Category Archives: Book Reviews

Four Books

Since I didn’t post for a couple of weeks, and I posted only marathony stuff before that, it’s been a while since I’ve added to Kristen’s Ten Day You Challenge. But I’m no quitter (just a dragger-outer), so today I’m continuing with Four Books.

(Here are my other posts: ten secrets, nine loves, eight fears, seven wants, six places, five foods)

10 day you challenge

Books are my favorite things in the history of ever. Choosing just four was tough, and I already wrote about my favorite running books. Today,  I decided to discuss four books that had major impacts on me at different times in my life.

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Anne of Green Gables. When people what ask my favorite book is, I can never answer, but if I had to choose, I’d pick this one. Or really, this one and the two after it. Growing up as an awkward redhead, I had a lot in common with Anne. And I learned a lot from her — about self-acceptance, about thinking before speaking, and even about love. And I always know when I’ve met a “kindred spirit” if they know what I’m talking about when I say “kindred spirit.”

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Atlas Shrugged. Yes, Ayn Rand had some unique and controversial philosophical ideas. But when I was a 19-year-old college sophomore who had never really thought about anything beyond my little circle of existence, Ayn Rand led me to think about money and politics and power. And those are things that everyone needs to learn to really think about and analyze. Have my views changed since then? Of course. But this book was one of the first that really led me to think philosophically and question the status quo, and that’s a good thing.

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Smashed. This one’s not quite the classic that the other two are, but it had a significant impact on me. Koren Zailckas writes about her experiences with partying and alcohol, and they are scary. I read this the summer after my junior year of college, and while I was never what anyone would call “wild,” this book made me question a lot of what I was doing (and the company I was keeping), why I was doing it, and where it would lead. I kept a copy of this book in my classroom library, and it disappeared a few years ago. I hope that’s because it impacted some other girl’s life, too.

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Lean In. When I started this book, I wasn’t sure how much of it would apply to me. I’m a teacher. I’m not exactly climbing the corporate ladder. But Sandberg’s advice is applicable to all women, and it’s changed a lot of what I do at work. I now have more confidence to speak my mind and stand up for what I believe is right and best for the kids. I think that’s a lot of why I’m now on our district leadership team. So thanks, Sheryl.

What are your top four most impactful books?

Read anything good lately that you’d recommend?

Book Review: Run or Die by Kilian Jornet

Last week, I finished a book and needed a new one. I wasn’t in the mood to read anything on my shelf, either at home or at school (which is kind of sad, because I have a LOT of books). I was in the mood for a running book. You know the kind … one that, while you’re reading, you can’t decide whether to keep reading because it’s so riveting or go outside and run because it’s so inspiring.

I already own several books that fit that description, but I wanted something new. So I grabbed my trusty nook, did a quick search, and landed on Kilian Jornet’s Run or Die. I only knew two things about this book: 1. Kilian Jornet is an incredible trail runner, and 2. Reading about incredible runners tends to give that inspiring feeling I was after.

So I bought it, and I read it. And although it was okay, I was disappointed overall.

Let’s start with the good:

  • Quick read — it was only 145 nook pages, which made for speedy reading.
  • Vivid descriptions of some of the amazingly beautiful places Jornet has run and of his thoughts and emotions throughout some runs and races. For a translated book, especially, I was impressed with some of the imagery.
  •  Some nice little thought-nuggets to ponder, like this one (the name of Chapter 8): “We celebrate a peak when we’re back down.”

And these are the things that made it a “meh” book for me:

  • Disjointed. That was my main issue with the book — it’s just a collection of tales of Jornet’s races, runs, and feats, without a unifying element. My next two points are really more sub-points of this one.
  • Shallow. The term “thought-nuggets” was the best descriptor I could use above, because Jornet never really gets into the meat of some of those thoughts and lessons. The book would have been much better with some more depth.
  • Impersonal. That probably sounds weird to say about a memoir-type book, but at the end of it, I didn’t feel like I knew Jornet. He touches on his childhood, his family and friends, and a failed relationship… but merely touches. For me to love a book like this, I need to feel a connection to the author, and I didn’t.

This book is worth a read if you want a short running book that you can read in a couple of days, but there are definitely more inspiring and well-written running books out there (see this post for some of my favorites).

And just for the record, Kilian Jornet is still a badass runner, regardless of his book.

What’s the best book you’ve read lately (running-related or not)?


A Few of my Favorite Things: Running Books Edition

Two of my all-time favorite pastimes are running and reading, so naturally, if I’m reading a book about running, I get super-duper happy. Since you’re here, reading a blog about running, I’m assuming that we have this in common, so I thought I’d share a few of my favorite running-related books. Grab one of these if you’re looking for a great fall read!

