I like things that start with R. Running, Reading, (w)Riting. Things that don’t start with R are okay as well, like the people in my family, the countries I’ve lived in, and ice cream. But today I’m combining those first three R’s with writing about books I’ve read about running.
Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen by Christopher McDougall. Of course I have to mention this book. Perhaps no other book has left a larger impact on running than this one. That barefoot trend? It all comes back to this book as McDougall goes in search of the Tarahumara Indians in Mexicoa, reportedly these superathletes. A great story of culture and running and discovery. Made me want to run, want to run barefoot, and want to run ridiculous amounts of miles, so you’ve been warned.
Running with the Kenyans: Discovering the Secrets of the Fastest People on Earth by Adharanand Finn. Another book about the search for superathletes and their secrets and another book that talks about barefoot running. Mmmm…a trend? Thing is, neither this nor Born to Run actually reveal secrets. There are cultural insights like what drives the Kenyan desperation to win, but nothing mysterious or previously unknown. Still, a good story. Finn moves his family to Kenya to experience running in the hills with the world’s best. Also a good read, though I would have enjoyed more about his entire family’s experience in living abroad and interacting with these runners. And, I wonder what kind of book a Kenyan could produce like this?
Run Like a Mother: How to Get Moving–and Not Lose Your Family, Job, or Sanity by Dimity McDowell. This is a fun, helpful, quick read. From nutrition to what are the best sports bras and running with young children, this is definitely a book for female runners and I enjoyed McDowell’s conversational style. Made me feel like we were in this ‘mother runner’ thing together, though she would quickly leave me in her dust in any race.
Hope Runs: An American Tourist, a Kenyan Boy, a Journey of Redemption by Claire Diaz-Ortiz and Samuel Ikua Gachagua. I mention this one because, well, it is a book running and kind of about Kenya. It takes a lot for me to disparage a book because I know how much work goes into writing and publishing and dreaming and living the story. But. I can’t recommend you read this. Just don’t. If you read it and liked it, feel free to argue on behalf of Hope Runs in the comments but I’m confident I won’t be swayed. The other books here are so much better. Don’t spend time here.
I Want to Show You More by Jamie Quatro. I discovered this book through an article in Runner’s World about the Writer Runner. It isn’t a book about running, it is a series of related short fiction stories. But one of them is about a really creepy, Stephen-Kingesque race and I found her descriptions of the running and the race quite compelling.
The Perfect Mile: Three Athletes, One Goal, and Less Than Four Minutes to Achieve It by Neal Bascomb. This is about three men racing against time to be the first to literally race against time. I mean, this is a book about three men training to the become the first to break the 4:00 barrier for the mile. I loved this book, the history, the passion with which they pursued their goal, the rivalries. And the idea of this as a barrier. Now days if a runner doesn‘t break 4 miles they can hardly compete among the best but then, it was this seemingly impossible bench mark. Kind of like the 2-hour marathon. I really enjoyed thinking about how we push through impossibilities and what it takes to be the absolute best.
Once a Runner: A Novel by John L. Parker, Jr. Confession. This a running cult classic and I have not read it. I know, I can barely call myself a runner. It is on my wish list. Like I always say, I don’t read a lot of fiction but that hardly seems like a reasonable excuse to not read this. I’ll get to it. Someday…
What I’m reading this week
Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy: Four Women Undercover in the Civil War Yup. Still reading this one. It is long and I keep getting distracted. But I’m fascinated by the role women played in the war and so I’ll press on.
Station Eleven: A novel I loved this. Loved it. Post-apocalyptic, could have been gruesome and depressing. But while it is sad and made me think devastating thoughts about forever separated from people I love, it brims with hope and the affirmation of life and the value of relationships, the human ability to not just survive but to love and to pursue creativity. I highly recommend this book.
Memories of a Catholic Girlhood I am fascinated by McCarthy’s asides, at the end of each chapter. She includes a discussion of her memories, of which parts she fictionalized, which parts she condensed in narrative, which parts she disagrees about with her brothers or other relatives. So interesting to read about an author’s process and to think about the nature of memoirs. And so valuable to have her thoughts right there, laid bare. I loved this book too.
From a Crooked Rib The title comes from a Somali proverb: “God made woman from a crooked rib and anyone who tries to straighten it, breaks it.” I just started this last night, should have read it a long time ago but never got around to it. Will let you know more about it later.
What are you reading this week?