I think the final two books from my ordering frenzy have now appeared … Well, I typed that yesterday and then today I got the bus that I have to get off half way up the high street, and found myself in The Works … the only word I can say really is “Oops”. Photos below, but do read the review first as it was in interesting read.

Dean Karnazes – “The Road to Sparta”

(bought 16 June 2016 so I could join in the Runners’ Bookshelf June read)

Karnazes has already published a few books on ultra-running, which I haven’t yet read, so here we get a potted history of why he took up the sport and how he has progressed to being a bit of a celebrity in the field. This book is mainly about his embracing of his Greek heritage and attempt to run the incredibly gruelling Spartathlon (fortunately, this run that takes in the path of the first marathon runner has off-road bits, horrible hill climbing and really strict cut-offs, so not something I’d ever consider attempting). He also attempts to bring the story of Pheidippides, that original marathon runner, to life and explain just what his achievement really was, as he feels this has got lost in history written by people who don’t understand (ultra) running.

Although lots of people have mixed history with “in the footsteps” books, they have usually been historians first, and some of the historical writing does feel a little bit clunky – but bravely done, with his heart and soul put into it, and he’s clear where he veers off into conjecture. He has a bit of a flowery writing style, too, which reads sometimes more like a talking style, but that’s easy enough to get into.

One thing I was surprised by was that he wasn’t as arrogant as I’d expected (I don’t know why I expected that, just from his exploits, I suppose, as every ultra-runner I’ve known or met has been very nice). He’s pretty self-effacing and humble, and he talks about being dyslexic, even “not that bright” and with not-great people skills: he manages to be very engaging in his book for all that (it’s worth mentioning here that I don’t feel his writing style is indicative of his dyslexia at all, but I wonder if he worked with recording his words first, hence the similarity to spoken language). He’s suitably grateful to the people who support races and respectful of his fellow runners, which is typical of most runners but lovely to read.

The book’s also funny – for example when he signs up (alone) for a 199 mile relay race in order to get the distance in, wondering whether the organisers will be confused by every member of the team having the same name. He runs a marathon in a toga, just to see what it’s like, and gets some interesting chafing. He also admits his errors, running on empty and not doing basic self-care routines during Spartathlon, but mentioning that this is hypocritical, as it’s something he tells newbie runners firmly not to do!

Exciting and engaging, the book winds up with a description of the end of the race (though has he run all the way himself?) which involves being given a wreath and touching a statue, so not your usual race finish! He has some true things to say about how even the marathon winkles out your weaknesses, and I will certainly be picking up his other books.


On to these last purchases. This one was down to some awful, wicked recommendation in a Runners’ Bookshelf group I belong to. It’s about the neuroscience of sport, looking at elites but also how you can apply some of the learning to the amateur athlete. Well, I can’t resist a running book, can I?

While we’re here, I appear to have developed some more NetGalley books (I’ve lost my 80% reviewed badge for the time being, because I have got a few TBR now and haven’t read enough to make myself stay in that 80% category if I add too many new ones).

“The Gender Agenda” by James Millar and Ros Ball is about the new gender issues that have become more visible recently. Danzy Senna wrote a novel called “From Caucasia with Love” which I adored years ago and has come up with a new novel, “New People”. Joshua Clark Davis has written “From Head Shops to Whole Foods” about the changing face of activist entrepreneurs, Marta McDowell’s “The World of Laura Ingalls Wilder” looks fascinating although I have to read it on my PC in a weird format (grr) and finally Debbie Macomber’s publishers got in touch with an automatically approved offer of her new one, “Any Dream will Do” (cue earworm). What’s a girl to do??

And this is a new one by the lovely Paul Magrs – if you enjoyed his Brenda and Effie series, you won’t want to miss this one, about a group of authors in 1930s Oxford (remind you of anyone in particular?) and their elusive servant, Brenda … I will NOT be able to control myself and will end up reading this before it reaches the top of the TBR, I just know it.

I then had the aforementioned issue in The Works and had one last fling with book buying for the foreseeable future. Well, a Debbie Macomber I hadn’t seen before, another Cornwall book (I’ve got two nights there and two long train journeys …) and one about a MOBILE LIBRARY … you see my problem.

Karen from Kaggsysbookishramblings mentioned the other day that she’d love to see a photo of the TBR in its current, horrendous state, so here’s a special photo just for her. No one else can even SEE it, right?

And yes, it’s double-stacked, and the back row goes all the way behind the Pile. I don’t think this is the actual worst it’s ever been, but incomings have been much higher than outgoings just recently …

In final news, I’ve had a swap around already in my #20BooksOfSummer list. I just couldn’t face Jane Gardam’s “Old Filth” as I just don’t want to read about ageing and crumbling at a time when I’ve been doing just that! So I have swapped in an e-book I recently won on NetGalley called “Out of the Blue”, edited by Helen Mitsios, which is new short stories from Icelandic writers. Exciting (and I’ve had a lazy Sunday and have read it already – review tomorrow!).