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Natural Born Heroes: How a Daring Band of Misfits Mastered the Lost Secrets of Strength and Endurance

3.83  ·  Rating details ·  6,807 ratings  ·  669 reviews
The best-selling author of Born to Run now travels to the Mediterranean, where he discovers that the secrets of ancient Greek heroes are still alive and well on the island of Crete, and ready to be unleashed in the muscles and minds of casual athletes and aspiring heroes everywhere. 

After running an ultramarathon through the Copper Canyons of Mexico, Christopher McDougall
Hardcover, 337 pages
Published April 14th 2015 by Knopf (first published September 5th 2013)
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Zachary yes, drop what you're doing now and go pick it up. It's amazing, inspiring, entertaining, and useful.

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La Petite Américaine
May 05, 2015 rated it it was ok
Shelves: auto-bios-etc, ugh
Since I consider Chris McDougall (like Laura Hillenbrand and Jon Krakauer) to be one of the few American writers actually worth a damn, I'm going to give him a free pass on Goodreads. I won't rip his new book apart, although the temptation is there.

McDougall's first book, Born to Run, had a linear and epic narrative reminiscent of the Odyssey, a rich cast of real life "characters" that the author followed throughout, and a wild central theme that was legitimized by academic studies, evolutionar
Apr 01, 2015 rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction
The Hook - Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen is one of my all time favorite reads so when I heard Christopher McDougall was publishing a new book I had to read it.

The Line”A hero’s one crack at immortality was to be remembered as a champion and champions don’t die dumb.”

The Sinker – There are some similar themes shared by Born to Run and Natural Born Heroes: How a Daring Band of Misfits Mastered the Lost Secrets of Strength and Enduran
May 08, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2015-reads
Okay, I’ve started and deleted this book review several times. Why? Definitely not because I did not like the book … I enjoyed it very much. It’s just that the book is so crammed full of different things I have no idea how to offer a book description.

1. It’s about WWII and how the resistance fighters on Crete foiled Hitler’s attempt to capture the island in “24 hours”.
2. It’s about fitness gurus past and present.
3. It’s about how a rag-tag group of villagers; some British intellectuals and Aussi
Ron S
Jan 18, 2015 rated it really liked it
The author of Born to Run explores the meaning of natural fitness and heroism through the kidnapping of a German general during the occupation of Crete in WWII. Compared to his last book, this one seems to wander a bit and feels a bit rushed but Born to Run is a hard act to follow. While I don't see myself buying this for friends and urging people to read it as I did with his last work, it's nonetheless still a great read that combines myth, history, science and current fitness trends.
Mark Lofquist
Jul 07, 2015 rated it liked it
i hate to say it... but 'meh'. in the acknowledgments, Chris explains 'it's really two books in one.' but i don't think they go together.

i'm a tiny bit of a snob for saying this, but i knew all the information on fat burning, endurance adaptation, etc. the WW2 story makes the other half, and it's interesting but really largely conjecture.

too much hyperbole, such as: 'humans are the greatest endurance animals and have covered more ground than any other animal'.

of course, that's unless you coun
George Karaminas
I LOVED Natural Born Heroes, what a unique and exceptional book! Easily one of the best books I've read in a long time. Especially as a Greek and natural movement enthusiast, this book really inspired me! McDougall weaves together the 2 topics in an amazing story that actually happened during WWII! I have a newfound and deep respect for Cretans – they are truly exceptional people. I also loved being led down so many rabbit holes and searching Wikipedia and Google to learn even more of the back s ...more
Laurie Anderson
Apr 02, 2017 rated it liked it
I so wanted to love this. The combination of topics: endurance training, physiology, healthy eating, Greek mythology, Parkour, heroes, and WWII in the Grecian Islands form a bizarre Venn diagram of Stuff I Read About all the time. And I really liked McDougall's last book.

But to successfully weave together a narrative from such disparate threads, you need a solid frame. A story-telling scaffold. Sadly, this lacks one. The bouncing back and forth between all the topics - as incredibly fascinating
Steve Greenleaf
What do the following have in common?

