What I’ve been reading: Bravey by Alexi Pappas

7th February, 2021

When Alexi Pappas and I realised we were releasing books at around the same time, she suggested that we do a book swap and send each other our books. What a good idea, especially since I probably read too much social science – and I’m a firm believer in a little randomisation in life. I didn’t know what to expect from Bravey.

Well, what I received was an elegant and very moving debut from a seriously gifted writer. I knew Pappas was an athlete – she set a 10k national record at the 2016 Olympics – but I did not know anything about her life story.

I assumed there would be tales of hardship and sacrifice – surely nobody becomes an Olympian without them, especially not a distance runner – but I did not expect, on page on, “My first five years of life coincided with my mom’s last.”

I wasn’t ready for that. My own mother died young, and with considerable suffering – but nothing like Alexi describes. And at that moment, normally, I would put the book down. Life is tough enough. I don’t want to wallow in empathetic misery. And yet…

….she writes so beautifully, and with no trace of self pity. The details of her early life are sensitively observed, the turns of phrase poetic. One suspects that there will be some inspirational moments later in the book but she is certainly not dashing for the motivational poster slogan.

The book is compelling reading. I’ve put it down long enough to write this and I’ll be picking it up again very soon.

Brava, Bravey.

My new book, “The Data Detective” was published in the US/Canada on 2nd February. (Elsewhere the same book is titled “How To Make The World Add Up”.)

“Nobody makes the statistics of everyday life more fascinating and enjoyable than Tim Harford.”- Bill Bryson

“This entertaining, engrossing book about the power of numbers, logic and genuine curiosity”- Maria Konnikova

I’ve set up a storefront on Bookshop in the United States and the United Kingdom – have a look and see all my recommendations; Bookshop is set up to support local independent retailers.

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