Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your email address or mobile phone number.
Major: A Black Athlete, a White Era, and the Fight to Be the World's Fastest Human Being Paperback – January 27, 2009
2016 Book Awards
Browse award-winning titles. See all 2016 winners
Frequently Bought Together
Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought
From Publishers Weekly
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
"With Major, Todd Balf has given us an astonishing book about race and racing in Gilded Age America. This is literary sports writing at its finest. In the tradition of David Halberstam and Frank DeFord, Balf painst intimate portraits of young athletes at the top of their game- and takes us on an epic ride to a nearly forgotten world of sport."
–Hampton Sides, author of Blood and Thunder and Ghost Soldiers
"If a literary magician could somehow combine the longshot thrill of Seabiscuit, the groundbreaking nobility of Jackie Robinson, and the dramatic flair of Babe Ruth, the result would be something close to this book. Major Taylor is perhaps the greatest American underdog story ever told; I couldn't put it down."
-- Daniel Coyle, author of Lance Armstrong's War and Hardball
"In Major, Todd Balf has given us the true story of a fascinating, vanished sports world, and one of America's first, great black champions. It reads as fast and as beautifully as its heroes spin."
-- Kevin Baker, author of Paradise Alley and Dreamland
From the Hardcover edition.
Top Customer Reviews
Taylor had an iron will and an unbreakable spirit; was a clean-liver in an era when the average professional was a brawler and a dissipate; he could be a world-class whiner; he was obsessive and paranoid. He called his most bitter rivals bigots and rubes; they shot back that he was a professional scab and a self-rightous sob sister. The truth, of course, was somewhere in the middle. It's hard for both Balf and Ritchie to discuss the less heroic parts of Taylor's personality, but these come out in his own writing. You can learn a lot about Taylor by reading Balf and Ritchie; on the other hand, you can learn OF Taylor only by reading his own words.
The book succeeded for me on several levels. First, Todd Balf has done his historian's work, culling from many sources, including newspapers, period magazines, diaries, etc, to give the reader a deep, balanced view the lost work of 90th century track racing. He begins with the bicycle itself, from its mechanical evolution to its impressive impact on society. Then it is on to racing. I found this world utterly riveting, with such events as the 6 day races in Madison Square Garden, where racers battled one another as well as sleep deprivation over 6 days straight, ending with spectacular crashes, hallucinations, and death, or the match races set against huge grandstands in every major American city, or the speed record attempts where riders would draft behind locomotives or other large machines, often getting crushed in the process. It was a frenetic time, the nexus of Victorian sensibility, the rise of the machine, urbanization, racism, the rise of professional sports.
Out of all this emerges the character of Marshall "Major" Taylor, a black superstar who rises to the pinnacle of the sport. To me Taylor was less interesting than the milieux he was apart of. The author works hard to create a narrative structure of good vs evil, with Taylor on one side and McFarland (his nemesis) and the rest of white America on the other.Read more ›
I picked up this book hoping to be illuminated about the man Major Taylor and the period in which he lived and raced. Unfortunately, the book's sloppy writing severely detracted from the story it was aiming to tell. The job of an author is to tell a story in a convincing manner that draws the reader in. This book is full of awkward similes, bad grammer and questionable historical references. It is full of pop-psychology speculation and bold departures from established historical fact into the realm of what can only be described as fantasy.
Major Taylor died a forgotten man, but his legacy is being renewed 100 years after his departure from the world stage. His is a story that deserves to be retold. I would not recommend this book to those with an interest in Major Taylor due to the author's sloppy handling of the subject matter.
Page 205. Re Taylor's 1902 trip from San Francisco to Sydney. Balf wrote that Taylor. `... had 15,000 nautical miles to wonder if he'd be welcomed or chased away.'
The great circle distance from San Francisco to Sydney is just under 6,500 nautical miles, not 15,000.
Page 233. In discussing Taylor and MacFarland facing off in Adelaide, and contrasting it to where their rivalry had begun (presumably the eastern U.S.), Balf writes: `Taylor and MacFarland were some 15,000 miles from where it had started.'
Not true. Adelaide to New York City is 10,600 miles.
Page 206. Re Sydney Harbour: Balf notes that although Capt James Cook saw the headlands at the entrance to Sydney Harbour in 1770, `... the Harbor would be discovered a few decades later...'
Not true. It was discovered just 18 years later. As plural, decades refers to at least two.
Page 208. `In McIntosh Taylor would eventually see an awful lot of Billy Brady--the orphan upbringing, the winning smile ...'
McIntosh was not an orphan. Though his father died when he was only four, his mother lived another 51 years.
Page 208. Balf refers to the `boiling Tasmanian sea'.
There is no Tasmanian sea. There is a Tasman Sea, commonly referred to by Australians and New Zealanders as `the Tasman', but not the Tasmanian sea. That would be like an American referring to the Pacifican Ocean.
Page 209.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This was one excellent read. Not only was this a well written human interest piece about an exceptional personality, but it gives a view into a period now pretty much lost to our... Read morePublished 23 months ago by Jeff511W
This is the first book I've read about Major Taylor, and it made me want to read more about this man. I enjoyed the details of the bike races when cycling was top dog in America. Read morePublished on February 9, 2010 by M. Austin
I picked this book by chance, because I'm a cyclist and wanted to know more about Major Taylor. It was a gripping tale of a cyclist who created his own destiny, overcoming... Read morePublished on December 12, 2009 by Cycling Enthusiast
This book gives some new understanding to the history of the race and the amazing achievements that Major Taylor had in the race!Published on June 11, 2009 by Steven F. Silverstein
I read (and still own) the Andrew Ritchie book on Taylor and wondered what Todd Balf would have to add? Read morePublished on August 18, 2008 by Larry TheobaldCycleItalia
If my comments save at least one person from wasting money and time on this junk, they've been worth the effort. Read morePublished on July 7, 2008 by Scaramouche
I'm glad I read this book. As a life-long bicyclist that includes fast road bikes and some racing, I was interested in- and sympathetic to- this historical speculation. Read morePublished on June 2, 2008 by R. Knapp