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Review: Seabiscuit: An American Legend by Laura Hillenbrand

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Seabiscuit
4 Stars

Seabiscuit. An American Legend. I think the only reason I even know the horse's name is because of the movie they filmed a few years ago. I'm obviously not a horse-racing fan, right?

I don't even remember why I grabbed this at a library book sale. A friend here on GR must have given it a good review. But I am so glad I read this.

I've gotten much better about reading non-fiction over the past six months, but I was amazed at what a page-turner this was for me. I've been reading non-fiction before bed, thinking that would be a good time to squeeze it in because I wouldn't have to worry too much about getting caught up in the story and staying up all night. Bad move with this book. I was doing the "one more chapter" thing quite a bit.

It was just a perfect mix of an underdog story and excellent writing. Hillenbrand has a gift for putting you right into the action. Not knowing if Seabiscuit was going to win or lose any given race, my stomach would knot up and I would start reading faster as he came out of the gates. I was worried about injuries. I was furious with jockeys whom I thought were cheating. My heart pounded as Seabiscuit came down the home stretch and I read ahead to find out if he pulled it off this time. What the heck has happened to me?!? Where did the woman who thought "Non-fiction is boring" go?

This horse and his team are truly all-American legends. It seems that we love underdog stories and Seabiscuit, owner Charles Howard, trainer Tom Smith, and jockey Red Pollard were all underdogs at some point. Reading about their struggles and triumphs and, yes, even failures, was inspiring. If they can pull off something like this, why can't you or I?

I loved reading about Tom Smith's unending feud with the press. I worried over Pollard, the injury-prone, Shakespeare-quoting jockey. Seabiscuit's quirks amused me to no end--unless he was messing around with another horse as the finish line approached. Then I just wanted to yell at him, "Stop horsing around! Just finish the race!" (Sorry. I couldn't resist.)

Now that I've finished it, I've caught myself spouting off some random Seabiscuit trivia to my husband. "Oh, did you know that Seabiscuit hated to run on mud?" The Belmont Stakes was on tv. The track looked muddy. It seemed relevant. There was more, but I'll keep my own quirks to myself.

The whole match race thing with War Admiral had me a nervous wreck! I just watched the real race on YouTube and, wow! It gave me goosebumps! It was funny to see Seabiscuit's awkward stride after reading so much about it and to know about all the prep work and psychology that went into that race.

I just loved this book, and I can't say enough about it. So before I end up giving you a page-by-page summary and my reactions, just do us both a favor and go read it.

Read an excerpt.

Find author Laura Hillenbrand on her website and Facebook.

I read this for the Off the Shelf, Page to Screen, and Dewey Decimal challenges.

Buy Seabiscuit at

Just for fun,
**IF YOU DON'T MIND FINDING OUT WHO WINS THE RACE**,
Seabiscuit vs War Admiral




I have an affiliate relationship with Malaprop's, my local independent bookstore, and Better World Books. I will receive a small commission at no cost to you if you purchase books through links on my site.

5 comments:

  1. We read this book for book club a while ago and I thought I was going to be so bored but it was so good! Thanks for sharing the video, I never would have thought to look it up. It was fun to watch.

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  2. I've heard a lot about Laura's writing. Plus, the few pages that I read of Unbroken were just so intriguing! I'm no horse-racing fan either and I first heard of this when I saw the movie. I do want to read this book sometime.

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  3. Great review! A little random tidbit I picked up from the bonus features on the movie Seabiscuit...War Admiral and Seabiscuit were half brothers...They have the same sire.

    I have this book on my overfull bookcase too. Better get to reading :)

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  4. Wonderful, wonderful review, and I agree with every word! I've told people over the years that this is a book which if it were fiction, a reader would say, 'oh that could never happen.' It's a tremendous story, and she wrote it so well. I am a big horse fan, and in another life would have liked to live on one of those Kentucky farms with a white fence and raised racehorses. :<) Again, tremendous review. And now, I'm going to watch the race.

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  5. So glad you are liking NF more! I love NF myself although I read about 1/2-1/2. I loved Seabiscuit. Of course Hillenbrand is really one of the best of the best. Her newest book is on my TBR list.

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Thanks for taking the time to comment! Have a great day!

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