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Armstrong strong against all odds

Tuesday, July 28, 2009 by kate

You wouldn’t think a 7-time Tour de France winner would have been raised by a high school dropout, lost police in a high-speed chase or that he would have waited until the end of high school to pick up racing.

But Lance Armstrong didn’t even know professional cycling existed when he grew up in Plano, Texas, according to John Wilcockson, author of Lance: The Making of the World's Greatest Champion.

And his mother, Linda, was pregnant with Lance when she was only 16 years old. She dropped out of high school, got married and worked at a grocery store while her husband delivered papers. Their marriage didn’t last two years and soon Linda was a single mother, raising a future champion.
Lance first dabbled in football and baseball – your typical all-American sports. Soon he got involved in BMX racing, running and swimming. And so the tri-athlete was born.

When he finally made the switch to cycling, he quickly became known as the cocky American. But some might say that bravado is a necessary evil when competing on such a high level, taking on national and world champions.

What kept me reading Lance was the way author John Wilcockson’s gripping biography didn’t deify Lance. He showed the vulnerable side of the athlete and shared his troubled upbringing in suburban Texas.

Critics say Wilcockson should have looked more thoroughly at the doping accusations that marred Lance’s past, but seeing as Lance never failed a drug test, I’m fine with the way Wilcockson handled the claims.

Wilcockson also delves into the severity of Lance’s cancer diagnosis, revealing he only had a 20% chance of surviving the advanced testicular cancer that had spread to his brain.

I enjoyed reading about Lance from the perspective of those who knew him best – his mother, ex-wife, friends, mentors, trainers and doctors.

“I interviewed more than 50 people and one of the most surprising interviews was interviewing Lance's adoptive father, Terry Armstrong, the guy who gave him his name, who's barely mentioned in Lance's autobiography or Lance's mother's autobiography. Although Terry split with Lance's mother when Lance was 16, I believe that the 14 years he was Lance's dad was a very interesting period. That's when the making of Lance as a champion happened. It was fascinating,” Wilcockson told USA Today. “There were a few people who wouldn't talk for some reason or another and one was Sheryl Crow," Wilcockson said. "Even though Lance talked about her extensively and I talked to other people about that relationship, I was disappointed that Sheryl didn't want to talk.”


Armstrong, who ditched retirement at the age of 37 and came in 3rd in the Tour de France this past weekend plans to form his own team for the Tour next year. So you've got plenty of time to pick up Lance before then. And you will finish the book feeling humbled and inspired.

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make your vocabulary sizzle

Thursday, July 23, 2009 by kate

If you’re an autodidact looking for a way to improve your vocabulary (or if you didn’t know what the word “autodidact” meant) you should get a copy of Captivate Network’s The Word Lover’s Delight. Yes. I work for Captivate Network. No. This is not shameless self-promotion. Wait. Maybe it is. Just a little. But I would promote this book anyway. It’s chock-full of quirky words and real-life sentences you can use like these:

“Lucy appreciated Tom’s foursquare breakup style, but she still popped all his tires and smashed his windshield.”

“Vicky vituperated her husband when he came home late from work with lipstick on his cheek.”

“The vociferous kids were fueled by Twinkies and Ding Dongs.”

“No one dared make a joke around the umbrageous receptionist.”

Are you worried you might have an umbrageous receptionist or want to vituperate someone but don’t know what it means? Check out The Word Lover’s Delight. This is not just puffery. Reading this book will make you perspicacious.

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books in film

Tuesday, July 21, 2009 by kate

Besides Harry Potter and Twilight, several other movie adaptations of books are on their way next month.

Julie & Julia opens August 7 and features Meryl Streep as Julia Child and Amy Adams as Julie Powell. The film is based on Powell’s book Julie & Julia and Child’s book My Life in France. It covers their life struggles and kitchen successes.

Powell has another novel coming out in December, Cleaving: A Story of Marriage, Meat, and Obsession is about her experiences as an apprentice butcher.

Audrey Niffenegger's The Time Traveler's Wife is in theaters Aug. 14 and stars Rachel McAdams and Eric Bana.
She also has new novel coming out at the end of September, Her Fearful Symmetry.

What’s your all-time favorite movie adaptation?

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best books of the year … so far

Tuesday, July 7, 2009 by kate

Amazon has come up with a Best Books of the Year…So Far list. I know. The year's not over yet. But summer's here, and you're probably looking for a good beach read.

So here a few that made the list:

The Book of Dead Philosophers, by Simon Critchley Critchley examines the deaths of nearly 200 philosophers and explores how one might be inspired to live a richer life.

Wicked Plants: The Weed That Killed Lincoln's Mother and Other Botanical Atrocities, by Amy Stewart Stewart's guide to the misdeeds of Mother Nature’s roguish members includes those that kill, irritate, paralyze and intoxicate. Sounds like a great crime novel.

Nine Lives by Dan Baum From the '60s through the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Baum follows 9 lives that could only be lived in New Orleans.

Crazy for the Storm, by Norman Ollestad
As an 11-year-old boy, Ollestad was the only survivor of a small-plane crash and he lived using skills he learned from his father, who was killed in the crash.

Sag Harbor, by Colson Whitehead
This pop culture piece follows a 15-year-old Converse-wearing, Smiths-loving, Dungeons & Dragons-playing nerd in 1985 as he leaves the city to spend 3 months with his younger brother in an enclave of Long Island's Sag Harbor.

Do you have any books that belong on this list? Send them over my way!
For the rest of the list, check out www.amazon.com/books.



















































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Sanford book up in the air

Thursday, July 2, 2009 by kate

Before South Caroline Gov. Mark Sanford was caught shacking up with his Argentine mistress, he wrote a book about fiscal conservatism, set to come out next March. But whether or not it will actually come to fruition is in question.
The problem is Within Our Means is already in the publisher’s Spring 2010 catalogue, which has gone to the printer. So if Sentinel, the conservative imprint of Penguin Group that’s publishing the book, backs out now they might look a little silly.

Sentinel told CNN it will "most likely" make an announcement about the book later this week. Stay tuned. Maybe Stanford will add a bit about his affair in the book.


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