Choose to Matter

Foudy, Julie. Choose to Matter: Being Courageously and Fabulously YOU. Los Angeles: ESPNW, 2017.

Reason read: for a simple shot of encouragement.

I first learned of Foudy’s book while listening to the Dewey Decibel podcast from the American Library Association. Foudy was a guest on an episode last year. Yeah, yeah. I’m just now getting to it. But, Foudy’s book is inspirational (even if it’s meant for girls 40 years younger…sigh).
It’s all about finding your role in life as a leader. Not a cheerleader on the sidelines, but a leader starring in your own life. She uses her experiences as a Olympic soccer player to illustrate what it takes to win self confidence and drive. And illustrate, she does. The book is chock full of pretty pictures, beautiful photographs, colorful scribblings and whatnot. She interviews inspirational women like fellow teammate Mia Hamm, LeanIn.org’s founder Sheryl Sandberg, and even super-inspiring Afghan teenager Fahima Noori…just to name a few. She’ll even turn the mirror around and ask you to answer some thought-provoking questions about yourself to get the creative juices going. Yes, the language is geared towards teenage girls, like I said. The illustrations are colorful and childlike. But, but. But! The message is loud and clear. Anyone can become a leader. All you have to do is lose the fear. Sing outloud, be goofy and just go for it.


Ready, Player One

Cline, Ernest.Ready Player One: a Novel New York: Dark All Day, Inc., 2011.

Reason: My friend Pez and I were at the movies and we saw a preview for Ready Player One, the movie version of Ernest Cline’s book of the same name. Pez asked me if I had ever read the book and when I said I hadn’t, he gave me his e-copy. Too cool.

If you are fan of the 1980s, you should read this book. If you are a fan of 80s video games and pop culture, you have to read this book.

Set in a 2044 dystopia, Ready, Player One is a science fiction can’t-put-down book. High school senior Wade Watts is addicted to a virtual reality contest where the grand prize is full control over the game. Thanks to an energy crisis and global warming the world is in decline. Nearly all of its inhabitants prefer putting their heads in the sand by living in a virtual reality called the Oasis. Oasis creator James Halliday willed his entire cooperation and control over the Oasis to the first person who could find a hidden Easter Egg within the game. Watts and a band of virtual friends he has never met in person take turns helping and competing with each other to reach the Egg first. Of course, there has to be an evil villain and what better bad guy than Nolan Sorrento, head of a conglomerate that supplies nearly the entire world with internet? No one wants control over the Oasis more than Sorrento and he’ll do anything to get it.

Did I mention? This book is hot, hot, hot. Even though this is Cline’s first novel he was able to negotiate a bidding war for publication. Crown Publishers won out and RPO quickly started racking up the awards and accolades. Now, it’s being made into a movie (to come out March 2018), as I mentioned earlier.


August Awakenings

What can I tell you about August? I still have moments of wanting to hurl myself off a cliff. But, but. But! The good news is, by default, that recklessness has made me shed my fear of flying, ants, and flying ants. I went zip lining in Alaska and found myself the first to volunteer; literally throwing myself off every platform.
I was forced to dedicate more time to the run while I punished myself with late-read books from July. As a result of all that, August’s mileage was decent considering 10 days were spent traveling (25 – the most since April) while the reading list was a little lackluster:

Fiction:

  • Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert Heinlein (AB left over from July)
  • In Tragic Life by Vardis Fisher – such a sad book!

Nonfiction:

  • Hawthorne: a Life by Brenda Wineapple (left over from July)
  • Miami by Joan Didion

Series Continuations:

  • The Eagle Has Flown by Jack Higgins
  • Henry James: the Middle Years by Leon Edel (left over from JUNE)

Early Review:

  • Invisible No More: Police Violence Against Black Women and Women of Color by Andrea J. Ritchie

For Fun:

  • Pharos Gate by Nick Bantock – I know, I know. I shouldn’t be reading anything for fun while I had so many July books still on my plate. This took me all over an hour to read and besides, Bantock is one of my favorites. How could I not?

