I chose to listen to Seabiscuit: An American Legend, by Laura Hillenbrand on audio book narrated by George Newbern for the 2018 Reading Challenge, a book about sports.
This book takes the reader through the history of horse racing in America during the Great Depression. Seabiscuit was racing at a time in America’s history when the people desperately needed heroes. And Seabiscuit was the perfect hero for such a time.
Hillenbrand opens her book a bit slow, with a detailed history of how the three major players in Seabiscuit’s career came together. It begins with Charles Howard’s move to San Francisco where he became a bicycle repairman at a time when automobiles were only beginning to make an appearance. He made his fortune selling cars and soon became interested in horse racing.
She then details the journey trainer Tom Smith and jockey Red Pollard each took as they came together with Howard and Seabiscuit and a racing legacy that would have a huge impact on the American people.
Laura Hillenbrand has crafted a well-written story. Though it’s a true story, she has managed to give it the dramatic flow of a good fiction story. She used the natural drama of the horse racing scene and the incredible events of Seabiscuit’s career to create a really good book. Hillenbrand took advantage of the natural suspense in a horse race, capitalizing on it beautifully to increase the tension as the story unfolded.
It ends much the way it began with a detailed description of the end the careers and lives of Tom Smith, Red Pollard and Charles Howard. And of course, Seabiscuit himself.
Unlike many of the nonfiction books I’ve chosen to listen to recently, this one is well suited for the audio format. Newbern did a fantastic job narrating this story, often imitating the voice of race callers to great effect.