Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Book Review - Mud, Sweat & Tears

I used to avoid reading autobiographies and biographies like the plague. I couldn’t see what was so interesting about reading about other people. I think I was in a stage where I wanted to immerse myself in other worlds and firmly kept my library lending in the fiction section.

As I’ve grown older, however, I’ve become more and more interested in the stories of other people’s lives. Not just famous people, but interesting historical figures, business people and everyday folks that have done extraordinary things. Recently I read the autobiography of a man who falls into this last category – Bear Grylls (real name Edward Michael). His latest book is called ‘Mud, Sweat & Tears’.

Now, you could argue that he is famous - even a celebrity - due to the popularity of his TV show ‘Man Vs Wild’ (known as ‘Born Survivor’ in the UK). But before all that, he was just a kid from the Isle of Wight that had something inside him that made him want to do amazing things. Like join the SAS. Or climb Mt Everest.

I put Bear’s latest book (he has written several!) on my Christmas wishlist and my partner thoughtfully got it for me. He knows I’ve been a fan of ‘Man Vs Wild’ for quite a while and even indulges my slight crush on the man himself. What’s not to find attractive? An extremely fit, capable guy who will try anything once…

What I liked about this account of Bear’s early life and experiences prior to becoming a TV star iss that it is written in his own voice. He plainly has not hired a ghost writer to make it more polished, and the writing is simple and blunt. He does have a tendency to write frustratingly short chapters but I suspect that’s more the choice of the editor than the author himself.

The book covers his family history and childhood, his formative years at school, his SAS Selection and his Mt Everest climb. Did you know Bear was the youngest person to reach the summit at 23 years of age? Amazing stuff.

The author also talks about his spiritual life and how he found his faith. He has what he calls a “simple faith” and writes about how it remains at the core of everything he does. I found this interesting as I had heard he was a strong Christian but to hear him describe his relationship with God in his own words made it clear he’s no evangelical.

Throughout, it becomes clear that Bear was always a cheeky guy with a tendency do dangerous things. Whether it was running over the rooftops of Eton while at school or making the decision to attempt Everest’s summit when others turned back, he’s a man who takes risks and not surprisingly, he has nearly died a number of times.

My favourite parts were the chapters on his grueling SAS selection process. What they put those guys through, both physically and mentally, is absolutely astounding. Even with this insider’s perspective, I still don’t know how they do it. Bear describes how he felt on the long marches in the Brecon Beacons so that you feel you’re there stumbling along beside him, exhausted and hungry. But it was breaking his back in a parachute fall in Africa that ended his Army career and changed his path. Recovering from what could have been a paralyzing injury, he had a whole new outlook on life and a new determination to achieve.

Now the star of several TV shows and certainly one of Discovery’s most bankable stars, Bear’s autobiography shows the reader the man behind the survival tips and disgusting bug-eating we know so well. What I didn’t expect to get out of the book was a feeling of inspiration – it really put my own life in perspective and opened my eyes to the amazing things that an ordinary person can do.

A highly recommended read.

Buy ‘Mud, Sweat & Tears’ from Book Depository - free shipping worldwide.
(Yes this is an affiliate link, I get a small commission for the referral).

1 comment:

  1. I've always been curious about this book but didn't think it would be anything I'd be interested in. Will be going on my 'must read' list now!



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