Cover Image: There's Always This Year

There's Always This Year

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Member Reviews

"What good is a witness in a country obsessed with forgetting?"

The voice of our generation is thrown around willy-nilly and has become a joke, which is fair. But is Hanif Abdurraqib the voice of our generation? Maybe so! The format of There's Always This Year is not my favorite, but the writing is superb. Hanif speaks about so many important issues of our time in such an empathetic and nuanced way, I wish more people saw the world as he does.

"I have felt like a champion before, even having won nothing but the desire to be alive in a day I woke up not wanting to be alive in. I deserve something for that, even if it is a parade of my own making. An invention, which is all the spoils of winning are anyway. Breathtaking inventions, to be sure. But inventions, nonetheless."

Thank you to NetGalley and Random House for the ARC!

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A wild and intense ride of a memoir, centered around LeBron James and basketball. I'm going to want to read it at least three more times and talk about it with friends to make sure I've gotten everything in it--there's a lot going on here, and I can easily understand why Abdurraqib is such a celebrated writer.

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“To be an audience to that impossible miracle.”
From the book…
This book broke my heart, in the best of ways. I have devoured all of Abdurraqib’s books over the past few years, and somehow he just keeps getting better and better.
When I first heard that this book was about basketball, I was a little turned off, as I am not a “sports person”. Of course I should have trusted that in hands as deft and passionate as his, it would transcend a mere book about basketball. I should have had faith in the impossible miracle that I would fly through a book like this and almost start it over again as soon as I finished.

I was able to read this thanks to an ARC provided digitally from the publisher, via NetGalley. With that being said, you can be damned sure I will be buying a copy, or two, when this hits the shelves in March… I wonder if I can find a signed copy?

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Pure poetry- no other way to describe it.
I've read everything the man has written- I'd put this one at the top. Yes, even above "A Little Devil In America, " though it was more like "Go Ahead In the Rain." Wouldn't change a word. Even the structure of the book- the four quarters with intermissions- play in to the basketball theme without being overly cloying.
And it's about basketball, a subject I know nothing about, without really being about basketball. It's about longing, and things ending, and thing beginning, and I'm getting choked up here writing about a book about basketball.

Man. This was something.

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Hanif Abdurraqib is a master at writing about emotion and memory. He's a brilliant and compassionate critic. As a reader, I trust Hanif Abdurraqib completely. It's why I'm willing to pick up a book ostensibly about basketball, a sport that means nearly nothing to me; I know that nothing Abdurraqib writes is ever about one thing. He's a genius at synthesizing ideas and emotions. My trust in him is also why, at the start of the book, when I the book was off, for me, to a bit of a slow start and I thought, "Hmm, structuring it like a basketball game right down to time stamps in each 'quarter,' maybe a little much but OK," I just went with it and kept reading. And goodness, I'm so glad I did.

The structure and pacing of this book is beyond brilliant. It truly felt like a basketball game. Each quarter picks up speed as the time counts down, and as you move through the quarters of the book, the topics and emotions pick up weight. Every minute -- every sentence -- every second -- every word -- starts to matter more. And it all comes downs to the final two minutes of the final quarter.

This is a book about belonging, and who decides who belongs, to a place. About loving a place, whether it loves you back or not. About leaving a place. About who gets to stay and who gets to leave and who decides who should leave or stay. Yes, it's definitely about Ohio. But it's about so much of America, really.

I loved this book, and I cannot wait to recommend it to others.

Thanks to Netgalley for the advance copy.

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It's a testament to Hanif Abdurraqib's talent that I was compelled to read a book about basketball, a subject I know little and care even less about. But this book isn't entirely about basketball -- it's about growing up, and being so connected to a place, and seeing everything through the lens of your hometown.

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Oh wow. Unsurprising to anyone who has ever interacted with Hanif's work, be warned that this collection will ruin you in the best way imaginable. Hanif has an unwavering talent to weave together these themes of community, grief, and hope through some of the most moving storytelling I've encountered. What a force! Plus I don't know anything about the highs and lows of basketball (to butcher an Archie quote) and yet here I was enraptured by the way Hanif describes cracked asphalt, held breaths, and arcing shots. Read this book! Thanks to Random House and NetGalley for the arc!

