Monday, September 29, 2008


The light reading round-up for the last few weeks of September...

I am less interested in cycling than I am in the other components of triathlon, but I must say that Joe Parkin's A Dog in a Hat: An American Bike Racer's Story of Mud, Drugs, Blood, Betrayal, and Beauty in Belgium is quite excellent. The subtitle does the book a slight disservice - the main title captures its off-beat charm much better. It really is a very well-written and enjoyable book, I whole-heartedly recommend it.

John Jerome's Staying With It: Becoming an Athlete is less about swimming than it's about the quest to fend off the onset of middle age by embracing the magic of the training effect. Parts are wonderful, parts are a little too meditative and metaphysical for me - I do recommend it, but I found myself slightly wishing it had been more of a mash-up with the other swimming-related book I read recently, Hodding Carter's Off the Deep End. Jerome's book is the deeper and more memorable of the two - Carter's reads slightly as though it has been pasted together from magazine articles, and the persona he adopts (or maybe he's just like this!) is incredibly annoying. Even just as a reader, I was irked by his self-defeating decisions about his training and racing! But parts of it are very funny and vividly written - his subtitle is "The Probably Insane Idea That I Could Swim My Way Through a Midlife Crisis - And Qualify for the Olympics," and it is a fair enough description of the project and the book. Interesting stuff - keep the swim lit recs coming, please....

Miscellaneous young-adult (middle-grade?) books by authors I like but who are perhaps in this case not at their best, though I will honestly read any book by any of these three with delight: Eva Ibbotson's The Dragonfly Pool (appealing, but a thinner reimagining of a story very similar to the one told more richly in her adult novel A Song for Summer); Diana Wynne Jones, A House of Many Ways (DWJ is in my book an absolute genius, but she writes so many books that some of them are inevitably, to use the same terminology, fuller and more richly imagined than others, and this is one of the minor ones); Robin McKinley's Chalice (I enjoyed it, but it feels more like one of her long stories or novellas than like Sunshine, a novel that I have reread about five times because it so much corresponded to my notion of the ideal book to read).

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