Have you ever spent time reading a book and put in the hours it took to complete the novel – be it fiction, a biography, a paperback, a hardcover, or whatever – only to regret the time it took to finish it? I have. That’s why when I am looking for a new read, I turn immediately to my best source for book reviews: my friends and peers. While it’s tempting to pick up the latest New York Times best seller off the rack, I first want to know if anyone in my circle (people who understand my likes and dislikes and share a similar outlook on reading entertainment) would recommend it. When a new title is suggested, I bombard that person with a battery of questions:
• Is this book powerful? Meaning, does this novel have the kind of emotional depth of prose that will make me feel something after reading it?
• Was it hard to put down?
• Will it frighten me to my wits end? (If so, typically I’m not interested).
• Will it keep me thinking long after I’ve finished the last page?
Today and tomorrow, I thought I\’d share with you a handful of books I read this year. My reading interests are varied. I love a good fictional plot and I’m a sucker for rockstar autobiographies. I’m also very intrigued by books that focus on business. And while horses consume my real life, I still adore a great horse read. Between today and tomorrow, I\’ll share with you five reviews are based on only a handful of books I read this year. If, my friends, you’re looking for great stocking stuffers, they might come in handy…
RIDING LESSONS, SARA GRUEN, $13.99 US Paperback
The debut novel of Sara Gruen focuses around the life and troubled times of Annmarie Zimmer, a Grand Prix rider and an Olympic hopeful who once sat high upon her rare coated, white-stripped chestnut gelding named Harry. Following a tragic accident, Zimmer wakes up in another lifetime facing divorce, a dying father and a teenager overcome with angst. Twenty years later, she returns home to her family’s New Hampshire horse farm and discovers she has become but a shadow of herself: the girl who once was so full of ambition, courage and desire to saddle up anything with four legs is now a jobless and lonely woman.
Life begins to take Zimmer in a different path when her ex-boyfriend / veterinarian / neighborhood-horse-rescuer discovers a woeful gelding that bears an astonishing resemblance to Harry. And things heat up even more as Zimmer finds herself teetering in the throes of her past love and the seductive allure of a trainer with world-class talents.
Gruen’s flawed characters are richly depicted and often easy to identify with, making this book a charming fictional read that is sure to warm your heart on cold, winter nights. Riding Lessons is a moving tale about overcoming loss, evaluating the error of past decisions, life, hope and “…the extraordinary capacity of a horse to elevate the human spirit.”
OUTLIERS, MALCOM GLADWELL, $30.99 CDN Hardcover
Malcolm Gladwell quickly became one of my favorite authors this year. I have read and thoroughly enjoyed his other novels as well; The Tipping Point – How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference; and Blink – The Power of Thinking Without Thinking; but the book that spoke to me the most in regards to the horse industry was Outliers – The Story of Success.
Now if you’re thinking that this book is a reference guide to instant prosperity, it isn’t. In fact, in Outliers, Gladwell argues that the story of success isn’t always centered around a person’s intelligence or ambition. Instead, he gives real life examples of people who have thrived in business or in life because of circumstances surrounding them – for instance, their birthplace, their family history, and their generation, amongst other things.
Gladwell explains what Bill Gates and the Beatles have in common and makes sense of Silicon Valley billionaires. He examines the role culture and circumstances play in the difference between good airlines and airlines who have a history of crashing planes. And Gladwell will give you new insight for looking at the world of successful people. Outliers is thought provoking and upsetting at times because it defies logical thinking – but in a fantastic way.