Running, Cycling, and Sleuthing Dudes | Books for Dudes

This month’s BFD features the usual gamut of worthy titles, includes a cookbook and some endurance athlete stuff, and also sprinkles in some "ugh" books to avoid.
OK, dude, we are now fully into 2018. Get off Instagram, Best of the Internet, and Badass of the Week and get into a book. Too many from which to choose, you cry? What resource can help you decide what’s worthy? Look no further, my stalwart friend—Books for Dudes is here. If you’re a dude (and yes both women and men are dudes), you love your family and try your best. You’re in love with your spouse—even if, most days, that doesn’t look like the average romantic comedy. In work and in life you strive for quality. You’re curious, open-minded, you don’t have a lot of free time, and you enjoy cats almost as much as you enjoy dogs. You like running and maybe even triathlons. If this sounds like you, Books for Dudes recommends: reading. It’s cheap, family-friendly, calming, soothing, restorative. This month’s BFD features the usual gamut of worthy titles (especially Doug Mack’s The Not-Quite States of America), includes a cookbook and some endurance athlete stuff, and also sprinkles in some "ugh" books to avoid (e.g., B.A. Paris’s Bring Me Back). Beverly, Jonathan. Run Strong, Stay Hungry: 9 Keys to Staying in the Race. VeloPress. 2017. 240p. ISBN 9781937715694. pap. $18.95; ebk. ISBN 9781937716882. SPORTS Beverly (former editor in chief of Running Times and owner of some amaaaaaaazing race times) has curated bits and pieces of accumulated wisdom from himself, scores of world-class runners, and regular-joe athletes like you and me into this brilliant strategy/manifesto that you can use to keep yourself goin’ when the goin’ gets tough. Only about a third of the book discusses running’s physical aspects (there’s plenty of advice on that elsewhere, like Jay Dicharry’s Anatomy for Runners: Unlocking Your Athletic Potential for Health, Speed, and Injury Prevention. The remainder, as they say, is all in your head: psychological principles make up the rest of this valuable book, with much time spent on the key principle of “adaptability.” That amounts to psychological flexibility, adventurousness, and creativity, all keys to maintaining a lifelong love of any hobby, especially one as potentially engulfing and draining as competitive running. Beverly minces no words when he advises athletes to “[d]ecouple emotional associations with times, paces, and results” for maximum well-being. Adaptability makes you a stronger athlete. One key example is to set goals for maintaining running volume and intensity while minimizing workout density (lots of hard workouts all scrunched together); another, “hope,” concerns managing your expectations and redefining success. VERDICT For master’s runners hitting the wall in terms of performance and/or mission, this is invaluable. You too can learn the habits of those who train, race, recover, repeat year-in, year-out. Dekker, Thomas with Thijs Zonneveld. Descent: My Epic Fall from Cycling Superstardom to Doping Dead End. VeloPress. 2017. 224p. ISBN 9781937715809. pap. $18.95; ebk. ISBN 9781937716967. SPORTS Those interested in premier cycling events like the Tour de France will know the author’s name and his reputation as a fierce, badass, Dutch competitor. Pro cycling culture during Dekker’s heyday, embodied by a dude named Armstrong, was about winning at all costs—any cost—to the detriment of people, teammates, or whatever obstacle got in the way. The reason, naturally, was massive amounts of money, both prize earnings for individuals and the literally millions of euros that sponsors and teams continually dump into events. Here Dekker narrates his rise as a charismatic amateur phenom turned pro engulfed in the culture of cheating to win: “Guilt doesn’t come into it. I tell myself I’m not cheating, that everyone else is doing the same.” How? Blood doping is when an athlete siphons off a portion of their own blood at a moment of pinnacle performance; this blood is used by the athlete at a later time when performance is lower. Such transfusions are untraceable but illicit and banned by the governing bodies of cycling—as are blood substitutes and treatments that alter the blood to boost performance. Still, doping was (and still is, see Russia’s ban from the 2018 Winter Olympics) used in many endurance sports. VERDICT Dekker’s confessional is disarmingly truthful and an indictment of the cycling industry. Readers who would like an inside look at the day-to-day life of a pro cyclist should try Phil Gaimon’s sassy Ask a Pro. Dikos, Jackie. Finish Line Fueling: An Essential Guide to Runner’s Nutrition. Skyhorse. 