Book Shelf

Non-Fiction

This category contains 4 posts

It’s not about the Bike: Lance Armstrong

Title: It’s not about the bike: My journey back to life

Author: Lance Armstrong

Genre: Non-fiction, Auto-Biography, Sports

Publisher: Berkley, p289

I pick up this book to read when I was feeling low with the certain things happened in my personal life. Lance, thru this book helped me realize that anything is achievable and any hurdle could be overcome. Thank you Lance.

I have heard of Lance Armstrong, the man who won the Tour de France record-breaking seven times after recovering from life threatening cancer. So what I expected from this book was a fairy tale of a rider who survived cancer and became successful in the tour. But what I got was totally different and I’ve  become a fan of Lance and the cycling.

Lance’s life as a whole is inspiring not only the cancer survival or tour de France victories. He started his career with a cycle on credit. His first bike damaged by a truck driver, second one lost in a life threatening accident but still he never stopped riding. You should definitely have enough courage and determination to continue.

He finished last in the first professional race he participated and was laughed at. I think many of us not trying anything challenging because of the fear of similar reactions. Look at him, he got over it and what are the things he had done.

‘What makes a great endurance athlete is the ability to absorb potential embarrassment and to suffer without complaint’ is what he said about this incident. I feel this is not only for athlete, this is for all of us who are trying to withstand in this competitive world where only fittest will survive.

This book is an eye opener for me on the cancer and it’s diagnosis. The detail account of chemo and effects of it definitely make me understand why it is considered as one of the worst diseases. On these parts of the book, I liked his attitude and determination to win over the disease and come back to the normal life.

When someone tells you’re not good to do something, don’t simply accept it. Try doing it at least to prove that person is wrong. Lance did it. When Cofidis and many other teams rejected him saying he is no more the athlete who wins the races, he was determined to prove them wrong and you know what happened.

I liked one more quote of him in the book. It is,

Definition of a ‘human’ as follows, characteristic of people as opposed to God or animals or machines, especially susceptible to weakness and therefore showing the qualities of man.

If you want me to tell he was lucky. I would say in three things. He born in USA, he got a very understanding mother and great coaches. Why I say USA is, he could earn himself about $20k at the age of 16 by participating in various triathlon events. In India, even the professional athletes who participated in various international events could not even think of earning so much. (Except of course the cricketers).

Secondly, an understanding parent is very important for a career as an athlete. I know many of my friends who have to give up their ambitions in sports just for the sake fulfilling their parents’ wishes.

Lance was extremely lucky to have the coach like Chris Carmichael. Whenever his confidence gone low Chris was there. I heard this from many that a good coach is the reason for more than half you achieved in the arena. Definitely Lance was lucky to have one.

I really liked Lance’s frank account of all the things happened in his life, including his initial arrogance, his shortcomings, cancer and infertility. If you ask me to point out one important lesson I learned from this book that would be,

‘If a man who had less than 10% chance of surviving, can survive and win over the world by his determination and never give up attitude why can’t we, who had very little problems compared to the one he had to overcome.’

Thanks for giving us this wonderful book Lance. ★★★★★

Fever Pitch by Nick Hornby

 

Title: Fever Pitch

Author: Nick Hornby

Genre: Non-fiction, Sports

Publisher: Penguin, p238

Fever pitch was an autobiographical account of an obsessive Arsenal fan whose happiness, sadness and everything depend on Arsenal’s success or failure.

Most of us, Indian football fans, started watching English football from around 1996. That is the time when ESPN start telecasting one or two matches per weekend. That too most of them were United and Liverpool games. This would explain why India has lot of fans from these two clubs.

For the guys like me, who started around 2003/04 season, Arsenal was all. The invincible team on a great football ground (First renovated Highbury, then world class Emirates) with great players likes of Henry, Bergkamp, Vieira.  We don’t know the past. The period when the dying on the football ground due to hooliganism, wall collapse and lot more reasons.

This book explains a lot about that period which most of us do not know. We always habituated to imagine foreign stadiums are like this from start. No issues of spectator safety and comfort would have ever risen. If you are the person who always complains about quality of Indian stadiums, please read this book. In a country like UK, the stadiums should need more than 100 years to get improved; our stadiums are new and are in the process of improving. It will happen in time, so stop complaining.

The best thing about this book was that this was written in the view of a fan. I could relate to lot of things like planning the outings  and parties so that it would not affect him watching the matches, grumbling about the match whenever the team through away the lead and losing, we all do , don’t we?

The main part of the book is the 17 year trophy deficit until they won the league cup on 1987. The irony is now we are in the deficit of 6 years. So I could understand his feelings when he explains the joy he felt when the team won the league.

Also when Hornby explains his feelings after the team lost to Swindon in the cup final, I could relate it with the loss we suffered in the league cup final this year to the relegated Birmingham.

