Two Really Good Stories

I haven’t had any book reviews since sometime back in January during Marathon Madness when we had loads of time on our hands and read a decent amount. But the drought has ended here in Guatemala with two enjoyable stories, one which I have been encouraged to read for a good two years now and another that landed in my lap through clever marketing. I have reason to pause in seeing that I have two reviews to write while I’m currently living in a Spanish speaking country and am trying to learn Spanish. My answer: reading in English has been a good mental break for me. Plus, these were both compelling stories that hooked me well.

To start, I had downloaded Unbroken: A WWII Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemptionwhile in Alabama back in January. Some good Amazon advertising somehow got this one on my radar and I forked over the money for a different kind of read. The storyline was compelling: a star track athlete ends up fighting in WWII and has a crazy story of fighting and survival that goes way beyond ordinary.

My criticism is mainly with the style of the book. Laura Hillenbrand (I haven’t read anything about the author, her age, or background) writes like an old timer telling exaggerated stories with pointless tangential comments that to me seem quite fluffy in nature. The story itself was amazing but she did a good job almost keeping me from getting past the first few chapters with her writing style. Thank goodness the main character was a runner and that he got going in the sport fairly early in the book.

I also didn’t like the main character in the beginning or the way he was portrayed. Hillenbrand seemed to glorify his bad character traits of stealing and being a generally punk of a kid. While these were negatives of the main character, Hillenbrand never got away from her steady tone of sensationalizing the past. She was building up his negatives to emphasize the big turning points in his life but never matched her tone with the troubled times in his life.

But the story more than made up for her writing. Once I got past the first few chapters, I was hooked and was eager to learn what would happen next in the life of Louis Zamperini. He lived an amazing life and his story of survival was very inspiring.

But I was more inspired and very pleasantly surprised with how much I thoroughly enjoyed Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World has never seen,by Christopher McDougall. Being into running as I’ve been for so many years, I had many people tell me about this book and how I should read it. I tend to not want to do what I am supposed to do and consequently put this book off for way too long. (I thought it was just about running barefoot).

But there were a couple people at our school that had just read it and loved it and when finishing the WWII story, it felt like time. So we downloaded it on the Kindle while the power was out last weekend and I plowed through it in a few days.

And what an awesome story! The story was good, it was told in a way that I enjoyed, and it got me really motivated to go run. And not only run, but go out and run with a smile on my face, without a watch, simply for the fun of it. That’s accomplishing a lot. While I am impressionable and easily excited, it’s a tall task to change my thinking when it comes to running because I’m so entrenched in my habits. I’d even consider trying to do some running in the Vibram 5 Finger barefoot shoes at this point. The book was well researched and the story compelling.

While I recommend both books, Born to Run was one of the best books I’ve read over the past few years and one I would highly recommend to anyone with an inkling of an interest in running.

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