Friday, April 17, 2015

Natural Born Heroes, by Christopher McDougall

Christopher McDougall's last book, Born to Run, had a huge impact on the running world.  Barefoot runners and Vibram Five Fingers existed before Born to Run, but he almost single-handedly sparked an explosion of interest in barefoot running that permanently marked running and the running shoe industry.  So expectations were high for Natural Born Heroes.

The vast majority of Natural Born Heroes tells the story of the Cretan resistance during the German occupation of that Greek island during WW2.  Cretan pride, a bit of outside help from the British, and the unique culture and geographic features of Crete shaped the outcome of the war.  According to some German military officials, the amount of manpower and resources the Germans had to put into controlling Crete played a significant role in their losing momentum and eventually the war.

The swashbuckling adventure story of the Cretan resistance, especially the events surrounding their capture of a German general, make for a great read.  I would love to see this story on film!  Surely there's a fantastic movie in there, with the colorful characters, close calls, and, of course, seeing the evil Nazis foiled by the "simple" townspeople and shepherds.

Woven through this story, McDougall tells another story, about the Cretan's diet and legendary endurance, dating back to the age of Greek myths.  He extols their diet and lifestyle, drawing in pankatrion, parkour, the Mediterranean diet, foraging, low-carbs, slow burns, natural movement, and other ideas.  All of that seemed like a tease.  He offers a few practical steps and specific food recommendations, enough to make me want to learn more.  But it was almost not enough to justify the presence of the health/exercise element of the book.  I felt like this would be a better book if it was just the story of the resistance.

McDougall tells great stories.  Even though the jumping from WW2, to his own exploration of Crete, to exercise, martial arts, and food made me think he might have ADD, I did enjoy it.  I don't know that he will revolutionize anything with Natural Born Heroes, but he did pique my interest in some of the methods and diet that he discussed.

Thanks to Edelweiss and the publisher for the complimentary electronic review copy!

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