Thursday, January 24, 2013

Some Book Reviews

I read a lot. Here are some books on running I've read over the past few months with recommendations.

The Big Book of Endurance Training by Phil Maffetone

Ratings: 10/10 for useful information; 2/10 for entertainment.

Review: This book changed my life. If you've struggled with injuries or bonked at your most recent marathon or have hit a plateau in your training, read the book. You'll want a heart rate monitor after reading it, so get one now. My race times have dropped dramatically since reading it and doing what it says.

Finding Ultra: Rejecting Middle Age, Becoming One of the World's Fittest Men, and Discovering Myself by Rich Roll

Ratings: 6/10 for useful information; 8/10 for entertainment

Review: Dude was a college swimmer turned alcoholic. He then became a recovering alcoholic turned fatass. Dude then completed an Ironman triathlon on five of the Hawaiian Islands in like seven days or something ridiculous like that. I could have done without the me and my wife are so enlightened because of our East Asian philosophy and Vegan diet preaching, but it was a pretty good story. The part about overcoming his addictions was actually more interesting than the triathlon parts. This book introduced me to the concept of heart rate monitor training.

In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan

Ratings: 10/10 for information; 5/10 for entertainment.

Review: Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants. This is a common sense guide to eating healthy. I don't have a lot of common sense much of the time. Anyone who considers him or herself an endurance athlete would benefit from reading it.

Iron War by Mark Fitzgerald

Ratings: Information 8/10; Entertainment 8/10

Review: Fitzgerald recounts the epic Ironman battle of 1989 between Dave Scott and Mark Allen. The first 75% of the book is of pantheon quality. The last 25%, including the part about Mark Allen becoming a shaman surfer, is a little lame. This highly entertaining book has confirmed my suspicion that many world class athletes--especially endurance athletes--aren't necessarily to be admired outside of their fitness accomplishments. Both men had failed marriages, at least partly attributable to their endurance addiction. Karnazes is the only psycho endurance runner with a happy marriage that comes to mind. Dean, I'm counting on you. Keep setting the example!

Running with the Kenyans by Adharanand Finn.

Ratings: Information 5/10; Entertainment 6/10

Review. This just in: Kenyans are fast. Finn is another left-winger who feels the need to apologize for prosperity. Kenyans, according to Finn, are fast because they run a lot as kids. They have too. Westerners are fat and spoiled by modern life.

As far as I'm concerned, the East Africans can have their gold medals. I'll take air conditioning.

Oh by the way: Mo Farah and Galen Rupp.


  1. These reviews made me laugh. Lots of left-wing vegan Zen practitioners around here. I thought the Finn book was a little better than you did--not as entertaining as Born to Run, but more realistic in that he recognized that the Kenyans' ability isn't due to just one factor and it's not something we can bottle and send west (people who read Born to Run tend to think you can solve everything by running barefoot--we have a lot of those types here too).

    1. I was probably a little harsh on Running with the Kenyans. I might even rereview it. I absolutely loved his description of the actual race. He captured what it's like to hit the wall better than any other writer I've come across. He also does a good job explaining why Kenyans are better on hills. They have to be.