Castaway — Lucy Irvine

A very well written book that’s let down completely by whoever converted it into Kindle format.

As Lucy tells the story of her year on Tuin with G, she intersperses it with excerpts from the diary she wrote while on the island.   For some reason, the person who converted this book decided that the diary excerpts would be published in a print size that is so small it’s illegible, so one has to keep stopping and greatly increasing the font size for the diary excerpts and then reducing it back to normal for the rest of the writing.   You spend the whole book yoyoing font sizes in this way.   I have no idea why anyone would publish a book in this way, it isn’t clever, it isn’t artistic, it’s crass and completely ruins a good flowing read.

Ok, rant over, all the yoyoing aside, the writing is incredibly candid and Lucy really does bare it all.

Anyone familiar with Chris McCandless’ story from Into the Wild will be aware of how much negativity and lambasting that Chris received posthumously for his stupidity and unpreparedness.   The only difference between Chris in Alaska and Lucy and G on Tuin is that Lucy and G were lucky enough to be rescued by the kindness and generosity of their Torres Straight Island neighbours, and that the poisonous beans that Lucy stupidly ate just made here incredibly sick for a couple of days and didn’t kill her.   Yet those who survive against the odds, purely by the miracles that appear when least expected, are labelled as successful, applauded and celebrated while those whose miracle fails to show are labelled as idiots, lambasted and possibly given a Darwin Award.   But hey, at least both kind get films made about them.

I could get into a full on judgemental view of Lucy and G’s behaviour, attitude and outlook, both positive and negative, but i won’t.   Some might read this book and side with Lucy, some might side with G, and some might think both are as bad as each other.

All that aside, if you enjoyed Into the Wild, then you may find this just your cup of tea.

Lucy’s Page

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North — Scott Jurek

I really enjoyed reading Scott’s earlier book Eat and Run, so i was really looking forward to giving this a read.

To sum this book up, this is one of the greatest ultra runners of all time who, after having retired from professional competition, gets his outdoor fix by going hiking along stretches of the PCT with his wife and best friend, Jenny.   During one of these hikes they have a big argument and Scott has a bit of a existential crisis and decides he needs to fix himself by returning to suffering and tells Jenny that he’s going to attempt the Appalachian Trail FKT.

Best of all is that he manages to rope Jenny in as his sole support crew member in a converted van suitably named ‘Castle Black’ by telling her that it’ll be a great family summer holiday for their small family of two.

As we go through each chapter of the book we are introduced to each section of the trail, beginning with Scott’s perspective on it followed by Jenny’s.   And what a journey it is.   It’s utterly ridiculous, but also utterly amazing at the same time.   And if you aren’t a bit soggy eyed at the end then you is heartless.

An amazing journey with an amazing couple of human beings — and a ton of friends, old and new, who helped big time along the way and made it all possible.

If, like me, you enjoyed Scott’s first book, then make sure you give this a read some time.


On 2nd July 2019, Scott and Jenny Jurek made an appearance on the Plant Strong Podcast in which they both talk a fair bit about this massive journey they went on together — well worth a listen: “Fueled by Plants: Scott & Jenny Jurek”

Scott’s Page

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The Pants Of Perspective — Anna McNuff

I read this some time ago before i started writing reviews — so its not exactly fresh in my mind.   But i thought it would be a bit of a crime not to mention it on the website while i’m sorting through all my books, past and present.

From what i remember: it’s a true tale about this half baked, mad scheme, with not very much planning, to run the whole length of New Zealand by a (perhaps completely mad) woman who’s not really physically up to the task.   But, completely undeterred, Anna sets off from the very bottom of the South island and heads North on a crazy adventure in some leggings she really likes.

It’s a really good story, and one well worth a read whether you’re into running and/or endurance sports or not.   Because it’s not about running or endurance sports, it’s about a journey, the people, the places, the ups and the downs, and it’s a wonderful journey to read about.

So, if you like unicorns, and you like leggings, and who doesn’t like unicorns and leggings, and even if you don’t like unicorns and leggings, give it a read sometime.

Click here for unicorn leggings over at Amazon, and go on your own adventure somewhere.

I refuse to make any comments about people who don’t like unicorns and leggings, i’m trying my best to keep the website nice, positive and happy.  xx

Anna’s Page

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Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance — Robert M. Pirsig

It’s one of those ubiquitous books that’s kept turning up on library shelves, charity shop shelves and bookshop shelves throughout my life and yet i’ve always walked away from it, until now.

I’ve always had quite a deep interest in Zen and it always seemed to me that putting it with motorcycle maintenance just wasn’t something i wanted to know about.   But now i have a motorbike that needs some maintenance, and this book turned up in a “Kindle Deal” for 99p, i thought the time was right.

But oh, how wrong i’ve been all these years.   It’s not a book about Zen, or how to fix a motorbike while practising Zen, it’s a wholly different thing altogether.

In fact, it’s a road trip book where our narrator takes his son on a road trip on an old motorbike across the USA.   But it’s a road trip with a difference.

At it’s heart it’s a book about insanity, the condition of society and its relationship to technology, and a fair bit of Greek philosophy as well; and it’s all broken up with the story of the road trip.   And it’s simply, awesome.

With hindsight, i’m happy that i’ve never read it until now as i’m much older and it really blended nicely with my own life experiences: having dropped out of a Philosophy degree course for much the same reasons and now many years later i can look back and see things more clearly.

This is the 40th Anniversary Edition and the ending in the “Afterword” is what truly completes this book.   It really is a masterpiece of writing, so make sure you buy this edition.

