Neal Thompson


...the story of a father’s struggle to understand his willful skateboarder sons, challengers of authority and convention, to accept his role as a vulnerable “skate dad,” and to confront his fears that their out-of-bounds lifestyle will lead them too far afield. With searing honesty, Neal traces his sons’ progression through all the stages of skateboarding: splurging on skate shoes and boards, skipping classes and defying teachers, run-ins with security guards and cops, painting graffiti, drinking and smoking, and more. As the story veers from skateparks to the streets, from funny to treacherous and back, Neal must confront his complicity and fallibility. He also reflects on his upbringing in rural New Jersey, and his own adventures with skateboards, drugs, danger, and defiance. A story of thrill-seeking teens, of hope and love, freedom and failure, Kickflip Boys reveals a sport and a community that have become a refuge for boys who resist mainstream expectations as they seek their own path. Ultimately, it’s a deeply moving survival story of a loving modern American family, of acceptance, forgiveness, and letting go.

With a dispassionate but tender eye, Thompson captures the ache, fizz, yearning and frustration of being the father of adolescent boys—and of adolescence itself, observed and remembered.
— Michael Chabon
Heartfelt and blunt … skillfully describes the many trials of parenthood. This memoir will provide humor and comfort for parents figuring out their kids—and themselves.
— Publishers Weekly
Neal Thompson’s Kickflip Boys is a lovely, irresistible aria on the difficult, hard-won, tragic truth that there are no thrills without catastrophes.
— David Shields
With searing and often hilarious honesty, it is a story of love and doubt, of fear for the future and coming to terms with the present.
— Brigid Schulte

  • Pen Center USA Literary Award finalist
  • Amazon Best Book of the Month & Year
  • Vanity Fair Hot Type pick
  • Barnes & Noble Booksellers' Pick
  • iTunes Best Book of the Month
  • NPR pick for 2013
  • Parade 2013 Summer Read

A Curious Man is the first-ever biography of Robert “Believe It or Not” Ripley, the enigmatic cartoonist turned globetrotting millionaire who won international fame by celebrating the world's strangest oddities, and whose outrageous showmanship taught us to believe in the unbelievable. Ripley's pioneering firsts in print, radio, and television tapped into something deep in the American consciousness—a taste for the titillating and exotic, and a fascination with the fastest, biggest, dumbest and most weird. As David Shields put it, "Neal Thompson constructs an elegant argument: the world Ripley created is the world in which we now live.” 

“Brilliant…What’s truly unbelievable is that it’s taken us so long to get a full-fledged biography of this great American character…It was worth the wait.” -A.J. Jacobs

"Deliriously entertaining" -Megan Abbott (full review here)

"A Curious Man is a work of real beauty and fun and emotion -- and intense readability. Thompson is the genuine article: smart and witty, empathetic and a pleasure to read." -Darin Strauss, bestselling author of Half a Life and Chang and Eng

“Like Robert Ripley, Neal Thompson has a nose for the strange and wonderful.  A Curious Man is a rich, compelling read for fans of the exotic and uncanny.” -Stewart O'Nan, bestselling author of The Odds

"Anyone who wants to understand America needs to read this book … Neal Thompson gives us a vivid portrait of this complex, restless man in all his maniacally conflicted glory." -Ben Fountain, Winner of the Pen/Hemingway Award and author of the National Book Award Finalist Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk

 "Intelligent and gripping … Neal Thompson expertly captures the surprisingly complex character of Robert Ripley, and a life nearly too fantastic to be believed." -Karen Abbott, bestselling author of Sin in the Second City and American Rose


The true story behind NASCAR’s moonshine-fueled origins. Long before the sport of stock-car racing existed, young men in the rural, Depression-wracked South learned that cars and speed were tickets to a better life. With few options beyond farm or factory, the best chance of escape was running moonshine. Bootlegging offered speed, adventure, and wads of cash—if the drivers survived. In this dynamic era, three men with a passion for Ford V-8s—convicted criminal Ray Parks, foul-mouthed mechanic Red Vogt, and crippled war veteran Red Byron, NASCAR’s first champion—emerged as the first stock car “team.” Theirs is the violent, poignant story of how moonshine and fast cars merged to create a new sport for the South to call its own. 


