Thursday, December 31, 2015

Book Reading in 2015

With internet on all the time, the only reading I get to do is not book or e-readers but internet rabbit-holes of Wiki, Buzzfeed and way too many blogs. At some point in time, I had to exercise extreme restraint and get back to book reading, for way too many reasons:
  1. To be able to hold my own attention on one thing, instead of switching between 10 browsers to read 10 articles, all at the same time
  2. To stop my mobile from torching my eyes every night till 2 am
  3. And to show my kids what book reading meant. I mean, there is a point till when you can push a book in their face. But they will start reading only when they see competition. "Oh ya, look I finished this many books" smug is the best way to get them going. Oh ya, everything is a game for kids.
  4. I don't have dataplan, so I need something in the bus. There are only so many billboards that I can read.
That way, I did end up reading many books this year. Here are some of them with my notes, in no particular order.

Why Not Me - by Mindy Kaling




This one was a good ride. Which is a raise compared to my experience with her previous book.
I loved her dialog delivery, even the unconnected comedy on TV. I loved her quote, "I have a personality defect where I refuse to see myself as an underdog. My parents raised me with the entitlement of a tall, blond, white man."
So I got her first book "Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns)". My dad read it first, and he was all shrugging, "What is this ? Nowadays everyone can write books !". I blamed it on him being from different generation and culture and him not having seen her shows. But when I started reading it, I could barely turn pages. I think I gave up after 2-3 chapters. It did nothing for me.

So it took me lot of courage to get her second book. I mean, I was still impressed by her quotes. I had to read something from her. Thankfully this book turned out good. It was about her experiences in college and from professional life. So along with her wit, I got a glimpse of the TV show making world. I was impressed by her hard work, even though I expected it. The most profound portion is where she explains that confidence comes from entitlement which is supported by hard work. And her attempt to remove the derogatory tone from the word 'workoholic'. It was a good chapter.

Fresh Off the Boat - By Eddie Huang

This was a fun ride. Very engrossing from the very first page.
I got to know about this book because it was recently made into a TV show. I saw few of the episodes and it was funny but predictable. I would expect the story to go one-way, and that is exactly where it would end. Standard Asian immigrant in USA with second generation kids plot; something covered in numerous ABCD line movies. But I guessed the book would have to be different.

I got the book and laughed through it. It was different. Book moved from his kid years to college and then adulthood.  Was stunned at the self-destructive actions. Learned some minute details about growing up as immigrants children, what they face, some terminology. I grew up in cultures different from my parents, though within the same country. So I could connect to some parts. But growing up in a very different country, especially one with strong set rules like America, combined with immigration challenges, which make us feel like we are living in borrowed time for years, it makes the experience very different. Culture clashes of home vs school vs peers.

Language used was also why this was so engrossing. It was clean for his initial childhood till he settled and made friends. And then it was littered with s, fs and mfs, picking up speed towards his college and working years. Towards the end of the book it was totally studded with repeated profanity. This maybe for effect, maybe his individual style, but it did help make the points it wanted to make.

Dean Karnazes Books 

  1. Ultramarathon Man: Confessions of an All-Night Runner
  2. 50/50: Secrets I Learned Running 50 Marathons in 50 Days -- and How You Too Can Achieve Super Endurance!
  3. Run! 26.2 Stories of Blisters and Bliss
 

If you want to get enchanted into the world of running, get captured by charisma of a filmy hero, Dean Karnazes books are the ones to read. He glamorizes the world of distance running, and in a good way. Totally cheerful and no bitterness anywhere. All Mr California-Sunshine in tone. Even the sad parts in the books are so well-written but they don't pull you into it. Keep you at the interested in sports level. Equivalent of a masala movie.

To his credit, he did run some incredible awe-inspiring races and won many. All 3 books are detailed humorous and informing. I learnt many things needed for running from his books. Felt inspired by his adventures and his enthu, self-deprecating yet humblebrag descriptions. His association with corporate Northface showed in all places. He talked about some of the DNF, which were reassuring for me, that its not all hahahehe.

Eat and Run - by Scott Jurek


This one had the most impact on me. A quiet loners simmering recount about all the running in his life and about some of the high-profile races. His chapters were more poetic. Every chapter had a recipe, which did not interest me the cynical-cook .

The Extra Mile - by by Pam Reed


By now I wanted to find out specifically about Elite Women. Deans and Scott Jurek's books were good to learn about the world of trail and ultra distance running. I know a lot of women did it too and won many. So what were their experiences ? What about unique to their gender ?

Dean mentions Pam Reed in his book. She won Badwater twice. Not division or category, but won the actual complete race ! Now that's intriguing. So I got her book.

Her language was factual but not enough race info. More than 50% of the book covered her affair, anorexia, her business ventures. Given that it is her autobiography I should take it. I was looking for 100% racing info - greedy me. She kept it real, and real life is mundane and boring, even of an achiever. She did not Hollywoodise it. I appreciate that she did write about most of her races. I wish there was more of which guide others towards it. It does have helpful info. She details her competitive nature. Talks about her athletics in her school years and how it linked with her everyday life. She talks of running as a mother. Running experience in different events.

Everything I learnt about running was bit by bit from RunWorld and FB pages, runner blogs and these runner books. But nowhere do they tell if anyone makes money, even for expenses or if the elites. So I conclude that the use their creativity to earn or sponsor. Once they build their strengths and capability, there must be professionals who know how to use it for corporate or charity benefits.
A lovely write-up on Anne Weber's GoFundMe page gives some clues.
(Update: found one article: Prize Money Aimed at Americans Helps Emerging Elites )

Wild - by Cheryl Strayed



I heard about this book around the time when the movie started to spread the word about it. I have been fascinated by long-distance, so this was intriguing. Plus the writer is originally from Minnesota. It was a good read. Many pages were devoted to her pre-trail life in Minnesota.  Her story-telling was flashbacks of her mother and her divorce as she moves along the hike along the PCT trail.

Found parallel with my new venture as runner. Each run or race, is a revelation. The way we get absorbed during self-training and research for it. Also I prefer long distances versus a short-distance at greater speed. It matches my noncompetitive temperament.

I remembered this book while running in Lake Minnetonka Half-Mara. At about mile 5, the cushions below my toes started hurting. Like I had cement for shoe-soles. And then I thought of Wild, where her boots were 1 size small and killed her toes & feet, but she did nearly half of her nearly 1500 miles in those shoes. I had brand new shoes of excellent quality and I was complaining ! That helped me cover rest of the miles. My pain actually disappeared after few miles.

The book details her alone time while hiking. At different rest camps, she meets other trekkers. They all relax together, enjoy meals and rest. And then they each start at their own schedule and move forward. They don't decide to stick together, or slow down for someone else or pickup pace to match another. Its only at stopover that they hangout together. Its not a competition, but individual journey. This is something I believe strongly in life.

Saw the movie after reading this book. That was worth it too. The movie time & format is way different to squeeze in all details, and they didn't. But they touched upon each of her personal life events, could convey the pain about death, not so much about the divorce; which was a good thing. Way too many movies linger about the love-pains; it get more attention than it needs. Not enough talk about strong mothers in the modern life. And then the movie captured the outdoor beauty of the PCT trail. That alone made it was worth a repeat watch.

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