the end, he still found the structure and discipline she’d equipped him with to be an Olympic champion.

I related to the athletics and training Ervin went through. I was shocked at how many practices he missed in college and that he could stay on the team with that track record. When he buckled down and swam, I could relate. That’s how I train for swimming and triathlon. It’s long, grueling, and wonderful. It’ leaves you hungry enough to eat an entire casserole by yourself. I related to the grind and how when you’re in it, it’s the best thing ever.

Ervin’s return to swimming was so inspiring. It’s something that doesn’t happen in swimming, a sport that favors young athletes. The first swimmer I remember making epic comebacks was Dara Torres, who swam her 6th and final Olympics in Beijing at the age of 41 (yeah, crazy). I embedded the relay she anchored and won Silver below. I bet you didn’t think this book review would also be a swimming history lesson, did you? Comebacks like Torres and Ervin are rare, but they’re so inspiring. Our bodies atrophy as we age, but we can keep them working and performing, even at a world-class level, when we try. Achievement isn’t just for the young.

Hearing how Ervin wondered for years was difficult. He moved across the country, swimming and playing music, doing drugs, and doing nothing. It was hard to read about someone who clearly felt lost and had no direction. If someone had told him during that time that he had another Olympic gold in him, he never would have believed it.

Ervin’s story is one of redemption and persistence. He was forgiven from the time he spent away from the sport and the people who helped him when he was lost continued to support him and help him find direction. He came back to school to study English, something he loved. Eventually, he returned to the pool where he could chase his dream again. Unlike in 2000, it didn’t come easy. He had to come in 5th in 2012 to win gold in 2016.

Writer’s Takeaway: This is a book with two authors. Ervin’s part makes up about 20% of the story. He uses his writings from the time and his memories to write. I’d call it a narrative non-fiction style. It contrasted well with Markides’ journalistic writing. He connected the dots where there was missing information and brought in other people from Ervin’s life to share a different perspective. It was a great combination of two voices to create a story.

A strong story about a legendary athlete. Four out of Five Stars.

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

Some of the links on this post may be affiliate links. Taking on a World of Words is a participant in affiliate programs designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by linking to products. If you purchase a product or service through an affiliate link, your cost will be the same but Sam will automatically receive a small commission. Your support is greatly appreciated.

WWW Wednesday, 22-July-2020

22 Jul

Welcome to WWW Wednesday! This meme was formerly hosted by MizB at A Daily Rhythm and revived here on Taking on a World of Words. Just answer the three questions below and leave a link to your post in the comments for others to look at. No blog? No problem! Just leave a comment with your responses. Please, take some time to visit the other participants and see what others are reading. So, let’s get to it!IMG_1384-0

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

Note: For users of Blogspot blogs, I’m unable to comment on your posts as a WordPress blogger unless you’ve enabled Name/URL comments. This is a known WordPress/Blogspot issue. Please consider enabling this to participate more fully in the community. 


Currently reading: I’m charging through the home stretch of The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel. My reading buddy and I are excited to finish this one and see how a few elements are revisited and come back into the story to tie it up. I’m excited to finish this one and get a review up for you all.
I didn’t read much of In the Shadow of the Banyan by Vaddey Ratner. This week has been crazy busy and I haven’t had time to read before bed. I’ll look forward to getting more of this read in the next week once life slows down.
I’m loving Before the Devil Breaks You by Libba Bray so much. This series is a ton of fun and we’re getting more into the characters and seeing how they work as a team, which is wonderful. I can’t wait to finish this series soon!

Recently finished: I didn’t think it would happen, but I finally finished Chasing Water: Elegy of an Olympian by Anthony Ervin and Constantine Markides! I realized I was really close when I started a few section before work one morning. I enjoyed a thunderstorm on my porch and finished reading this. I miss swimming a lot right now and reading this was a bit cathartic because I got to relive the joys of competition and teammates. I’ll post my review soon. I’m giving it Three out of Five Stars.