Fever pitch, another great non-fiction book I have read this year. If you are a football fan and following English Football for quite some time, this is a good read irrespective of whichever club you are. This book gives us lot of information that we would not possibly known from the period starting 1968 till 1991. If you are a Gunner’s fan, ‘Man, come on this is a book by one of us’.

No prizes for guessing my rating★★★★★

The Last Lecture

Cover of "The Last Lecture"

Cover of The Last Lecture

I have been introduced to many great books after I joined Goodreads. This is one such book. ‘The Last Lecture‘ by Randy Pausch is one book you would never want to miss.

Of course, there are many books that lectures you how you should live, how to achieve your dreams, etc. But this is special. In this book, Randy, did not say ‘How you should live?’, instead he talked about how he lived and from which we can get enough lessons for our lives.

This is a great book because it is not speaking about principles of living, Randy trying to tell how to live a happy life and the lessons he learned throughout his life. For a man who already known about his death date, he himself a great role model. I never imagined a man whose death date was known can speak about better living and how to cherish your life instead of dwelling about his misfortune.

In this book, he talked about ‘Achieving your Childhood Dreams’, ‘Lessons learned from his adventures’, ‘Happiness of Enabling others’ dreams’ and ‘How to live our lives’.  In all these He quoted completely from his own life and that amazes me. Though he is unfortunate to leave the world early, he lived a wonderful life. And he wants everyone to take some positives from his life.

I had just completed the book, so not sure how much this will impact my life. But I am sure this will impact a lot in the way I am looking into the life in the coming days. Some of my favorite quotes from the book.

When you are screwing up and nobody says anything to you anymore, that means they’ve given up on you.

You can always change the plan, but only if you have one.

Anytime we spend whining is unlikely to help us achieve our goals. And it won’t make us happier.

Don’t obsess over what people think.

Experience is what you get when you didn’t get what you wanted.

Brick walls are there for a reason and once you get over them it can be helpful to others to tell them how you did it.

Towards the end one of the main things he mentioned was, ‘sometimes we just need to ask’. I remember many times I didn’t get what I wanted just because I didn’t have the courage to ask what I wanted. I am sure this is with many. Like this, there are lot of things in this book that perfectly suits many of us.

My rating for this wonderful book is ★★★★★

This is one such book you would never want to miss. I have embedded the video of ‘The Last Lecture’ below. You can see it first then you can buy the book. I am sure, once you watch the video you would definitely want to buy the book. The book has lot more things that are not mentioned in the lecture, Lot that would affect our way of looking into life.

The Motorcycle Diaries

Motor Cycle Diaries by Che Guevara, is a revolutionary book. It is a travelogue of Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara when he decided to go around South America with his friend Alberto.

Many would attribute the success of Motor Cycle Diaries to the success of Che himself as a mass leader. But I differ from them, IMO the book still would have been successful even if Che did not become what he had.

In this travelogue, he just records the things he had seen as a young medical college dropout. When I say travelogue everyone would think that this would be the one which is flat nothing interesting to read etc.

This is where Che, the writer, stands out. A wonderful honest description of the important events happened throughout this six month-long journey.

At the start of the book, he mentioned that, ‘the person – Ernesto Guevara, a happy traveler – who took these notes died already’, as he had transformed into a revolutionist. When I read the book, I sensed the revolutionist in him coming into existence during the travel itself.

His account of mine workers in Chile, discrimination against the Indians in Peru, the ignorance of leper patients throughout the journey announces the transformation of the easy rider into a revolutionist.

The descriptions of Inca civilization and their defeat against the Spaniards showed his disapproval of the defeat of indigenous people and their discrimination. When he saw the North American tourists in Machu Picchu, he says, ‘how these people would know the importance of this place and pride of their ancestors as these North Americans are not indigenous or at least semi-indigenous people like most of the Latin Americans’. I don’t think these are the words of an easy rider, I think these kinds of thoughts are the initiation for his revolutionary alignment.

Throughout the book, you can see the life of various countries in 1950s. The livelihood of people was not comfortable those days. Even the communism and communists were banned and in Peru all the mines were of foreign entrepreneurs. By reading these things, you could easily see the reasons of Che to become a comrade.

I felt the book ended in a midway. I expected a more formal finish like the travelogue extended till Che reaches back Argentina. Not sure what stopped him taking notes of things after Alberto decided to stay back. Che would have wanted even this book to end in a revolutionary way.

I am searching for another travelogue of Che, On to the Road again – in which he wrote down the details of his travel to Guatemala and became a marxist politician – ever since I completed this book. But not getting the book anywhere.

It could be due to that book did not become much successful like this one. As in this one Che’s political ideas had never taken a mention. It’s a complete travelogue that noted the important places all over South America during the 1950s period.

It is a nonfiction book, So obviously the entertainment factor would be missing a bit but not completely. I would suggest you to read this book to know about Che and the need of his transformation into a revolutionist, also to know about 1950 South America and a brief history of Inca Empire.

My rating for this book is ★★★★★