In This Next Post I Will Review 3 Books and Give One of them Away

After my last post, I felt like I need to lighten things up, review a couple of books and give one of them away. I was worried about the reaction I would get for that last post. I received many emails, comments and actual in-person conversations (!) and I want to let everyone know how much I appreciate the kind words. It  was healing, but I was worried that some people would be embarrassed or take it the wrong way, and I want to thank everyone for being supportive. If it helped anyone out there who may be grieving deal with their emotions, or let them know that they are not alone, then it was worth publishing, so again, thank you.

Now to the book reviews, yo (sorry, I've been watching a lot of Breaking Bad so please forgive me if I use "yo" or "bitch" at the end of every sentence).

I was in Utah a couple months ago for a family reunion/coffee detox, and after a few weeks in the mountains, we ended up in Salt Lake City where I rushed to the local bookstore (which was conveniently attached to a coffee shop) for some air conditioned down-time. After I dropped the kids in their various sections of interest, and as I wandered the aisles, I saw a book with a picture of a worn hiking boot and red laces called Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail. I am fascinated with the PCT, so I picked this book up and started reading. I couldn't put it down, and for the first time in years, paid the full price for a hardcover book (as opposed to paying the discounted Amazon price or waiting for the paperback), just so I could continue to read about this woman's life. Cheryl Strayed's journey that led her to the Pacific Crest Trail is a complicated, brutally honest, raw, and revealing tale that I couldn't put down.

When my mom called me and was talking about my last post, she spoke of journaling (which is what blogging is for me; I just chose to share it with the world), and how she attended a writing class where the teacher asked a question, "When the angels read from your book of life will they yawn or will they cheer?" When reading Cheryl Strayed's book you cry, you hope, you despair, but ultimately you cheer. This book doesn't have anything to do with running, but it has a lot to do with why so many of us ultrarunners are attracted to the trails and to testing our physical limits.

On my custom rating scale of "I'm keeping this one" to "I'm going to give this book to a lucky reader," this gets a hearty "buy your own damn book, it's worth it. It's a great book and I'm keeping it."

Just as a side note to show you how awesome a writer Cheryl Strayed is (and to what extent I have a literary crush on her), I read an excerpt from another book, Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar, then went to Amazon and ordered the book on the spot, not even knowing who the author was. When it came and I realized it was Cheryl Strayed, I got goosebumps, or maybe that was just the ghost passing through me.

Staying on the theme of personal redemption through physical challenge, I was sent Rich Roll's (that never gets old) Finding Ultra to read and review.

Rich's journey is one from an athlete to an unhealthy, over-worked, overweight and out of shape alcoholic back to an amazing endurance athlete, and one of the top competitors at Hawaii's Ultraman (kind of like an Ironman for people who think Ironman is too short and easy).

Rich embraces a vegan lifestyle and most of the book is about the transformation he makes from an unhealthy alcoholic to a vegan athlete. He does a good job arguing for the vegan diet, but it's an argument that I don't really have an interest in hearing. He does a good job of not preaching veganism, because, at least for me, when someone starts preaching, I just shut down. I like the appendix and resources at the back of the book. Rich shares some great vegan recipes and training resources (a few of which he has a financial interest in).

I'm not ready to go vegan, but I'm trying to cut down on the amount of animal protein I consume, eating organic, lean meat as a side dish and incorporating a couple of vegetarian dinners every week, and I definitely see the positive health and environmental effects of a vegan diet. Actually, if it were up to me, I'd probably be vegan by now, but I married an awesome cook who happens to be an Iranian and her food is just too good. Lamb, beef stews, and kabobs are staples here, and they taste too good to give up. Sorry, vegans.

My favorite part of this book is Rich's account of his Epic5 Challenge of completing 5 Ironman races on 5 Hawaiian Islands in 5 days. I won't give away whether Rich and his training partner completed the challenge, but I loved reading about how they dealt with adversity, the logistics, and the physical and mental challenge of this stunt.

On my custom scale of "I'm keeping this book even though it was given to me to review for free" to "one lucky reader who leaves a comment telling me what their favorite running-related book is will be the proud owner of Rich Roll's Finding Ultra," gets a "I liked it, but one of you will probably like it more, so I'm giving this one away to a reader." So, leave a comment below and let me know what your favorite running-related book is (because I'm always looking for more of those to read), and you will be entered in the drawing to win Finding Ultra.

The last book I'm going to review here is called Anatomy for Runners: Unlocking Your Athletic Potential for Health, Speed, and Injury Prevention by Jay Dicharry. It's a technical, informative, and slow read. I feel like I am taking a class in anatomy, physical therapy, and strength training all at the same time. I'm still reading this one, but I know it's going on my running book shelf, the one in my office, where I put the books that I go back to again and again (not because I love them, although I do, but because my memory is shot).

My favorite running books

In the preface, Dicharry writes:
The media is encouraged to focus on current trends and "the one exercise every runner must do this fall!" This book's aim is to reveal how the musculoskeletal system responds to running and how to optimize this relationship.
I believe Dicharry succeeds on both counts, and while a few parts of the book took me a couple times reading to comprehend, he writes in a way that is easy to understand and he is good at making complicated concepts simple. The book also contains a lot of great charts, diagrams and pretty pictures.

This is an important book, and while it's great to just get out there and run, and run, and run some more, it is also important to get to know the mechanisms that allow us to do all that running, and to take care of them so we can keep running. The book claims to answer a lot of current running questions like Should runners stretch? Which shoes are best for running? and Is running barefoot beneficial? I feel that Anatomy for Runners does a good job addressing these questions without getting all combative and emotional...just the facts, and then decide for yourself. I must admit that I'm a novice when it comes to this stuff, but I love reading and learning about it and trying to put some science behind the advice that runners throw out when they've run out of other things to talk about on that long 20-miler.

You've probably already guessed that I'm keeping this book, too. But, don't let that stop you from leaving a comment below and letting me know what your favorite running-related book is. You might just win a copy of Finding Ultra by Rich Roll.

Thanks for reading.

Ratings and Recommendations