As we head into summer and some warmer temperatures, it's a perfect time to relax from working out to enjoy some serious (book) lifting. If you can enjoy a moment by the pool this summer, there's nothing better to accompany it than with a chilled glass of rose' and a good book. Here are some of my favourites, that I hope will make your list too.
Born to run by Christopher McDougall.
This book is most definitely up there when it comes to enjoyment and information. Written from the runner's perspective, it gives you a little more than the usual struggling runners story. McDougall is a seasoned sportswriter who sets out to answer a problem to his pain, why does his foot hurt? And thank goodness he did.
As he sets out to answer the question, he carefully intertwines the growth of ultra-running with the reclusive Tarahumara Indians of Mexico’s deadly Copper Canyons. The Tarahumara live in an arid, inhospitable environment but are known for their extortionary ability to run hundreds of miles, without rest, a technique passed down over the centuries, but one that enables them to chase down animals and Olympic runners alike. Living amongst these super-human runners is a character by the name of Caballo Blanco, a loner, who has been inspired by this tribe’s feats and has tried for years to uncover their secrets.
Sharp and insightful, McDougall also takes you through the frozen peaks of North America to Harvard University looking at why the sport of ultramarathoning and why so many seemingly normal people are pushing their bodies to the limit, including the author himself. This is a book that will motivate you to grab a sun lounger early and to keep the cocktails flowing.
The Old man & The Sea by Ernest Hemingway
With limited time between swimming and snoozing/boozing by the pool, this book is a perfect read that enables you to continue with the routine as well as the quest for poolside cerebral enlightenment.
A classic of American literature, this novella published in 1952 earned Hemmingway both a Nobel and Pulitzer, and generally propelled him to even great heights of danger in his extreme sports interests.
Centred off the coast of Havana, Cuba and many believe based on his good fishing buddie, Gregorio Fuentes. The story follows Santiago, an old fisherman who has been struck by "salao" the worst form of luck that has rendered him catch less for the past 84 days. Abandoned by his young apprentice, Santiago continues fishing believing that catching the "big one" isn't too far away. Santiago's strengths are also his weaknesses as his stubbornness pays off, only to see it come back to reflect failure.
Written at a time when the world was a far simpler place and the joys of fishing, were a pleasure. The book describes warm ocean gulf stream, sea birds and gentle breezes, something many of the original readers would never get to see, let alone experiencing physically. One thing that the readers could identify with, was Santiago's struggles on and off the ocean, played out in the backdrop of the post war economy, highlighting his famous mantra that probably many would have uttered, "A man can be destroyed but not defeated.”
A fantastic read of yesterday and today. A gentle reminder that sometimes less is more and better still, it captures insightfully one of nature's most beautiful creatures, the Marlin.
I am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes
Now a book for the more energetically minded. I am Pilgrim hit the shelves back in July 2013, so it's seen a few summer sessions and seen a renewed interest in recent years.
The thriller is an intense, incredibly interwoven story of geo-politics, sacrifice, covert operations, and incredibly keeps you going for every one of its 600-odd pages. The novel follows Pilgrim, a mysterious government agent man, on an international journey on the hunt for one man, the Saracen.
The two main characters are geniuses, working against each other, one a presumed dead government agent, the other a radical jihadist, tormented by his father’s public beheading. As we learn about one, more of the other is revealed. The story begins with a murder in New York, but rapidly escalates into a much larger, more elaborate race against crime and time, transporting the reader all over the world into the past lives of Pilgrim and the Saracen, until the two lives collide. As you can imagine, there's the usual good guy/bad guy scenario, but Hayes succeeds in pushing the reader to the edge of their seat with the level of detail and narrative mastery throughout the book.
Pilgrim is a credible hero facing an equally compelling global threat, the stories are bound together by a forever gripping series of micro-plots within the novel. It is worthy of the high praise it has received. Despite its length, this book is an awesome read and is well worth starting at the beginning of your sojourn.
Storyteller by Dave Grohl
If there was ever a book that could contradict the modern-day parenting method, it would probably be this book with an image on the front cover of a baby with a guitar. Grohl has put pen to paper, sharing his wild and fascinating life. It’s plain to read that nothing in Grohl's upbringing was normal, but strangely it fits right in with today’s over labelled society. The book contains many insights to how his musical prowess developed from visiting jazz clubs at the age of 14 with his mother as he was too young to go on his own, to travelling and sleeping in the back of a van at 16, having all but given up on school. This was all with his mother's permission as Mr Grohl was no longer permanently on the scene.
Interestingly, there seems to be no lasting damage from his unconventional upbringing, but just gratitude for the hard yards in his formative years of travelling and sleeping in the back of a worn-out van (rite of passage for all aspiring bands). With much to write about, he gradually brings in many of the cast members that have shaped his life, including the ones that have passed too soon. They all have a profound effect on him but leave him no worse off and ready to attack life like his music.
There are many amusing anecdotes, like how he taught himself to play the drums by hitting well positioned cushions with marching band sticks. He only ever had a few drum lessons in his life and is mostly self-taught with the help of punk music. There are some interesting anecdotes about getting into trouble with his closest friend Taylor Hawkins. This all makes for an interesting read about a really interesting person who has both done and seen a lot from his days in Nirvana to being a modern-day rock god with the Foo Fighters.
In some strange way, we have the pandemic and the lockdowns to thank for this book. The time was spent well. Dave Grohl had the balls to follow his dreams to do what he liked, see the world, and make a fortune. Along the way, he has met some really cool people. It seems Grohl has very much followed the creed of ‘ Do something you like and it’s never work’ – I assure you that this book won’t feel like work either.
Enjoy the summer..
There's nothing better than a good book, I hope these become favourites for you too.
A good bag of crisps while reading always helps.
I am an aspiring good reader!!
I don’t make enough time for reading usually but summer is the time when I pull the 3 books from my side table and finally open them and finish them. My current bedside table list is ‘Breathe’, ‘H is for Hawk’ and ‘All the Light we cannot see.’ Wish me luck! I’m hoping the variation will help my motivation!