A heartwarming tale of the bond between humans and animals, Running With Sherman (Knopf, $27.95), by Christopher McDougall—best known for his bestselling Born to Run—is another masterful, fun, and inspiring memoir. This time he tells the story of Sherman, an abused donkey McDougall and his family adopted and brought to their farm in the Amish Country. Sherman was not expected to survive, but after McDougall did as someone advised and gave him a job—the donkey began to thrive. The job was preparing for the World Championship Leadville Burro Race in Colorado, an annual marathon run by humans and donkeys, side-by-side. Full of the kind of kooky characters and long-distance runners typical of McDougall’s other books, this one is more than just a compelling, feel-good page-turner. It’s also a powerful argument for why animals matter in our evolution of society, and how damaged we humans become when we turn away from them.
What I love about Murakami’s running book is that he does not pretend that all life’s problems can be solved by running a faster marathon. Murakami is frank not only about the human limitations of running but about his very own, openly acknowledging that he cannot run a faster marathon anymore. To him, running is not a means to a qualifying race time--and no, it’s not a “way of life,” either: it’s an exercise for the mind and the body. You should only run if it makes you happy, and I was happy to learn that I’m not alone in this sentiment.
Babe Ruth takes Manhattan, and the rest of the country, by storm in Jane Leavy's biography, The Big Fella (Harper, $32.50). Using the lens of a twenty-one-day baseball exhibition cash-grab, Leavy reveals Ruth as a man who lived hard and, though he never wanted to be a role model, helped create the ubiquitous celebrity/pitchperson that dominates modern culture today. Forced from a dysfunctional home by an unfit set of parents, Ruth both bucked authority over his actions and looked for acceptance in the grandstands where his every at-bat was cared about and remembered. Ruth changed America's game through the power of his home runs, and changed American culture through the power of his boyish charm, outsized lifestyle, and pure love of the spotlight.