Cover Image: There's Always This Year

There's Always This Year

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This is a hauntingly beautiful book that’s about basketball, but so much more than that. I had tears running down my face during the last chapters as I didn’t want the book to end. I don’t know if I ever read a book as mesmerizing as this one in how it captures the essence of basketball and childhood and what it means to be a fan and a resident of a city with all of its dreams and heartache and hopes. This is the type of book to slowly just be absorbed into and let it take your emotions where they go.

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This is the most beautiful written non fiction I’ve ever read. It’s part cultural commentary, part memoir, and completely profound, rich, and moving. I’ve not read anything like it.

Abdurraqib explores success, who “makes it” and why, and the role models society builds for us through an examination of basketball alongside his own life. The better a book, the harder time I have talking about it. I do not have the words to even remotely do justice to what he has accomplished here.

The book is broken up like a basketball game, with a pregame, quarters, halftime, and timeouts. And because he is a genius, every time I thought we were talking about a specific aspect of the sport, we were actually talking about something much more abstract and universal. I couldn’t care less about basketball, and yet what he does here moved me to tears.

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Much thanks to Netgalley and Random House Publishers for allowing me to preview the excellent book There’s Always This Year by Hanif Abdurraqib. Hanif Abdurraqib is one of the best essayists and memoirists writing currently, and he may end up being the voice of my generation. There’s Always This Year is the 3rd book I’ve read by Abdurraqib, and this was by far the most personal and intimate one I’ve read. After reading both Go Ahead in the Rain and They Can’t Kill Us Until They Kill Us, I’ve come to appreciate his style as a welcoming and personal style that I feel like I’m in a conversation with him… like we’re sitting down to catch up after some time away, and I’m all ears to hear about what he has to share. I wouldn’t say that his style is conversational, but there’s something about his writing that just welcomes me in and makes me feel like I’m sitting next to him. Maybe it’s some of the shared experiences with music, liking a lot of the same bands and music, but it’s much deeper than that, and I think that with There’s Always This Year, Abdurraqib takes his subjects much deeper than the surface level. It’s like his some kind of word archeologist, delving into the history of basketball to plumb the social and cultural connections and developments they have birthed into his world and ours. I’d like to say this book is about basketball… the title and the cover lead us to believe that. Even his first section discussing the Fab 5 at Michigan makes us think that this is going to be a book about basketball, but it is so much more. I am amazed at Abdurraqib’s ability to use a subject like basketball as a launching point or touchstone to go beyond and explore issues and problems in society as well as his own personal experiences, whether they are with family, friends, school, or the justice system. For example, the section about Chris Webber and Jalen Rose, as well as other members of the Fab 5, starts out discussing their uniforms, then seems to go into the baggy shorts era, exploring this trend. He then ends up talking about hair, and how baldies were popular at this time, and then moves into his own experience with hair, his father’s hair, and time, and then into Lebron James. Much of the book examines the Cavs and Lebron James, but I found it fascinating to see how Abdurraqib uses these points to move from one subject to another in such a seamless manner. For many of my students, I would imagine asking for some kind of transition or indication that there was a connection or movement from one idea to another, but Abdurraqib is such a deft (and def) writer that he is able to make these kinds of connections in a subtle and personal way. He also does his research, citing facts and statistics that may seem inconsequential or obscure, but he manages to imbue with meaning and significance. It was also great to learn a lot about basketball, particularly his interest in players who did may not stand out in the history and records of the NBA; yet Abdurraqib is able to give them their dues and through his own personal connections with these players, he elevates their contributions and playing to importance, even if it is through his memory. I absolutely loved this book, and it reminds me that I need to read some of Hanif Abdurraqib’s other books, especially Little Devil in America, which has been on my to read list for some time. This is a wonderful book, tied together by basketball but about so much more, and so important to read today as Abdurraqib explores issues of inequality, injustice, as well as the challenges of defining yourself and exploring your identity today.

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This book is beautiful, poetic commentary on basketball- and so much more. It is commentary on home- making a home wherever you are, never leaving home, leaving home but always missing it- loneliness, mourning, endings, and survival.

Another indisputable win for me from Abdurraqib. A book you want to take your time with and soak up every word.

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Not a basketball fan, but Abdurraqib reminds that no matter the subject matter, he will wrap you in his words until you feel at home. I loved the pulling between loneliness and hopefulness, and past and future. Truly a master storyteller.

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There's Always This Year is beautifully written and almost feels incomparable to any other book. It's an almost unforgettable book that still feels subtle. It's one I am excited to read again as I am sure I will get something new from it with each re-read.

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I’ve never read a love letter to basketball that felt quite like this. I love the sport, have loved it since I was a kid, but Hanif Abdurraqib has unlocked some of the magic that makes it so special. But this book is not even really about basketball so much as it is about the people that play it, the people who make the mythologies around it, the towns that rally for a team or a player.