2017. 256p. ISBN 9781510719620. pap. $22.99; ebk. 9781510719644. HEALTH Sound recipes, good dietary advice, and a completely realistic and rational approach to eating make this a 100 percent winner for anyone—not just runners. The first 90 pages are concerned with preparing to cook, some light science behind strategies (e.g., all about carbohydrates) and 11 basic kitchen tools (I own only one: a humble toaster). Dikos, elite runner and sports dietician, writes that cooking with fueling in mind is akin to training for a running event: preparation is required, and adjustments to “regular” life need to be made. “Fueling” recipes are written to “…maximize the achievement of health, performance, and overall quality of life goals” and “can be adapted based on individual goals and flavor preferences.” Recipes are heavy on seeds and all-organic type foods (e.g., pasteurized egg white powder, teff flour) so be prepared to run (heh) to your local all-natural grocery. Most of the protein recommendations are wickedly organic—all the way up to and including wild-caught salmon and bison—which hit your wallet pretty hard. Resultantly, Dikos makes many recommendations for saving money like using vegetables and beans (relatively inexpensive) as meal base builders. There are also beaucoup recipes for snacks. VERDICT Ideal for those interested in taking a healthy approach to cooking and eating happy, healthy foods for a happy, healthy body. Health is the new wealth, and you’re more likely to live a longer, healthier life when you have good food running (heh) through ya. Fennelly, Beth Ann. Heating & Cooling: 52 Micro-Memoirs. Norton. 2017. 112p. ISBN 9780393609479. $22.95; ebk. ISBN 9780393609486. MEMOIR Try this, it’s a wonderful range of teensy autobiographical snippets that will make you squint your eyes with lust when Fennelly writes things like, “I’m fond of recalling how my mother is fond of recalling how my great-grandfather was the very first person to walk across the Brooklyn Bridge on the second day.” But soon you’ll see your wife in a whole ’nother—and better—light when you go on to read the short one about childbirth where the pain is “…beyond the grasp of men,” where “[i]n order to come back with the baby, I had to tear it out at the root. Understand, I did this without the aid of my hands.” VERDICT Like a love punch to the head. Finch, Charles. The Woman in the Water: A Prequel to the Charles Lenox Series. Minotaur: St. Martin’s. Feb. 2018. ISBN 9781250139467. 304p. $25.99; ebk. 9781250139481. M This is the chronological beginning of Finch’s popular “Charles Lenox” series in which readers find the likable aristocratic Oxford graduate at the ripe age of 23 beginning his armchair detective practice in 1850s London. With the indispensable assistance of his butler/confidant Graham, Lenox convinces the newborn Scotland Yard to give him a consulting role in tracking down the murderer of two women. Lenox’s high-society friends and family don’t understand why he works and as he is desperate for his father’s attention, a notable subplot involves the two reaching an understanding. There is humor appropriate to the time, small LOL moments that keep things moving, or episodes with Lenox dodging the tyranny of his old battle-ax of a maid. Finch’s efforts to paint Lenox as good and “real” largely succeed. When another murder occurs, one that he believes he should have prevented, Lenox proves a very “feeling” sort of fellow. He “…simmered in his emotions, angry as only the young can be, who still suspect the world to be partially within their control; as only the purehearted can be, to whom evil is a new surprise each time; as only an intelligent person cheated can be….” For series fans, this book rounds out Lenox’s backstory; it works fine as a stand-alone as well. VERDICT Admirably, Finch’s work doesn’t descend into Victorian-era detective-with-sidekick/Sherlockian pastiche; he breathes life into the story without bogging down in details or overwrought characters. Indridason, Arnaldur. The Shadow District. Minotaur: St. Martin’s. 2017. 