Read Well To Write Well And Here Is FitOldDog’s Eleven Favorite Book Titles List For Tara


Hi folks,

cycling, friend, reader of my blog, FitOldDog's advice, safe exercise for better health,

Sue, FitOldDog's cycling partner and great person.

I was fortunate to receive two complements this week, one about my book recommendations and the other concerning the writing quality of this blog. Apparently, my friend Myles (14) finds my reading recommendations to be helpful (according to her mother, my Pilates and gyrotonic teacher, Tara). That felt great, as I respect Myles’s opinion on many things. I was also complemented on my writing style by Sue, my cycling partner and fellow animal lover. Sue said, “Kevin, you really do write well.” Now, as an Englishman, I have trouble with compliments, and my immediate reaction used to be to look at the ground, shuffle my feet and mumble something, and to then quickly change the subject. To my generation of Englishmen compliments were embarrassing. Thirty years in America and five years of talk therapy fixed that problem, and now, like any polite American when complimented, I say, “Thank You!” I say this whether I agree or not, but if I don’t agree I will contest the statement using the best logic that I can muster. When it comes to my conversation with Sue, I proceeded to compare myself unfavorably with Thomas Wolfe, which Sue dismissed with a wave of her bike-gloved hand, so “Thank You, Sue!”

Life is not always so easy, consequently I now agree with the American approach. FitOldDog’s advice is that you take help where you can get it, as long as there are no unacceptable strings attached, because such support keeps you going when the going gets tough. That said, good writing is tough, but I hope to generate some one-day.

fruits of the gourd family, flowering melon, compost heap, FitOldDog's thoughts on writing,

I noticed this beautiful flower in our compost heap, from a melon of some kind, a member of the Gourd Family (Cucurbitaceae). Beauty out of compost, like a well-fermented book from the compost of the mind.

A propos the issue of authorship (even if it is only my blog, “graffiti with punctuation?”), I was enjoying a coffee at Johnny’s this morning, talking to Deb, Jess and Tara (yes, FitOldDog is surrounded by beautiful women again, lucky guy), when Tara said, “Myles really likes your reading suggestions, so I would love it if you could give me a recommended book list.” I said, “Sure!” I also had to deal with that compliment thing again, but in the case of Myles, as with all teenage girls, I have learned that debate is futile, accept your fate, so, “Thank You, Myles!” Here are eleven (one of my favorite primes) personal literary favorites, with a note on each as to why they are appreciated. I have excluded some excellent books, such as The Golden Compass Series, by Philip Pullman, because I know that Tara has read them already, and The Lord Of The Rings, by J.R.R. Tolkein, because this book really was written for boys and, furthermore, the author places women on a pedestal, which I consider unhealthy psychologically. I still read the whole thing six times (only book ever – I just loved the way he treated and clearly cared for nature).

  1. What The Deaf Mute Heard” by G.D. Gearino. The message here is at that people are not always what they seem, so beware.
  2. The Lady Tasting Tea, How Statistics Revolutionized Science In The Twentieth Century” by David Salsburg. This book nicely encapsulates, and demystifies, that occult art known as Statistics, which turns out to be critical in our daily lives, and is thus neglected at your peril.
  3. The Forsyte Saga (The Forsyte Chronicals)” by John Galsworthy. This book presented an interesting period in English history, and I found the whole issue of the interactions of the generations, as they came and went, quite fascinating. Furthermore, it shows how holding a grudge really is a waste of your time and your life.
  4. Stones From The River” by Ursula Hegi. This remarkable book portrays the lives of ordinary Germans during the rise to power of the Nazis prior to WWII. The fascinating story line caused me to develop much greater empathy for all of the innocent Germans caught up in the insanity of the time through generally no fault of their own.
  5. The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy” by Douglas Adams. Brilliant. What more can one say. Meaning of life is 42!!!
  6. It’s Not About The Bike: My Journey Back To Life” by Lance Armstrong. This book is an inspiration to those who have health obstacles to overcome, and it sure helped me deal with my situation in August 2010.
  7. Prime Obsession: Bernhard Reimann And The Greatest Unsolved Problem In Mathematics” by John Derbyshire. A wonderful book if you take your time to digest a little mathematics, which is explained in chapters that alternate with the life of the subject matter, Bernhard Reimann and the Reimann Hypothesis of prime number theory.
  8. You Can’t Go Home Again” by Thomas Wolfe. I learned that great narrative writing can be like surfing a wave that goes on and on, as a wonderful and dynamic experience.
  9. The Map That Changed The World: William Smith And The Birth Of Modern Geology” by Simon Winchester. This book, recommended to me by my great friend Eric Wheeldon, demonstrates that one person CAN make a difference to science and our understanding of the Universe. It recounts the origin of the science of Geology in a fascinating manner. Great reading!
  10. The Four Hour Work Week” by Tim Ferriss. My eldest son, Nick of Shirts That Go and Kite Boarding fame, strongly recommended this book to me. I started it, and then put it down as so much hype and blather. Then I watched his tee-shirt business grow, based on ideas gleaned from this book, and I thought again, found my copy, dusted it off, and consumed it in almost one sitting. This book contains brilliant advice, but the work involved to achieve the ‘four hour work week’ is not for the lazy or feint of heart. It is my business guide, and I have to refer to it often as I forget Tim’s advice from time to time. Great book!
  11. Barefoot in November” by Benjamin J. Carey. This book came into my life at a critical time, as I was recovering from aortic surgery, and dealing with the challenges of fear and confusion. Ironman to aortic patient is a big change, but Benjamin went through an even more challenging situation, open heart surgery, and one year to the day of his surgery he ran the New York City (NYC) marathon with his surgeon. His story is inspiring, and what is more important, he has found a spot for me in the 2012 NYC Marathon, so I’ll get to meet the guy, who also started Heartosaurus, a supportive website for open-heart surgery patients, and Pauline (also running), of the AAA Awareness Facebook Page, who has also provided me with some wonderful encouragement.

