Recent Reads for August/September

I know it’s been awhile since I’ve posted anything. But my offline life has been busier than ever. That doesn’t mean I haven’t been reading.

My Horizontal Life: A Collection of One-Night Stands by Chelsea Handler. The stand-up comic and TV show host relates her one-night stands and attempts at one-night stands. Since not every night ended in a successful bout of sex, and the circumstances surrounding the one-night stands are often outrageous, this is a light funny read. Phrases I learned: “vagina elbow” and “vagina face.” Recommended for people with a Bawdy Boozy Sense of Humor.

Saint Monica by Mary Biddinger. There has been a glaring omission in these erratic reading roundups of mine: a lack of poetry. I do love poetry but do not read it as often as I would like to. Saint Monica is a collection of poems taking Saint Monica as their inspiration. They are funny, tender, fearful, jealous, sneaky, angry, and vulnerable. Some of my favorite poems include, “Saint Monica and the Babe,” “Saint Monica’s Sweet Sixteen,” and “Saint Monica and the Hate.”

“Saint Monica Stays the Course” starts off as laugh-out-loud funny but ends in a violent chill. Sister Cathleen is giving the girls whose names begin with the letter M their orders for how they’re to proceed in the May Crowning procession: “If Maeve erupts in her first period like a water balloon tossed on a bed of thumbtacks, keep marching….Magdelena may vomit up her cornflakes once she is seated in the pews. She has done this before. Keep your eyes to yourself.” It gets uncomfortable when this staying the course veers toward the absurd: “If your fiance slams you against a wall and you suffer a concussion upon impact, breaking your glasses, keep marching to the bathroom with a bottle of Windex and a roll of paper towels and make that crooked mirror shine…”

One thing I did not know that I probably should have known as both Catholic-raised and an alcoholic: Saint Monica is the Patron Saint of alcoholics.

Recommended for Catholics, Drunks, Women Who Survive, or a Combination of All Three.

Full disclosure: I had the distinct pleasure of meeting the smart, self-described “starry-eyed poet” Mary Biddinger at the Wayne College Writer’s Workshop last year. You should buy a copy of her book and also pay her a visit over at her blog The Word Cage.

Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen by Christopher Mcdougall. My sister-in-law (who by the way takes phenomenal photos at Suna Photography), recommended this book to me awhile back and I only just recently checked a copy out of my local library. I read it to take a break from Proust’s Swan’s Way.

“Shoes are evil” is McDougall’s conclusion after taking a long roundabout journey to answer the question, “Why do my feet hurt?” McDougall is an avid runner who suffered pain in his feet from running. Then he found out about the Tarahumara, a tribe of Indians in Copper Canyon Mexico who are able to run in sandals for tens of miles at a time with seemingly little effort. Years ago, they were even brought over to compete in the Leadville 100 where they won against the U.S.A.’s best ultramarathoners. The “Greatest Race” in the title refers to a race in which McDougall himself participated in Copper Canyon against some of the Tarahumara, ultramarathoners Scott Jurek, Jenn Shelton, and Billy Bonehead, and the mysterious Caballo Blanco who organized the race.

It’s clear from a lot of the evidence McDougall presents that running barefoot is great for your feet and body. With all the cushioning that’s in most running shoes, you can easily develop bad running form which leads to injuries. So McDougall concludes with the convert’s zeal that running barefoot is the ONLY way to go. Which is weird considering that in the penultimate race, Scott Jurek, Jenn Shelton, and Billy Bonehead race in…shoes.

What I took from this book: 1) human beings are capable of running distances far longer than marathons, 2) running barefoot is a great way to strengthen the muscles in your feet, 3) running barefoot is an excellent way to ensure good running form. Recommended for Runners and All Other Athletes.