The Ball by John Fox


6 Critic Reviews

The conclusions don’t surprise, but crackerjack reporting crackles throughout.


Anthropologist John Fox sets off on a worldwide adventure to thefarthest reaches of the globe and the deepest recesses of our ancientpast to answer a question inspired by his sports-loving son:

"Why do we play ball?"

From Mexican jungles to the small-town gridirons of Ohio, frommedieval villages and royal courts to modern soccer pitches andbaseball parks, The Ball explores the little-known origins ofour favorite sports across the centuries, and traces how a simpleinvention like the ball has come to stake an unrivaled claim on ourpassions, our money, and our lives. Equal parts history and travelogue,The Ball removes us from the scandals and commercialism of today'ssports world to uncover the true reasons we play ball, helping us reclaimour universal connection to the games we love.


About John Fox

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John Fox, a Harvard PhD in anthropology, has excavated ancient ball courts in Central America, traced Marco Polo's route across China, and biked Africa's Rift Valley in search of human origins. He has worked as an academic, and, more recently, as a co-leader of the Quest Channel Expeditions, a pioneering adventure learning program that took him and an online audience of a million young people on expeditions across six continents to explore the world's greatest scientific and historic mysteries. A recipient of a MacDowell fellowship, he has written about his many travels and adventures for Smithsonian, Outside, Salon, and, among other publications. He has also appeared on Good Morning America (from the top of a pyramid!), the BBC's The World, and contributes regular commentaries on sports and culture to Vermont Public Radio. He lives in Boston.
Published May 15, 2012 by Harper Perennial. 385 pages
Genres: Sports & Outdoors. Non-fiction
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Critic reviews for The Ball
All: 6 | Positive: 6 | Negative: 0


Reviewed by Kirkus Reviews on Apr 15 2012

The conclusions don’t surprise, but crackerjack reporting crackles throughout.

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WSJ online

Reviewed by WILL BLYTHE on Jun 01 2012

The ball itself—whether made of grass and beeswax, opossum pelts, kangaroo scrotums or seal hides—is depicted freshly as an extraordinary invention of human happiness.

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Star Tribune

Reviewed by Mark Pendergrast on Jun 23 2012

It is, instead, a fascinating cultural and historical foray into selected sports, and reading it is nearly as much fun as playing ball.

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Reviewed by Sylvio Lynch on Jun 06 2012

Rather, The Ball lets everyone in on the secret on why playing like this is so fundmental —and so delightful—to our nature.

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Reviewed by Dave Banks on May 16 2012

At full time, The Ball is a fascinating read that – like a good ball game – is both compelling and fun.

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Sophisticated Dorkiness

Reviewed by Kim on Jun 18 2012

In the end, I think the best thing that I can say about The Ball is that it was a totally fun book to read — exactly what you would expect about a book inspired by a game of catch.

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Rachel Companion

Rachel Companion 30 Aug 2016

Added the book to want to read list