Saturday, December 20, 2008

It's Not About the Bike by Lance Armstrong

"There is something about staring at your brain metastases that focuses a person."

If there's one thing you'll come away with after reading It's Not About the Bike, it's an appreciation for Lance Armstrong's freakish, superhuman focus. On cycling, on his cancer diagnosis and treatment, on the Tour de France, it doesn't matter; whatever he chooses to focus on is in trouble. Deep trouble.

But there's another thing you'll come away with after reading this book: Lance Armstrong (and his co-author Sally Jenkins) doesn't really tell his story all that well.

I wouldn't call the book a disappointment, exactly. But such a compelling and inspiring life story like Lance Armstrong's deserves to be told in something more than a detached, almost narcissistic tone. I don't fault Armstrong himself for this--he's a cyclist. A particularly articulate and multilingual cyclist, but still a cyclist. He's not a writer.

But co-author/ghostwriter Sally Jenkins is a writer, and yet she writes uninspired, unevocative prose in this fast-reading 289 page book. The result, unfortunately, is that she makes Lance Armstrong sound like a robot, rather than the complex and driven guy he (hopefully) really is.

So if you're looking for a beautifully written history of the cyclist, or deep thoughts on surviving cancer, or a poetic description of what it's like to win the Tour de France, lower your expectations before you read this book.

And perhaps consider reading Lance Armstrong's War by Daniel Coyle, which appears to be a much more compellingly told version of Armstrong's life.

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