Thursday, August 5, 2010
The Perfect Mile (Neal Bascomb) (8.5/10.0)
What do we all think about audio books? It’s a topic that receives a great deal of treatment out there in the book-review blogdom. And I’ll freely admit that I’m never quite sure about my own feelings on the matter. Is it possible to “read” a work of literature by listening? Or, more importantly, is the enjoyment that you receive from listening to an audio book equal to the enjoyment that you receive from actually reading that same book? I raise the issue because I recently listened to the The Perfect Mile on audio book (which can be found here). Moreover, I listened to it while running, and I truly believe that I got much more enjoyment from it in that medium than I would have by reading it in print. The same tends to hold true for me for my guilty pleasures, science fiction (Orson Scott Card) and action/adventure books (Clive Cussler, Robert Ludlum). I'm still a classics guy at heart, but I like to mix it up every now and then. But to the point: as a rule, I believe that a true work of literature (classic or modern) should be read and that listening to such a work deprives the listener of the true force of the tale. What do you believe?
Now what was I doing before I got so philosophical? Ah yes, reviewing a book ... that’s right. The Perfect Mile is the fast-paced (pun completely intended) story of three men from three continents that all chased the impossible dream of breaking the four-minute mile in the 1950’s. Roger Bannister, an English medical student, treated running as science and a hobby (his first priority being medicine); Australian John Landy trained longer and harder than anyone before or since; and American Wes Santee was a natural athlete who rose to prominence out of a brutal childhood and first proposed that he would break the four-minute mile. Bascomb’s treatment of the three is properly measured, providing enough background for the reader (listener) to identify with each (though Landy inevitably becomes the reader’s favorite) and presenting each race during the period 1952 to 1954 as a seat-edge sitting, nail-biting competition that inevitably comes down to the wire. And so, after numerous battles on the cinder track at competitions held around the world, the four-minute mile was finally broken by ... No, I can’t do that, but if you’re really interested a simple Google search will give you the winner.
If you run or work out at the gym or do work around the house or do just about anything that will enable you to wear a pair of headphones or ear buds, I urge you to check out this inspiring story (in audio format) that, at bottom, shows that human belief and perseverance can overcome any obstacle. Not that I’m running any four-minute miles, mind you, but it did inspire me to get out and run, and that’s worth something.