Pharos Gate

Bantock, Nick. The Pharos Gate: Griffin & Sabine’s Lost Correspondence. San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 2016.

Reason read: because Nick Bantock is one of my favorites.

I can’t remember what I said in my Griffin & Sabine review way back when except to say I know I mentioned my ongoing love affair with this series. How could I not? It’s evocative of a very sensual time in my life. I was introduced to Griffin and Sabine by a passionate summer romance. This man made mixed tapes, baked cinnamon scones, read Shakespeare and even wrote poetry, one word at a time, on rose petals. He took me shelling, canoeing and on searches for sunsets. He made my friends want to puke from jealousy. We read to each other as Griffin and Sabine. But, I digress..

Griffin and Sabine. I sigh to hear their names. Their backstory is such: Griffin is an artist in damp and dreary London. One day he receives an unusual postcard from a woman claiming to have the ability to see his art as he is creating it…except Sabine is somewhere in the South Pacific. Trying to make sense of her unusual voyeurism into his creativity before it is fully formed forces Griffin to continue a correspondence with her. Soon they fall in love without ever meeting. [Been there.] Subsequent volumes have Griffin and Sabine trying to cross the enormous divide to see each other face to face, but like any decent romance, their efforts are thwarted at every turn. In Pharos Gate the star-crossed couple discover a safe place to meet: at Pharos Gate in Alexandria. With the help of a friend Griffin sets off across the globe to reach his love. And reach her, he does. But! I haven’t really ruined it for you. Supposedly this is the final book in the series and yet Bantock leaves his audience hanging once again…Yes, they meet but then what? We don’t know. I adore it.


Wonder

Palacio, R.J. Wonder. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2012.

Reason read: I know what you’re thinking. This is a book inspired by a Natalie Merchant song and I haven’t read it until now. How come? I don’t know. I can’t answer that except to say I knew it wasn’t written by Natalie and it wasn’t about Natalie. And then there is that list of 5,000 other books I promised myself I would read…So. Why now? Two things. Wonder is mentioned in Natalie’s video memoir and…curiosity got the better of me.

The back story to Wonder as I understand it is this: “R.J. Palacio” was leaving an ice cream shop with her daughter when they passed a special needs child. Palacio reportedly steered her daughter away from the other child to avoid an embarrassing situation. Maybe she was sure her child would blurt out something inappropriate. Her obvious avoidance ended up being more of an embarrassment to everyone. Subsequently, after hearing Natalie Merchant’s song of the same name was prompted to write Wonder. Which is why you find the song quoted in several different places.

Wonder is written from the point of view of ten year old August Pullman, a boy born with severe facial deformities. Auggie as he is known to his parents and older sister, was home schooled for health reasons through fourth grade. Now as a fifth grader he is about to enter Beecher Prep. Auggie is used to people staring at him but a school of over 500 kids is a whole new world and we all know how cruel kids can be. How August navigates through the triumphs and tribulations will Break Your Heart (to quote another Natalie tune).

Book trivia: Other characters tell their sides of the “Auggie story” including Olivia (Auggie’s old sister), Summer (Auggie’s true friend) and Justin (Olivia’s boyfriend). It’s interesting to have their perspective; what it’s like to have a special needs brother, what it’s like to always be the strong one, what it’s like to be that good friend. Etc. Etc.

Author fact: R.J. Palacio admits that is not her real name.


Code of the Extraordinary Mind

Lakhiani, Vishen. The Code of the Extraordinary Mind: Ten Unconventional Laws to Redefine Your Life & Succeed on Your Own Terms. New York: Rodale, 2016.

Reason read: I learned about it from a running magazine, so you know I just had to read it.

