A darkly comic account of three years spent in the company of mixed martial artists, narrated from the perspective of an excitable, semi-fictionalized graduate student.

A New York Times Notable Book of 2014

Time Magazine’s #2 Nonfiction Book of the Year

Salon critics’ choice top 10 books of 2014

Slate staff pick for best book of the year

NPR best book of 2014

Kerry Howley - Thrown
Kerry Howley, Thrown, Sarabande Books, 2014

“Thrown is compulsively readable, informative, hilarious…. a ferocious dissection of the essence of the spectator.”   — Katherine Dunn, New York Times Book Review

“The precision of Howley’s prose reminds me of Joan Didion or David Foster Wallace: she’s so involved with the fight, it’s as if she were trying to eat it with words. Howley writes like someone who’s been flayed, all nerve endings exposed, no barriers between her and the world around her. She writes like somebody in ecstasy.”   — Lev Grossman, Time

“This sui generis debut threatens to remap the entire genre of nonfiction…. Howley’s brilliant prose is as dexterous and doughty as the fighters she trails, torquing into philosophy, parody, and sweat-soaked poetry.   — boxed, starred review, Publishers Weekly 

“An absolutely wonderful exploration of the poorly understood sport of MMA.”   â€”Anthony Bourdain

“One of the best books I’ve read in the past ten years. Seriously.” — Jeff VanderMeer, author of Annihilation 

“This transfixing nonfiction narrative combines bloody play-by-play with philosophical inquiry, delivering serious punches. Welcome to the Octagon.”

“What “Thrown” finally reminded me of were not the bold, gonzo pieces of America’s best mainstream magazines, but some of the boldest voices of twentieth-century fiction.  The nearly hysterical circumlocutory gymnastics of the narrator, and her dual position as a predator and supplicant to her fighters, reminded me of nothing so much as Humbert Humbert, with immense cauliflower-eared men in the startling role of Lolita… I found it incredibly bracing, and, remembering all my depressed airport afternoons, proud-making in some strange way.  Howley stepped into the cage and stepped out of it with something new and stunning.”   — Salon

“Funny, sad, sharply rendered, Thrown does what all literature aspires to do — to bring us into a community, a universe, we did not know we cared about and in the end leave us shattered and revealed.”
—Los Angeles Times

“This is the closest look any writer has ever taken at fighting, and it reaches an astonishing level of intimacy…. easily the best inside-fights book every written.—Deadspin

Thrown is a triangle choke, a leglock, a one-two-three sequence of humor, passion, and philosophy. It’s a knockout debut. A round one win.” —Oxford American

Thrown is the best sort of essay, not an argument, but an antidote. â€”The Rumpus

“The fight book of our generation has landed…. a fantastic debut, and an immediate addition to the great canon of fight-lit, down from Jack London to O. Henry to Oates.” â€”The Week 

“A fresh, funny, and highly cerebral treatise on the philosophical merits of cage fighting… she challenges not only the stigma surrounding the sport but the conventions of literary nonfiction itself.” â€”The Boston Globe

“With art and artifice, [Howley] restores to ecstasy its creative force.” â€”Boston Review

“Thrown is a rare literary and philosophical foray into the lives of mixed martial artists that celebrates and examines mixed martial arts’ place in American culture. . . . Her outspoken, opinionated narrator explains what it is about a mixed martial arts bout that makes her feel more alive, hyper vigilant, and ultimately satisfied.”

“Engrossing . . . . Thrown is a sympathetic book about people who might otherwise be written off as dirtbags. . . . an intimate, artful look at violence on the smallest scale.”
—Chicago Tribune

“Thrown is Kerry Howley’s masterful debut. A work of rigorous nonfiction that’s sure to be branded experimental, but that’s as involving and page-turning as any book I’ve read in a while.” —Gary Shteyngart

“Who can explain what draws a young brilliant writer—and a woman no less—to be mesmerized by the sight of a young man being pummeled in the ring? But out of this passion—maybe obsession—comes a great American story about overlooked heroes, the nature of violence, hope, love and nearly everything else that matters.” â€”Hanna Rosin, author of The End of Men

“Kerry Howley gives us a front row seat to the dark, brutal inner world of cage fighters. About the yearning dream for fame, the way violence becomes both poetry and obsession, and the way life can lift you up or crush you, this isn’t just a masterpiece debut, it’s an electrifying classic.” â€”Caroline Leavitt, New York Times bestselling author of Is This Tomorrow and Pictures of You

“Out of the dank basements and glitzy arenas of a brutal sport, Kerry Howley has created a story that is virtuous, rapturous, and utterly consequential. In language that’s as daring as it is astute, she tells the story of two young guys from the middle of America, an overachiever and an underachiever, whom the world, it turns out, has equally little use for. It’s a story we’ve read about a thousand times, and one we’ve seen nothing else like. This is a gloriously heartbreaking debut.” â€”John D’Agata, author of About a Mountain and The Lifespan of a Fact

“Lyrical and brutal in its subject matter, the poetic voice within offers humor, heart, and grace from the first page and kept me in awe until the end. This is a powerful book reminiscent of Hemingway’s early work.” â€”Frank Bill, author of Crimes in Southern Indiana and Donnybrook