Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The Happiness of Pursuit

The Happiness of Pursuit: A Father's Courage, a Son's Love and Life's Steepest Climb is the story of Davis Phinney, a world-class cyclist who won Olympic bronze and stages at the Tour de France. From the late 70's until his retirement in 1993, his 328 career victories are the most by any U.S. cyclist. In 2000, he was diagnosed with young-onset Parkinson's disease. Realizing that there are ways to improve the quality of his day to day living, Davis started the Davis Phinney Foundation as a way to promote and fund innovative research that demonstrates the effects and importance of exercise, speech and other elements that are critical to quality of life.

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt:

"For two decades, Davis Phinney was one of America’s most successful cyclists. He won two stages at the Tour de France and an Olympic medal. But after years of feeling off, he was diagnosed with early-onset Parkinson’s. The body that had been his ally was now something else: a prison. <
The Happiness of Pursuit is the story of how Davis sought to overcome his Parkinson’s by reaching back to what had made him so successful on the bike and adjusting his perspective on what counted as a win. The news of his diagnosis began a dark period for this vibrant athlete, but there was also light. His son Taylor’s own bike-racing career was taking off. Determined to beat the Body Snatcher, Davis underwent a procedure called deep brain stimulation. Although not cured, his symptoms abated enough for him to see Taylor compete in the Beijing Olympics. Davis Phinney had won another stage. But the joy, he discovered, was in the pursuit. 

With humor and grace, Phinney weaves the narrative of his battle with Parkinson’s with tales from his cycling career and from his son’s emerging career. The Happiness of Pursuit is a remarkable story of fathers and sons and bikes, of victories large and small."

The book is part memoir, part parent pride, and part disease education. Phinney's diagnosis with Huntington's means he has to approach life very differently than someone without the illness, and, in his words, he's a "big proponent of a positive attitude and the benefits of exercise." Who would argue with that, ill or not? Jason over at Cook Train Eat Race posted about 10 Reasons Endurance Sports Are Good For You - the statistics of what exercise means to health are astounding (I know I'm preaching to the choir). I can't even imagine what it must have been like for a world-beating athlete live with his body failing him and it's great to learn that, after the initial shock, he has been working to improve not only his own lot, but other's as well.

Stories about the 7-Eleven Cycling team relate unknown history of the first cycling team from the U.S. to cross the pond and mix it up with the professional european cyclists. Bob Roll, who  I think is an incredibly funny and gifted announcer, has a gift for languages - who knew? After initially being snubbed by the european riders, press, and fans, eventually the Americans proved themselves and paved the way for current U.S. teams to remain in the hunt for cycling victories, world-wide.

Besides his own illness, Phinney writes about dealing with his father's battle with prostate cancer. His father initially looked down on his decision to become a bicycle racer, even though he himself cycled to work and around the world, but nonetheless supported his son's decision. Phinney's father, when told he had cancer, had a major personality change, going from cold and distant to gregarious and outgoing, leading to the two men becoming close friends when Davis whas 28. His father helped found a group I had never heard of: Cyclists Combating Cancer - if you haven't either, you can check them out on their website, Ride to Live!

One of the things I most enjoyed about this book is that Phinney, both in real life and through his foundation, is not searching for a cure to Parkinson's (not that he'd mind if they found one). He is all about removing limits and expectations, not waiting for a cure or told what he can do, but living life in this moment and capturing the daily small victories.  It's a lesson we can all take to heart. The Happiness of Pursuit  will be published June 1, 2011 and is a worthy addition to anyone's bookshelf.

Disclaimer: This product was advanced to me for review purposes, courtesy of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt via Net Galley. I was not compensated in any other way for the review, was not obligated to give it a positive review, and all opinions are my own. Some information in this review was taken from the company website.

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Contact me at lakotega@yahoo.com.


  1. That sounds like a great book! Thank you for helping me add another book to my summer reading list!

  2. oh man you know I am a complete book freak right? plus anything running and i have to read it, this review definitely means this one is on my list now!! You always do great in depth reviews love it

  3. I've already pre-allocated the time to read this starting 6/2.

  4. Great review - sounds like another good book!

  5. I love his attitude about removing limits and expectations....

  6. Sounds like a great book!

  7. Sounds like a great read. I have so many books stacked up waiting to be read right now....but maybe soon.


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