From just the introduction Code of the Extraordinary Mind is intriguing. Lakhiani shares that he was born “…with a mind that loved learning how to hack life…” (p xvi). His book gives the reader permission to dare to question perception as well as reality. This may be considered a self-help book but I also consider it part memoir. Lakhiani shares a bit of himself through the book. He is not shy about unveiling past personal failures or triumphs. I found his methods of parenting enlightening, and even though I don’t have children I want others to apply his techniques! Is that rude of me to say? Seriously, when he asks his child what do you love about yourself or what are you grateful for, my heart melted.

Quotes that grabbed me: “It’s time to uninstall what isn’t working” (p 32) and “Our definition of what is normal is nothing more than what is programmed into us” (p 56). I would add to this last quote by saying I believe our definition of normal is also defined by commonality. If everyone had three heads the idea of just one would be foreign. You believe what you know.

My only pet peeve. I am not a fan of repetitiveness and I found Lakhiani mentioning MindValley (his company) too often. It began to sound like a sales pitch after awhile, especially when he promised “more information” on that site.

Author fact: Not only does Lakhiani have his own website, he actually has three. Look ’em up.

Book trivia: Lakhiani includes “napkin” drawings. Kinda cool.

 


Anatomy, Stretching & Training for Marathoners

Striano, Dr. Philip and Lisa Purcell. Anatomy, Stretching & Training for Marathoners: a step by step guide to getting the most from your running workout. New York: Skyhorse Publishing, 2013.

This was a weird book for me. The goal of the book seems to be of two minds: either getting you fit enough to run a marathon (minus the cardiovascular endurance piece) or supplementing the idea that running is a good exercise for losing weight. The focal point of the book is strengthening and stretching key muscles that are used while running. Beyond that, there is very little about running aside from what to wear and where to run. The mechanics of running are largely ignored. But, to be fair, thrown in is a strange sample marathon training schedule. I’ll get to my comment on the training schedule later. But for now let’s focus on the good news.
There were a bunch of things to like about Anatomy, Stretching and Training. For starters, the overall layout of information is comprehensive and intuitive. I appreciated that the illustrations highlight the key muscles affected by the stretch or training move while the photograph of the individual doing the same thing highlights proper form. The anatomy information was, by far, the most informative aspect of the book. A neat little feature, one I’m sure everyone makes a beeline to find, is the stretching and strength training routines at the end.

Now for the bad news:

  • Page 9 – The last time I checked, a marathon is 26.2 MILES. In the introduction the last sentence is, “Take the time to learn how to run right, using the guidelines found in the following pages, and you’ll soon be entering that 26K.” Assuming that the “K” in that sentence is kilometers a 26K is the equivalent of 16.16 miles.
  • Yes, 16 miles is an impressive distance to run but it’s not a marathon.

  • Page 10 – I don’t know how they measure calories but I’ve never heard of a running program that burns 100 calories in an hour. As a 114 lb woman I burn approximately 100 calories for every mile I run. Maybe they meant mile instead of hour? That would make more sense.
  • Page 17 – I have looked at many different training plans for running marathons and they all agree on one thing – tapering mileage before a race. The sample marathon training plan supplied for Anatomy calls for a 20 mile run the day before running the marathon. Is that normal? To be fair, it might be a typo. It’s the only day that doesn’t actually have the word “run” after the mile distance. It just says “20-miles.” The question is 20-miles what?
  • I think the authors resorted to referring to yoga when they didn’t know what to call a certain stretch (like the back stretch = cobra). This causes confusion in regards to the high lunge/low forward lunge. For practitioners of yoga, a high lunge is done without either knee touching the ground, whereas a low lunge has the placement of the back knee of the ground.(p 86-87).
  • Some detail information is not consistent. Some exercises have times regarding how long to hold a move and/or how reps. For example, the standing quad stretch is to be held for 15 seconds at a time and repeated three times. The very next exercise, the sprinter’s stretch, doesn’t have that information. It would have been nice to see some consistency.