· LeBron James

· Brazil

· Arthur Evans

· Patrick Leigh Fermor

· Tom Myers

· Fairbairn & Sykes

· Shanghai

· Pankration (Greek)

· George Hebert

· Norina Bentzel

· Xan Fielding

· The Minotaur

· Wing Chun

· Steve Maxwell

· The Arizona desert

· John Pendleberry

· a glass eye

· Fritz Schubert, a/k/a “the Turk”

· Erwan Le Corre

· Friedrich-Wilhelm Müller

· Dr. Phil Maffetone

· Dwight Howard

· William Banting

· Hitler

· Churchill

· Crete

If you had a difficult time discerning connections, don
Jan 26, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2016-books
This book is parkour in words and by that I mean it is all over the place. We go here we go there and we are up and then we are down. It is a dizzying amount of information thrown at you from many a direction. Having said that there were times that this book had a lot of energy, kind of like me on too much sugar, and I enjoyed that part of the wild ride. He has a lot of enthusiasm and I think it came through. I think I actually burned calories while reading some of this book.
If you are reading t
Tara Scott
Apr 22, 2015 rated it did not like it
If you are looking for anything remotely comparable to Born to Run, find another book. This was gut wrenchingly boring and I barely made it through. There was nothing I liked about this book. I couldn't follow the story, it didn't seem linear. What a disappointment.
Jul 01, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2015
I loved this- so much that I am desperate to get my hands on Paddy's letters to Xan. And I want to read most of the books in the cited pages at the end.

The motto that we are to be useful has really stuck with me too. I recommend this book to everyone who has even a small interest in the human body and what it can do under duress- but from an ethnographic viewpoint with some biology rather than a study of adernaline and endorphins. Seriously, it is so fun and interesting.
Shane Parrish
Nov 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book explores multiple disciplines to uncover the secrets behind human endurance. McDougall's investigation into endurance connects World War II history, ancient Greek history, nutrition, genetics, strength and conditioning science, and even parkour. "On the treacherous mountains of Crete, a motley band of World War II Resistance fighters — an artist, a shepherd, and a poet — abducted a German commander from the heart of the Axis occupation. To understand how, McDougall retraces their steps ...more
Oct 09, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I wasn't really sure what I was getting myself into when I started this book, but truly: I am so glad I read this.

It's chock full of history, adventure, daring-do, kidnappings, escapes, tragedy, triumph!, and along the way I learned more about the exercise types I want to pursue and the diet that will help me get there.

Yeah, I know what that sounds like. But McDougall dug into a story about how rebels on Crete during the second World War accomplished what they accomplished, and how we as a peopl
Christopher Farrell
Feb 05, 2015 rated it it was ok
To be honest this book wasn't quite what I was expecting. I was looking more for Chris' experience in bringing the type of training he describes to the real world, and instead we spend a ton of time wandering around Crete in World War 2 - which has its good parts, but not as deep as his other work. Read Born to Run instead.
Rick Wilson
May 13, 2020 rated it liked it
It's not bad. It's not Born to Run either. Rough strokes are that it's about human ability and how removed we are from a natural existence.

McDougall tells a good story, and it's an enjoyable read, but it seems like he took the template from Born to Run and transposed it onto another idea. There are plenty of entertaining bits. Plenty of action. But the book seems to bounce from topic to topic like one of the parkour runners described. I think part of the flatness is from that over reach on topic
Darren Shaw
Oct 29, 2018 rated it liked it
Wow. Natural Born Heroes is a bit of a mess, but in as good a way as I can imagine. As other reviewers have mentioned, there is a lot going on here: exercise physiology, nutrition, ancient and modern history, politics, war, martial arts, and a few other things.

These ideas don’t flow together seamlessly by any stretch. It’s messy and cluttered and at times, forced. But dangit, McDougall just seems to be having such a great time telling it that I found myself engaged anyway. He’s so darned excite
Payton B
Mar 06, 2018 rated it it was ok
I am very conflicted on what rating to give this book. There are small parts that are very interesting and informative. However, I felt like this book was all over the place. At times it is talking about a World War 2 story, then it switches to workouts, then to diets, and then to the authors personal story of tracing the footsteps of those in the World War 2 part. Overall, I just was not a huge fan of how the book flowed but did find some of the information very helpful and interesting.
Tara - Running 'n' Reading
The bottom line is that my expectations for the book were just too high. I really enjoyed Born to Run; it had a great story, entertaining and captivating characters and, well, let's be's about running. I completely bought in to the whole thing: I wanted to make some kind of crazy chia seed mixture, I thought more about my running form and the shoes I wear, and I decided that an ultramarathon sounded like fun; none of this lasted, thankfully, but I was that taken with the book.

