I feel like I’m falling behind with my reading of books, reading and commenting on other people’s blogs and reviewing – argh! It’s not even the time of year particularly; not sure what it is. Anyway, although I’ll probably be working a little bit between Christmas and New Year, I will get plenty of time off and can wallow in the books then (by then, it will be too late for my poor old TBR, of course!).

Mo Farah – “Twin Ambitions”

(28 January 2017)

I bought this along with Bruce Springsteen’s autobiography and “Bounce” by Matthew Syed with a lovely book token once Christmas and birthday were safely out of the way.

Written with T.J. Andrews, who is credited on the title page (I like, and look for, this now I work with a number of ghostwriters myself), this very good biography opens with an atmospheric recreation of Mo’s London 2012 5000m race and then goes back to the start, taking us sensibly through his life from birth in Somaliland via Djibouti to growing up in the UK. It’s all written very well to sound like it’s Mo speaking to us: the mark of a good writer with a good relationship with their subject.

There’s a good balance of sporting and personal life, with excellently researched notes on people he encounters in the world of athletics and enough detail of running training, etc., to please someone knowledgeable about the subject but explained clearly, too. It was lovely to see all sorts of runners I’ve heard or and even seen run being mentioned as he came across them.

I also loved the details about how he loves football but was rather sweetly always better at the running up and down the pitch bit than the kicking the ball bit, and that he’s dyslexic (his struggles with learning English are also recounted, not enough to embarrass himself, but he’s refreshingly honest). He also has a lot of energy and is always on the go, so suits doing a sport where there’s not really a down season.

He’s very humble about basically having been in the right place at the right time early on, when he met his mentor who was a PE teacher at his school, Alan Watkinson. It’s hard to know, of course, but he seems to credit a lot of people with helping him to success. The details of his life with the Kenyan runners were fascinating and his work ethic laudable: he decides to stop messing around and train just like them in order to succeed. But in West London, where they stay for weeks at a time in a shared house! He always seems humble and willing to laugh at himself and learn, and he puts the leg-work in researching the family’s move to Portland.

I really loved the fact that Mo’s first meeting with Alberto Salazar, his now former coach, was during the World Half Marathon Championships in Birmingham – a race I ran (way) behind Haile Gebrselassie! There’s no mention of the drugs scandals and I think that’s fair enough if he chooses not to mention them: instead it’s all about the immense amounts of hard work and pain he puts himself through. If it’s possible to come out of the book with more respect for him than I had before, I did.

There’s an extra chapter about his Rio Olympics in this paperback, which reads a little awkwardly as we hop past his marathon attempt and the four years since London. But this is a minor quibble and it has lots of interesting information in it. A good read with some great photos, too.

I’m currently reading “The Newcomers” by Helen Thorpe, a NetGalley read tracing the experiences and stories of a group of young refugees who are being taught English and how to navigate America at a wonderful progressive school. It’s fascinating and moving and really well done, although admittedly not very seasonal. What are you reading at the moment?