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This is the best book I’ve read this year. The opening section “pregame” was such a beautiful way to start this book. I know nothing about basketball and do not care about it - but found myself compelled and interested throughout the entirety of this book. Hanif’s writing is so engaging and it makes you feel like you’re in conversation with him. Will be coming back to this often. Absolutely outstanding.

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This is nominally a book about basketball, in the same way that basketball is nominally a game about basketball, but both things are really about life. “Ball is life,” they say, and they mean one thing but the other, opposite thing is implied just the same. There’s little in the way of barriers between the two, I’m saying: a faded YMCA court or the cracked asphalt of a school’s blacktop might as well be a mural to all our collective longings.

And speaking of barriers or the lack of them: For Hanif Abdurraqib, the membrane between reality and poetry is permeable and thin. In his voice, a basketball is only ever a sentence away from a sunset, or an airplane, or a city, or its people. The gift of his writing is that it makes poets out of us all, gently asking us to look around and realize the invisible lyricism that runs through everything. It can be a lot to talk or think or write that freely—it is a kind of vulnerability, after all—but Hanif grants us the permission to go there with him.

And basketball, as much as anything else, deserves to be talked and thought and written about with such freedom, with such care. It’s the perfect subject for a writer who’s always been able to see life from above the rim, reading the X’s and O’s of fast breaks and heartbreaks and slam dunks and slammed doors as pieces of a larger schematic, a pattern outside of the pattern.

In applying that kaleidoscopic view to a topic as populist as basketball, it’s possible that he could lose those people more interested in his thoughts on specific players than in how the game reminds him of his father. But I see it differently: the fact that he and his poet’s eye can spot a world of meaning superimposed over so much painted hardwood means that it was always there to be spotted; that you or I can experience the same three-dimensional, overflowing love of sport if only we have eyes to witness, if only we’re willing to lower the barriers that probably never existed in the first place. Talk about hoop dreams!

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An encompassing, discursive memoir by a poet who writes music reviews for the New Yorker, so the musicality of his poetic style comes as no surprise. Several poets have written long poetic works and there’s the temptation to read Abdurraqib’s book as a poetic form, had prose not a style of its own of page long run-on sentences, the novels written by the Austrian author, Thomas Bernhard for example. And when he writes here as well as elsewhere of Virginia Hamilton’s The People Could Fly and Toni Morrison’s work as influences, Abdurraqib is alerting his readers to the important role flight plays in his book, as when he writes of Michael Jordan in flight, suspended mid-air between the court and the basket.

What is unexpected from his prose is the toughness. His quick shifts are basketball moves and jazz improvisations. In an interview, Miles Davis shared how the sounds a basketball in play on a court had rhythms he would like to work into a musical composition. There’s beauty in the game, the moves, the players in motion, but more than beauty, basketball is a quick paced game of endurance where physical contact is to be avoided, occurring unexpectedly and, at times, delivered intentionally.

Black male bodies dominate basketball courts. Take a Black professional basketball player and trace his personal history within the sport back past the schools to the street courts in the hoods, where Abdurraqib begins his story, more witness than baller where all the players are Black. The blackness of bodies, of the first memories of a young boy and the parts of his father, his bald head, his hands, witness to the Black father in the hood. Basketball for the boys become youth become young men is a means of flight from the hood, which doesn’t forget the unsung street ballers who never made it out of the hood, some of them content to be stars on the neighborhood court. The inner cities are the settings of the greats who grew up shooting hoops. Abdurraqib writes of the crowds of outsiders who traveled to high schools in the hood to watch a young Lebron James play.