352p. ISBN 9781250124029. $25.99; ebk. ISBN 9781250124036. F In this first of a new series by Indridason, during World War II an American GI plumps up his identity to impress an Icelandic beauty. Is he a spy? Merely a cad? After authorities discover the body of a strangled young woman, the GI and a mess of other people are caught up in the investigation spearheaded by two officers, one Icelandic and one Canadian. Fast-forward to the present, where this long-cold case is somehow related to the suffocation death of an old man. How? Why? More importantly, after 50-plus years, who can possibly figure it out? A retired detective is tasked with finding out wtf is going on. He’s known by only a single name—Konrád (like Spenser and Parker and, oddly, Rose Marie), he’s stodgy, dependable, a bit over-focused. Sort of like a badger. “The most unexpected thing,” about the old man, he muses, “was that there was no evidence of contact with family or friends, no letters, no family photos, no computer that would allow him to access email or social media. An aura of quiet solitude emanated from every object in the flat…” Supposition, gut feelings, and the kind of laps in logic that only a seasoned detective can make help solve this puzzler. VERDICT Like most other Indridason titles (e.g., Jar City, etc.), this plods along slowly but is nonetheless enjoyable. Mack, Doug. The Not-Quite States of America: Dispatches from the Territories and Other Far-Flung Outposts of the USA. Norton. 2017. 336p. ISBN 9780393247602. $26.95; ebk. ISBN 9780393247619. TRAV Books for Dudes is very happy to include Mack’s work in this month’s column. Mack’s little book is what BFD is all about! It’s readable and pithy, educational without being heavy, personal without being weird, and the anecdotes are fun and funny. What it does, see, is take readers on “[a]n altogether different sort of all-American Road Trip” to those “…scattered shards of earth and populace” known as the US Virgin Islands, American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, and the uninhabited Minor Outlying Islands. Remarking on these little-considered, below the radar territories, Mack insightfully notes they “are not part of our conception of ourselves.” Each location is covered individually with a little natural and political history and then a field trip. Most of the islands were acquired by the federal government for a variety of reasons, some for awesomely powerful natural resources, and others for strategic military purposes (e.g., Guam). Wherever Mack goes he personalizes how the people living there feel about their political situation (e.g., paying taxes but unable to vote). Mack’s conversational tone is eminently readable and the book is literally filled with fun facts (e.g., “[n]o sitting president has ever been to the Northern Mariana Islands” or that Puerto Rico recruits more U.S. military per capita than any other place in America. VERDICT Perfect for curious, fun, time-crunched people everywhere. Paris, B.A. Bring Me Back. St. Martin’s. June 2018. 304p. ISBN 9781250151339. $26.99; ebk. ISBN 9781250151353. THRILLER Plodding baloney from the author of the similarly paint-by-numbers Behind Closed Doors. Sawing back and forth in time between current day and 12 years ago, Finn McQuaid relates how he “lost” his fiancée. He sells the police one story and gradually doles out tidbits of truth to readers about Layla, assumed dead for years. Despite the time lag and all the bluffing, the thing won’t die, especially when someone begins to send signals that Layla is still alive. Readers will learn that Finn is currently married to Ellen, Layla’s sister (gee, awkward), has a violent streak, and is independently wealthy (a trope that publishers need to kill). To avoid the dry heaves readers will need to skip the shlocky romance bits Finn spouts (e.g., “It felt so right looking after you” or how “…I wrapped my arms around you while you slept.” Whether Layla was kidnapped or whether she ran away is irrelevant—Finn is to blame either way. Everything can be summed up in the line: “The love I felt for you made me crazy, made me do crazy things.” This book is a great example of how “good sales” does not equal “good quality.” There’s no subtlety in the writing (for that give The Hush by John Hart a try). VERDICT A great choice for those who find episodes of Scooby Doo intellectually challenging.

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