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Path Lit by Lightning

The Life of Jim Thorpe

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A riveting new biography of America’s greatest all-around athlete by the bestselling author of the classic biography When Pride Still Mattered.

Jim Thorpe rose to world fame as a mythic talent who excelled at every sport. He won gold medals in the decathlon and pentathlon at the 1912 Stockholm Olympics, was an All-American football player at the Carlisle Indian School, the star of the first class of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and played major league baseball for John McGraw’s New York Giants. Even in a golden age of sports celebrities, he was one of a kind.

But despite his colossal skills, Thorpe’s life was a struggle against the odds. As a member of the Sac and Fox Nation, he encountered duplicitous authorities who turned away from him when their reputations were at risk. At Carlisle, he dealt with the racist assimilationist philosophy “Kill the Indian, Save the Man.” His gold medals were unfairly rescinded because he had played minor league baseball. His later life was troubled by alcohol, broken marriages, and financial distress. He roamed from state to state and took bit parts in Hollywood, but even the film of his own life failed to improve his fortunes. But for all his travails, Thorpe did not succumb. The man survived, complications and all, and so did the myth.

Path Lit by Lightning is a great American story from a master biographer.

Photograph by Linda Maraniss

David Maraniss is an associate editor at The Washington Post and a distinguished visiting professor at Vanderbilt University. He has won two Pulitzer Prizes for journalism and was a finalist three other times. Among his bestselling books are biographies of Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, Roberto Clemente, and Vince Lombardi, and a trilogy about the 1960s—Rome 1960; Once in a Great City (winner of the RFK Book Prize); and They Marched into Sunlight (winner of the J. Anthony Lucas Prize and Pulitzer Finalist in History). A Good American Family is his twelfth book.

“A better marriage of subject and author could hardly be imagined. David Maraniss is a prizewinning, bestselling biographer. Jim Thorpe was a great athlete whose story is a paradigm of an era in American history. And although Thorpe never achieved financial success commensurate with his fame, he remained resilient until the day he died. Maraniss knows sports and he knows American history, but most of all, he knows how to tell a great story. This book returns him to the territory of his bestselling biography When Pride Still Mattered.

—Bob B., VP, Executive Editor, on Path Lit by Lightning

More books from this author: David Maraniss