As an English major, many people find my lack of interest in authors such as Shakespeare or Chaucer surprising. While I do enjoy a good book over sunrise and morning coffee, it is not always the most acclaimed literary scholars that capture my attention in a text. So far, this summer has given me a chance to catch up on my reading list.
• The first book I picked up after final exams were over was John Denver’s autobiography Take Me Home. Though I was born long after John Denver’s time in the country music spotlight, I still find his songs easy to connect with. He always gave off an impression of being the all-American country boy.
His autobiography opened my eyes not only to the true meaning behind many of his songs, but also the idea that he wasn’t the good-natured soul that many made him out to be. Although his autobiography has brought distaste from many former fans, I found his life saturated by drugs, affairs and a dysfunctional family to reveal a more human artist who had true purpose behind his songs and career as a whole.
• A book I recently read that has had the most practical application to my life was Art of War by Sun Tzu. Written thousands of years ago, Art of War is a simplified list of advice to aid in achieving victory through military combat. However, in more recent years the text is used by professionals in every field as a means to procure success. I have often heard of it used by business owners looking to outlast a competitor.
In my life, it was applied to my participation in cycling and triathlon. It provided me with the means to strategize effectively, capitalizing on advantages and navigating disadvantages. The book has practical application when read through any lens from war to business to racing bicycles.
• In the vein of athletics, the book that pushed me headfirst into the world of endurance sports was Christopher McDougall’s memoir Born to Run about the Tarahumara Indians of Mexico. He details his time spent with the tribe of super-athletes, known to be capable of running dozens of miles every day across inhospitable terrain while remaining injury free.
McDougall speaks on their lifestyle, an unsuccessful attempt at their integration into the world of competitive American running and the progression of the sport through the past thirty years ending with a climactic race between the world’s most recognized endurance runners and the Tarahumara.
The book was the inspiration behind the new wave of minimalist running, which you may be able to recognize from the odd-looking Vibram shoes with toeholds and virtually no sole. The story reads like a novel while being highly informative to all runners. Within four months of finishing the book, I finished my first marathon.
• As an English major I feel obligated to include one of my favorite literary pieces. I have been a fan of Russian novelist Leo Tolstoy for years but recently found my favorite of his works in the short story Family Happiness. It follows the tale of a young woman falling in love with an older childhood friend.
Split into two parts, it follows the progression of their relationship. With young, unhindered love dominating the first part, the main character soon finds herself falling for the urban society and material lifestyle while her older husband longs for a quiet life in the country. The divide brings about Tolstoy’s philosophies on what it means to live a happy lifestyle. Through Tolstoy’s unmatched superfluous detail, he translates his ideas through wordplay, making his thoughts easy to fall into agreement with.