Finding Gobi by Dion Leonard

“I just decided to try my best to ignore the voices that told me I was a failure.”

3/5 stars.
Paperback, 272 pages.
Read from August 14, 2019 to August 25, 2019.

I adore books about running and racing. I also love true-story books involving animals. This book brought those two worlds together for me. After having this book on my TBR list for a while after a friend’s recommendation, I spotted a paperback copy of this book while I was slightly drunk at an airport. Drink having contributed my book-buying issue, I compulsively purchase this book. However, I did share it with a family member afterwards so it was worth it.

Dion Leonard is an accidental elite runner. He doesn’t run because he likes it but because he wants to challenge himself and be competitive. It all started after he made a bet with his friend that he would beat him in a half marathon, despite having never done one or trained for one. After successfully beating his poor friend (honestly, that would piss me off so much) he decided to keep running and set his sights on some of the most competitive and challenging marathons and ultras in the world. Dion decides that he wants to tackled a 155-mile race through the Gobi desert in China. It’s during this race that he meets a durable, resilient, and tiny dog that follows him for a whole 77-miles of the race. This little dog taught Dion some lessons about running that made his journey more about just trying to finish first. After such a journey, Dion knew that this dog, who he named Gobi, had to come home with him. However, things don’t go to plan and Dion struggles to get Gobi back home with him.

As a runner, I really enjoyed reading about the specifics of Dion’s race, though I’d be lying if wasn’t in envy of his speed in doing a sport he didn’t particularly enjoy that much outside of the competition and winning. Thankfully Gobi managed to teach Dion a thing or two about that. It was interesting what Dion mentioned about Tommy Chen during the race. I feel like we only got a censored or partial part of that story.

Dion had to manage some steep hurdles in getting Gobi home, especially trying to manage the Chinese media which I’m sure had its own unique challenges. I wondered if there were aspects and experiences that Dion wanted to be a bit more honest about but felt he couldn’t in the book in case there was some sort of backlash.

I think Dion is likely a better runner than a writer as there were aspects of this book that felt a bit unnecessary, such as the back story on his family.  This story probably could have been a short novella or a feature-length magazine article instead of a full book and I felt the excitement waivered shortly after the race was finished. The book and the story are slightly self-serving in the way Dion discusses his running and the media hype that came with Gobi, but the story of the two of them is sincere so it was wonderful to know that everything all worked out in the end for them both.

For those that don’t have a large interest in anything running related, the first part of this book might be a bit dull for you but after that, the story revolves fully around trying to get Gobi.  Overall, a nice easy read for any dog-lover or runner.

The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein

4/5 stars.
Paperback, 321 pages.
Read from May 07 to 08, 2013.

Another throwback review! Yeah! Read this gem a few years back and it really stuck with me.

This novel caught me off guard emotionally. It pulled at all of my heart-strings, in a good way and  I couldn’t put it down. I had heard about the book before but it wasn’t until an acquaintance lent me the book that I had a desire to read it. Stein manages to create a successful novel that is race car themed AND narrated by a dog. I mean what are the chances of that? Well, he absolutely nailed it.

The Art of Racing In the Rain is a story about human resilience, love and what people will do for the people and things that truly matter to them. Enzo is a dog and he is your narrator throughout the entire book. He dreams of being human while his owner, Denny dreams of being a race car driver. Enzo watches Denny succeed, meet the love of his life Eve and the birth of their daughter Zoe. Even though Enzo isn’t all that impressed with Eve in the beginning, he plays an essential role in an event surrounding Eve. Enzo is also there for the most heart wrenching time in Denny’s life.

Enzo is the perfect narrator for this story. He is extremely likable, kind and supportive, just like a dog should be. I also really appreciated the quirks of dog behavior explained by Enzo, like when he destroys on of Zoe’s stuffed animals  as he thought there was something evil about it. The reasons behind his actions make perfect sense to him and it’s pretty humorous, especially for those that have dogs and are familiar with some of their strange behaviors. Enzo also offers some amazing pieces of advice because, as Enzo puts it, he listens.

“Here’s why I will be a good person. Because I listen. I cannot talk, so I listen very well. I never deflect the course of the conversation with a comment of my own.”

Enzo summed up the essence of the novel with these next few quotes:

“There is no dishonor in losing the race. There is only dishonor in not racing because you are afraid to lose.”

Enzo never gave up on Denny, and Denny never gave up on his family.

“The true hero is flawed. The true test of a champion is not whether he can triumph, but whether he can overcome obstacles – preferably of his own making – in order to triumph.”

The ending is remarkable. It left me smiling from ear to ear and ear.  Stein is a remarkable story-teller and he knows how to satisfy his readers. His style is easy to read and humorous with added philosophical bits. Let me also just say, that I have no interest in any form of race car driving, yet in reading this book I found the topic intriguing as Stein was able to make the content accessible to any reader. Overall I would say that this is a definite read for any dog lover or those looking for a feel-good novel.