As a note for older athletes, I agree with Einstein when it comes to reading later in life. He said:

Reading, after a certain age, diverts the mind too much from its creative pursuits. Any man who reads too much and uses his own brain too little falls into lazy habits of thinking.

Clearly, Tara doesn’t have to worry about this for many years to come. So, happy reading Tara. Enjoy!

-k @FitOldDog

PS whilst I was writing this at Johnny’s, our little grocery store and coffee shop, a passing customer, in response to my posing the question, “What’s your favorite book,” replied “The Shipping News by Annie Proulx. I must get a copy, or should I watch the movie???

PPS WordPress did away with the Preview Button (some nerdy decision, I think, having read the comments on various fora), so I have to do some editing live. It can be fixed, but every approach seems risky for people at my level of IT skill, but I’ll have the courage to give it a try soon.



  1. Much of Tolkein is based on English and northern European mythology. His Middle Earth is a direct lift from the old English word Midgard (the realm of men). I have found the original mythologies even better than Tolkein. Try “The Real Middle Earth” by Brian Bates for a start.
    A lot of our names come from this period including the days of the week. Moon Day, Tew’s day, Woden’s Day, Thor’s Day, Fri’s Day. Alfred or Aelfrede is Elf Council or councils with the Elves or talks to the fairies?….etc.

    As for the question for the ultimate answer:- If you multiply 9 by 6 you get 42! Quite true try it in number base 13 instead of the conventional number base 10.

    For me I have only read three on your list. I have a list of my own but most of them are in verse. But then I do have odd tastes like Severus Boethius and the Beano, The Anglo Saxon Chronicles and Sun Tzu. So on balance I would not draft a list for others as my tastes are obscure and essentially useless.

    • Hi Trevor,
      I don’t agree with you assessment. Your list would be as valid as any other list, and might provide valuable guidance. The fact that a subject is judged ‘arcane’ is purely a function of the day. Remember the guy who wrote about the mathematics of conic sections, and it wasn’t until about 2000 yrs later that people (Kepler and Brahe) showed an interest in his material, to great effect and the downfall of epicycle thinking for the movement of the planets.
      I think that it would be great if you could generate a list and say things about each choice, and it could go on this blog as an invited post.
      OK! Got to go ride
      Have fun!

  2. 9 x 6 makes 42?

  3. 4 times 13 =52 + 2 = 54 in number based 10

    which is 4 thirteens plus 2 or 42 in number based 13

    10 is a convention but not the only way to do numbers

    • You’ll just have to explain all of that to Deep Thought, wait 10,000 years, and see what he (she, it) has to say. -k

      • It got demolished by the Vogons for a space bypass that was in the wrong place anyway.

        • I still have the picture of Arthur dent lying in front of his house to stop the big yellow bulldozers, whilst REALLY big yellow bulldozers were heading his way in the sky. Loved those books, and Red Dwarf too. It’s a beautiful life. -k

  4. Thanks Kevin, I am excited about this list. Because I am currently taking a stat class, I plan to start with selection 2. I will let you know what I think!


    • Hi Tara, happy reading! Statistics is weird, and I think that it works (if appropriately interpreted) because the Universe is weird. Look up Bistromath in The Hitcher Hiker’s Guide To The Galaxy for more detail. -k

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Disclaimer: As a veterinarian, I do not provide medical advice for human animals. If you undertake or modify an exercise program, consult your medical advisors before doing so. Undertaking activities pursued by the author does not mean that he endorses your undertaking such activities, which is clearly your decision and responsibility. Be careful and sensible, please.