Nov 16, 2015 rated it liked it
McDougall is also the author of Born to Run which I read and enjoyed. This is very similar. McDougall likes to find a remote style of some culture and somehow try to make us think that culture should be universal. The only reason it isn't is because of some major corporation that has sold us all a lie, than he finds some remote "Dr" of something to prove his point. In his first book it was Nike and as a result we all run with knee issues, however, those that are running minimalist, have foot and ...more
Robert Case
Jun 06, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: self-help, history
A good book with a lengthy and over stated title. So many things about it work well. It's a mesmerizing travelogue to 1940's Crete and a fascinating piece of World War II history. And, there's an interesting backstory...or is it philosophy...about the nature of the ideal hero. For that, the author draws from the legends of Greek mythology, with references to both gods and ordinary mortals like Daedalus and Odysseus. But, the narrative insists on time traveling to places like a 21st century Brazi ...more
Alex Lee
May 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is a very strange book in how it interweaves so many different topics.

I heard much of the audio book before reading this. In many ways the audio book is better even if it feels frustratingly slow sometimes. The readers voice adds a timber to the expression that isn't present in the book.

Somehow, McDougall is able to cohere a book out of this, a theme that is both real life fitting and enduring about what it means to be a human fit to be a member of a community. He manages to make a book abo
Angie Libert
Aug 14, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I absolutely LOVED this book! A mix of WWII history, natural movement, and hero prototyping made this book an absolute delight to read.
Jun 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
Good, but really big shoes to fill after born to rum
andrew chapello
Oct 13, 2017 rated it liked it
Two thirds of this book were very intriguing. The story consists of three parallel narratives:

- World War II in Crete
- The evolutionary history of humans, of natural movements and diets long lost
- Chris McDougall's personal journey of discovery in natural movement and diet

I found the first two story lines quite intriguing, and the third to be wholly uninteresting and self-serving by the author.

However, the first two story lines stand well on their own, and would have made for a very intriguing f
Jun 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I really enjoyed this book though there were a lot of themes covered, so at times it was hard to stay attentive to what was happening on Crete during WWII. That said, I did enjoy the extra content covering things like Fat as Fuel and other sports nutrition, history of Crete, Greek mythology, parkour, natural movement and more. All of the themes are woven throughout the story about a group that kidnaps a German General and attempts to smuggle him off the island while "The Butcher" attempts to cap ...more
Dec 27, 2017 rated it liked it
I enjoyed McDougall's previous book 'Born to Run'. While this book provides interesting theories and good info about endurance training, the interconnecting story of WW II espionage on the island of Crete doesn't come together.
Kevin Archer
Sep 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Interesting, some of the reviews of this book. I think I liked it so much because I was very interested in the topics brought out and described. The story was well constructed and brought in a lot of varied themes - from the Maffetone Method, to Ancient Greek mythology, to Keto style diets, to a stealthy abduction of a German general, to Cretan resistance fighters, to “Paddy” Fermor (who is worthy of the several books written about him alone). I recommend this book for those who like adventure, ...more
After reading Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen I was excited to find this one. It's even neater that I am going to the country where Born to Run talks about the San Tribe that he researched. And even more neater that I have the chance to go in the Fall near the country where this book takes place. We'll have to see. But they sure are signs. Something unique that the author does with his books is he tells a story along side his research or ...more
Geneva Woodmansee
Nov 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is a book that sort of feels like it is all over the place - history, geography, physiology, nutrition, movement. And for all of that, I really enjoyed it. It's a book that I feel simultaneously skeptical about and think to myself, "Do I need to completely change my life?"
Wendy Wagner
May 22, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, health
While some of McDougall's points about exercise and nutrition felt stretched a bit thin, the story of the British special ops and Cretan resistance fighters was absolutely riveting!
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Red Readers Runners: * Nacidos para ser Heroes. Noviembre - Diciembre 2015 12 7 Feb 06, 2016 07:11AM  

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Christopher McDougall is an American author and journalist best known for his 2009 best-selling book Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen. He has also written for Esquire, The New York Times Magazine, Outside, Men's Journal, and New York, and was a contributing editor for Men's Health.

McDougall is a 1985 graduate of Harvard University. He spent

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“Because that’s the ugly truth about heroism: the tests don’t start when you’re ready or stop when you’re tired.” 4 likes
“The art of the hero wasn’t about being brave; it was about being so competent that bravery wasn’t an issue.” 3 likes
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