Reading Next: I haven’t started yet, but I still hope I can grab Dollface by Renee Rosen as my next ebook. Maybe it’s an overload of 1920s, but I’m not sure that’s really possible. I love flapper books!


Leave a comment with your link and comment (if you’re so inclined). Take a look at the other participant links in the comments and look at what others are reading.

Have any opinions on these choices?

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

Some of the links on this post may be affiliate links. Taking on a World of Words is a participant in affiliate programs designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by linking to products. If you purchase a product or service through an affiliate link, your cost will be the same but Sam will automatically receive a small commission. Your support is greatly appreciated.

WWW Wednesday, 15-July-2020

15 Jul

Welcome to WWW Wednesday! This meme was formerly hosted by MizB at A Daily Rhythm and revived here on Taking on a World of Words. Just answer the three questions below and leave a link to your post in the comments for others to look at. No blog? No problem! Just leave a comment with your responses. Please, take some time to visit the other participants and see what others are reading. So, let’s get to it!IMG_1384-0

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

Note: For users of Blogspot blogs, I’m unable to comment on your posts as a WordPress blogger unless you’ve enabled Name/URL comments. This is a known WordPress/Blogspot issue. Please consider enabling this to participate more fully in the community. 


Currently reading: I made a little bit of progress through Chasing Water: Elegy of an Olympian by Anthony Ervin and Constantine Markides. I’m trying to be conscious about reading this a bit more. I enjoy it when I remember, but I often forgot to read it when I should.
My reading buddy and I met so I read our third section of The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel. We had a lot of predictions about what will happen in the back half of the book and I’m starting to see which of our guesses were right and which were a bit off. I’ll be excited to finish it soon!
I’m very early with In the Shadow of the Banyan by Vaddey Ratner. It feels so good to pull books off my shelf that have been sitting there for so long!
I also started a new audiobook, which I wasn’t sure I’d be able to do this week but I’m happy I could. I was able to find Before the Devil Breaks You by Libba Bray as an eaudiobook. My library had made it unavailable at one point but it seems it’s there again! I’m glad to be able to read this one and continue on with the series.

Recently finished: I finished up The Book Women of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson after some long runs and drives. It wasn’t one I really enjoyed, but I didn’t dislike it either. I had some issues with the structure of the book, not the plot or characters. I wrote a review of it yesterday if you want to hear more. I gave the book Four out of Five Stars.
I finished off How to Speak Midwestern by Edward McClelland, as I expected. This book was a small let down as well, being more about regional vocabulary and food than it was about pronunciation and accents. Oh well. I still liked it and gave the book Four out of Five Stars. My review went up on Monday.

I posted my review of These Women by Ivy Pochoda on Thursday. Check it out if you want to hear more. This book got Three out of Five Stars from me.

Reading Next: Maybe I’m optimistic, but I think I need to pick out an ebook to read soon. I’m hoping to snag a copy of Dollface by Renee Rosen. I love 1920s flappers so this is right up my ally!


Leave a comment with your link and comment (if you’re so inclined). Take a look at the other participant links in the comments and look at what others are reading.

Have any opinions on these choices?

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

Some of the links on this post may be affiliate links. Taking on a World of Words is a participant in affiliate programs designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by linking to products. If you purchase a product or service through an affiliate link, your cost will be the same but Sam will automatically receive a small commission. Your support is greatly appreciated.

WWW Wednesday, 8-July-2020

8 Jul

Welcome to WWW Wednesday! This meme was formerly hosted by MizB at A Daily Rhythm and revived here on Taking on a World of Words. Just answer the three questions below and leave a link to your post in the comments for others to look at. No blog? No problem! Just leave a comment with your responses. Please, take some time to visit the other participants and see what others are reading. So, let’s get to it!IMG_1384-0

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

Note: For users of Blogspot blogs, I’m unable to comment on your posts as a WordPress blogger unless you’ve enabled Name/URL comments. This is a known WordPress/Blogspot issue. Please consider enabling this to participate more fully in the community. 


