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Born to Run

by

I'm having a really hard time finding the words for this review.

I think I should start by saying I don't do "inspiring" books, or sports movies of any kind. I think it's because of the same reason I never give pep talks to patients. I find it sounds corny and fake, and it reeks of self-importance. Which is probably the reason I connected with this book on such a deep level.

After injuring himself repeatedly while running, Christopher McDougall did some research and heard about the Tarahumara, a lost tribe in the Mexican Barrancas del Cobre, who happen to be the world's greatest athletes - they run up to 200 miles in the blistering heat, in handmade sandals, just for fun. He decided to track them down, and eventually was able to contact Caballo Blanco, a mysterious American who has lived among the Tarahumara for years. This ends up leading to a 50-mile race along the Copper Canyons, populated by a band of distance runners so wacky and diverse it seems too good to be true.

Now, this is how the book has been marketed, and that's what happens in it, mostly. But the whole "gonzo reporter finds lost tribe of superrunners and learns their secrets" scenario leaves out the fact that ultrarunning is, actually, a legitimate sport. Well, it's not exactly popular or respected, but it's definitely a thing, even beyond Tarahumara borders. This means that, almost from the beginning, McDougall sets out on a series of apparent detours. The Tarahumara storyline is abandoned for a good part of the book, and instead what ensues is a multilayered, panoramic view on everything surrounding running - the stories of the people who would go on to participate in the Copper Canyon Ultramarathon are intertwined with chapters on vegan diet, evil shoe companies and evolutionary biology.

But the most important thing about it (or, at least, what really makes this book different and real) is that it all happens on the outskirts of the official sports scene. These supermen are the underdogs. There's a feeling of purity and amateurishness to it all, like these people have no expectations put on them, no sponsors, no inherited knowledge to accept or question. They've invented a sport from scratch, and only now are they realizing they're in fact rediscovering a long lost art.

What I mean is, Born to Run reads more like a runner's personal journey of discovery than it does like, say, a special issue of Runner's World. It isn't a testosterone packed instructional book, but a heartfelt ode to endurance and zen running - that beautiful feeling of recovering the awareness of your own body and the boundaries of your own skin.

It's epic joy. EPIC JOY. Can joy even be epic? Anyway, it's pure joy, and it's epic, so it's epic joy.

I have never been so inspired by a book in my whole life. I've rarely been more exhilarated, either. It may actually have changed my life, though it's too soon to tell. For now, this morning I ran barefoot for the first time (4 km, no pain, absolutely LOVED it) and I'm already training for the marathon next April. Half-marathon really, potentially marathon. We'll see.
The Third Policeman (Harper Perennial Modern Classics)

by

Pay attention now. In order to enjoy this book, you must mix equal parts of:

Kafka

Borges

Douglas Adams

LSD

Stir carefully. If your head hurts, put it down for a while and take an aspirin. Other than that, it's brilliant. Just brilliant.
The Narcissism Epidemic: Living in the Age of Entitlement

by , , and

This is a very important book, and it makes a few really valid points. Ms. Twenge and Mr. Campbell make a great job of connecting the dots on many cultural trends that would otherwise seem unrelated. This is particularly interesting for a non-American reader, since when I see that sort of stuff on TV I never know if what I'm noticing is real, hyperbolic or just irony. So it was really helpful having someone lay out the big picture for me.

Still, I think this book would be much more compelling if it weren't so repetitive. Now I realize that, when you have a thesis to prove, the border between argumentation and reiteration is a difficult one to walk. I get it - I'm a paranoid nonfiction reader, and I'm hyperaware of that sort of stuff. It's what happens when you're preaching to the choir. But trust me - this one really drags at points.

Anyway, if you're willing to resort to diagonal reading after the first half of every chapter, you should totally give this a go. As for me, I've made two chilling realizations:

- I like reading about American bad lifestyles and social tendencies, because deep down I know we are next. That way I'll be able to say I saw it coming.
- I've wondered for years, how can these people afford the single-family houses they all live in?* The answer is, they can't.



*I mean, look at the Simpsons. Come on, really??
London Fields

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I'm a tad confused about this one. I really, really wanted to like it. The premise is awesome, the characters are complex and three-dimensional, the writing is top-notch. But somehow it manages to be unbearably slow too.
It makes me angry, because it's been my first Martin Amis, and I can't help but admit that he's one of the best authors I've encountered for some time, as in "ooooh, this paragraph is so literary, and this one, and this one". But he keeps using that talent to go over the same things over and over again, and you end up frustrated, because you already understand everybody's motives and you have for the last 200 pages, and you just want the story to freakin' move FORWARD.
Martin Amis is an awesome writer in each and every isolated paragraph. But on the whole, it just didn't work for me.
Ficciones

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Wow. Just WOW.

I'm going to have to read these again. They're so complex and multilayered and unbelievably rich. I don't think that anyone can claim to have extracted all of their meaning in one sitting.
And still, nothing about them even remotely sounds pretentious. Everything's so finely tuned and so well crafted - you never doubt that whatever you haven't quite grasped is entirely your fault.

Yes, I'm definitely reading it again. But for now, WOW.
A High Wind in Jamaica

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Slumming! Pirates!! Creepy children!!

This book has it all.
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