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The World's Fastest Man: The Extraordinary Life of Cyclist Major Taylor, America's First Black Sports Hero

4.08  ·  Rating details ·  229 ratings  ·  47 reviews
In the tradition of The Boys in the Boat and Seabiscuit, a fascinating portrait of a groundbreaking but forgotten figure—the remarkable Major Taylor, the black man who broke racial barriers by becoming the world’s fastest and most famous bicyclist at the height of the Jim Crow era.

In the 1890s, the nation’s promise of equality had failed spectacularly. While slavery had en
Hardcover, 384 pages
Published May 7th 2019 by Scribner
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Jul 19, 2019 rated it really liked it
A very good (enjoyable, informative) piece of biography (and, more broadly, history and sports/cycling history) that also makes a nice contribution to a nice, diverse, growing literature that (effectively, importantly) reminds us how horrific the nation's history is with regard to race (in this case, in particular, between the Civil War and the Civil Rights movement).

If you're not inclined to pick up a book about bicycle racing, may I suggest you consider the book instead as another opportunity
Susan Roberts
Feb 27, 2020 rated it really liked it
What I loved about this book was the way the author told Major Taylor’s story, setting it in context with current events of the day. I’ve read another biography of Major Taylor, but this book goes to great pains to point out the rampant racism that Taylor endured. You cannot read the appalling quotes from articles and speeches of the period without noting how remarkable it was that the Major did not emerge from these experiences as an embittered and angry person. There is no doubt that he was a ...more
Steve Ledoux
May 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing
An amazing story of a great, but forgotten man, who overcame racist America to be a true champion
Major Taylor, a top cyclist at the turn of the 20th century. He Was African American and struggled not only to be at the top of his game but defy the racists. That constantly tried to pull him down. Good book.
Jun 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: cycling
The main comment I have is that this is very well done overall as far as how the author shaped the story of Taylor's life he is trying to present, and it is "good read" (so to speak).

The usual pitch for this book always seems to have Taylor as a "forgotten" figure of sports history, but I don't agree with that. First, how many sports stars of 120+ years ago can any of us name? And aside from that, Taylor has had something like three or four other biographies written about him plus at least as ma
Possibly the most powerful of sport’s myths is the claim to equal opportunity, which is obviously limited in terms of access to the field of play, but less obviously so once athletes make it to the field. Michael Kranish’s biography of Marshall Walter (‘Major’) Taylor not only shows how both those myths have a direct impact on an individual athlete but also how they are potently interwoven. Taylor, one of the most high profile cyclists of the late 1890s and 1900s and the only African American at ...more
Charles Francis
Sep 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is a fascinating read. As an African-American, male, a cyclist, and someone who grew up in the deep south, this book resonated with me on several fronts. Taylor, is truly an American hero. He defied all the stereotypes, the poverty, setbacks, parochialism, and biggest barrier of them all, blatant and unadulterated racism.

Where mere mortals would have capitulated early on, Taylor showed that he in fact was a gift from God to the athletic world and to the African-American race.

If you did no
Dominique King
Nov 07, 2019 rated it really liked it
I would not normally read about cycling, but reserved this book at my local library at the suggestion of a friend and really enjoyed it.
Major Taylor was not a person I had heard of before, but he really did have an amazing, if not at times...sad, life.
I learned a lot about the early days of cycling and it's real popularity in the pre-automobile era.
The struggles Taylor experienced as he battled not only his fellow bicyclists, but the days of racism during the Jim Crow era, the rise of the KKK
Sep 19, 2019 rated it really liked it
Just concluded THE WORLDS FASTEST MAN by Michael Kranish. I wanted to see his presentation at the KCMO Library a few weeks ago but life got in the way.
I had some knowledge of MAJOR TAYLOR. I got caught up in the Triathlon craze in the late '80s and cycling was 50% of that sport. As a result, I entered a few cycling events with mixed results.
Cycling was the most popular spectator sport at the turn of the century. Cyclist made more money than baseball players. Major had a considerable influe
Oct 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
This was an interesting book but it tended to stray from the main themes of the book; Major Taylor and racism in Major's lifetime. The forays away from the main themes are often interesting but my feeling is that the book could have been considerably shorter.

A note about spoilers: The book includes photographs. My policy has always been to not look at a book's photographs until I have read through the chapter that contains the images. I do this because I want to learn all that I can from the tex
Scott Schneider
Aug 31, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Major Taylor was America's first black sports hero. Well before Jack Johnson took to the rink and Jackie Robinson took to the field. He wowed audiences in the US, Europe and Australia. His career was cut short by the automobile which quickly ended America's love affair with bicycles. Bicycles are making a come back so now is the perfect time to learn about Taylor. A fascinating history of bicycling, racism and technology. I wish there was footage of him so I could see him make his famous "jump" ...more
Melissa Irwin
Nov 21, 2019 rated it it was ok
Hmmm. The writing of the cyclist’s actual life was not that great and actually really boring like a fifth grade book report. I respect the athlete and what he went through, just didn’t care for the style of how it was told.

