After the last post’s unconnected books, here are two with loads of connections (I know it doesn’t really matter, but I like to have a little theme going). Not only are they books about a book runner and an actual runner, but they’re also both non-fiction and both created out of diaries or blogs. However, one was a richly rewarding and enjoyable read, while the other was frustrating and not so enjoyable. Which was which? Read on to find out …
Bill Rees – “The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Book Runner”
(ebook on Kindle)
I don’t know when I got this one (IS there a way to tell?) but I can imagine that it was either free or 99p, and for that I am glad. Sorry! The book covers a long period of time in the life and career of this chap, who has various bookshops in the UK and France and also buys and sells books on the fly. This should make it very interesting, and indeed it would be interesting, were it not for the terribly annoying structure of the book.
The author has unfortunately seen fit – and on purpose, as he carefully explains in a section appearing late in the book which might have done better near the beginning (I wonder how many people actually make it to the end!) – shuffles everything around into disconnected chunks, yes, with the date at the top, which saves it from being utterly and completely confusing, but still very annoyingly. It’s not like one of those time-shift novels in which everything eventually makes sense: you get something from the UK in the 80s, then you’re in France in the 90s, then a year or two earlier, then off somewhere and some time else. It then becomes a series of disjointed vignettes, which are well-written and interesting in their own right, but it’s like reading random entries in a blog (maybe that’s how it was created) and you end up reading something mentioning an episode which doesn’t itself appear until several tens of percentage points further on in the book (remembering that I’m reading it in Kindle form). It’s a real shame, as it would have been a good book if it was shaped into a coherent narrative, but I lost most of the enjoyment through the skipping around.
Hilariously, many of the reviews on Amazon are simply complaining that it’s not “The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Runner”. The clue IS in the title …
Rosie Swale Pope – “Just a Little Run Around the World”
(25 January 2014 – Stratford charity shop)
I’d heard about this woman’s epic and practically unsupported run around the world (she was sponsored by Runner’s World magazine and provided with kit by various companies, but ran alone for most of the journey) and was pleased to happen across her book on our charity shop ramble in Stratford at the beginning of the year.
When Rosie’s husband dies of cancer, she resolves to run around the world – as you do – to honour his memory and raise awareness of cancer; she also ends up raising awareness of and money for various charities along the way. Because this journey eventually takes five years, the book presents an outline of her journey and a series of vignettes (happily in order, or occasionally in well-signposted flashback) of her life on the road, concentrating mainly on the lovely people and animals (there is no sad animal stuff apart from a few partings) she meets along the way.
The frightening experiences are far rarer than the heart-warming ones, and her calm efficiency and resourcefulness – as well as an ingrained and passionate respect for ordinary people and careful intention not to allow herself to be frightened, but always think the best of people – get her through various scrapes and danger. She is humble, grateful for help when she has to ask for it, and very, very resilient (OK, extremely hard!), breaking several ribs along the way and not letting that stop her (she even runs through a set of dental treatment at one point!).
She wasn’t a newbie at adventure, having completed the Marathon de Sables and a single-handed Atlantic sail, so she has already tested herself and knows she can do it, but she’s not a machine, and it’s a heartfelt, moving book, respectful and celebratory of people, animals and nature. It made me well up a good few times.
I’ve just finished the lovely Gwen Raverat book I mentioned in my last post, and I’m contemplating whether to go Kindle or paper for my next read … Have any of my readers read either of these books (or run around the world?). What do you think of books constructed from diaries or blog posts – do they always work? And, of course, what are you reading as the nights draw in?