Really nothing special to how I got to this book. I think it was an Amazon recommendation after I looked at some Jon Krakauer books.
I expected the "Crazy For The Storm" to be a "tough-surviver" story, of someone who couldn't get enough adrenaline and for whom surviving a plane crash would give the ultimate "I-did-it" thrill.
Boy, was I mistaken. The book is not a simple survival story. But more on that later.
The author Norman Ollestad tells the story of how he survived a plane crash as an eleven-year old and the events leading up to the crash.
Living with his mother and her boy-friend, after their parents got divorced in his early childhood, Norman still has quite a intense relationship with his father, an ex-actor turned surfing- & skying lawyer in California. The father-son relationship is aptly summed up by the name with which Norman Sr. calls his son on important occasions: "Boy Wonder".
Norman Sr. teaches his son how to surf and ski, and pushes his limits in not only these sports over and over again. Norman Jr. almost always hates it, and shows it openly. But his father either ignores it or pushes his son gently but firmly towards and past his fears.
The book's chapters alternate between describing the plane crash, and Norman Jr's survival thereof, and Norman's life with and later without his father shortly before and after the crash. The pace of the alternating chapters steadily increases throughout the book and climaxes shortly beforce the book's end.
Quite in contrast to my above mentioned expectation, the book is instead a very strong and heartfelt account of a very intense father-son relationship. Similarly to my previous read "The Mutt", although the book tells a very different father-son relationship, I found the story very gripping and incidently very much of what interests me at the moment.
Of course the book is very sad at times. But you always know while reading, that the book doesn't want to simply make you sad, but rather wants to tell you, that there are greater and more important things in life. That, no matter what, the current moment must be lived to the max. And that it's (in part) a father's responsibility to show this to his children.
And again, similarly to "The Mutt", it's a strongly told example on the importance and power of parents in one's life.
Deep in my heart, I'm a skateboarder. Since my child days in the 80s, where I started skating on a neon-orange all-plastic freestyle board.
Or rather than calling it "skating", I should call it "an advanced form of standing". Yes, I was and I am that bad. The only real trick I landed was the Ollie, and I didn't even managed to jump obstacles with it.
Rodney, with the help of Sean Mortimer (who also helped Tony write his biography), tells his life's story in great detail, without ever boring the reader at any point. Growing up in Florida; how he got in contact with skateboarding; how his father made him stop skateboarding and then allowed him to continue again (and this multiple times over); how he got into the world of professional skateboarding (simply by being a very good skateboarder); how he grew a successful business etc etc.
A big influence in his life was his family. So his growing up in Florida, his hardship that was his dad, how he got to detach himself from the pressures of his home and become a confident person makes up the biggest part of the book. Sure, he also explains how, when and why he invented this or that trick, but the book really is about how Rodney became the person he is, in spite of or because of his home and family.
And isn't that what a biography is about?
Simple: It's a very good book. Multiple times while reading I couldn't help but to get totally engulfed with Rodney's fear of losing the only thing that kept him going: Skateboarding. One can really feel what Rodney is feeling throughout the book.
It almost caused me pain, to read how this seemingly charming person, who achieved outstanding success and inspired thousands of people with his achievements, thought so lowly of himself over and over again.
As a rather freshly-baked father, who thinks a lot about which and how I want to convey values to my son, the influence of Rodney's father on his life strikes me the most.
How Rodney loves him although he fears him so much. And how Rodney later on was even able to look past his father's immediate actions and see the purpose in his father's seemingly harsh and unforgiving ways.
The book is a strong example on how the influence of your family on one's life should not be underestimated. And it's an example of how one can achieve anything he wants, with the right amount of determination, passion and loving what you do.
Sometime after reading the book I wondered, why someone like Rodney, which according to the book can safely be labeled an introvert, writes down all these intimate feelings. Why does he share all the pain and goes through it again in the process?
Probably because he wants to show others with similar stories, that they are not alone. That anyone can do it. Do whatever they are good at. Whatever they are passionate about. And that a seemingly nasty father is not simply evil. That the world is not black or white.
The book "World War Z" by Max Brooks was given to me by my long-time friend D. He had read it, and didn't want to take it back to Australia with him (airlines and luggage; a world of it's own).
Of course he recommended it as being a good read, but not with much fervor. So I put it on my stack. But somehow it always tickled me when I looked at it, because I found the story very much intriguing.
The book's subtitle is "An Oral History Of The Zombie World War". And this is pretty much it.
The setting of the book is a world, where zombies are a reality. They walk the earth and brought the earth's population of humans onto the brink of extinction. But in an almost 10 year fight, the already mentioned "Zombie World War", people managed to fight back, and reclaim most of earth's surface.
The book tells the story, starting with the outbreak until quite some time after the war, as a series of interviews with eye witnesses from around the world.
While the plot at first doesn't sound too original, Max Brooks manages to bring a level of authenticity into the oral accounts that ranges from stirring to shocking and simply frightening.
At some point I even asked myself if I really should read the book shortly before going to bed, because I thought, that it might keep me from sleeping well (keep in mind, that this comes from the guy who wasn't able to play Doom without God Mode because it was too exciting). Rest assured, my one-year old has a firmer grip on my sleeping habits, than any book can ever achieve.
So what I'm really trying to say is: The book gives a rather standard plot-idea a serious twist and near-perfect execution and is therefore a very entertaining read.
During the course of a wonderful afternoon (bitter-cold but sunny; walking around Bad Nauheim's pond; refreshing heart-warming shared memories) were I visited an old friend, whom I generally see way too rarely, the topic of books came up. As it happens almost always, when we meet or talk.
I lamented that I had read too few really good books in the last weeks and months. He instantly pulled out "The Graveyard Book" by Neil Gaiman, handed it to me and said something along the lines of: "Then just read this".
It took me several months to get around to reading it. But I did so in the best circumstances one could read such a book: During my parental leave, when my 1-year old son held his midday sleeps. Lying next to him, being able to look at him by only turning my head a little.
The book is the story of Bod's, short for Nobody Owens, childhood. It starts off quite sadly, when his whole family is murdered. Bod only survives by chance (or so it seems at first), and because he's instantly adopted by Mr. and Mrs. Owens, a couple of ghosts.
The book goes on to tell Bod's experiences as a living "man" being raised by ghosts and other supernatural beings, until it culminates in a grand finale, where also the real story behind the murdered family is unveiled.
The book is a great children's story for grown-ups. And I mean this is the best possible way. It's a charming read, with lots of fantastic ideas. Although I found it a little prolonged during the middle, it was very entertaining.
Still, it's not a book I'd count among the best I've ever read and will want to read time and time again. But it's a story, that takes your hand, and shows you a world, which you most certainly haven't seen before. And it does this in a way, that makes you feel all warm-and-fuzzy inside.
And isn't that already everything you can expect from a good book?