Abdurraqib has a way of writing moments to feel like personal memories I’ve lost and have just now recovered. I’ve not once been to Cleveland or Columbus or Ohio, but it almost feels like I have, his writing flowing into and illuminating the cracks in the concrete, the corners of his neighborhood. This is a book firmly about Home, about coming home and loving home even when home is called a “war zone” by the people who will never understand it. This is also a book about how difficult it is to be alive or to survive, how hard and violent and lonely life can be. But there’s basketball. There are underdogs and miracles and dreams. There is longing and love songs. There are people who love us and people who we have loved, even if they are gone and can’t return home.

If you have already read and loved Hanif’s other works, you will once again fall in love here. And if you haven’t, this is a great place to join in! So much thanks to Netgalley and Random House for this eARC, this was one of my most anticipated releases of the year and it certainly delivered!

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Gorgeous, insightful prose that keeps you glued to the page—whether or not you're a basketball fan. A love letter to a place, a feeling, and those we've lost, a meditation. Abdurraqib's writing feels at once holy and utterly grounded in this place we call home. I highlighted so much, and can't wait to go back and read his previous works.

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Giving There’s Always This Year all the stars. This book was magical. This transcends so much beyond basketball in a subtle and beautiful way. It is a story about growing up both literally and metaphorically. It is about finding and embracing home wherever you are. Surrounded by the people who love and support you most. But then of course there’s basketball. There has never been a better book written about the sport and it will be hard to top this one.

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This is one of the hardest reviews I've ever written because I don't know what to say other than, "Wow, this was really good." There's Always This Year is Hanif Abdurraqib's best yet. Abdurraqib's writing is so powerful it made me nostalgic for a sport that never had a big impact on my life and a place I've never been.

The special skill that Abdurraqib has that so few writers do is his ability to get the reader to trust him. He earns this trust through exquisitely crafted sentences and layered points of view that can only possibly discovered by someone who has really, truly thought about a subject. The vulnerability and self-reflection found in this book's pages are to be loved, admired, and mourned. There is yet to be a book by Abdurraqib that hasn't shifted a part of me or made me reflect inward and want to be better.

There's Always This Year is a must-read in 2024. Like all of his work, it deserves the attention and praise it receives.

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This is one of the better accounts of being a sports fan that I have read. Abdurraqib is smoothly able to interweave his own story, sordid as it is at times yet always honest, with LeBron James and his comings and goings from Cleveland. I liked the format of the book, styled like a basketball game in four 12-minute quarters, and the fluidity of the writing.

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The word gratitude comes to mind. Waves and waves of gratitude to NetGalley and Random House for providing me with an eARC of this work. Much gratitude to Hanif for his words, always. What an immense honor and privilege to read this in exchange for my own thoughts. I can't thank you all enough.

Hanif is a magician in his own right, not only due to his love for the movie, The Prestige, but throughout his work, he, himself, follows the traditional rules of prestigious performance; he presents an idea, the idea is then stripped away as we are guided through a tapestry of, at times, seemingly unrelated topics, ideas, and thoughts, only to be brought back to where we began, with a feeling that every stop in that journey was purposeful. There's Always This Year is perhaps Hanif's greatest trick, using basketball, the structure of its game, and Lebron James as vehicles to tell his most intimate story yet, the story of life and everything after, and his return to the city he loves, Columbus, Ohio.

I mentioned gratitude. Each section, every word, is handled with such a deeply-rooted level of care. Out of respect for that, I, too, felt a responsibility to cradle each word with an equal measure of care. As much as I wanted to race through this, as much as I felt and heard the clock ticking, I took my time, often re-reading sections. I held on as long as I could. You quickly learn that this is the book Hanif has always wanted to write and I cannot wait for my physical copies to arrive. I purchased multiple to gift to friends and I am counting the days until I get to share this experience with them. Do yourself a favor and pick-up the audiobook when it drops, too. If you haven't heard Hanif read, well, you are in for a treat. The amount of love that bursts through these pages will certainly be expanded on as he narrates.

There's Always This Year is a triumph. A monumental work from a voice that will echo through decades, long after the clock runs out.

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Ohio. Street ball. LeBron James. The Cavs. Hope. Solidarity. Loyalty. This love letter to all these things is one of Abdurraqib's finest. This long form memoir slash sports analysis slash ode to Home has a unique structure, that of the four quarters of a basketball game. Abdurraqib waxes lyrically through the ups and downs of his life, race, LeBron's times on the Cavs. It's a spectacular ode by one of our nation's most gifted essayists.

Buy it. Buy all his books. You don't need to know anything about any of the topics to enjoy his thoughts.
I'll be pushing it on to all my friends and total strangers.

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This book is phenomenal. There is a conversational and stream of consciousness convo style of writing to Haniq that works so well I am astounded in the best way every time I read his work. This book is about but not about basketball and that is honestly the best description I can give it. It's about leaving but not, outsurviving (is that a word) yourself? Does the previous sentence convey what I am actually trying to say? Just, go read this book. Masterful.

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A beautiful book that encompasses so much more than the 2016 Cleveland Cavaliers. In fact, it doesn't even have THAT much about the 2016 Cavs, which would be disappointing if the rest wasn't so carefully rendered, incisive, and moving.

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Hanif Abdurraqib never misses. This book is so beautiful and moving and so rich with love. You do not need to be a basketball fan to appreciate this book, it's about basketball for sure, but it's filled with so much more - love, loss, music, culture, family, and home. As always, this book is narrated through a beautiful, poetic, lyrical voice that you'll find in any Abdurraqib writing. I couldn't recommend this book enough, I'm so thrilled to have had the chance to read it early. Thank you so much Random House & NetGalley!

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Exquisite. Unique. Masterful command of language & prose. My first 5 star rating of 2024. Can’t wait to purchase & gift to many this year.

Grateful to NetGalley & Random House for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.

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Never having read this author, I wanted to read this as one of the younger members of my family is obsessed with basketball and to see if it would be one he would enjoy. Instead, I found an author whom I’ve never read before that took me on a journey I never expected would move me to tears at times, both for the beauty of his writing, and for his story.

This is a story about basketball, but it is also so much more than that. It is a story about home, the place where you became whoever you are as the years passed - and the good, and bad, memories it holds. It is composed of a countdown and four quarters, as an ode to the game, and perhaps the way our lives are divided by our ages and the wisdom we collect as the years pass, if we’re lucky.

Set in Columbus, Ohio for the most part, a place I’ve never lived but have visited several times as one of my friends lives there, this is an ode to Columbus, the people who he grew up with, the highs and lows of living there, the city itself, as well as some heartbreaking moments of tragedy. And yet, despite what some may think of all the negative aspects of this place, it is still home, the place we came from is always home, our first home.

This book was an unexpected blessing for me, one that is filled with and about love at its heart, a beautiful introduction to a new author, for me, and I can’t wait to read more of his books.


Pub Date: 26 Mar 2024

Many thanks for the ARC provided by Random House Publishing Group - Random House, Random House

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“My people are here, and my people built the here in their image, and at least for a few precious years, there was nowhere to make it out of. We built the impossible utopia.”

Firstly, thank you to NetGalley and Random House for the ARC of this book. I read and enjoyed THEY CAN’T KILL US UNTIL THEY KILL US earlier this year (and even convinced a friend to teach it for her American lit course!), so I was thrilled to get my hands on this one.

THERE’S ALWAYS NEXT YEAR is cleverly formatted in five parts: a pregame and four quarters. Each quarter is then subdivided into mini essays, organized by a ticking clock (12:00, all the way down to 0:00, or the end of the quarter). Many of these shorter sections bleed into one another, poetic enjambment on a larger scale that works so beautifully. I also appreciated the interludes, in which Abdurraqib includes poems inspired by different people, both famous and personal. The poems all center around the idea of flight, an idea that does not quite seem connected to basketball but that works so well in context. Abdurraqib also uses music — in particular the “begging song” trope — to perfectly encapsulate the years in which LeBron played for Miami. There are so many unique stylistic and thematic choices here that elevate it to a level of constant awe.

This book is pure poetry. Abdurraqib knows how to turn a phrase like no other, weaving it not only into something new, but something that will alter the reader’s perception. My one and only complaint about this book is that it is constant payoff. You want payoff, but you want to work for it. This book has a little too much payoff, peppered throughout, so that you’re constantly conditioned to expect some greater revelation or gut punch, and when it doesn’t come you’re a little disappointed or even bored. I felt this way at a few points around the middle of the book, but it scooped me right back up for that last part. As far as I’m concerned from the description of the Nike commercial on, THERE’S ALWAYS NEXT YEAR is perfection.

It is about basketball, of course, as the subtitle suggests; but it’s also about family and hair and grief and struggle and poverty and love and loss and music and race and violence. More than anything though, it’s about home. This book is an ode to the ways in which our home shapes and holds us over the course of our lives, a welcome and constant pull that we always return to, even when we think we’ve let it go. And in being about home, it is also about all those other things listed above, because if a place truly is home, it holds them all. My basketball knowledge is limited and recent, but because of the myriad other focuses, this book spoke directly to me. I have rarely, if ever, felt so thoroughly connected to another person’s words.

I can count on one hand the pieces of art that have made me cry throughout my life. This one made me openly weep in its last pages. Basketball fan or not, I recommend this to anyone and everyone. Five stars.

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If there's anyone who would make me care about basketball (besides Emma), it's Hanif Abdurraqib. I especially did love the format that he wrote it in, with four quarters, and a countdown that he uses brilliantly. It's about basketball but also not about basketball, and though I didn't love it quite as much as I loved They Can't Kill Us Until They Kill Us, I will read every book he writes. He just has a way with words and a way of writing about Ohio, and particularly Columbus, that makes me really happy someone can write so beautifully about this place that I love so much.

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