Robert’s Page

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Eat and Run – Scott Jurek

This is a great book by Scott Jurek one of ultra’s greatest ever competitors.   Like Finding Ultra by Rich Roll, this book doesn’t go into training for ultras or anything like that, it just chronicles Scott’s journey from childhood through to ultramarathon champion and how he got there, with great accounts of some of his greatest races.

And also like Rich Roll, Scott Jurek is also a vegan, or ‘plant based athlete’ which seems to be the more politically correct term vegan athletes are choosing theses days.   And sprinkled liberally throughout the book are lots of Scott’s favourite recipes for you to try if you so wish.   In a lot of ways it’s like a vegan cook book with a great story shoved in between the recipes.

Well worth a read.   Especially for those with any designs on endurance training or participating in endurance sports.

And don’t forget to read North also.

Scott’s Page

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Run Wild — Boff Whalley

Before we go any further, i do need to state that there are a couple of mentions of Jimmy Saville in the book, a keen city marathon runner, which obviously some people may find too distressing.   The book was written just before the truth came out and i think it’s fair to say that these mentions would not have made the final cut had Boff known at the time.   It’s incredible how angry one can feel just reading about Saville like this, how he had so many people fooled with his charity work, like he was one of the good people.   CUNT!!!   Nuff said!

So yeah, i found myself in the library the other day just having a mooch around seeing what books they had on health, fitness and wellbeing, and also Dartmoor.   And i came across a book titled ‘Run Wild’ and couldn’t resist the temptation to have a look at the cover notes.

What made me take the book home was that it is written by Boff Whalley, one of the founders of Chumbawamba, which used to be one of my favourite ever bands, before they signed for EMI and had that awful hit, ‘Tubthumping’.   I never forgave them for signing for (selling out to) EMI and never will.   Half the original band left (the very day i had a ticket to go and see them in Camden so the gig got cancelled at the last minute just adding to my disdain towards the whole fiasco) and had to be replaced and what the world saw as Chumbawamba when they played Tubthumping was not the Chumbawamba that i, and many others, had known, respected, admired and totally loved.   And i really did love that band.

But Chumbawamba EMI sell out issues aside, the fact that Boff had written a book about running, and wild running at that, had me really eager to take the book home and give it a read, and i was not disappointed.

What’s sad is that a lot of people will never read this book because they’ll think it’s just another book all about running and how to run, and it isn’t.   It’s far more than that.   It’s a great look at society as a whole through the lens of a wild runner, but with an anarchist, a punk, a musician, a father of two young children, guiding your view.

The book doesn’t at all go into any advice on how to run, other than why to stay away from the cattle herding of big city marathons and to get out into the countryside trails and just enjoy the freedom they offer, and in so doing it’s a very approachable book even for non runners.

One of the paragraphs i feel that sums the book up is this one…

It’s not sponsored or televised, but it’s all fun.   All this tripping over tree roots and not knowing precisely where I’m going and falling like a clown into rivers.   But it is, I swear — it’s fun.   It’s not (as some have described it) like going back to being a child again, as if in regression.   It’s just that the natural, exuberant, no-holds-barred playfulness we have as humans is educated out of us as we get older, squeezed out by convention and responsibility.   Responsibility!   Our first responsibility must surely be to enjoy ourselves.   To have our children see us enjoying ourselves, so they might grow up thinking that, yes, life is a quest for joy, not a set pattern of inhibitions and denials.   Adults, scared of looking foolish, won’t even run for a bus they’re about to miss.   Somehow, as we grew older, running became silly, part of a job lot of joys and pleasures that, as we turn from kids to adults, we’re supposed to tie up in a big hessian sack and throw into the nearest canal, where they can sink with a splash, a glug and a muffled yelp.

Also from the book…

“People must not do things for fun.   We are not here for fun.   There is no reference to fun in any act of Parliament.”  (A. P. Herbert, British politician)

That said, it’s also a great book for runners, both runners of man made surfaces and runners of natural surfaces and anyone either thinking of taking up running or has just started and not sure what direction their running wants to take them.

So if you live in Devon then you should be able to order this book through any Devon library from Exmouth library.   Other libraries may vary.   Or buy it!   It’s worth the money.

And then go and have some good old fashioned fun – like you used to before you grew up!

Boff’s Page

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Finding Ultra — Rich Roll

I came across Rich Roll and his exploits through my wanderings around the internet looking at all things triathlon and ultra athletics, which is my current thing, in case no one’s been keeping up lately.

Rich lays out his whole life from high school, college swim champion, heading for international sporting star only to discover a love for alcohol, drugs and parties, wrecking all hope of sporting glory forever.   Then his continued destructive, choatic, drunken lifestyle through to his battle to get clean.   And then his descent into junk food fueled, overweight, middle age from which he finally wakes up and becomes one of the world’s top ultra athletes, as a vegan, in his 40’s.   It really is an inspiring book for anyone who has been through the chaos of addiction and has come out the other side with a new found desire for a healthier, fitter life: even if you don’t want to be an ultra athlete.

Rich also describes, fully, his experiences through his first two Ultraman (a double length Ironman) races, and also his adventure with Jason Lester in creating and completing the first Epic 5 challenge (5 Ironmans in 5 days), now a staple on the ultra athletics calender.   It’s astounding to realise just how much the middle aged human body can do and to hear it all from inside the mind of one of these competitors gives a whole new view of these extreme sports people.

And there’s certainly lots of food for thought also, literally, for anyone who is vegan, or is considering or training on a vegan diet.   It’s certainly changed my diet as i recently went back to being a vegan half way through reading this and yesterday ran 15km at 50 years old, the farthest i’ve ran since i was in the army in my 20’s.

Worth a read!

Rich’s Page

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