"Here's the real story, not just of NASCAR, but of the new South that emerged from moonshine and speed." -Richard Ben Cramer

"A definite crowning achievement… Thompson’s writing is superb. He is a grand storyteller and does his homework.” -The Boston Herald

"There are more divorces, drunks and wrecks than you can shake a checkered flag at ... A thoroughly researched account of a 'simpler time' in a sport that has since become a multi-billion dollar business." -NBC News anchor Brian Williams, in the Wall Street Journal

“A thrilling ride … Thompson brings an infectious energy to this stretch of Southern history – even if you don’t know a master cylinder from a head gasket.” -The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

“Excellent… shows a deep understanding of how Nascar racing essentially owns the world south of the Mason-Dixon Line. ” -Brock Yates, Wall Street Journal (“Five Best Books on Car Racing” -- Driving with the Devil is #1)

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“It is a fascinating read – part sports, part culture – and perhaps as close as any book has come to exploring and explaining stock car racing’s deep Southern roots.” -The Tennessean 

“Thompson has attitude, curiosity and affection (and) he knows how to get inside the character of the eccentrics who shaped the sport.” -The Chicago Sun-Times


Alan Shepard was the brashest, cockiest, and most flamboyant of America’s original Mercury Seven, but he also regarded as the best. Intense, colorful, and dramatic—the man who hit a golf ball on the moon—he was among the most private of America’s public figures and, until his death in 1998, he guarded the story of his life zealously. Light This Candle, based on Neal’s exclusive access to private papers and interviews with Shepard’s family and closest friends—including John Glenn, Wally Schirra, and Gordon Cooper—offers a riveting, action-packed account of Shepard’s life. One of the most fearless test pilots, hugely competitive, he beat out John Glenn for the first Mercury spaceflight and then overcame a rare illness to return to space again on Apollo 14. Long overdue, Light This Candle is a candid and inspiring account of a bold American life.

“One of the finest books ever written about the space program.” -Homer Hickam, author of the #1 New York Times bestseller, Rocket Boys

"Tough to say what’s cooler: that Alan Shepard was the first American in space, or that he hit a golf ball on the moon. Thompson chronicles the amazing life of the brashest, funniest astronaut ever." -Men’s Health


A rare, warts-and-all portrait -- and Shepard had a lot of warts. Thompson does a stellar job painting a real-life figure who never really showed his true self to anyone.” -The Vancouver Sun

“Just what a biography should be: sharp, evocative, and brisk.” -Kirkus 

“Irresistible … a tenacious biography of Shepard’s remarkable life. A chapter of American history like no other. Thompson hits all the right notes.” -The Buffalo News


* Order from AmazonBarnes & NobleIndiebound, Elliott Bay Books, Powells.


The John Curtis Patriots were an unlikely football dynasty. A small, nondescript, family-run school, buildings constructed by hand by the school's founding patriarch, no stadium of its own. The team plays an old-school offense, and head coach J.T. Curtis insists on a no-cut policy, giving every kid who wants to play a chance. As of 2005, they'd won 19 state championships in Curtis's thirty-five years of coaching, making him the second most winning high school coach ever. Curtis teaches players how to transcend their natural talents, to play with purpose, respect, dignity, perseverance, and teamwork, showing them how to be winners not only on the gridiron, but in life. Hurricane Katrina would put those lessons to the test.  Hurricane Season is the story of a great coach, his team, his family, and their school -- and a remarkable fight back from tragedy. It is a story of football and faith, and of the transformative power of a team that rises above adversity, and above its own abilities, to come together and prove what they're made of. It is the gripping story of how, as one player put it, "football became my place of peace."

“Thompson shapes a moving scene in which one player, then a trickle more, and then nearly 50 arrive in a steady stream of cars for their first post-hurricane practice. It has an effect similar to that of seeing the miles-long line of cars waiting to visit the spectral baseball field that Kevin Costner carved out of his Iowa corn in Field of Dreams.” -The New York Times

“Thompson personalizes the Katrina tragedy in a way all sports fans can relate to. You don’t even have to be a sports fan … It’s not often a non-fiction sports book will put a lump in your throat.” -Montreal Gazette 

“The scenes of the hurricane, its aftermath and the difficult season will move even the stoniest of hearts. ‘Friday Night Lights’ in crisis mode, this book packs an undeniable emotional punch.” -Publisher’s Weekly 

“One unforgettable season” -Entertainment Weekly

"Hurricane Season is a powerful book about who we are, and who we each strive to be. It is also the song sung by real people succeeding to complete the mission each has been called to, often against seemingly impossible odds. I think this is a beautiful read for parents of both boys and girls, and I believe it's an especially powerful book for parents, mentors, and teachers of boys and young men." -Michael Gurian, author of The Wonder of Boys 

"The concept of 'overcoming adversity' is certainly nothing new in the world of sports. Here, though, we see a truly extraordinary example of boys and men facing raw trauma and striking back with both passion and purpose." -Jeffrey Marx, author of A Season of Life