One of my favourite books over the past decade is Born To Run, so I was very keen to read its follow-up-of-sorts, Natural Born Heroes. Christopher McDougall is one of those non-fiction writers with such a flair for telling engrossing stories that it’s not surprising they find fame and acclaim, but I think he stretches himself a tad too far in Natural Born Heroes. He admits this split focus in the introduction: the first – and better parts of the book – are the stories of the allied soldiers leading the resistance against the Germans on Crete during WW2. The arduous conditions and how the allies trained their bodies to endure them leads McDougall to his second theme of interviewing practitioners of similar contemporary training methods like Parkour.
Flaws aside, I still enjoyed it a lot. My advice is to read it for the feats of men like Patrick Leigh Fermor, seen below, looking every inch like a young Peter Allen. (Or, rather, a young Peter Allen looked every inch like PLF.)
Still on the running theme, I also got Eric Orton’s The Cool Impossible. Orton is (was) McDougall’s running coach and was an important part of the Born to Run story. He is also an advocate of the forefoot strike (sometimes known as barefoot running, but that’s not quite accurate) running technique which is quite different to the heel-striking way most people tend to run/jog. This is basically what The Cool Impossible is about – an introduction, explanation and training guide to recondition your running technique, if that’s what you want to do.
I’ve tried it… and, no surprise, it’s hard and feels weird. It’s supposed to. I did buy a wobble board because one of this points that I am in 100% agreement with is that a lot of injuries and issues are caused by foot weakness. Wobble boards can help and if anyone has any other exercise suggestions I’m all ears.
I can’t quite comment on Difficult Women by Roxane Gay yet because I’m only partway through; the same goes for Nights at the Circus by Angela Carter. But the last book is different. I had Nights at the Circus as an audio book – my first one! It’s a little MP3 player that I borrowed from the library and plugged my earphones into and away I went. My theory was this: I commute to and from the city four times a week, it would be a quick and worthy way of spending my time (for much as I like podcasts, they do tend to feel a bit… frivolous, on occasion).
What’s the reality? Coming home from work I am often too tired to concentrate properly on the story, so risk getting lost and have to rewind to catch up. Still – I managed to listen to a fair bit. Or so I thought, until I picked up the real book at the library. I flicked to the middle scanning for about where I thought I was in the audio book. Nope, nothing. I went back… nothing. When I finally found where I was, I was only about 1/5 of the way through. I had ages to go. I didn’t feel like I’d wasted my time, but I will admit to a dose of disappointment. Now I don’t know which route to choose, but I think I prefer the physical book.
Do you ‘do’ audio books? What ones do you like? Do you find they drag on? Have any tips for me? Let me know – and I’d love to hear about what you’re reading this month.