The Phenomenon

Pressure, the Yips, and the Pitch that Changed My Life

by Rick Ankiel and Tim Brown

Hardcover, 292 pages

"On October 3, 2000, 21-year-old pitcher Rick Ankiel took the mound for the St. Louis Cardinals in Game One of the National League division series. All was going well until Ankiel, who'd been lauded as the next Bob Gibson, threw a pitch that missed the mitt—wildly. Then he threw another. Then another, five in all. Slowly at first, then rapidly, his once-impenetrable pitcher's psyche crumbled. He would forever look back on that day as the day the unwelcome, inexplicable Phenomenon arrived. In this book, written with veteran sports journalist Tim Brown, Rick Ankiel tells the story of his personal battle with an anxiety condition widely known as the Yips, the courageous soul-searching that followed, and his eventual triumph over the demons in his own mind to reenter the game. For the next four and a half years after that day in October, Ankiel fought the Yips with every bow in his quiver: psychotherapy, medication, deep breathing exercises, self-help books, and, eventually, vodka. Yet the cure eluded Ankiel, much as the clinical diagnosis eluded the physicians and psychotherapists who studied it. Forced not just to retire from baseball but to reconsider his whole life the age of 25, Ankiel made an amazing turnaround, returning to the major leagues, this time as a hitter. He played seven successful years in the majors, finally retiring in 2013. This book is the story of a once-in-a-generation talent, a man haunted by strange personal demons, and who found the strength to overcome them"—

Bleaker House

Chasing My Novel to the End of the World

by Nell Stevens

Hardcover, 244 pages

"A whimsical blend of memoir and travelogue, laced with wry and indispensable writing advice, Bleaker House is a story of creative struggle that brilliantly captures the self-torture of the writing life. Twenty-seven-year-old Nell Stevens was determined to write a novel, but somehow life kept getting in the way. Then came a game-changing opportunity: she won a fellowship that let her spend three months, all expenses paid, anywhere in the world to research and write a book. Would she choose a glittering metropolis, a romantic village, an exotic paradise? Um, no. Nell chose Bleaker Island, a snowy, windswept pile of rock in the Falklands. There, in a guesthouse where she would be the only guest, she could finally rid herself of distractions and write her 2,500 words a day. In three months, surely she'd have a novel. And sure enough, other than sheep, penguins, paranoia, and the weather, there aren't many distractions on Bleaker. Nell gets to work on her novel—a delightful Dickensian fiction she calls Bleaker House—only to discover that an excruciatingly erratic internet connection and 1100 calories a day (as much food as she could carry in her suitcase, budgeted to the raisin) are far from ideal conditions for literary production. With deft humor, the memoir traces Nell's island days and slowly reveals details of the life and people she has left behind in pursuit of her art. They pop up in her novel, as well, and in other fictional pieces that dot the book. It seems that there is nowhere Nell can run—anisland or the pages of her notebook—to escape herself. With winning honesty and wit, Nell's race to finish her book slowly emerges as an irresistible narrative in its own right"—