Thursday, October 27, 2011

Week 39: Between a Rock and a Hard Place, by Aron Ralston

A coworker lent me this book right before my recent camping trip to the Grand Canyon and the Utah National Parks. Aron Ralston, the author (whose story was adapted into the movie 127 Hours) , went through his ordeal in Canyonlands National Park, and I was headed there on my trip, so it seemed appropriate to read this book while I was in the actual setting of the story. Let me tell you, I looked forward to reading this every night in my tent by headlight. It is an AMAZING story. For those who are not familiar with Aron, he was a 27 year-old outdoorsman when he was canyoneering and accidentally pinned his right arm beneath a boulder in a remote section of Canyonlands. He was trapped for six days before desperation led him to amputate his arm using a common multi-tool with a three-inch blade. The story is just unbelievable. The idea of being in Aron’s situation is utterly chilling. No one knows where he is. He is in a dark canyon (seven miles from the nearest trail) that can only be accessed by rappelling. Isolated in the slot canyon, he documents his struggle to survive. He only has a small amount of food and water and is unable to even sit down because of the position of his arm. As his situation becomes increasingly dire, Aron’s description of his physical and mental symptoms describe, in essence, what dying is like. It’s gripping. Despite the fact that it’s known that Aron will amputate his arm, it’s still thrilling and horrifying when it happens. (And he describes it in GREAT detail.) What’s more, Aron is an excellent writer. His wonderful, reflective prose is the icing on the cake. His insights on life, and what his purpose is, are truly moving.  I found myself rooting for Aron as if I knew him – that is how likable and sweet he comes across as. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who is looking for an uplifting, inspiring read. You will feel great after reading it, and you will be reminded of all you take for granted in life.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Week 38: Born to Run, by Christopher McDougall

Born to Run has received a lot of buzz since it came out and has a bit of a cult following. Its primary claim to fame is its role in publicizing the barefoot running movement. You may have heard of this phenomenon – the idea is that wearing minimalist footwear while running (hello, Vibram Five Fingers) or even running barefoot (hello, calluses) improves running performance. This is because modern running shoes are overly cushioned and allow our feet to simply exist within the shoe, as opposed to actively participating in each step. The idea is that if you wear more minimal shoes, the muscles and bones in your feet will become stronger, your ankles will become more stable, and you will naturally adopt a more efficient gait. If you are a runner, or read any sort of fitness magazine, you have probably heard these theories before. At first they seem like anathema, but this book will soon have you wondering, “Should I be spending more time barefoot?” Its arguments, while mostly anecdotal, are compelling. This is only one component of Born to Run, however. The book largely centers on a tribe of people known as the Tarahumara in Mexico. These people are known for their superior athletic skills (think running 150 mile races), their lack of injuries and their overall excellent health. The Tarahumara subsist on a typical diet of just corn, seeds, and grain alcohol, and they wear primitive sandals to run in. With this in mind, one might wonder how they are able to maintain such incredible health. Born to Run examines the Tarahumara, and more broadly, the running industry. It takes a close look at modern, Western medicine and makes some provocative suggestions surrounding running. The overriding theme of the book is instilling faith in one’s own body, to trust oneself’s natural form and movement. The book also follows an epic race between the Tarahumara people, and some American ultramarathoners who come to Mexico for a 100 mile race. Their battle is humorous and engaging, and it also sheds some light onto those crazy people who run 50 or 100 mile races. They don’t seem quite so daft after reading this book; they just seem like people who genuinely enjoy running. I came away from this book with an appreciation for a simple, no-nonsense approach to exercise, free of sponsored athletes and expensive equipment. This book will get you excited about running.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Week 37: Talkative Man, by R.K. Narayan

Microblogging aka Lazyblogging review:

This book is mad boring. Snoozefest. 

Week 36: All the Pretty Horses, by Cormac McCarthy

Microblogging aka Lazyblogging review:

Another amazing book. Perhaps the abbreviated review is appropriate for McCarthy's spare, minimalist writing style. I'm a huge fan of McCarthy. Every time I read one of his works, I'm always struck by how much content and underlying themes are embedded in his simple sentences. It's haunting, and a thick fog of dread fills the pages. I loved this book.

Week 35: The Walking Dead, Volume 2: Miles Behind Us, by Robert Kirkman

Microblogging aka Lazyblogging review:

I really enjoy this series. I can see why it took off so well. It's a blast to read. It's exciting, but has great human elements to it as well. I will definitely read more volumes!

Week 34: The World According to Garp, by John Irving

Microblogging aka Lazyblogging review:

It's a shame I'm summing this one up so quickly, because this book is tremendous. One of my all-time favorites. It's hilarious and moving, filled with wonderful characters. I fell in love with this book, and when I finished it, I clutched it to my heart, closed my eyes, and smiled. Not kidding!

Week 33: Afrodisiac, by Brian Maruca and Jim Rugg

So, I've been pretty remiss in updating the blog. Really remiss.

To make up for some lost time, I'm going to write some super quick reviews here. Maybe a sentence or two. We can call it "microblogging" to make it sound fancy!

That being said, here goes:

This book was beautifully drawn, rather ribald, and filled with inappropriate puns. What's not to like? Thumbs up.

(Real reviews will be resuming soon!)