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Sports and Athletes

The Throwback Special by Chris Bachelder

The Throwback Special by Chris Bachelder

Every year a group of men convene in a middle tier hotel in an unnamed town to recreate the famous football play that resulted in Giants player Joe Theismann breaking his leg in two places on Monday Night Football in 1985. I would never have picked this book up if it weren't for the Morning News Tournament of Books. Football? Not in my interest sphere. I am so glad that I read this book. Bachelder is witty and funny and delves right into the psyche of all of these dudes in a way that is hilarious without mockery. Two nights unfold in the book. We start to learn their stories as they arrive at the hotel. The lottery system for choosing who plays which player on the field creates space for Bachelder to play with the reason behind who wants to play the lead actor or the extras. The weekend ends as quickly as it begins and it's not a book you would read for any startling plot twists. But I definitely have Bachelder on my radar now. He is a clever writer and I look forward to reading more by him.

Number of Pages: 
213

The Sport of Kings by C.E. Morgan

The Sport of Kings by C.E. Morgan

The Sport of Kings is a contender in this year's Morning News Tournament of Books. (This won't be the last time I mention this fabulous tournament.) Morgan tackles the legacy of slavery in Kentucky by way of the Kentucky Derby. First we meet the Forge family and a young Henry Forge on his plantation. He wants to break from his father's farm. He becomes obsessed with horses and horse racing, a thing his father finds despicable and would disown him for. I found it hard to pin this book down in time. It felt like Henry's youth was taking place in the 1860s when it was more like the 1960s in reality. I hope this was intentional. Then we are introduced to Henry's daughter as she is a grown woman being groomed to take over the business. Until she falls for Allmon Shaughnessy, a groomer she hires. We get Allmon's background as well. His ancestors crossed the river to escape to Ohio while slavery was an institution in Kentucky. Now Allmon finds himself on the wrong side of the river, trying to grab hold of his future. This is a dense and lyrical book yet I found it hard to break through the  pages of description and natural history at times. Darwin is huge in this book. But the human drama was nicely told. Allmon's story is much more sympathetic than the Family Forge's, though Allmon and Henrietta Forge both remain victims of their past and we are left with the question of when will history stop repeating itself?

Number of Pages: 
545

Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson

Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson

Astrid and her best friend, Nicole, have begun to grow apart as they reach those tricky tween years. Astrid is newly interested in roller derby and assumes Nicole will join her at a summer camp to learn to play. When Nicole opts for ballet camp and a new friendship with another girl who is more interested in boys and shopping, Astrid is shocked and upset. However, Astrid finds a new passion in roller derby and new friends too. The roller derby was a fun structural element to this book but mostly this is a tale of friendship and growing up. I loved how Jamieson handled the awkward issues like how to stay friends even as you make new friends or don't have much in common anymore. Astrid was such a realistic twelve year old: passionate, awkward, self-centered, but kind and thoughtful too. I loved this, start to finish.

Number of Pages: 
239

The Prophet by Michael Koryta

The Prophet by Michael Koryta
I enjoyed reading Michael Koryta's novel, Those Who Wish Me Dead, and so wanted to see if all of his books are as good. So far, I'm not disappointed. This story of two estranged brothers and a killer on the loose, proves to be just as suspenseful. Adam and Kent Austin both deal with the grief and guilt of losing their younger sister in different and divisive ways. Now another young woman is killed in their small town and they are thrown back together after years of avoidance. Koryta does a good job of keeping you guessing which brother is going to unravel the quickest. Plus there is the question of whether or not this recent murder is connected to their shared personal tragedy. Plus there is football, which I admit I just glossed over. But I can see that would be of interest to some. I'll definitely be reading another book by him in the near future.
Number of Pages: 
403

Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson

Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson

Life takes on new meaning for Astrid when she discovers roller derby--even better, in her summer before entering junior high, she learns she can join a roller derby summer camp! Astrid assumes her best friend Nicole will be along with her for the ride, but soon discovers not only would Nicole rather attend ballet camp, she is becoming close friends with Astrid's bully. Now, as Astrid's toughest summer ever begins, she must learn how to embrace her own interests and self-confidence at the risk of losing a friend.

In this spunky new graphic novel, author and artist Victoria Jamieson covers all the bases of what it takes to grow up. Astrid's journey is at turns hilarious and heart-breaking, brought to life all the more by Jamieson's bold and colorful illustration style...which is the only way a roller derby comic should be told! Fans of Raina Telgemeier's Smile will adore this as a realistic coming-of-age tale with a strong, complex, and lovable protagonist. Highly recommended--this is definitely a favorite of mine for 2015!

Number of Pages: 
239

The Wave: In Pursuit of the Rogues, Freaks, and Giants of the Ocean by Susan Casey

The Wave: In Pursuit of the Rogues, Freaks, and Giants of the Ocean by Susan Casey

Giant 100+ foot waves have long been reported over the centuries, though many thought it just an exagerration. In The Wave, Susan Casey explores these massive occurrences, finding that they are not just some maritime tall tale. Alternating chapters between surfers who devote themselves to catching the biggest waves and the oceanographers and physicists who study them, Casey presents the fascinating and adrenaline-pumping world of these beautiful monsters. Don't miss the beautiful color photos included in the print version. The reader for the audio version, Kirsten Potter, is engaging as well.

