Mini Book Review of ‘Down Size: 12 Truths for Turning Pants-Splitting Frustration into Pants-Fitting Success’ by Ted Spiker

I really enjoy Ted Spiker’s writing style and have gained a great deal from his articles and blog posts over the years. I purchased this book by and large because of his name recognition and, while I don’t regret it, I wasn’t exactly blown away either. Spiker is a famous big guy runner who has been open and honest with his battles regarding his weight over the years. That same honesty is present in this book which is greatly appreciated. He speaks as one who “gets it” and is far more relatable to me than most running authors. He has seemingly put the hardest of his struggles behind him and this book is about getting over that hump. Spiker shares his tips that, by and large, speak to the mental side of weight loss and fitness. He avoids the nuts and bolts that some authors might dive into by not not sharing the specifics of his diet or fitness routine. It made for an enjoyable read, I’m just not sure how much of it I would actually apply to my own struggles … or even how much of it I will remember six months from now.

Mini Book Review of ‘Class 11: My Story Inside the CIA’s First Post 9/11 Spy Class’ by T.J. Waters

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If you are looking for a comprehensive examination of the CIA, this is not your book. Rather, this is book explores the training of a single CIA class. The 11th Class of spies was the CIA’s first class following 9/11. What made this story interesting to me is that 9/11 marks a pivotal point in the history of espionage in out country. In all appearances, human gathered intelligence had failed us in a major way. This presented a choice for the CIA. Would they continue with business as usual or would they learn from their mistakes. This book explores that struggle by telling the story of the largest class of spies in CIA history.

This book was a bit of a deviation for me. Most of the espionage titles I’ve read center around the Cold War Era. What surprised me was how much of the training and experiences of Class 11 seemed similar to what the CIA has always done. It seems to me that in many aspects, the CIA was playing catchup in an attempt to keep itself relevant. That was a bit of a disappointed. What wasn’t disappointing, however, were the sacrifices and motivation of the would be Case Officers. If you’ve never read anything about the training of CIA Case Officers, you will find this book informative. You will learn what life is like on The Farm and how such training impacts the trainees and their families.

I found this glimpse into the family life of the author very interesting. I’m not sure if T.J. Waters has written anything else, but I would be interested to see what his CIA life was life post training.

Mini Book Review of “The End Times in Chronological Order” by Ron Rhodes

EndTimesChronPaul Lee Tan defines a literal interoperation of Scripture as “… explain[ing] the original sense of the Bible according to the normal and customary uses of its language … consider[ing] the accepted rules of grammar and rhetoric, as well as the factual historical and cultural data of Biblical times.” Author Ron Rhodes begins this book by defending and defining such interpretation (the same method I was taught and adhere to) and then applies the method to lay out Biblical Eschatology in chronological order. This book is excellently written in a manner that is easy to understand. As such, I think it is a great tool to supplement Bible study. Having read through it once, my goal is to now go back and scrutinize and study particular points. I am certain this will be a book I turn to often in the future and I am looking forward to reading more by this author.

Having given this book a 5 Star review on Goodreads, I will be adding it to my list of recommended reading.

Mini Book Review of “Blowing My Cover: My Life as a CIA Spy” by Lindsey Moran

blowingmycoverI really enjoy true life, behind the scenes, espionage titles. In most cases, truth is far more incredible than fiction. This title from Lindsey Moran should have checked off all my boxes, but in many ways it left me wanting. Her story was incredible enough; as a CIA Case Worker with an interesting foreign post, her story was intriguing. I especially enjoyed the details she shared concerning her time in training. She also did a good job portraying the melancholy I am sure many CIA Case Workers feel. Unfortunately, despite her service to her country, she almost conveys a sense of regret. She doesn’t seem proud of her career (as I feel she should). It’s hard to explain entirely … I could understand a sense of regret, however, she almost seems remorseful and maybe even spiteful. The author conveys a sense of regret for the sacrifices she made regarding her personal life in favor of her professional one and ultimately (no spoilers here) is faced with a decision.

While I enjoyed parts of this book, there are much better ones out there.

Mini Book Review of ‘Can’t Hurt Me’ by David Goggins

CantHurtMeDuring a conversation about ultra running, a friend asked me  if I had ever heard of David Goggins. He billed Goggins as the most inspirational man he had ever heard of and pointed out the author and ultra runner was a former Navy Seal. I was immediately interested because I am huge fan of the Seals. They are  the closest thing to actual, real-life super heroes I know of, so I immediately looked Goggins up and bought his book, Can’t Hurt Me. 

I don’t want to steal any of his thunder, but I will say that Goggins is, indeed, incredible. The things he has overcome and accomplished is beyond amazing. His life history is remarkable … but I wouldn’t necessarily say he is inspirational. I feel inspired when I read a book that encourages me to go out and reach beyond myself, and Goggins certainly attempts to do that, but he is so practically inhuman in the things he has accomplished that I can’t really relate. For instance, Goggins wanted to be a Navy Seal so he lost 100 pounds in a very short time frame and went out and did it. Likewise, he wanted to be an ultra runner, so he went out and completed a hundred mile event with no runs leading up to it. Who does that? He did, but can anyone else? I certainly can’t. I’m at the other end of the spectrum having just completed my first sub forty minute 5k. It took me two years to run a full half marathon. I want to be an ultra runner, but I’m no where near ready and I know it. As such, there’s really nothing from this book that I can take away and apply to my own life.

