Saturday, October 06, 2012

Looking for a good book?

Family life and housekeeping, working two jobs, and going to grad school have definitely cut into my personal reading time (ah, poor me!), though both work and school profit from and sometimes require a steady diet of book and articles.

But, just for fun? Here are two pieces of literary nonfiction that I made time for and have nothing to do with my education or career. You might like them too. Both were national bestsellers and should be easy to get your hands on.

I got both through the Douglas County library (which, surprisingly, has not shunned me for moving 1300 miles from district lines). Got the first as an audio book to listen to on a long car trip, and the second in Kindle format to read in bits and pieces as I went about my day.

Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen, by Christopher McDougall

"Isolated by Mexico's deadly Copper Canyons, the blissful Tarahumara Indians have honed the ability to run hundreds of miles without rest or injury. In a riveting narrative, award-winning journalist and often-injured runner Christopher McDougall sets out to discover their secrets. In the process, he takes his readers from science labs at Harvard to the sun-baked valleys and freezing peaks across North America, where ever-growing numbers of ultra-runners are pushing their bodies to the limit, and, finally, to a climactic race in the Copper Canyons that pits America’s best ultra-runners against the tribe. McDougall’s incredible story will not only engage your mind but inspire your body when you realize that you, indeed all of us, were born to run."

Note, you needn't be an athlete to appreciate this book, though it might inspire you to tie on a pair of running shoes. Probably not the latest Nikes - McDougall's diatribe against an industry that has only increased runners' punishing rate of injury is quite convincing.

This book was hard to put down.

At Home: A Short History of Private Life, by Bill Bryson

"While walking through his own home, a former Church of England rectory built in the 19th century, Bryson reconstructs the fascinating history of the household, room by room. With waggish humor and a knack for unearthing the extraordinary stories behind the seemingly commonplace, he examines how everyday items -- things like ice, cookbooks, glass windows, and salt and pepper -- transformed the way people lived, and how houses evolved around these new commodities. 'Houses are really quite odd things,' Bryson writes, and, luckily for us, he is a writer who thrives on oddities. He gracefully draws connections between an eclectic array of events that have affected home life, covering everything from the relationship between cholera outbreaks and modern landscaping, to toxic makeup, highly flammable hoopskirts, and other unexpected hazards of fashion. ...His keen eye for detail and delightfully wry wit emerge in the most unlikely places, making At Home an engrossing journey through history, without ever leaving the house."

I should probably warn you that this book is a long one. Really a series of meandering essays. It makes great bedtime reading (unless your companion objects to frequent exclamations that start with, "did you know?") But it lacks an overall plot and might not be a good choice for a long airplane trip unless interspersed with other books / activities.

This book was a pleasure to pick up.

One more thing. Both contained a bit of language and content you wouldn't want to share with young children.

What about you? Read any good books lately?


Megan Noel said...

I think I'd like At Home. I am almost done with Angle of Repose. I think I'll follow it up with Geek Love. I'm considering setting out to read all the books that won the Pulitzer for fiction. I have read some of them but am surprised I have not read more. (Angle of Repose won in 1972.)

Marti said...

I think you would probably enjoy "At Home." Angle of Repose is good too - Wallace Stegner is such an artist! Did you read his "Crossing to Safety"? LMK what you think of the Pulitzer novels. Wonder how many of them I've read? Will take a look.

Megan Noel said...

i surprised i've only read 12. i've downloaded the 1st 2 - they are public domain so free! how long will it takes me to read them all?

Marti said...

That's the same number I've read. I've picked up a few others and not finished them. One reason I didn't major in English was to avoid being required to spend time in books like "The Color Purple" and "Beloved," neither of which I thought I wanted in my head. Wonder if I'd see them differently now?

Love the books by Anne Tyler and Marilynn Robinson. And anyone who hasn't read "Gone with the Wind" is missing out - though, like many of these, it is a weighty tome!