Thursday, August 7, 2014

Review: Seabiscuit: An American Legend by Laura Hillenbrand

Author: Laura Hillenbrand
Series: None
Genre: Non-Fiction, History
Release Date: July 1, 2003
Format: Paperback
My Rating: 4.5 Stars
Summary From Goodreads: 
Seabiscuit was one of the most electrifying and popular attractions in sports history and the single biggest newsmaker in the world in 1938, receiving more coverage than FDR, Hitler, or Mussolini. But his success was a surprise to the racing establishment, which had written off the crooked-legged racehorse with the sad tail. Three men changed Seabiscuit’s fortunes:
Charles Howard was a onetime bicycle repairman who introduced the automobile to the western United States and became an overnight millionaire. When he needed a trainer for his new racehorses, he hired Tom Smith, a mysterious mustang breaker from the Colorado plains. Smith urged Howard to buy Seabiscuit for a bargain-basement price, then hired as his jockey Red Pollard, a failed boxer who was blind in one eye, half-crippled, and prone to quoting passages from Ralph Waldo Emerson. Over four years, these unlikely partners survived a phenomenal run of bad fortune, conspiracy, and severe injury to transform Seabiscuit from a neurotic, pathologically indolent also-ran into an American sports icon

My Thoughts

I never thought or believed I would love a nonfiction novel this much, especially one as a required read. Nonfiction isn't my genre at all, and I tend to steer clear of it whenever possible, but I loved Seabiscuit, both the horse and the novel. Well, as much as you can love a book for school. Seabiscuit snuck up behind me and left me wrought out with emotion at the end.

The Plot: Somehow Laura Hillenbrand was able to recount the life of Seabiscuit and those around him in such a thrilling and gripping way that made me forget it was even nonfiction at times. I admit that the first 5 or 6 chapters were hard for me to get through. As a horse/animal lover, I was looking forward to reading about the adventures of Seabiscuit but the first few chapters were mostly the backstory of the people. This was the hardest part for me to get through because I was kind of bored and at times felt that parts were a complete info dump, but it was somewhat expected in a nonfiction novel. But after I got through those chapters, I easily sailed through the rest of the book. My favorite parts of the book were easily the horse racing scenes. I have no idea how Laura did it, but the way she described them had my heart racing and my eyes glued to the book in anticipation. Those were the times where I felt as if I was part of the crowd watching the horses race. I absolutely loved it and honestly didn't want to put it down. I also loved well, any part that had Seabiscuit, whether it be training with Smith or simply getting his pictures taken by reporters. 

The Characters: Seabiscuit was an amazing horse-smart and cunning yet stubborn as a mule at times. The characters definitely grew on me as well. I guess I shouldn't call them characters but people. I felt sorrow and pain for Pollard and his injuries and sadness reading about Smith in the epilogue. The relationship between Smith, Pollard, Howard, and even Woolf was woven intricately with their paths entwining together, completing Team Seabiscuit. My favorite person is a tie up between Pollard and Smith.  This book makes it easy to forget that what happened on the page occurred in real life. Smith was an excellent horse trainer. In my mind, I dubbed him the Horse Whisperer for his ability to train even the stubbornest and rowdiest horses. He was a quiet person but extremely clever and quick witted. Pollard had tenaciousness in him that was admirable. He and Seabiscuit forged a bond together that displayed the trust between the rider and the horse. As I read this novel the people grew on me. I felt happy for their accomplishments and felt sadness and pain during their losses. The epilogue of Seabiscuit was bittersweet. I loved knowing what happened to the people and horses after their racing days were over, but some endings were filled with sorrow.

Overall, Seabiscuit was a fantastic read and I highly recommend it to animal/horse lovers. Even if you aren't a fan of nonfiction, Seabiscuit is definitely a book you should give a try if you ever find yourself in the mood for one. Don't be afraid if you don't know anything about horse racing either. I didn't know anything to begin with either, but Laura does a great job at explaining and describing the races and the jockeys, albeit sometimes I felt like it was too much information to take in at once. This is probably my favorite nonfiction book I've read. Hopefully I will get to watch the movie soon.
About Laura Hillenbrand

Laura Hillenbrand is the author of the acclaimed Seabiscuit: An American Legend, a non-fiction account of the career of the great racehorse Seabiscuit, for which she won the William Hill Sports Book of the Year in 2001. The book later became the basis of the 2003 movie Seabiscuit. Her essays have appeared in The New Yorker, Equus magazine, American Heritage, The Blood-Horse, Thoroughbred Times, The Backstretch, Turf and Sport Digest, and many other publications. Her 1998 American Heritage article on the horse Seabiscuit won the Eclipse Award for Magazine Writing.


  1. I'm not a fan of horses, but I am a fan of animals, especially dogs! But horses can be cool, too ;) I'm not a nonfiction reader either. That kind just don't appeal to me no matter how hard I try. But if a nonfiction makes you forget it's nonfiction in the first place, I think that's a sign it's a really good book.

    Faye at The Social Potato

    1. I love all animals so I was kind of glad to see that my summer read for school was a horse novel instead of a classic. I admit that I'm not a huge fan of classics, but some of them are definitely better than others. I didn't even think about reviewing this book, but after I read it I had all these things to say about it, so I went ahead and wrote one anyway. I don't really have anything to compare this to since I've probably read like one other nonfiction book in my life. But I really enjoyed it! Thanks for stopping by :)