Goggins is incredible. He is other worldly. He is a hero, and I am now a fan, however, he is not inspiring. Physically and mentally, Goggins is a spectacle. He refers to himself as the hardest man alive and he may just be. I enjoyed his book and will be on the lookout for him on podcasts and such, but while he amazes me, he does not necessarily inspire me.

If want to be amazed, buy this book. Be forewarned, however – Goggins is a former Navy Seal and uses language you would expect a Navy Seal to use. If you are easily offended by four letters words, avoid this one.

Mini Book Review of ‘Training for Ultra’ by Rob Steger

traingultraMini  first became familiar with Rob Steger through his excellent podcast entitled Training for Ultra. In the podcast, Steger connects with all sorts of personalities from the Ultra Running community and recaps races and training methods. He has frequent reoccurring guests which serves to engage the listener in a way that few podcasts can accomplish. Along the way, Rob shares his own story of how he became an ultra runner.

I was eager to learn more about his story, so I picked up this book for my kindle. Essentially, this book serves as a detailed account of the first three years of the author’s ultra running endeavors. I was amazed at how much he accomplished and how far he grew as a runner in just three years. While he points out he is a ‘middle of the pack’ runner, Rob Steger has accomplished amazing things. Early in the book, he states that his goal is to inspire people to run, and he has done just that.

This book will make you want to train for an ultra event. i enjoyed it a great deal.

Mini Book Review of ‘Fitness Confidential’ by Vinnie Tortorich

I bought this book hoping to learn more about author’s no sugar, no grains diet (or NSNG). I suppose I expected it to be like other formulaic diet books out there. You know, an intro to the plan followed by the phases of the plan, followed by suggested recipes. However, that wasn’t the case. In all honesty, Tortorich spends little time presenting his diet. As it turns out, “no sugar no grains” is really as complicated as it gets. He spends more time exposing the cesspool the fitness, health, and diet industry has become and even more time chronicling his own journey. I won’t repeat them here for fear of ruining the book, but Tortorich’s battle with his health and fitness demons made for a good read. He is a straightforward guy and cuts through the usual nonsense one would expect from a health expert. His foul language and bluntness may offend some, but I actually kind of found his book refreshing.

For anyone who does want to learn more about the NSNG Diet, Torotorich is a prolific podcaster and Twitter user and he tends to share most of his knowledge for free.

Mini Book Review of Iron Heart: The True Story of How I Came Back From the Dead by Brian Boyle

41rpGd0gB6L._AC_US218_Brian Boyle should of been dead. After a collision with a dump truck – you read that right, dump truck, he was left with multiple injuries and placed in a medically induced coma while a team of surgeons attempted to put his body back together.  He was in such bad shape that every internal organ was in the wrong place. If it wasn’t for his athleticism and good health before the accident, Boyle certainly would have died. A college level swimmer before the accident, he was left learning how to walk. His story of slowly coming out of coma and being aware of his surroundings, but not being able to communicate or even move gripped me and drew me in. I found myself rooting for him at every step of the way.

Boyle’s story is a success story that culminates in the Kona Ironman Championships. The remarkable part of his story, however, is the support he had along the way. From his parents to the team of doctors and therapists that managed to put him back together; it took a team to get him to Kona.

I love stories of people who beat the odds to accomplish greats feats and Boyle’s story certainly qualifies. He was remarkably close to death and eventually began to thrive. This book was a great read.

Mini Book Review of Chasing Kona by Rob Cummins

Chasing KonaThis book follows the author’s journey from non-athlete to athlete and eventually to the Ironman World Championships. I enjoyed following is story. The most remarkable aspect of this read for me was the amount of dedication and perseverance it took him to reach his goal. The workload and program he adhered to is incredible. Basically, his whole life revolved about endurance training. His story is a lesson in what separates success from failure. Most often its not natural talent, but rather a willingness to do what’s necessary.

I found this book for my kindle on Amazon … and it was free with my Amazon Prime membership.

Mini Review of “Operation Ironman: One Man’s Four Month Journey from Hospital Bed to Ironman Triathlon” by George Mahood

operationThis book chronicles the author’s journey from hospital bed to Ironman. Having been diagnosed with a cancerous tumor intertwined with his spinal chord that left him with devastating back pain, George Mahood went through a tricky and dangerous procedure to have it removed. While still bedridden from the surgery, he made the decision to complete an Ironman triathlon in just four short months. With spotty training hampered by his recovery, Mahood set out to do just that. His experience is impressive. It should be pointed out, however, that Mahood wasn’t exactly starting from scratch. While humble about his athletic prowess, he had completed a marathon, long-distance bike rides, and swim training prior to his procedure.

With that said, I still enjoyed his journey and was greatly impressed by it. Heck, I’m impressed by anyone that has what it takes to complete an Ironman. Mahood has a humorous perspective and tells his story with ease. He is also British, which means he writes from a voice that sounded slightly quirky and endearing to me.

Reader’s should probably be forewarned that the author’s vernacular includes very occasional and, seemingly random, curse words included for humor. I found them more distracting than humorous; fortunately, they were rare.