Books for Inspiration

14 Minutes by Alberto Salazar

Talk about inspiring: Alberto Salazar was dead — literally — for 14 minutes. And lived to tell about it. The book’s not all about those 14 minutes, though. Salazar writes about his career as a young runner, which in itself is inspiring. Reading about his dedication, even as a teenager, to becoming the greatest runner of all time made me want to stop reading and get out and run (which I couldn’t do, because I read this book on an airplane). As a young teenager, Salazar trained with some of the greatest runners in the nation (Bill Rodgers, for example), but also still ran on his high school team. This riveting book follows his development from prodigy to coach to dead guy and back to coach again… and makes you want to follow in his footsteps (aside from the “dead guy” part, of course).

The Long Run 
by Matt Long

If Alberto didn’t get you inspired, I promise that Matt will. Once chubby and fairly inactive, this New York City fireman transformed himself into a marathon-running, Ironman-completing machine.

Until the day he rode his bike to work and got hit by a bus. Which practically ripped his body in half.

This book tells the story of Long’s road to recovery. What I love about it is that he never sugar-coats his story or tries to feed the reader an “I always knew I’d get better” line. No, Long tells about the darkest times, the frustration, the hopelessness. But he also tells how he got through it and, eventually, became a marathoner and an Ironman again.

Matt Long was torn in half by a bus. What was your excuse again?

From Fairbanks to Boston: 50 Great US Marathons

Jordan impulse-bought this book for me once at a running store, and I love it! Each of its featured 50 marathons is described in detail by someone who has run it. It’s like a pared-down I keep it on my nightstand for when I just want to read something short before I go to bed, and then I have running dreams. And want to run all 50 marathons.

Born to Run 
by Christopher McDougall

Okay, if you haven’t at least heard of this book, you’ve probably been living under a rock. But it is one of my all-time favorites, so I couldn’t not  include it. After reading about this amazing running tribe in Mexico, all I wanted to do was run. And eat pinole, which I had never heard of before this book.

Books for Aspiration

So now you’re all inspired, and you want to do something great(ish) with your running. Here are some of my favorite training books:

Kara Goucher’s Running for Women

Kara Goucher is my hero, and you should read her book. The end.

Just kidding. But this book definitely intensified my girl crush on Kara. It’s chock-full of down-to-earth, intelligent advice on running, nutrition, strength training, etc., all connected with Kara’s personal stories and experiences. This is a great book for both beginners and more advanced runners. When you finish, you’ll probably have a girl crush on Kara, too.

Advanced Marathoning
 by Pete Pfitzinger

Considered the “marathon bible” by many, this book is a must-have for serious (or fairly serious) marathoners. It has Pfitzinger’s famous training plans, of course, but the wisdom on workouts, injury prevention, nutrition, etc., is well worth buying the book, even if you never use one of the plans. I’ve used one of these plans for four marathons, and even now, when I’m using a different plan, I refer back to this book at least once a week.

You (Only Faster) 
by Greg McMillan

I bought this book (and had Greg McMillan sign it…giddy runnerd moment) at the Boston expo, and I think it’s fantastic. The book walks you through designing your own training plan, based on either one of Greg McMillan’s or any other plan that you like. This customized plan is what I’m currently following for my fall marathon. The process of customizing a training plan was invaluable for me. It really made me think about my strengths and weaknesses as a runner, as well as the purposes behind all the workouts I tend to just blindly follow. The book is easy to follow and understand, and easy to flip around for reference when I need a refresher on tomorrow’s workout.

The New Rules of Marathon and Half-Marathon Nutrition by Matt Fitzgerald

I wrote a full review on this book here. I still think it’s terrific and highly recommend it.


Source-citing so I don’t break any laws: I just pulled these images from Google. Most of them came from Amazon, in case you couldn’t tell by the “Click to look inside” images.

Those are a few of my favorite running books. What are a few of yours? 

Book Review: The New Rules of Marathon and Half-Marathon Nutrition

finally am posting my review of Matt Fitzgerald’s newest book, The New Rules of Marathon and Half-Marathon Nutrition. It’s long. I really did try to cut it down; this was as short as I could get it. And it’s a little academic-sounding (why, yes, those citations are in MLA format; thanks for noticing). I think I spent too many years in grad school writing literature reviews to write a book review that doesn’t sound academic. At least Ryan Gosling will like it. And I hope you do, too.

(I saw this on Google images…turns out, it’s from a blog on my alma mater’s website. Oh, Colorado State.)

I love Matt Fitzgerald. I always read his articles in Competitor, and I’ve read and enjoyed two of his other books, Racing Weight and Brain Training for Runners. I bought this book with high hopes, and I wasn’t disappointed. In fact, The New Rules is my favorite of Fitzgerald’s books. It’s engaging, well-organized, and supported by solid science. I highly recommend it to any distance runner who wants to improve his or her nutrition.

The book is divided into three parts. Part I, “The Two-Rule Diet,” discusses day-to-day eating. This was my favorite part of the book (probably because it’s the part I’ll use the most). The two rules of Fitzgerald’s “Two-Rule Diet” are: Make sure you’re getting enough carbs, and eat a high-quality diet. Easy, right?

