I posted the list here about the 100 books Amazon says you should read in your lifetime. I thought it was a year but phew…I have a bit more time. Though I could die tomorrow in a bizarre dog/cat/bike accident so I try to get on these things.
Here are the books I’ve gotten to read in the past few months:
Born To Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen by Christopher McDougall
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
I found this to be a fascinating book. I literally was glued to the narration (audiobook) the entire time and it’s pretty lengthy. The story goes on about the Tarahumara Indians in Mexico and touts their philosophy about running as the one true goal. Meaning that we as evolved species can run forever if we love running and run barefoot. McDougall is a very good storyteller so it takes some effort to read between the lines and realize that he only presents ‘science’ that supports his theory. While it’s not a bad theory, there is equal research to support the opposite and he never addresses that or even acknowledges it. While extremely interesting, the book is really one long love letter to the Tarahumara while glossing over any evidence that doesn’t fit with his theory. For example he doesn’t include the training the Tarahumara did in the US prior to their race and he has a rather negative view of many of the people associated with that particular race and their involvement. Perhaps it’s fair but there are numerous accounts giving another side as well. As a runner, I found the story absorbing and it definitely made me think about how I run. Since I don’t need any motivation to run I can’t say it did much to change my life. Instead it’s an interesting story with some true facts but not necessarily a true story.
Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
I know I’ve read this before but it’d been a while (decades) so I wanted to read it again as an adult and see what I thought of it. I do think it’s a classic book for all the right reasons – as opposed to others that are so arduous you wonder if the reason it’s called classic is because no one reads it to debunk that. Heller is a master storyteller and it’s even more telling that the book is as relevant and true today as it was then. I found the first half of the book to be utterly delightful and laughed out loud more times than I could count. I eagerly hurried to read the book almost every day but somehow I lost that momentum about halfway to 2/3rds of the way through. Then I realized how repetitive the scenes were. I got a little tired of Yossarian running off to Italy and all of the details surrounding Milo’s syndicate (though that was a simply inspired plot line). When the prostitute began trying to kill Yossarian I realized the book had edged too far into comedy and it was no longer ironic but now a little silly. That’s not to say there is not a lot to recommend it, because it’s really an excellent read and thoroughly entertaining, but the end is like a guest staying too long at the party when it’s already been cleaned up and everything put away. I’d recommend it but I wish my thorough delight and enjoyment hadn’t ebbed away so much at the end.
The Lightning Thief (Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Book 1) by Rick Riordan:
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
I actually found this very enjoyable to listen to. I listened while walking my dog most mornings and got through the book within a few days but didn’t really mind. It’s definitely a children’s book, much more so than say the Harry Potter series. Or perhaps young YA as the kids within are very young and I’m usually shocked when I remember they’re supposed to be pre-teens and early teens. They act like 8 or 9 y/o to me. The plots are simplistic and the story reads much like a Harry Potter book with a similar setup. Percy is the not quite bright but not dumb hero is more courageous than smart or capable. He’s flanked by his somewhat dumber but lovable best friend Grover and the super smarty girl Annabeth. The mythology of the gods is what carries the book – in my opinion – and keeps it pretty interesting as the teens race across the country alone to save the gods and thus the world from danger and threat (in this case return Zeus’ thunderbolt before he starts a war with other gods). It’s entertaining and goes by incredibly fast. Just the kind of fluff I enjoy to listen to without needing to devote a lot of brain power.
The Sea of Monsters (Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Book 2) by Rick Riordan:
My Rating: 4 out of 5
Which is how I found myself continuing with the series. The second book is very similar to the first with the half-blood heros, one God parent and one human parent, now setting off once again alone on a deadly quest to the bermuda triangle. The same cast is there with a few other supporting characters thrown in. Percy is often frustrating as a main protagonist because he’s not always that bright, he takes forever to figure things out, but he’s surrounded by a good cast that help dissipate any bad will. The quests are always ridiculous, as are the rescues and such, but that’s not really the point. I can see where pre-teens would enjoy this series as it’s age appropriate and the writing is simplistic enough to not confuse but offer a solid, well plotted story. The theme of inclusion even in the face of bullying is likely to appeal as well. I personally like the mythology, setting, and easy action. There’s no fear of what will happen – everyone is always alright in the end – and it’s easy listening. Usually the action is non-stop but there’s a good deal of humor included. I also usually like the off beat characters like Grover and his can eating habit and cyclops. Again, I found it highly entertaining and very enjoyable to listen to.
I’ve probably read 12 more books but I realized they weren’t on the list. Oops.