Currently reading: I haven’t been doing great with Chasing Water: Elegy of an Olympian by Anthony Ervin and Constantine Markides but I’m still moving through it. I’m at the point where Tony is starting to swim again which helps keep my interest so I hope I’ll be back into it soon.
I got to the end of the section my buddy and I are reading in The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel. So I’m paused with this one until she catches up and we can talk again. I’m loving this book so I’m really looking forward to it.
I started two new books and I stuck to my reading plan! I started the audiobook of The Book Women of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson. I knew nothing about this one before I started so it’s been a bit confusing getting into it and learning about Cussy. I don’t think this one will take too long so I should be through it in a week or two.
I also started my physical copy of How to Speak Midwestern by Edward McClelland which has been such fun. I have family from a lot of different regions of the Midwest and I’ve lived in two dialectal regions so I can pick out the differences he’s talking about in the people I know.

Recently finished: I was able to finish These Women by Ivy Pochoda on Wednesday like I thought. I’m still trying to wrap my head around it completely because I think I was supposed to get a little more out of it than I did. I’ll have a review up tomorrow; maybe that will help me sort through how I felt about it.

Reading Next: Since Midwestern is so short, I’ll probably need a physical book next. I want to keep pushing forward with my shelf so I’ll probably pick up In the Shadow of the Banyan by Vaddey Ratner. I’ve had this on my TBR for ages since I picked it up used at a library sale. I love knocking down these books that have been there for ages!


Leave a comment with your link and comment (if you’re so inclined). Take a look at the other participant links in the comments and look at what others are reading.

Have any opinions on these choices?

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

Some of the links on this post may be affiliate links. Taking on a World of Words is a participant in affiliate programs designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by linking to products. If you purchase a product or service through an affiliate link, your cost will be the same but Sam will automatically receive a small commission. Your support is greatly appreciated.

WWW Wednesday, 1-July-2020

1 Jul

Welcome to WWW Wednesday! This meme was formerly hosted by MizB at A Daily Rhythm and revived here on Taking on a World of Words. Just answer the three questions below and leave a link to your post in the comments for others to look at. No blog? No problem! Just leave a comment with your responses. Please, take some time to visit the other participants and see what others are reading. So, let’s get to it!IMG_1384-0

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

Note: For users of Blogspot blogs, I’m unable to comment on your posts as a WordPress blogger unless you’ve enabled Name/URL comments. This is a known WordPress/Blogspot issue. Please consider enabling this to participate more fully in the community. 


Currently reading: One chapter a day of Chasing Water: Elegy of an Olympian by Anthony Ervin and Constantine Markides is still my goal but it’s not happening as I planned. I’m getting about two a week, so I’m still moving through just a bit slower. The narrative is covering Ervin’s return to the sport and I’m enjoying this journey a lot.
I’m back to reading The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel. My buddy and discussed Part 1 and we’re on to Part 2. I’ll probably zip through this soon so we can meet and talk again. I’m really loving Mandel’s plot here.
I’ll probably wrap up These Women by Ivy Pochoda today, I’m so close to finishing it! This is a really dark book but I’m making a lot of connections to current cultural issues and it’s been fascinating to hear the stories from the women who are so often overlooked.

Recently finished: I stayed up way too late Saturday night to finish The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins. My swim the next morning was a bit of a struggle. I enjoyed it well enough, but I wasn’t a huge fan of the ending and it left a bit of a sour taste in my mouth. I’m glad I read it, but I probably won’t reread it any time soon. I posted my review yesterday if you want to read more of my thoughts. I gave the book Four out of Five Stars.