No, it’s not hard. But a few things surprised me. I thought I’d have rule number one, meet your carbohydrate needs, easily under control. Wrong. Fitzgerald includes a handy chart for determining your carb needs, based on your level of activity. This week, I’ll be training approximately 10 hours (running and strength training), so according to the chart, I’ll need 372-434 grams of carbs each day. I eat a ton of fruit and veggies, so I thought I had the carbs covered. Once I started tracking my carb intake, though, I realized that I’m averaging carb grams in the low-to-mid 200s. So I’ve put a focus on eating more whole grains, sweet potatoes, and carby fruits like bananas. I’m still experimenting, because eating too many grains in one day upsets my stomach, but I’m getting closer.

The second rule of the two-rule diet is to eat high-quality foods. Fitzgerald explains that runners who are training for a long race can’t follow traditional dieting advice (i.e., drastically cut calories) to cut excess body fat. If we do, we’ll risk being undernourished and injured, or at the very least, be “intolerably hungry. In other words, you need to focus more on the quality than on the quantity of the foods you eat” (60).

Fitzgerald’s method of ensuring that your diet is high-quality is the most logical approach I have ever read — for runners or non-runners. He ranks food on a continuum. Veggies (including beans/legumes) are at the top, followed by fruit, nuts and seeds, fish and lean meats, whole grains, dairy products, refined grains, fatty meats, sweets, and fried foods (in that order). Fitzgerald explains it like this: “You must eat ten servings of vegetables, nine servings of fruit, eight servings of nuts and seeds, seven servings of lean meats and fish, six servings of whole grains, and five servings of dairy for every one serving of fried food, two servings of sweets, three servings of fatty meats, or four servings of refined grains you eat. This [is the] minimum requirement to achieve diet quality . . .” (86). Fitzgerald explains that nothing is off-limits or lumped under an “Eat sparingly” heading. “Refined grains, fatty meats, sweets, and fried foods are not poisonous,” he says. “They are foods that just happen to be less wholesome than other foods” (88).  This just seems so logical to me. No “never” foods. No calorie counting. No measuring. Just focusing on quality.

I started tracking my diet using a food log like Fitzgerald suggests. Overall, I eat a lot of high-quality foods already. I was surprised, though, when I discovered that I could stand to cut back my sweets intake. I rarely eat the foods that pop into our heads when we hear “sweets” (cookies, pie, ice cream, etc.), but natural sweeteners (honey, maple syrup) and my favorite dark chocolate are still sweets, and it wouldn’t hurt my diet – and thus my training – to cut back a smidge.

Fitzgerald also includes several recipes for breakfast, lunch, and dinner that will help you get your carbs in and your diet quality up. I haven’t tried any yet, but I’ve got some ahi waiting for me to make the Grilled Tuna Steak, Amaranth, and Kale recipe.

Part II discusses nutrition while training (immediately before, during, and after the run) and during the taper period. Taking in nutrition before and during a run is such an individual thing that most people just have to fool with it until they find what works. Fitzgerald acknowledges this and gives quite a number of fueling options and strategies. He also discusses recovery, and this discussion really made me realize that I need to make sure to remember my post-run nutrition. You’re supposed to take in a 4:1 carb-to-protein ratio within 30 minutes of finishing a workout. My routine is usually this: drink water, water my flowers, talk to the husband, take a looong shower, then make and eat breakfast. The eating is about an hour after I finish the running. So I bought some chocolate milk, per Fitzgerald’s recommendation, and have begun drinking a glass after every hour-or-longer run.

Fitzgerald also goes into great detail about taper nutrition. He suggests “fat-loading” for several days before the traditional carb load. I’d only vaguely heard of this concept, and Fitzgerald admits that it’s a little weird and not for everyone, but he says it can be quite effective. I’m not sure if I’ll try it or not…with my sensitive stomach, it could be a disaster. (Of course, Fitzgerald advocates trying a fat-load/carb-load cycle in training before you try it for a race). He also discusses proper fueling in the last 24 hours before a race and fueling during the race itself; there was nothing new to me in that section, but lots of good reminders.

The final section of the book is entitled “Nutrition-Training Synergy,” and it’s just what it sounds like. Fitzgerald tells you how to put everything you’ve learned about nutrition into practice with your training. He includes several half- and full-marathon training plans that include not only the running workouts but the corresponding nutrition. I think that’s smart; I’ve never seen such a plan. Since I was already several weeks into my current training plan when I read this book, I’m not using one of his plans, but they are a good reference.

As I said, I think this is the best of Matt Fitzgerald’s training books. Everything he discusses is backed up by lots of research, but it’s still accessible to those of us who teach English :). I would buy it in print, though, if I were doing it again. I bought the Nook book, and it would be really handy to be able to run copies of the logs and to more easily flip back and forth.

If you’re looking for some good nutrition info, definitely pick this one up. It’s well worth it.

What’s the best book you’ve read lately (running-related or not)?

No one compensated me for this review. I think you have to have more than three readers to be compensated for something. But if Matt Fitzgerald magically read this and wanted to give me something free, I wouldn’t complain.