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A Sense of Where You Are: Bill Bradley at Princeton

4.08  ·  Rating Details ·  1,080 Ratings  ·  76 Reviews
When John McPhee met Bill Bradley, both were at the beginning of their careers. A Sense of Where You Are, McPhee's first book, is about Bradley when he was the best basketball player Princeton had ever seen. McPhee delineates for the reader the training and techniques that made Bradley the extraordinary athlete he was, and this part of the book is a blueprint of superlativ ...more
Paperback, 144 pages
Published June 30th 1999 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (first published 1965)
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Steven Peterson
May 24, 2010 Steven Peterson rated it really liked it
I just found my old paperback copy of this book. While in high school, I admired Bill Bradley's basketball playing at Princeton a great deal. As a result, I bought this book soon after it came about. This is a good luck at the career of Bradley at Princeton University. Literately written and a fascinating character study. . . .
David Quinn
Sep 17, 2014 David Quinn rated it it was ok
Disappointingly fawning, I half-expected to see Bill Bradley’s mother and father as co-writers.

Bill Bradley’s Princeton years were undoubtedly filled with supreme basketball and academic success so I wasn’t expecting any type of exposé but the superlatives were heaped on too heavily for my liking.

This is better suited for YA readers.
Justin Gravitt
Jan 07, 2017 Justin Gravitt rated it it was amazing
Read this book because the author is well-known to be a writing ninja. I was duly impressed. The writing is very clean. The story always kept moving and was interesting.
Ryan Holiday
Jun 22, 2012 Ryan Holiday rated it really liked it
I can't exactly say how I came to hear the two of them recommend this book, but when Robert Greene and Paul Graham both say something is good, I don't need to be told a third time. The title comes from a Bill Bradley quote about his hook shot, about how after enough of them his feel for the game was so good that he didn't need to look to see where he was on the court. He just knew. I guess it's probably a bit of the selection bias, but it's fascinating to me to read a biography of someone before ...more
May 29, 2010 Lynne-marie rated it really liked it
This just reminded me of how much I love McPhee's style and also reminded me what it was like in the 1960's to be living in a home where Cazzie Russell was such a house-hold name that it reverberates today with great clangor still today.

This is essentially biographical sketch of a young Bill Bradley just after he left Princeton. Totally basketball, but a glimpse into the workings of the mind nevertheless. In a sense, it is a companion to a piece McPhee wrote within the last year for "The New Yor
Jul 14, 2014 Lisa rated it it was amazing
I finished A Sense of Where You Are last night. It was a fantastic book and an outstanding story. Bill Bradley lived out a story that every athlete hopes upon, especially to go out on such a positive note. I finished the book and immediately watched Youtube videos of Bradley.

I enjoyed McPhee’s writing style. He’s straightforward, light, metered. There’s an easy rhythm to his words.

I recommend it for sports fans, but also fans of creative non-fiction for the beautiful writing.
Corey Thibodeaux
Jul 16, 2012 Corey Thibodeaux rated it really liked it
Great portrait of a player through his own eyes. Bill Bradley was a unique player and man and John McPhee capturing some of those moments in action made this book relevant. I think I learned more about the game of basketball from this book than any other source.
Alex Strick van Linschoten
I have no interest in basketball whatsoever, but this book kept me hooked. I'm trying to read all of John McPhee's books this year, and this was a wonderful start.
Feb 12, 2014 KennyO rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
This is where I began my strong interest in and respect for John McPhee's writing. He paints a lyrical portrait of young Bill Bradley that piqued my interest in more of his writing.
Aug 14, 2010 Darryl rated it really liked it
Bill Bradley was born in a small Missouri town, the son of the town's banker, who taught him discipline, hard work, and a love of learning, and his wife, a fiercely competitive but loving former athlete. Their son was one of the most celebrated schoolboy athletes in Missouri history, and was offered scholarships to over 70 colleges to play basketball. However, he chose to attend Princeton University, which did not provide athletic scholarships and was not known for its basketball team, as he had ...more
Sep 13, 2016 Rams rated it really liked it
John McPhee originally published this book in 1965, though the version I read, published in 1999, includes a new forward and photos (oddly tacked on to the end) of Bill Bradley's years on the Knicks and in the senate.

