What I’m Reading: Road to Valor

by Rebecca Einstein Schorr on 15 July 2012 @ 2:06 pm

Sitting on my bookshelf, glaring at me, was a book that I was sent to review. Glaring because it was several books down in my never-shrinking pile. And then glaring at me when it reached the front of the queue because I didn’t rush to start it upon finishing what was ahead of it.

Why? For the following misguided reasons:

  1. it’s a Holocaust story — and who needs another one of those?
  2. and

  3. it’s about cycling — and why would I want to read about cycling?

Road to Valor, by Aili and Andres McConnon, is not a Holocaust story in the traditional sense. The story of famed cyclist, Gino Bartali, would not be complete without some focus on his involvement in saving Jewish lives during the Nazi-occupation of Italy. But to say that this is a Holocaust book is misleading as only three chapters are devoted to Bartali’s life-saving activities. His defiance is just part of the story.

I am by no means a cycling fan. At least, I had virtually no interest in it prior to reading this book. My sum total of cycling knowledge could, as my grandmother, z”l, would say, fit in a thimble. I knew that the Tour de France is a big deal and that a yellow jersey was involved. Which is to say — I didn’t know anything.

Now I know much more. And while one might argue that my life was perfectly fine without such knowledge, the fact is that one’s life can always be just a little more complete. We are meant to continually learn more. Think more. Be more. And knowledge can be acquired through both life experience and the experience of others.

We need stories like Gino Bartali’s. We need them because we need to be reminded that there are those who have been willing to risk their lives for others. There are those who use their fame for the benefit of others. There are those who are flawed individuals but do not allow their flaws to define them. We need these stories because we need to keep believing that our actions — our good deeds — will live long after we are gone. As Gino Bartali taught his son:

If you’re good at a sport, they attach the medals to your shirts and then they shine in some museum. That which is earned by doing good deeds is attached to the soul and shines elsewhere.


The very nice folks over at Random House have provided me with an additional copy of Road to Valor for one lucky reader. To be entered, please leave a comment about a book that you were surprised to find that you liked. Oh…and let’s pick a winner on Thursday, 19 July, 12:01am. Good luck!

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Marva 15 July 2012 @ 2:29 pm at 2:29 pm

“In the Woods” by Tana French. It’s a murder mystery/detective story, which I like sometimes. Of course, it is much more. French writes very well and delves in to her main character from interesting angles. I’ve read her next two books, each told from the point of view of one of the characters, not necessarily a main character, from this first book. “Faithful Place” is my favorite so far as the author’s skills have grown and she takes us deeper in to plot and character. Her newest book “Broken Harbor” is just out and I can’t wait to read it (after my book club book!).

PS/ I am a fan of Le Tour de France and always want to know the back stories!!


2 luluberoo 16 July 2012 @ 5:57 am at 5:57 am

I just finished “Into That Darkness” by Gitta Sereny. The book is 70 hours of interviews with Franz Stangl, commandant of Treblinka (the largest of the extermination camps). I cannot say I “liked” it, but it was important to read as Stangl bares his soul while continually finding ways to rationalize his role in Hitler’s final solution. The author tries very hard not to interject her opinions/feelings. Really, she does not have to. The interviews never give us any satisfaction in the form or remorse, but shows glaringly the importance of individual action, and taking responsibility for them.

I take a spinning class, and we do a “virtual” tour de France on the instructors ipad. Very fun!


3 JanetheWriter 16 July 2012 @ 7:58 am at 7:58 am

Glad to hear you enjoyed the book and learned something new from it. I’d read about three pages when the books for my summer course arrived and I had to switch gears (pun intended!). Looking forward to picking up with Gino again once the course is over.


Leave a Comment

{ 1 trackback }

Previous post:

Next post: