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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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
“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.
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.
Hanif has done it again. There's Always This Year is split into 4 quarters, just like a basketball game. It is a book about basketball, Ohio, and Lebron James. Don't worry if you don't have an interest in any of those things, it's also a book about himself. Hanif Abdurraqib has a way of making his interests your own and it gets me every time.
I love how this book begins; immediately primed to feel like I’m in a huddle and Hanif is giving me the game plan. Listen, I could be here for this book for basketball reasons alone. But, the truth is that man can think and write like no other and I can honestly say that I’m here for anything Hanif has to share.
Initially, I had the feeling that this book was some sort of allegory to how we learn to play the game given our faults and shortcomings. (Re: the courts of life are uneven, our drives and desires sometimes misguided, etc.) But it turned into this beautifully reflective story about Ohio, about racial inequality, about outrage, about hope. All through the lens of Hanif’s personal life.
Sure, there’s mention of The Fab Five, Michael Jordan, and LeBron James. But the real MVP in the end is the stunning command of language. Also, you won’t be disappointed in his vast knowledge of music. Definite recommendation.
A truly original, beautiful, and poignant sports book. A fascinating blend of creative writing and poetry, this is a book grounded in basketball. This is also a book that ultimately is not about basketball, instead looking at the people and places that make us—joys and pains, misses and baskets, role models and fallen heroes—through an intimate look into the Cleveland neighborhoods Abdurraqib (and LeBron James) grew up in.
I want to start this all by saying I think that Hanif Abdurraqib is one of the greatest writers of our time.
The thing about Abdurraqib’s writing is that, sure, you can pull a few lines here and there to quote and they’ll be rich, but you really have to sit in for the full story he’s telling. He is a weaver of words and the tapestry he creates is immaculate every single time.
There are so many things Aburraqib does well & that I love happening in this book. He talks about the Black culture he loves while critiquing the American society it’s birthed from. Also, he knows who his audience is, writes for them and doesn’t gaf about who else might be reading his words. This book is very clearly for lovers of basketball (both the game and the culture), Ohio, and Lebron James, topics I have very little connection to, but Hanif is dropping so many gems there’s no way I could put the book down. He’s just saying too many important things.
I think what draws me back to Hanif’s writing again and again though is not just the keen points about American society and popular culture, but it’s the self reflection. In telling so much about himself, he is revealing thoughts and feelings I’ve had about myself and situations I’ve been in— even though they’re so different than his own. That is so incredibly powerful to me.
There’s Always This Year releases on Mar. 26th and I hope y’all read it
I’ve adored Abdurraqib’s writing for a while, and as a newfound sports fan, this book came at the perfect time.
The way the author is able to tie his personal experiences of both growth and loss into the things he loves, whether it’s music or basketball, makes his format of memoir even more compelling. There’s Always This Year is surely Abdurraqib’s most personal book yet, chronicling his complicated relationship with where he’s from while also observing the way a city shapes someone through the lens of Lebron James.
Abdurraqib’s poetic, often stream-of-consciousness writing style demands that the reader put trust in him as he guides them on an emotional journey. It’s easy to hang on his every line and every transitional moment, just as if you’re transfixed to a high-energy basketball game. The structure of the book, counting down quarters, minutes, and seconds, ultimately shows the impact of time on not just a game but on those who enter and exit the arena doors in their communities.
Alongside gaining a wealth of basketball knowledge from one of the most honest and charismatic writers in the game, the experiences described in the book have only made me look further into what exactly makes my own city so endearing, besides just being the backdrop of my entire life.
Thanks Random House and Netgalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review :)
This review was published in the Saturday/Sunday, January 27-28 edition of the Charleston (WV) Gazette Mail.
Basketball and the realities of life in the city - first as an economically disadvantaged black youth, then as a man - combine to paint vivid pictures in this wonderful book by Hanif Abdurraqib, author of the National Book Award finalist “A Little Devil in America.”
The author grew up in Columbus, Ohio, during the same period LeBron James was playing high school ball just up the road in Akron, then, later, during his two periods with the Cleveland Cavaliers. Abdurraqib and his friends went to see him play many times, so LeBron’s career is a theme throughout, especially the idea that when LeBron returned to Cleveland with the idea of winning a championship for the city (which, of course, he did) he brought the entire city together. The author cited a Nike commercial that brought him, exiled to Connecticut at the time, to tears.
He also highlights many excellent high school players in his own home city, a fact he loves “for how it opens the gates to dreaming and offers an everywhere.” And very few of them are LeBrons; most of them don’t make the NBA, but “of all the reasons I love the hood, the greatest reason is for how we honor our homecomings,” no matter whether it’s someone coming home from college or prison.
Abdurraqib lauds the pickup games to be found in any city, and decries the time when Columbus took its rims down during the COVID-19 pandemic. He recalls “…my pal who used to pull a heavy gold cross from his neck and pay the block kids some coin to hold on to it tight while he lit up the east side courts now wears a robe with a gold cross…my pal tells me there is no real difference between resurrection and revival ‘cept that the latter can sometime require a human intervention.”
He defines sports trash talk, on any level, as a kind of love, writing, “you are worthy of the time it takes to dismantle you.”
Pickup games are but one important rite of passage in the city. There are also sections on the importance of black men’s hair (and the decision to go bald) and cars (and their sound systems.)
It comes as no surprise that Abdurraqib is a poet, because the language here is magical, lyrical and has a rhythm - much like the back and forth sway of teams going up and down the court, taking their turns with the ball, singing the songs of young black men.
He recalls the first time he was in jail, when his first cellmate, years older than him, told him, “‘Don’t worry, man, whatever they do to you, they gonna do to all of us.’ At first I thought what he was saying was ‘We all got your back,’ but the more I thought about it, I think he was actually saying, ‘No one in here suffers alone,’ which is close to the same thing but also decidedly not.” And throughout, this is what Abdurraqib seems to be saying about the city. No one suffers alone.
During that first jail stay, he had nothing other than a spare pair of socks that a friendly guard gave him, and he guarded them with all he had…and at night pretended that rolled up pair was a basketball.
The year LeBron returned to Cleveland was also the year of the murder of Tamir Rice. The author notes that the police officers seemed unafraid and that “a city is a container for heartbreak,” stating “my heart, and perhaps yours, hums at the frequency of a low and ever-present breaking.”
However, Abdurraquib tried living away from Columbus and was constantly dissatisfied, and always looking for reasons to go home. The city was him and he was his city, “and there were no games like those games. To be an audience to that impossible miracle. This many good players in a radius of a mile or less.” Home.
In his most personal book yet, Hanif invites us into his neighborhood where basketball is a through line for reflections on community, systems of oppression, growing up, and what it means to really be from a city. His lyrical writing is once again a beautiful feature of the narrative, and I learned a lot about my city. As I do with all of his books, I find myself putting the book down to look up clips, songs, maps, and photos he references with the ease of a cultural polyglot. This book is immersive and revealing.
One of my favorite qualities about Hanif’s writing is his ability to draw the extraordinary out of the ordinary and often times overlooked. His writing is this invitation where he says, beloved, let me pull back the curtain and show you all the beauty and life that lies here.
Like the nobility of the dude who shows up to the park with bald, worn out basketball.
Or the way the hood honors homecomings; people pouring out to praise your return simply because it is a return.
Yes this is a book for people who love basketball, but it’s also a book for people who love people and the places that make them; people who admire the richness of the human, and more specifically black, experience—particularly when marginalization has sought to strip it of value.
Thanks to Penguin Randomhouse and NetGalley for the ARC. Excited to buy a copy for everyone in my life.