A dusty, monochromatic, unabashedly fawning account of Bradley's basketball career at Princeton - which this book is - sounds like a recipe for literary disaster. Instead I found myself enjoying McPhee's descriptions of Bradley's preparation, focus, and performance on the court, an
A Sense of Where You Are details the early life and college basketball career of Bill Bradley. Though at times McPhee comes across a bit starry-eyed when describing Bradley, I admit that his basketball and academic accomplishments are quite impressive. Reading this book after Beer and Circus (which is about modern collegiate athletics and how they are undermining undergraduate education), I found it particularly striking how much emphasis the "student" part of student-athlete was given in the 19 ...more
Dec 12, 2016 David rated it it was amazing
I can still recall specific mental images conjured by McPhee's storytelling in this book. It opened the world of non-fiction to me.Though I grew up in a New Yorker house, as a kid I used it only to find Chas. Addams and other cartoons; until I read this book and my dad told me that McPhee was a New Yorker writer. That began a lifelong affair with the magazine, and with this brilliant writer.
Judd Vance
Jul 10, 2016 Judd Vance rated it it was ok
The story of Bill Bradley is a fascinating one. He was the highest recruited high school player since Wilt Chamberlain. While he was in line to register at Duke, he decides he would rather go to Princeton, even though Ivy League schools do not offer athletic scholarships. He becomes a 3-time All-American and the 3rd highest scorer in NCAA history and while playing with teammates of limited ability, he leads them to the 1965 Final Four, where he scores a NCAA record 58 points, re-writing the reco ...more
James Entwistle
Apr 08, 2013 James Entwistle rated it really liked it
Every now and then, I'll read a book, watch a movie, or see a youtube clip of Tim Tebow taking a handicapped girl as his date to a formal event that legitimately makes me want to be a better man. This book had that effect on me. Bill Bradley's drive, willpower, and moral fortitude are truly inspirational. Bradley's success in basketball and in his career thereafter speak to the value of hard work and perseverance. It was also refreshing and interesting to read a biography about someone that was ...more
Dec 10, 2013 Tom rated it really liked it
A very quick read. Finished it in one afternoon. McPhee can really write. In many ways, this reads like a eulogy for idealized image of the "student athlete." Simply put, Bill Bradley was everything that major athletic universities would love to think that their athletes are. Heck, Bradley was what any university president would love to point to as the ideal student. Guys like Bradley were rare in the 1960s and they are rare now. McPhee does an elegant job of detailing Bradley's unique dedicatio ...more
Apr 14, 2007 Lee rated it really liked it
Shelves: recentlyread
a great account of bill bradley in what may be perhaps his best forum, though possibly the one for which he is least known. mcphee's first work follows bradley's senior year/ season at princeton. during this year he would win the national player of the year award, take princeton to the final four, and be selected as a rhodes scholar. bradley must be the greatest student-athlete of all time and this book accounts the incredible dedication, resolve, and work that made it possible. the only complai ...more
Apr 23, 2012 Trina rated it it was amazing
Sure did like this book about Bill Bradley who played at Princeton while I was growing up there. I never saw him play, and I didn't even read this til much later, but it's an outstanding profile of a young basketball player at the start of his career by a young writer also starting off his writing career. Through detailed description, McPhee captures not just the training and techniques that made Bradley such an extraordinary athlete, but also the self-discipline and strong sense of where he was ...more
Nov 13, 2009 Neal rated it it was amazing
best book about growing up as a gifted athlete who has skills and ambitions loftier than those of most top athletes. mcphee's description of game sequences is unrivalled, and he captures his character's most emblematic features in mundane moments. one unforgettable scene. bradley is practicing jump shots in the gym as mcphee observes. he's missing shot after shot. he tells mcphee that the height of the basket is a half-inch off of regulation. bradley adjusts, and sinks shot after shot. later, mc ...more
Ronald Wise
A detailed history of Bill Bradley's basketball career at Princeton University in the early 1960s. Though suspiciously laudatory, it provided some useful technical insights on the game from a players perspective. The main part of the book was first published in 1965, but this edition has addenda from 1978 and 1999 with photographs of Bradley's NBA career with the New York Knickerbockers and his political career as a United States Senator from New Jersey. I learned of this book through a tribute ...more
A really good profile of Bill Bradley in college, before he'd go on become a NBA player and politician. McPhee does a great job capturing how thoughtful, diligent, smart, and exceptional Bradley was compared to his college peers at Princeton and other schools.
My only real criticism with the book is that much of the writing on basketball feels horribly dated. McPhee wrote this book before much good writing on basketball existed, so his explanation of plays and shots feels clunky. I wish he would'
May 21, 2014 Alex rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 1-bdy, 3-x
McPhee doesn't sentimentalize Bradley's standing or lay it on thick like other sports writers. He simply gives us the opportunity to watch a hardwood folk-legend in the making. Non-basketball fans will marvel at the monkish dedication and cunning self-experimentation that would impel Bradley through NCAA and NBA championships right through to the U.S. Senate. And for fans of the game, the intimate look into Bradley's work ethic, behind-the-scenes preparation, and proprioceptive wizardry on the c ...more
May 08, 2007 matthiah rated it really liked it
A great book for those who appreciate the little things, the fundamentals in sports (specifically basketball). Good sports writing is tough to find these days, but Mcphee's attention to the details sets him apart. Plus, its a really magnificent profile of a pre-NBA, pre-Senate Bill Bradley during his senior season at Princeton when he was both the National Player of the Year and a Rhodes Scholar ... truly epitomizing the student-athlete model while leading Princeton to the Final Four. Bradley wa ...more
Mar 11, 2008 Dave rated it it was amazing
I can still recall specific mental images conjured by McPhee's storytelling in this book. It opened the world of non-fiction to me.