Reading Next: I’ll grab my copy of How to Speak Midwestern by Edward McClelland as soon as I finish the second section of Mandel. It shouldn’t take more than a day or two.
I’ll start another book club pick on audio soon. We’re reading The Book Women of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson. I don’t know anything about this one but I’ve felt that books about books haven’t been going well for me lately so I’m a bit weary. Fingers crossed.


Leave a comment with your link and comment (if you’re so inclined). Take a look at the other participant links in the comments and look at what others are reading.

Have any opinions on these choices?

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

Some of the links on this post may be affiliate links. Taking on a World of Words is a participant in affiliate programs designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by linking to products. If you purchase a product or service through an affiliate link, your cost will be the same but Sam will automatically receive a small commission. Your support is greatly appreciated.

WWW Wednesday, 24-June-2020

24 Jun

Welcome to WWW Wednesday! This meme was formerly hosted by MizB at A Daily Rhythm and revived here on Taking on a World of Words. Just answer the three questions below and leave a link to your post in the comments for others to look at. No blog? No problem! Just leave a comment with your responses. Please, take some time to visit the other participants and see what others are reading. So, let’s get to it!IMG_1384-0

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

Note: For users of Blogspot blogs, I’m unable to comment on your posts as a WordPress blogger unless you’ve enabled Name/URL comments. This is a known WordPress/Blogspot issue. Please consider enabling this to participate more fully in the community. 


Currently reading: I keep trying to read one chapter of Chasing Water: Elegy of an Olympian by Anthony Ervin and Constantine Markides every day but I’m often failing. I’m still reading some, though, so I’ll continue moving through this one. I’m over halfway so far but this will probably be here another few weeks.
My buddy and I are meeting to talk about the first section of The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel tomorrow. I sped through Part I and I’m looking forward to moving deeper into it. There’s a lot to unpack with these characters and I think we’ll have a lot to talk about with the book, too.
I started The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins! Finally. I want to rewatch the movies for the original trilogy now. I’m not sure I have the time to re-read them. And Jennifer Lawrence does such a great job that the movies are a joy. This might move off of here quickly, I’m picking it up at every opportunity.
I started a new audiobook for my book club. We’re reading These Women by Ivy Pochoda. I’m not sure what to expect from this one. All I know is that it’s a mystery and I’m in the mood for one right now, so bring it on!

Recently finished: I sped through Semper Fidelis by Ruth Downie and wrapped it up Saturday morning. I posted my review yesterday so you can see my full thoughts there. This one wasn’t my favorite of the series, but I liked it and will continue reading the series. It looks like there are currently eight so I still have some time before I catch up. I gave the book Four out of Five Stars.

I posted my review of Fiction Writer’s Workshop by Josip Novakovich last Thursday. This book was very mediocre for me. There were a few helpful nuggets, but for the most part it fell a bit flat in my eyes. I gave it Three out of Five Stars.

Reading Next: I think it will be time for a little non-fiction soon. I have a signed copy of How to Speak Midwestern by Edward McClelland on my shelf and I’m probably running out of quarantine time to get through my signed books. I heard McClelland speak at the library a few years ago. My language degree got me really interested in dialect and this seems like a fascinating look at my own accent and dialect. I’m excited to dig in.


Leave a comment with your link and comment (if you’re so inclined). Take a look at the other participant links in the comments and look at what others are reading.

Have any opinions on these choices?

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

Some of the links on this post may be affiliate links. Taking on a World of Words is a participant in affiliate programs designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by linking to products. If you purchase a product or service through an affiliate link, your cost will be the same but Sam will automatically receive a small commission. Your support is greatly appreciated.

WWW Wednesday, 17-June-2020

17 Jun

Welcome to WWW Wednesday! This meme was formerly hosted by MizB at A Daily Rhythm and revived here on Taking on a World of Words. Just answer the three questions below and leave a link to your post in the comments for others to look at. No blog? No problem! Just leave a comment with your responses. Please, take some time to visit the other participants and see what others are reading. So, let’s get to it!IMG_1384-0

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

Note: For users of Blogspot blogs, I’m unable to comment on your posts as a WordPress blogger unless you’ve enabled Name/URL comments. This is a known WordPress/Blogspot issue. Please consider enabling this to participate more fully in the community. 