Abdurraqib and James are both from Ohio, born in the 1980s a year apart. Both transcended hood backgrounds to achieve success in risky professions where few are successful and even fewer successful without college degrees. Both men are proven geniuses in their game, respectively, basketball and writing (poetry). Like James Baldwin, another genius autodidact, Abdurraqib refers to himself as a witness, a witness with an air view into his experiences growing up as one of the Black boys in the inner city with its hoop dreams, death of twelve year old Tamir Rice by a cop, and jails, within cities where organized crime members die by car bombs, in the state known as the birthplace of flight– sections of Abdurraqib’s memoir are separated with brief sketches of famous aviators from Ohio–and the era of James Lebron in Ohio, including the 2016 NBA championship games.

Thank you to Net Galley and the publisher for an Advanced Readers’ Copy

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Honestly, it's been amazing to watch the writing world give Abdurraqib more and more freedom to do what he wants with his books, or he is at least being given the freedom to cook how he wants. This book is split into four quarters, complete with countdowns and timeouts/interludes, and Abdurraqib fucking swings for the fences on each one. It's a combination of poetry, lyrical sermon esque speeches about all the emotions tied up in basketball and his own personal life, and the larger emotions tied up with LeBron James' ascent to the big leagues. It's amazing to watch this book come together the way it does, and man, it is always a joy to read a new one of his books, even if the subject is not something I would've read normally (basketball), the man finds a way to. be able to explain and convey his joy in a hoop game, and watching someone else win big. Pick it up when it comes out in March, you're going to love it.

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Hanif Abdurraqib turns his brilliant eye and inimitable mind to arguably his most intimate memoir yet in "There's Always This Year" - an ode to his roots with a focus particularly on the meaning of redemption, resurrection, and succeeding.

"There's Always This Year" is scaffolded around Akron, Ohio and world basketball legend Lebron James bringing an NBA championship trophy home to the underdog, long-deprived community of Cleveland. However, as in earlier masterpieces like "They Can't Kill Us Until They Kill Us" and "Go Ahead in the Rain: Notes to A Tribe Called Quest", this theme only provides Abdurraqib a platform for sharing the truth about America The Great. Teaser Alert: It's not so great.

Life has always been hard in the industrial heartland, but hard has now evolved to brutal in the age of globalism, outsourcing, austerity, libertarianism, and the demise of public services. However, Abdurraqib doesn't just come with cheap, hot takes. Rather he shares his visceral experience of police violence and brutality, race-based injustice, a cruel, unequal, corrupt carceral system. He describes an environment where abject cycles of poverty are essentially impossible to break. Affordable housing is an oxymoron, squalid conditions with absentee landlords who only show up at eviction time. Living wage employment is out of reach, especially for those with a "background". Banks lock their doors. Payday loan companies prey. And people ask, "Why is there so much crime in our community"? Drugs? Violence? Arson? Rage?

Amidst betrayal and disillusion, there are always rays of hope. There are occasional saviors, Kings that emerge. There is a need to erect a 10-story billboard, "We Are All Witnesses". But, still, there will be moments of despair, abandonment, ire, anger before, finally, finally a reason to dance.

"There's Always This Year" is remarkable. Whatever is next for Abdurraqib is sure to be another must read.

Thanks to Random House and NetGalley for the eARC.

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Perfect read for Basketball season! I adore Basketball and found this extended essay style book to be a perfect chef’s kiss. I liked this even more than the author’s earlier They Can’t Kill Us Until They Kill Us.

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I loved this book. I have never read a memoir that is a love letter to a city, a sport, and Black culture. What Hanif Abdurraqib does in this book it help to the reader experience language and memoir through a new perspective of a someone who loves their city and basketball. This book is beautiful to read in that respective and also helps this readers who is not a huge fan of sports to appreciate sports in a new way. This is a must read.

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Hanif Abdurraqib simply doesn't miss. Ever. When you first see this book the initial reaction if you're like me is "Wow, that cover is literally gorgeous," but the following feeling is "Oh! This is a book about basketball!" which I would argue the book should not be pigeon holed as because while yes, it is a book about basketball it is also a book about loving a place and never wanting to leave but having to leave anyways. It's a book about love, and grief, and of course, as all of his books are, some of it is about Hanif himself.

