Born to Run by Christopher McDougall is one of the best books I’ve read this year, and I’m not even a real runner. My friend recommended this book to me two years ago, and told me that it was a story of a tribe of excellent runners in Mexico. I thought it sounded interesting, but never rushed to read it. When I was in the States this summer, Born to Run came up again and again in airports, bookstores, and my conversations. I thought it was time to read it, and I’m so glad I did. My friend was right that there is a tribe of super-runners in the book, but that is far from the whole story. The frame story of the book is the author’s experience with runner. The book begins with his visits to several doctors to find treatment for his many running injuries. He is told many times that running is bad for us, and that we all are injured. His only solution, he was told, is to quit running or get a few cortisone shots to relieve the pain. McDougall was not ready to give up on his sport, so he began a search to […]
I got the idea for this book from Mark’s previous post on it. I liked it for all the reasons he liked it. Sports is often defined by statistics. We determine who goes to the Hall of Fame in the various sports with objective, measurable data playing a huge role. As a huge sports fan, I know a lot of the cliches that surround our favorite past-times and the unexplainable but undeniable forces that go along with it as well (like home-field advantage, momentum, or the curse of the Cubs). Turns out that none of these items are all that unexplainable after all. And that’s what was so interesting about this book. I felt like a lot of what I knew about sports was turned on its ear. I’m now going to have to fight spouting facts to other sports fans when they start declaring that Dwight Howard is a more effective shot blocker than Tim Duncan. I was an altogether enjoyable book to read as a sports fan. I even found myself laugh out loud at Barnes and Nobles when I read that the attendance at Wrigley Field is affected more by beer prices than it is by the […]
Scorecasting is a book that I think was written for somebody just like me. I love sports. I have a degree in economics. I’ve been a basketball coach. As a pastor, I love studying human behavior and psychology. Mix all those things together, and you get this book. Throughout the book, the authors look at many assumptions we make about sports, and then tests those assumptions against the statistical evidence. For example, they did find that, as many of sports fans have believed, referees tend to ‘swallow their whistles in late game situations. The reason is because, psychologically, referees don’t want to be the ones who determine the outcome of games. Other chapters address issues such as why coaches make decisions that reduce their team’s chances to win (i.e., loss aversion), that offense wins championships too, why a Tim Duncan blocked shot is more valuable than a Dwight Howard blocked shot, why a superstar on your team is better than a well balanced team, what’s behind the home field advantage (hint: it’s the refs), and much more. If you like to analyze the why and how of sports, I think you would enjoy this fun read.
For good reason, Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand landed on many Best of the Year lists in 2010, including on Mark’s. I’m not sure I would have picked this up otherwise; I like World War II books as much as the next guy (if the next guy in question also likes World War II books), but this is focused on one man. And it’s 500 pages. I wasn’t sure that I was ready to commit. I’m so glad that I did. After a few pages, I knew that I would love this book. Unbroken is the story of Louie Zamperini, a hooligan-turned-Olympic runner-turned-pilot-turned-prisoner of war-turned- unbroken and hopeful man. That’s a pretty good one-sentence summary of the book, just in case the publisher is looking for a subtitle for the forthcoming paperback version. I liked Louie instantly; he was a troublemaker tough-guy, but found his escape from his California town by running. Introduced to the sport by his brother, Louie runs in high school, college, and then in the 1936 Berlin Olympics where he met Adolph Hitler. His life changed soon after as the story follows Louie into his new career as an AAC bombardier, until he crashes in the Pacific. […]