Currently reading: I’m in love with Chasing Water: Elegy of an Olympian by Anthony Ervin and Constantine Markides. The style jumps between Ervin’s memories and sports journalist Constantine Markides’ narration of his swimming career. Now that I’m swimming again, this is pumping me up and I’m ready to get back to racing.
A lot of new books for the list this week! I began a new audiobook, Semper Fidelis by Ruth Downie. This is the fifth book in the Medicus Investigation series. I lent the first three to my mother at the beginning of COVID and she’s loving them as well. I recommend this series a lot, it’s well deserved.
I began my Buddy Read of The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel. We split the book into four sections and this first one is the longest. I should wrap it up very soon and be able to move on to another book until my buddy is ready to meet and we can move forward.

Recently finished: I was able to push through and finish Fiction Writer’s Workshop by Josip Novakovich over the weekend. I didn’t enjoy this book as much as I wanted to. I’d hoped it would inspire me to write but I found it geared toward short stories more than toward novels and that didn’t help me. I’ll have a full review up tomorrow.
I finished the audiobook of Stories of Elders by Veronica Kirin and was able to post a review yesterday. It was really fun hearing Kirin read her own story, especially knowing her and having heard her speak about this project. I’ve done an email interview with her and will be posting that next week so stay tuned for even more!

I posted my review of The Woman Who Gave Birth to Rabbits by Emma Donoghue last Thursday. Our book club met and I posted my book club reflection on Monday. It seems this collection has been taking over the blog this week!

Reading Next: I’m so close to starting The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins! It’s been here longer than I’d like but it will be what I escape to between sections of my Buddy Read so it’s coming soon!


Leave a comment with your link and comment (if you’re so inclined). Take a look at the other participant links in the comments and look at what others are reading.

Have any opinions on these choices?

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

Some of the links on this post may be affiliate links. Taking on a World of Words is a participant in affiliate programs designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by linking to products. If you purchase a product or service through an affiliate link, your cost will be the same but Sam will automatically receive a small commission. Your support is greatly appreciated.

WWW Wednesday, 10-June-2020

10 Jun

Welcome to WWW Wednesday! This meme was formerly hosted by MizB at A Daily Rhythm and revived here on Taking on a World of Words. Just answer the three questions below and leave a link to your post in the comments for others to look at. No blog? No problem! Just leave a comment with your responses. Please, take some time to visit the other participants and see what others are reading. So, let’s get to it!IMG_1384-0

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

Note: For users of Blogspot blogs, I’m unable to comment on your posts as a WordPress blogger unless you’ve enabled Name/URL comments. This is a known WordPress/Blogspot issue. Please consider enabling this to participate more fully in the community. 


Currently reading: I’m making a push to finish Fiction Writer’s Workshop by Josip Novakovich this week. I don’t think it will be too much of a problem; it should be on my ‘recently finished’ list next week. The only issue is that it hasn’t really inspired me to do any additional writing. Oh well, it was worth a try.
I needed a new ebook and found out I could give myself both the books I wanted to pick up next if I tried Chasing Water: Elegy of an Olympian by Anthony Ervin as an ebook. I know it will be a slower read but I also see myself motivated to keep moving forward with it, so maybe it won’t take as long as other ebooks have.
I started a new audiobook that I’m really excited about. Stories of Elders by Veronica Kirin is one I’ve been wanting to read for a while and have been putting off. I know Kirin personally and am good friends with her brother. I heard her speak a while back about this book and I’m sorry I put it off as long as I did. She narrates the audiobook herself which is always fun.

