Book Review | Seabiscuit: An American Legend by Laura Hillenbrand

02 October 2020

 

I found a new appreciation for non fiction and love for biographies when I read Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand for the first time several years ago. The unbelievable true story hit me so hard. I was completely enthralled as I was reading, and couldn't stop thinking about it for days after I finished. I immediately had to add it to my favorite books of all time without hesitation. 

Seabiscuit: An American Legend, the only other book Laura Hillenbrand has written, has been on my TBR ever since. Even though I knew next to nothing about horse racing or the significance of Seasbiscuit in the 1930's before reading, I was willing to give the book a chance. After finding a used paperback edition for $3 at a library book sale the week before lockdowns, I was finally able to reimmerse myself in Hillenbrand's writing and learn something new.

As I mentioned, I can't get over the writing in both this book and Unbroken! It's so unlike any other non fiction I've ever read! It's so narrative, and it's easy to get swept up in whatever story is being told, whether it's about WWII, or a race horse. The references are listed in the back of the book, and the text is free from the clutter of citations and footnotes, which makes it much easier to read. However, that doesn't stop the book from still being extremely informative! The transitions between an exciting, cinematic racing scene, and an in-depth analysis of the life of a jockey are seamless and never take you out of the book.

The overall story of Seabiscuit is one that is hard to review, as is any non fiction book. The author has no control over the plot, just the way the events are told. While I did learn a lot, I must admit, I did not find Seabiscuit's story to be one that hit me as hard as other non fiction has. I found the deep look into the culture of horse racing in the 1930's to be interesting while I was reading this particular book, but I've decided it's not something I'm going to enthusiastically pursue more information about in the future. Horses are great and beautiful, but I feel like I've learned all I care about to about horse racing from this book. 

I will say that, even if I have decided that horse racing isn't my thing, I don't think I would have enjoyed this story if it had been written any other way. I did come to care about Seabiscuit, Red Pollard, the Howards, and Tom Smith so much more than I expected to, because Hillenbrand's passion made me care. The climatic race between Seabiscuit and War Admiral inspired me to watch the original footage. Ultimately I would say that if you have to read a book about horse racing, I would strongly recommend this one!

While it's hard not to compare this book to Unbroken in my mind since I loved that book so much, Seabiscuit accomplishes what it promises. The stakes are not as high, but it provides an intimate look into the culture of horse racing, and tells a feel good, inspiring underdog story. It's a great introductory biography for those who don't usually like non fiction.

Rating: ★

3 comments

  1. Laura Hillenbrand is AMAZING. I've read both Seabiscuit and Unbroken several times each and I can't get over how how stunningly well-written they are. Like you mentioned, as a nonfiction author, Laura has no control over the plot - and yet she somehow manages to make it just as exciting as if she had come up with it herself.

    I am incredibly excited, too, because of an interview with Laura I came across in which she said she's working on another book!

    In her words: "I am writing a biography of someone amazing, a woman. I’m not telling people exactly what it’s about, but it is an extraordinary story, an amazing person. I will tell people when I’m ready to, but I don’t even have a book deal for it or anything. I’ve just tried to work on it now, get the research done and get things in shape.

    And I’m excited about it. It’s taken me a long time to find that subject I can fall in love with the way I did with Seabiscuit and his people and Louis Zamperini and his story and finally I found one that just hits me right between the eyes. So I’m excited to be working on it."

    Anyway. I discovered your blog recently, and as soon as I found it, I fell in love with it. And when I saw you had done a post about one of my very favorite authors I just had to leave a comment. (A very long one, as it turns out.)

    I hope you have a wonderful rest of your day!

    ~ Scarlett | An Attempt at Authenticity

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    1. I'm so glad there's someone who appreciates Laura Hillenbrand's work as much as I do. And I can't tell you how excited I am that she's writing a new book! I don't care what it's about, I will buy it and read it the day it comes out!
      Thank you so much for visiting. Your comment made me so happy! ♥︎

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    2. I haven't met many people who've read and adored her writing either, which is a shame. I'm doing my best to change that by recommending them to everyone I know, however :D
      I know, I was so thrilled when I learned about it! And same, as soon as I hear when it's coming out I'm pre-ordering it.
      Yay, I'm so glad! <3

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