Though I grew up in a New Yorker house, as a kid I used it only to find Chas. Addams and other cartoons; until I read this book and my dad told me that McPhee was a New Yorker writer. That began a lifelong affair with the magazine, and with this brilliant writer.
Feb 23, 2010 Brugge rated it really liked it
It is fun to read a book written about a person before that person goes on to achieve & even exceed what everyone thinks he is capable of. You often read stories like this about young men or women who then end up burning out and not reaching their potential. This is obviously not the case with Bill Bradley. Another fun aspect of this book is the author John McPhee was a young author at the time and also went on to fulfill his potential.
May 29, 2013 Dave rated it really liked it
The book consists largely of McPhee's 1965 profile of Bradley for The New Yorker, which is sufficient to discover where Bradley's drive and desire came from. Well, the profile plus some biographical setup serves as a nice lead-in to Bradley's life in basketball and politics. I felt like the cap on Bradley's senior year at Princeton served to complete the circle — well, Mr. McPhee, don't leave me hanging! Excellent profile by a master of the genre in McPhee.
Jan 15, 2013 Diener rated it really liked it
Shelves: sports, biography
Interesting book about a true scholar athlete who led the Princeton Tigers to the 1965 Final Four. This book does not cover Bradley's subsequent professional basketball or political careers. However, it does contain addenda that includes photographs of his 10 years with the Knicks and three terms in the US Senate.
Justin Sorbara-Hosker
Quick. McPhee's first book shows how much he impacted the style of the New Yorker biographical profile (I still have to go find more Joseph Mitchell). Tight, short little book following Bill Bradley through his years at Princeton, & addendums provide small updates to his post college career as a Knick & a US Senator. Interesting how the relationship forms between writer and subject.
Riley Cooper
Jun 26, 2015 Riley Cooper rated it really liked it
The copy of this book I had says 95 cents on the cover, so I have toted this around for about 45 years before finally reading it. My enjoyment of this short book stems from Bill Bradley's character and intelligence as much as for the recounting of his athletic exploits. It was good to read about such a well-rounded and very grounded individual.
Jun 23, 2011 Leslie rated it really liked it
Shelves: chez-mama
Great book. It was a quick read but I really enjoyed it. This is a great tale of perseverance and virtue. It does not deal with Bradley's politics but his hours and hours of practice and self discipline to be the person that God wanted him to be. Inspiring read for athletic HS boys (not preachy about the practicing bit).
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John McPhee was born in Princeton, New Jersey, and was educated at Princeton University and Cambridge University. His writing career began at Time magazine and led to his long association with the New Yorker, where he has been a staff writer since 1965. The same year he published his first book, A Sense of Where You Are, with FSG, and soon followed with The Headmaster (1966), Oranges (1967), The P ...more
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“Bradley is one of the few basketball players who have ever been appreciatively cheered by a disinterested away-from-home crowd while warming up. This curious event occurred last March, just before Princeton eliminated the Virginia Military Institute, the year's Southern Conference champion, from the NCAA championships. The game was played in Philadelphia and was the last of a tripleheader. The people there were worn out, because most of them were emotionally committed to either Villanova or Temple-two local teams that had just been involved in enervating battles with Providence and Connecticut, respectively, scrambling for a chance at the rest of the country. A group of Princeton players shooting basketballs miscellaneously in preparation for still another game hardly promised to be a high point of the evening, but Bradley, whose routine in the warmup time is a gradual crescendo of activity, is more interesting to watch before a game than most players are in play. In Philadelphia that night, what he did was, for him, anything but unusual. As he does before all games, he began by shooting set shots close to the basket, gradually moving back until he was shooting long sets from 20 feet out, and nearly all of them dropped into the net with an almost mechanical rhythm of accuracy. Then he began a series of expandingly difficult jump shots, and one jumper after another went cleanly through the basket with so few exceptions that the crowd began to murmur. Then he started to perform whirling reverse moves before another cadence of almost steadily accurate jump shots, and the murmur increased. Then he began to sweep hook shots into the air. He moved in a semicircle around the court. First with his right hand, then with his left, he tried seven of these long, graceful shots-the most difficult ones in the orthodoxy of basketball-and ambidextrously made them all. The game had not even begun, but the presumably unimpressible Philadelphians were applauding like an audience at an opera.” 6 likes
“If basketball was going to enable Bradley to make friends, to prove that a banker's son is as good as the next fellow, to prove that he could do without being the greatest-end-ever at Missouri, to prove that he was not chicken, and to live up to his mother's championship standards, and if he was going to have some moments left over to savor his delight in the game, he obviously needed considerable practice, so he borrowed keys to the gym and set a schedule for himself that he adhereded to for four full years—in the school year, three and a half hours every day after school, nine to five on Saturday, one-thirty to five on Sunday, and, in the summer, about three hours a day.” 3 likes
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