Recently finished: I wrapped up The Woman Who Gave Birth to Rabbits by Emma Donoghue just in time for our book club meeting on Monday. I’m not a huge fan of short stories so I’m sure that affected my rating of it. I gave it Three out of Five Stars. I’ll have a review up tomorrow.
I also finished It’s All Relative by A.J. Jacobs on audio. I adored hearing the story in Jacobs voice through the audiobook. I’m not sure what project he has coming up next but I’m guessing that it will make for a great book that I’ll love to read. I posted a review yesterday and I gave the book Four out of Five Stars.

I posted my review for The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai on Monday. This was a great read and I’m so glad I was talked into buying a copy by the signage at the story. It was a beautiful story. I gave it Four out of Five Stars.

Reading Next: I can’t wait to pick up The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins as my next physical book. It’s time for some YA dystopian binging and this is the perfect book for it. I hope to have started it by next week.


Leave a comment with your link and comment (if you’re so inclined). Take a look at the other participant links in the comments and look at what others are reading.

Have any opinions on these choices?

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

Some of the links on this post may be affiliate links. Taking on a World of Words is a participant in affiliate programs designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by linking to products. If you purchase a product or service through an affiliate link, your cost will be the same but Sam will automatically receive a small commission. Your support is greatly appreciated.

WWW Wednesday, 3-June-2020

3 Jun

Welcome to WWW Wednesday! This meme was formerly hosted by MizB at A Daily Rhythm and revived here on Taking on a World of Words. Just answer the three questions below and leave a link to your post in the comments for others to look at. No blog? No problem! Just leave a comment with your responses. Please, take some time to visit the other participants and see what others are reading. So, let’s get to it!IMG_1384-0

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

Note: For users of Blogspot blogs, I’m unable to comment on your posts as a WordPress blogger unless you’ve enabled Name/URL comments. This is a known WordPress/Blogspot issue. Please consider enabling this to participate more fully in the community. 


Currently reading: I’ll eventually finish Fiction Writer’s Workshop by Josip Novakovich but it hasn’t been a priority for me this week. I’m pushing to get through my ebook before the book club meeting so I’ve given that more attention. Unfortunately, this one is easy to put down when I want to so it’s gotten a bit of rest this week.
I keep moving forward with The Woman Who Gave Birth to Rabbits by Emma Donoghue but I’m not sold on short story collections, especially for book club discussions. Some of these have been more interesting than others and I’m moving slowly through them. I hope I finish in time for our meeting!
I was able to start It’s All Relative by A.J. Jacobs and I’m loving it already. It’s great to have Jacobs read the audio because I’m getting a lot more out of his humor hearing it right from his mouth.

Recently finished: I was able to wrap up The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai on Friday and just loved this book. I was put off by the length at first but I never wanted it to end. Yale was an amazing character and I adored following him through the story. I look forward to reviewing this one early next week so I can share what I loved about it. Four out of Five Stars.

Reading Next: I think I’ll need a physical book next and I’m torn between two. I just got my copy of the newly released The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins and part of me wants to dive in immediately. Another part of me is calling for patience. The next book on my shelf is also one I’m excited about, Elegy of an Olympian by Anthony Ervin. I’ve been wanting to read this one for a long time, too, and it seems silly to skip past it now when I really need some sports-centric motivation. Anyone have a suggestion?


Leave a comment with your link and comment (if you’re so inclined). Take a look at the other participant links in the comments and look at what others are reading.

Have any opinions on these choices?

