Stephen J. Dubner, . . Morrow, $24.95 (272pp) ISBN 978-0-688-17365-4

In a candid yet somewhat disjointed account, Dubner (Turbulent Souls) explores the causes and effects of his devotion to a childhood hero. Dubner's father died when he was relatively young, and Dubner, growing up in rural New York, latched onto Pittsburgh Steeler great Franco Harris as a role model and a source of strength. While much of the book chronicles Dubner's efforts to catch up to Harris and investigate his former (and newly awakened) feelings of awe for him, it attempts to deal with much more. As Dubner explains to Harris at a Pittsburgh restaurant, "I'm also interested in the whole idea of the hero, of the role model. I'm interested in the relationship between a hero and a hero worshiper. I'm interested in how a hero lives through the spotlight and what he does with his life after the spotlight has been turned off." The problem, it turns out, is that Franco really isn't interested. He obviously prefers the relationship to be a distant one, and he'd much rather be tending to the affairs of his nutritional donut company than sharing insights with a starstruck writer. While Dubner's repeated, failed attempts to meet up with Harris are somewhat humorous, the book suffers from Harris's lack of cooperation. One can't help but wonder if a chapter on hero worship that includes the 19th-century historian Thomas Carlyle and the founder of the Lubavitcher sect of Hasidic Jews isn't the product of Dubner digging too deeply for material. While the book doesn't come together as a whole, Dubner's elegant, deeply honest writing will keep readers engaged. (Feb.)