No Middle Name
By Lee Child. (Delacorte, 432 pages, $27.)
For fans of Lee Child’s Jack Reacher stories — and there are many — “No Middle Name” offers a rare chance to fill in some gaps in Reacher’s biography with a collection of 11 previously published short stories and one new novella. For the uninitiated, Reacher is a decorated ex-military policeman and West Point grad who lives a mostly itinerant lifestyle while regularly delivering justice according to his own code. Fans of the bestselling series are likely familiar with some of the stories because many were published previously. “Too Much Time,” the new novella, is vintage Child, fast-paced and compelling, while other stories range from engaging to just so-so. “Second Son” is a fascinating look back at an incident in Reacher’s youth and an incident with his brother Joe. Dedicated Reacher Creatures — as fans are known — will want to pick up a copy.
How to Lose a Marathon
By Joel R. Cohen. (Abrams Image, 175 pages, $16.95.)
Anyone who has trained for a long-distance race knows that you tend to lose things. Your big toenails. A layer of skin on your heels. Your favorite water bottle. Maybe a few pounds. And certainly, at certain stages, your dignity. But author Joel Cohen wants make sure you don’t lose your sense of humor.
This clever running manual, written by a writer and producer for “The Simpsons,” is a mix of helpful tips and hilarious truths about the “journey,” the “adventure” — and, let’s face it, the living hell — of training for a marathon. It’s filled with delightful illustrations of the tragedies of overachievement, the lies you tell yourself, the lies you tell your spouse (“That is not BBQ sauce on my shirt. I was out for a 10-mile run!”), and of course the ultimate reward: the exhilaration as you cross the finish line and drop to the ground (not in celebration of your amazing accomplishment, as the myth goes, but to thank God you are still alive).
This would be a great stocking stuffer (Tip #11: plan six months ahead when you’re training!) for any runner in your life. Witty, intelligent and a short, quick read that is both inspiring and demoralizing. Just like life.
Full disclosure: I have only trained for a half-marathon, so I should have stopped reading at Chapter 13.1. But I had to keep going. If only running were that easy.