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

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Meeting Anthony Ervin (Chasing Water)

20 Sep

If you read the title of this post and thought, “Who is Anthony Ervin?” then you would be like every single coworker of mine I told in a huge rush of excitement that I couldn’t stay late because I was going to hear Anthony Ervin speak. Ervin, at age 35, won the gold medal in Rio for the men’s’ 50m Freestyle event. He also won the gold 16 years earlier, in Sydney 2000, tying Gary Hall Jr. Here’s what happened in Rio.

http://www.nbcolympics.com/video/anthony-ervin-wins-olympic-gold-splash-and-dash

Thank you NBC Olympic coverage for not making this available on YouTube. Anyway. I’ve swum since I was 9 and I was watching the coverage the night Ervin won. I was at my parent’s cottage with 7 friends and I insisted on getting NBC going so we could watch the coverage. It took twenty minutes before we figured out how to do it but man, I’m so glad. I was screaming the whole race, cheering Ervin and Adrian and I was so excited when Ervin won. At age 35, he’s not your average sprinter and his story is crazy.

img_3324Flash forward not even a week. I got the monthly newsletter from Literati Bookstore in Ann Arbor, MI. Yes, I know I post about them a lot. One of the highlighted author appearances was Anthony Ervin! He had a memoir out, Chasing Water, that he would be signing. I texted a swimming friend I’ve known since I was 9 when I started and we both looked forward to the date.

At dinner before the event, I asked my friend why the man I assumed was a ghost writer, Constantine Markides, was listed on the cover and why he would be appearing at the event that night. I’d never known a ghost writer to be so prominently credited in a sports memoir. My friend explained that Markides wrote at least half the book and that the format was a back-and-forth between Markides and Ervin, narrating what was happening in Ervin’s life as well as swimming in general. Markides was a swimmer himself and a writer. He was a good voice to add some context to the story.

Anthony Ervin

Anthony Ervin

We got to the event with time to get second-row seats. Half of the chairs were filled by people we were 100% positive were swimmers. A nearby school’s girls’ team showed up with wet hair and warm-ups on. This was our kind of crowd! The owner of the store, Mike, got up and introduced Ervin and Markides. It turns out Mike was a collegiate swimmer himself and knew both men from his time reporting for USA Swimming magazine. I love this bookstore even more now. Ervin and Markides each read a section of the book about the experimental World Sprint Team and Mike led them in a moderated discussion about its creation and their relationship.

Ervin was very down to earth. After watching interviews with other swimmers (not to be named here) during the coverage, I was amazed at how eloquent Ervin and Markides were and how he viewed his win as a privilege he worked hard for, not something he deserved because he trained. He spoke about how his achievements in the pool are so often a foil of his life and he wanted his readers to see his changing identity. He saw every performance (swim) as a rehearsal for the one that was coming next. Looking at it this way, being on the Olympic stage was something he’d been training for since his first appearance in 2000 through the Omaha trials. he didn’t want to write a conventional sports biography and teaming with Markides seemed like a good way to do this. The two wrote an article together for Rolling Stone in 2012 which led them to form the relationship needed for this book. They went on a writers’ retreat in Markides’ home state of Maine for two weeks where they were able to pound out a good chunk of this book. I’m amazed Ervin was able to get away from training for that long, but we were assured the retreat house had a gym.

For anyone else who’s a big swim fan out there, you’ll be excited to hear Conner Jaeger came to support his Team USA teammate. Jaeger won the Silver in Rio for the men’s’ 1500m freestyle. (http://stream.nbcolympics.com/swimming-day-8-finals starting at 14:20, end around 30 minutes.)

Me, Ervin, my friend, and Markides

Me, Ervin, my friend, and Markides

Ervin and Markides signed books for everyone who came. They were really great, taking their time to talk with everyone and talk swimming with most of us. He brought his two medals (from the 50 and from the 4×100 freestyle relay [he swam the prelim, not the final]) and let us wear them! Those things are a lot heavier than I thought they would be. How cool is that? (Side note, Ervin sold his 2000 medal online and gave the proceeds of over $17,000 to charity so these are the only two he has.)

img_3333It was such a cool night and a great chance to meet a swimming legend. It even brought in my love of books which was even better! This was the first time I went to a book signing for an athlete but I think it was a good experience for me. Maybe there will be more of these in the future? Maybe.

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!