I think that the way he writes his books are intimate in that he pulls from his own life experience and the way he parallels his home and his life to LeBron James's is deeply interesting. The thing to note is I could not have pick LeBron James out in a line up. I am not a basketball fan and yet this book had me on the verge of tears.

Basically, this book is everything I could have asked for. I adore his non fiction and I'm so thankful to NetGalley and Random House Publishing Group for the eARC of this book in exchange for a review. There’s Always This Year is out March 26, 2024

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I have been meaning to read Hanif Abdurraqib for a while now and I am glad that this is my introduction to his works.

The only word I can find to describe this book is "lyrical". The book is profoundly moving and does not require a lot of knowledge of the sport to enjoy it fully.

Looking forward to more works from the author

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This was one of the best books I have read in a long while. Hanif Abdurraqib is a genius storyteller and writer, and as much as I adored They Can't Kill Us Until They Kill us, I was still surprised by how much I loved this new collection. The format is incredibly well done, the essays structured in a way that mirrors a basketball game- even down to the seconds. Every essay nearly brought me to tears and it's hard to explain why, as although there was a lot of emotion and difficult subjects explored, I found myself getting choked up by the writing itself more often. There is just something so brilliant about the way this author can get me to feel THERE, in the moment, in the game, in the held breath before someone makes a shot. I think the most incredible thing to me about this essay collection is I went in with minimal (if any) familiarity with how basketball works. I am not at all a sports fan, and although basketball is one of the sports I can wrap my head around the most, I came into this just trusting Hanif Abdurraqib to write me something amazing. And that he did! These essays are, of course, not just about basketball, but the beauty and community and tragedy that is that sport is the center of this book. I found that while reading, I was completely invested and enamored by the stakes of the game, of the sport, and of the players. This was so accessible to me even though I wasn't familiar with half of the players named (which was not an issue at all, Google exists after all) and the writing had me by both my heart and my throat. I will absolutely pick up anything this author writes, as the talent is simply unmatched. I would trust no other artist to make me care about a sport, and I'm so glad I didn't let my inexperience with basketball deter me from picking this up.

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I don’t know the first thing about basketball, but any book with Hanif Abdurraqib’s name on it is an instant read for me.

Hanif Abdurraqib manages to capture love, loss, grief, community, friendship and many other human emotions in a way that I have never read before. I simply cannot get over how incredibly moving his writing is.

There’s Always This Year was beautiful and vulnerable. You don’t have to love basketball to love this book.

*special thanks to NetGalley and and Random House Publishing Group for an eARC of this book in exchange for a review. There’s Always This Year is out March 26, 2024.

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"Praise be to the underdogs and those who worship in the church of slim chances."

No one is doing it like Hanif Abdurraqib. At this point, I truly think he could write the phone book and I'd still read it cover to cover (and probably cry). You don't have to love basketball to love this book. This is a story of community, loss, connection, hope. You feel everything Hanif is feeling in these pages. The writing is lyrical, moving, and there are moments that stopped me in my tracks. I'm struggling to eloquently write a review that does this book justice. Just go read it for yourself, ok?

Thank you to Hanif for sharing his talent, to Netgally for the ARC, and most of all to ME for already pre-ordering this book months ago as soon as it was announced, despite being drunk at a Dave and Busters when said pre-order link went live. I can't wait to have this on my shelf.

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There is no writer living, in my opinion, that can write about heartbreak, community, loss. grief, and hope like Hanif Abdurraqib. This may seem like a book about basketball; and it is, in a way. It's helpful to go in knowing about Lebron James' "decision" to leave Cleveland and his triumphant return, bringing a championship to a long-struggling city, but it's not essential. There's Always This Year is more about a place than anything--and you don't have to live in Cleveland or Columbus to recognize the emotions Abdurraqib so effusively expresses regarding his home.

If you've ever loved a place, or left a place, you'll understand. He so effortlessly puts to page what might otherwise seem impossible to articulate.

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