Reading and Running: Two Great Memoirs

It’s been two weeks since my last review, so I will cover two books for this week’s review. I will be looking at two works of nonfiction that I picked up recently at my favorite bookstore. The first author writes about her passion for reading, while the second one chronicles his passion for running. One author was unfamiliar to me. The other was a trusted favorite. While written in very different styles, I thought both of these memoirs were best reviewed together as they were both written beautifully as both authors tie their passions to the larger world around us. 

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45. So Many Books, So Little Time: A Year of Passionate Reading by Sara Nelson

The popular saying, “So Many Books, So Little Time” couldn’t be truer in my case. I desperately desire to get the books on my shelves read one after the other and to purchase more to look forward to on future reads. Despite having a lot of unread books (there’s a nice pile by the bed due to lack of shelf space), I struggled this month deciding what to read next. After agonizing for nearly a week while starting and stopping several titles (please tell me I’m not the only one who does this), I decided what better better way to get back into the swing of things with reading a book specifically about the love of reading. “So Many Books, So Little Time: A Year of Passionate Reading” by Sara Nelson is a great book on power of literature and how it connects into all facets of life.

Sara Nelson decided one year to read a book a week for a total of fifty-two books for that year and connecting them to her daily life. Sound familiar?  This proved to be a greater feat for Sara than she imagined as she struggled with choosing the right book at the right time. However, Sara soon learned that often the books choose you. What truly makes this chronicle so engaging is that the writer lets us into her world-her job, her relationships, and her problems. This creates an intimate work that helps us connect and draw parallels to our own lives. It is also written in a humorous but serious style that was highly engaging for me as a reader.

I dare anyone who reads this book not to find a chapter that hits home. Whether it is the frustration of not knowing what to read next to the disagreements that often occur regarding whether a book is any good, there is always something a book lover can understand.

I had so many favorite chapters that I couldn’t choose just one. One of my favorite moments in the book is when the author talks about how it is alright to stop reading a book if it doesn’t do anything for you. This is a problem that I struggled with in the past, as I used to feel the need to plunge ahead just because it was a book that I should be reading. However, I am not in school anymore so required reading goes out the window. As an adult, I can make my own decisions on what I read. There have now been many books I started and just stopped because I didn’t like it. I generally have a rule of thumb where if I’m not fully engaged within the first 50 pages, I stop. Another section of So Many Books that I enjoyed was the chapter on how Sara bonded with her son over Charlotte’s Web. Reading has such a fantastic way of bringing those around us closer together. They can also be relationship damaging, like that awful feeling when we loan a book to someone with the fear of never getting that sacred text back. These are just some of the topics that Sara Nelson covers in her book. It is an easy and humorous read.

“Explaining the moment of connection between a reader and book to someone who’s never experienced it is like trying to describe sex to a virgin.”

 

46. What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami

Recently, my wife has been urging me to get some type of exercise. Although I’m not a runner, I get my daily workout through a stationary bicycle in our bedroom. I found myself struggling to keep up with the simple half hour daily routine, even with the benefits of music or television to keep me going. While I didn’t think I would like Murakami’s account of his relationship to running, I found it another engaging read that connected the act to the larger world.

Murakami’s What I Talk About is half memoir, half motivational text. Following his transition from owning a jazz bar to becoming a writer (the story about how that happened is quite interesting), Murakami took up running so as not to fall victim to the sedentary lifestyle. I was really impressed with his accomplishments such as running a mega-marathon from Athens to Marathon one year. I could really feel his pain once that was completed. I’ve always been impressed with how Murakami puts everything he has into everything he does. He is definitely not a man that phones it in. Take it from me that I won’t be complaining about thirty minutes of an exercise bike ever again!

Murakami also talks about the connections between running and writing. Both require total discipline, both are long projects, and both require a strict routine if you want to accomplish anything. I loved Murakami’s work ethic and how he says it is important to pace yourself to build momentum towards getting something accomplished. Murakami sticks to the same writing schedule and will stop at the point where he knows he can do more just so the next day begins productively.

Read this if you are a runner. Read it if you’re not. Murakami is always an engaging read and a fabulous artist.

“For me, running is both exercise and a metaphor. Running day after day, piling up the races, bit by bit I raise the bar, and by clearing each level I elevate myself. At least that’s why I’ve put in the effort day after day: to raise my own level. I’m no great runner, by any means. I’m at an ordinary – or perhaps more like mediocre – level. But that’s not the point. The point is whether or not I improved over yesterday. In long-distance running the only opponent you have to beat is yourself, the way you used to be.”

Please share your thoughts on this book or this review. Comments are always welcome.

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One thought on “Reading and Running: Two Great Memoirs

  1. Pingback: Book Awards 2016 – I would rather be reading

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