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A Sense of Where You Are: Bill Bradley at Princeton

4.07  ·  Rating details ·  1,347 ratings  ·  99 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 superlative ba ...more
Paperback, 144 pages
Published June 30th 1999 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (first published 1965)
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 ·  1,347 ratings  ·  99 reviews

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David Quinn
Sep 17, 2014 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.
Ryan Holiday
Jun 22, 2012 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
Steven Peterson
May 24, 2010 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. . . .
Jun 05, 2019 rated it it was ok
Bill Bradley is a fascinating example of what a single person can achieve their lifetime through hard work and dedication. This book describes his collegiate basketball career and life in Princeton university, focusing towards the end of the career especially. As other reviewers have pointed out, unfortunately despite being written by skilled author in McPhee, the book comes across as a hagiography, a completely non-critical description of all the positive aspects of the team, Bradley and the un ...more
Aug 11, 2017 rated it really liked it
You can tell this is early McPhew. It has the same calm, conversational teaching voice, but it's missing some of the smoothness and gravitas of his other work. There's also a few uncomfortable passages about how "athletic" (e.g., black?) players are changing basketball for the worse, but on the whole a good read.
May 29, 2010 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
Jul 14, 2014 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 writ
Corey Thibodeaux
Jul 16, 2012 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.
Dylan Groves
Jul 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
uncomfortably idolatrous, but a good statement about what heroism looks like for new yorker-reading society.

+1 for being so cleanly written.
Feb 12, 2014 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.
Justin Gravitt
Jan 07, 2017 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.
Alex Linschoten
May 17, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Dec 04, 2018 rated it liked it
I did not enjoy this as much as other John McPhee books and I think it's 1) Translating the subject matter to writing and 2) The relevance of the current subject matter. I love watching basketball so I expected to love this book, but reading about basketball is just a whole different deal for me (maybe I'm too visual to get a lot out of reading activity vs. watching it). I also feel the sport has changed so much since the novel. There is no way McPhee, writing in the past, could have framed the ...more
Henry Fuhrmann
Feb 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
I had previously read about a third of McPhee's 30-plus books but had somehow missed this one, the very first, published in 1965. When a new acquaintance who had worked with the author at Princeton offered to lend me his copy, I was delighted to fill in this gap in my reading. "A Sense of Where You Are" proved to be an enjoyable bookend to McPhee's "Draft No. 4" (2017), at the time his most recent book, in which he had collected a career's worth of writing advice drawn from his work for the New ...more
Thomas Anstett
Nov 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing
For the everyday basketball fan, this book will be educational about the journey of a player who made himself great. The son of a banker who possessed the means to provide young Bradley with any advantage and the money to attend any college the youth desired, Bradley the aspiring player chose a school which did not award scholarships (Princeton University).
For the basketball aficionado, this book is a must-read. That type of reader and lover of the game will be entranced by the detail with whic
Heather Hollick
Apr 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A good primer on John McPhee. Also, basketball

After reading McPhee’s excellent collection of essays, Draft No. 4, I wanted to read some of his oeuvre. Since I have also become hopelessly addicted to the Golden State Warriors, I started with this book about Bill Bradley and basketball.

I was not disappointed. His portrayal of Bradley is reverent and heartwarming. And his insights into the magical art of elite basketball are illuminating and inspiring. If you like great writing, stories
Christopher Renberg
Feb 16, 2019 rated it liked it
I'm blanking on why I went down this rabbit hole, but it was a quick, interesting read. Bradley must have been something to see back in the day.
What really made this book interesting to me were the marginal notes in my used copy. Someone was apparently assigned a rhetorical analysis of this book. By their notes, I'm assuming they did well. Let's hope so! The extra observations they made were cute as well.
Feb 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is a beautifully written book about Bill Bradley, hard work and the joy of basketball. A Sense of Where You Are should be required reading for any one trying to be successful in life. I had heard so much about it. I wasn’t sure it would interest me enough, but I loved it! I laughed so much and enjoyed the author’s excitement. Bradley was amazing and the writing is beautiful. Enjoy!
Marilyn Stuckwisch
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jun 23, 2017 rated it liked it
Nice book, a junior high kid might enjoy it, written in 1965, catalogues the career of Bill Bradley.
Dec 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Great descriptions of playing basketball.
Jack Davis
Jan 31, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It's McPhee. What more needs to be said?
Anastasia Karel
Sep 21, 2017 rated it really liked it
I've had my dad's copy of this book for many years, but couldn't remember whether or not I'd read it all the way through. Enjoyed it quite a bit and learned a lot about basketball.
Brad Hayes
Mar 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
Hard not to like the young Bill Bradley when viewed through the lens of John McPhee. Apart from the biographical narrative, it's also a well-written mid-century sports story.
Oct 20, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A really great story, well told, about Bill Bradley as a college basketball player, but you can see the man he will become in there.
May 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
As a complement to Rick Telander’s marvelous “Heaven is a Playground,” a memoir about the summer Telander spent coaching a pick-up team of black youth in Brooklyn’s projects, I turned to John McPhee’s 1963 classic “A Sense of Where You Are: Bill Bradley At Princeton”.

These are two basketball stories.

Bradley was a rich white kid growing up in Missouri. Telander’s charges were extremely poor black kids growing up in the ghetto.

The great strength of Telander’s book is how t
Mar 04, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: journalism, sports
I've never liked anything by John McPhee, but this one did it for me. It's very calming, pretty short, and about something I'm interested in. McPhee's overwrought descriptions of Bill Bradley playing basketball -- and of him practicing basketball -- worked for me here in a way that bored me when McPhee gave similar treatment of rock formations or whatever didn't in his other books. I wish I could have seen Bill Bradley play.

There are some strange aspects to McPhee's actual basketball analysis.
Aug 14, 2010 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
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 1960s in ge ...more
Judd Vance
Jul 10, 2016 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
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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
“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.” 7 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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