Great Americans: Stories of Resilience and Joy in Everyday Life is a collection of 30 of my favorite and most inspiring stories from 30 years at The Philadelphia Inquirer. I was a Pulitzer Prize winning staff writer there until late 2015, and concentrated on human interest stories and narratives. I am a storyteller and believe profoundly in the power of stories to inspire, to bring people together, and to change the world.
I chose these stories in particular because they highlight our spirit and sacrifice and determination and commitment and goodness. Most of these people in this book faced and overcame incredible adversities. They are indeed Great Americans. With a lifetime of stories to choose from, selection was a challenge. I tried to include stories of different lengths, stories that reflected important milestones in my writing life, stories that generated huge responses from readers, stories that just stuck with me.
Matthew Miller had just pedaled up a mountain pass. He was 20, a member of the University of Virginia triathlon club, so fit his resting pulse was 42! He was on top of the world in so many ways, in love, with dreams of attending medical school. And then, cycling along the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia, tragedy struck. The real story is not what happened, but what happened after. Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Michael Vitez shares with you the incredible, humbling, miraculous story of Matt’s survival and recovery. It is a story, truly, of grace and grit, of an America that shines — families, community, individuals and institutions. The story is as gripping as it is inspiring. Ride along!
Michael first chronicled Matt Miller’s story for his newspaper, The Philadelphia Inquirer. The response from readers was so overwhelming – and Matt’s continued recovery so remarkable — that Vitez immersed himself in Matt’s world. The Road Back is not only about a young man’s drive to reclaim his life, but about the the people who rode with him, rescued him, helped him heal, and saw up close his amazing comeback.
WHAT PEOPLE ARE SAYING ABOUT THE ROAD BACK
“I read it in one day. LOVED it! Matt Miller's story is one of inspiration and perseverance. Mr. Vitez's writing is captivating as he describes the unwavering fortitude that brought Matt from near death to medical school and Ironman success. His character and love of life remind me so much of my brother. Amazing book about an amazing man.”
— Maddy Crippen, former U.S. Olympic swimmer and sister of the late Fran Crippen, who plays a key role in Matt's story
"This is an absorbing, well-written, and inspiring book about a special young man who suffered a severe traumatic brain injury. The medical accounts were accurate and compelling, and I think anyone with an interest in recovery from neurological injury would enjoy this book."
— Dong H. Kim, chief of neurosurgery at the University of Texas Medical School who cared for Congresswoman Gabby Giffords.
"The Road Back is an incredible story of survival and recovery against all odds. Matt Miller's focus and determination are unbelievable and inspiring -- I'll never again have an excuse not to get out and train."
— Erin Donohue, U.S. Olympic 1500-meter runner
ROCKY STORIES: TALES OF LOVE, HOPE, AND HAPPINESS AT AMERICA'S MOST FAMOUS STEPS
Rocky Stories was a labor of love, and I promise you will enjoy it. Photographer Tom Gralish and I spent a year at the Rocky Steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and this book is a collection of our favorite stories and photos. For 20 years, at virtually every hour of the day, I had seen people from all over the world come and run these steps. What struck me was they were always so happy at the top. I knew in my gut we would find great stories there. So Tom and I set out, and spent a year at the steps. The runners and their stories are remarkable.
“The world, increasingly, is filled with chaos, sadness, madness and hate. The “Rocky Steps” (as they have come to be known) offer an escape from that, if only for a few moments. Even better, they offer a tonic to the world’s problems, a chance to celebrate hope. People come here and affirm their dreams. Rocky may have brought them here, but it is their own lives that they celebrate.” — from my introduction to Rocky Stories.
Sylvester Stallone loved the book and wrote the foreword. This is what he wrote about the Rocky Steps and why people still run them today — 30 years after the original movie was made:
“You can’t borrow Superman’s cape. You can’t use the Jedi laser sword. But the steps are there. The steps are accessible. And standing up there, you kind of have a piece of the Rocky pie.”
— from the Foreword by Sylvester Stallone
WHAT PEOPLE ARE SAYING ABOUT “ROCKY STORIES”
“The extent to which the Rocky myth has resonated is documented in this winning book . . . each story is engaging.”
— Sports Illustrated
Ken Tucker of Entertainment Weekly called Rocky Stories a “knockout,” “The result is a delight, a thrill, a gas: a kind of art experiment completed by ordinary people.”
“In our increasingly homogenous world of strip malls and chain restaurants, there are still a few authentic and unscripted experiences left. One of them takes place every day on the towering steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, where strangers flock from across town and across the globe. Two extraordinarily talented journalists, Michael Vitez and Tom Gralish, have captured this uniquely American phenomenon with whimsy, poignancy, and utter charm. Rocky Stories will steal your heart and restore your faith in the power of shared human experience.”
— John Grogan, author of Marley & Me