Available as an e-book and audiobook through OverDrive.

Number of Pages: 
326

Run Like a Mother and Train Like a Mother by Dimity McDowell and Sarah Bowen Shea

Run Like a Mother and Train Like a Mother by Dimity McDowell and Sarah Bowen Shea

Run Like a Mother's subtitle reads, "how to get moving-- and not lose your job, family, or sanity," and indeed the focus is on how to fit running into the already busy life of a mother.  However, the authors cover a little bit of everything in this book, plus a big dose of heartwarming and funny stories.  I loved this book in a big way and how it made me feel a bit like part of a big community of mother runners even though running is basically a solo activity. 

train like a motherTrain Like a Mother follows up with more specific information on racing different distances and detailed training plans for each distance.  There is a "finish it" and an "own it" plan each for 5K, 10K, half-marathon, and marathon distances.  In addition, there is more information on topics like nutrition and strength training, and more great stories and anecdotes.

The authors have developed a big social media following (website, Facebook, Twitter, podcast, etc) and I was a bit hesitant to jump on some trendy mother-runner bandwagon.  But the authors are so down-to-earth and relatable and likable that it's easy to see why they are so popular.

Number of Pages: 
423

Eat & run : my unlikely journey to ultramarathon greatness by Scott Jurek with Steve Friedman

Eat & run : my unlikely journey to ultramarathon greatness by Scott Jurek with Steve Friedman

Scott Jurek is well known in the community of ultrarunners and has won many races and set many records.  This was an interesting history of his life and look at many of the key races he has run and won.  He also talked quite a bit about his vegan diet and his belief that it has made him a better runner.  The best parts of the book were when he talked about the mental challenge of running huge distances and how he pushes himself.  His play-by-plays of famous races were fascinating to read.  However, I felt like he glossed over the low points in his life - races he dropped out of, injuries, and the failure of his marriage were all mentioned but more in passing than in detail.  I felt like his story would have been a lot richer if he delved further into the hard times in his life.

Number of Pages: 
260

What I talk about when I talk about running : a memoir by Haruki Murakami

What I talk about when I talk about running : a memoir by Haruki Murakami

As soon as I became interested in running and reading about it, this title kept popping up on my radar so I downloaded the audio version from OverDrive.  Murakami is a well known writer of fiction both in his native Japan and here in the US.  He also is a dedicated runner and triathlete, having run a marathon each year for about thirty years.  Although the title of his memoir is focused on running and the book is structured as a series of reflections as he prepares for an upcoming marathon, Murakami also covers much of his life and background.  I found it interesting that he didn't begin running until his 30s, around the time he began writing full time.  He explains that he needed running to stay healthy when he began a career that is primarily sedentary.  He soon discovered, like many runners including myself have discovered, that the benefits of running can be far more than than physical, but also mental and emotional. 

I really enjoyed this little memoir and Murakami's writing style.  I appreciated that he discussed his disappointments and difficulties with running instead of just hitting the highlights.  I loved how he loves running and writes about that love.  I'd recommend this to anyone who enjoys running or is a fan of his writing

Number of Pages: 
180

Born to Run by Christopher McDougall

Born to Run by Christopher McDougall

A few months ago I started running and I've been slowly falling in love with it.  Last week on vacation I saw this book on the shelf at the house we were staying in and couldn't put it down.  McDougall started to research running and the Tarahumara tribe - a remote tribe of native Mexicans famous for their running ability - after he suffered foot pain while running.  Several doctors informed him that running injuries are common and that our bodies aren't meant to endure the stress and trauma of pounding them into the ground. 

McDougall begins to wonder if this is actually true - are human bodies fundmentally unequipped to run, or is it possible that they were actually built to run?  He covers a huge amount of ground here in terms of the history of running and especially ultrarunning (races longer than marathons), the problems with modern running shoes and how they could actually be causing more injuries by making our foot muscles weaker, and a scientific theory of evolution that proposes that humans actually came down out of the trees and became long-distance runners to track and capture prey. 

All this research is fascinating stuff but the heart of the book is the people involved and the race they run at the end.  The Tarahumara have survived numerous invasions and wars and more recently, drug lords and tourist development, by hiding and living in a mountain range of  dangerous cliffs and canyons.  They literally run, often 100 miles or more at a time as a means of transportation, communication, and hunting.  They also run for fun as long-distance running games have become an important part of their culture.  They run in sandals and they rarely suffer injuries.  Caballo Blanco is a fascinating character - an American who has earned the trust and respect of the Tarahumara and who spends much of his time living and running as they do.  His dream is to set up a long-distance race on the Tarahumara's turf and get some famous American ultrarunners to come join in the fun.  With the help of McDougall, who also trains for the race, some big names are recruited and at the end of the book the race is run.  It is the stories of these runners - both American and Tarahumara, that make the book so compelling.  What brought them to running, stories of races they have run, and what motivates anyone to push themselves to run farther than it seems sane to do so without stopping - these are the things that make Born to Run a great book, especially for anyone who loves to run.

Number of Pages: 
287