BUT the information about the times was fantastic. The historical notes of race relations, politics and what it was like at the turn of the century was very interesting and sobering. It led to a www search to watch minstrel shows and Birth of a Nation. Horrible the roots of o
Diane Busch
Jul 31, 2019 rated it really liked it
I learned more about the history of cycling than I ever thought I wanted to know. But the story of Marshall Major Taylor is very interesting. He had such a struggle throughout his racing career due to being a black man in a sport filled with non-black men. It angered me so much to read about how he was treated - in some places he wasn't even able to eat before a race or get a hotel room because of racism.
Peter Heisler
Dec 30, 2019 rated it liked it
This book thoroughly and excitingly chronicles Major Taylor's races--though it's hard to keep track of all of them, even with Kranish's assists. I suppose that's one of the remarkable aspects of Taylor's career, as conveyed here. The political and social context were interesting to read about, as with the parallels to American society today. These areas are where Kranish's skill and experience as a journalist come through, though the writing is a little flat and documentary in tone.
Amy Jones
A solid 3.5 stars. This man was amazing and barely anyone has heard about him. He broke the race barrier 50 yrs before Jackie Robinson. His training and nutrition were interesting since most people didn’t know about those things back then.
What really really bothered me was the flagrant racism. It was pervasive and dangerous. Even in the north. And on the track. How people can treat someone like that is completely beyond me.
This was my first Audible book thx to hubby bday gift subscription!
May 24, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: sports, 2019
Not sure if I missed it in the book.... Worcester has really done a good job recently. There is a Major Taylor Blvd and statue dedicated in 2008(Disclaimer..I was there!!! Greg Lemond signed my program. The great Edwin Moses was there too!!!!!). Lol at myself...I tried the George St challenge solo three years ago but only made it 2/3 up.
Jul 14, 2019 rated it really liked it
Chock full of great historical information in general and specifically about bicycling. Indiana folks--much of that history is in Indianapolis! I expect children's picture and chapter books to follow this important book about the first African-American sports star whose name has fallen through the cracks.
Cheryl Petersen
Dec 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A revealing and necessary spotlight on human history and progress. Not only did I get a better idea of cycling before the modern bicycles, but also the road infrastructures before major highways. Kranish's focus on Major Taylor and his allies was greatly appreciated when soaking in this wonderful story.
Wade Self
May 24, 2020 rated it liked it
There were many aspects of this story that I enjoyed. The author does a particularly good job keeping the struggles Taylor faced as a black man at the beginning of the 20th Century at the forefront of the book.

I also was struck by how many similar theme of a capitalist society ring true 120 years later.
Jun 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: cycling
great book! I was aware of "Major" Taylor(once attended an event at the Major Taylor track in Indianapolis) and his accomplishments but this book did a great job of placing him in his era. Since he is largely forgotten today, hopefully this book will bring his story to a wider audience
Don Healy
Jun 17, 2019 rated it really liked it
Little known, but very interesting history of America’s first black sport’s super star (preceding Jack Johnson by at least a decade) and the white resistance to his success. A bit repetitious, but generally attention grabbing.
Oct 23, 2019 rated it really liked it
I don’t know why it took me so long to finish this book other than sometimes life has other priorities. It’s a good read about a relatively unknown black bicycle racer back near the turn of the century and what he had to endure because of racism way back then.
Korryn Mozisek
Feb 22, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A thoroughly enjoying read about a fascinating, inspiring man. The narrative remained centered on Taylor yet had enough about social issues to learn important dimensions about the periods Taylor lived and impacted him. A strong narrative structure overall.
Kathleen Guinnane
Mar 14, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: for-me
This book was more than a biography of Major Taylor. It was also a history lesson on bicycling, the invention and adoption of the automobile, and race issues in the United States. I learned a lot more than I had expected to.
Deb Aronson
Apr 12, 2020 rated it really liked it
I got held up half way through but I'm not sure why. An incredible human being ... I think the author might have done a better job explaining Major Taylor's reasons for repeatedly retiring and then un-retiring... but highly recommend.
Mark Whitaker
Apr 20, 2020 rated it really liked it
My review for The Washington Post: ...more
Jeremy Duffle
Aug 04, 2020 rated it it was ok
Shelves: biography
Didn't finish. I made it a little past halfway through. It was an interesting story and informative info. But the writing style was quite elementary. It just didn't capture me like I thought it might.
Anita Dawson
Jun 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Not only is the do a wonderful of capturing the life of Major Taylor, the research to discuss the events in history simultaneously is amazing.
3.5 stars
Jul 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Every athlete's journey is unique and filled with hard work, perseverance, guidance, and luck.
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Michael Kranish is an investigative political reporter for The Washington Post. He is the coauthor of the New York Times bestseller Trump Revealed, John F. Kerry, The Real Romney, and the author of The World’s Fastest Man and Flight from Monticello: Thomas Jefferson at War. He was the recipient of the Society of Professional Journalists Award for Washington Correspondence in 2016.

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