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Books to Inspire a Kentucky Derby Mood

10 Books to Inspire a Kentucky Derby Mood


 
sportofkingsTHE SPORT OF KINGS
C.E. Morgan
“We are Kentuckians first and Virginians second and Christian third,” Henry Forge tells his young daughter. The Forges are more than a family, and they are more than horse breeders. They are a legacy of true-blue blood running back 250 years. Henrietta Forge is no ordinary Southern girl, just as Hellsmouth is no ordinary racehorse, both bred for greatness and born into destinies they cannot control. Likewise, Allmon is an extraordinary groom who pulls himself from poverty only by suffering exceptional loss. Henry, Allmon and Henrietta carry the heavy burdens of the generations before them; their blood binds them to this landscape, and their futures to the fate of one horse. This Southern Gothic is a great American novel—wide in scope and alive with the ghosts that haunt our nation. The writing is sure, evocative without being overbearing. The story and characters are unforgettable. –review by Becky

 
americanpharoahAMERICAN PHARAOH
Joe Drape
American Pharaoh made history in 2015 by winning the Triple Crown Title, the first racehorse to do so since 1978.The untold story of American Pharaoh’s rise to success and fame is one of amazing horsemanship and unbelievable controversy. The horse’s owner, jockey, and trainer carry different burdens, from accusations of poor business practices and legal entanglements, to overcoming a fear of horses, to controversial medication violations. Beginning with American Pharoah’s modest showing at his first maiden race in 2014, New York Times sportswriter Joe Drape recounts the thoroughbred’s racing career and unfurls a tale “that transcends athletics, a story of adolescence and small-town life” (Publishers Weekly), and all the corruption, illegal gambling, and secretive business practices that can flourish in the shadows of greatness.

 
leanonpeteLEAN ON PETE
Willy Vlautin
What do a basically orphaned teen and an aging thoroughbred have in common? Both are largely forgotten by society and left to fend for themselves. Charley Thompson is 15-years-old when he meets Pete, an thoroughbred past his prime, behind the Portland Meadows racetrack. The two forge an unlikely bond that carries them across the American landscape. This is a tough but tender story of a boy, his horse, and a largely unforgiving world. This novel is a store favorite and winner of the Oregon Book Award.

 
seabiscuitSEABISCUIT
Laura Hillenbrand
This riveting narrative, a NYT bestseller and now a major motion picture, captivated the nation and continues to enthrall readers. Underdog racehorse Seabiscuit surprised the racing world with an unprecedented win in 1938, transforming this formerly injured horse into an icon. Hillenbrand, an avid horsewoman and efficianato who spent most of her journalistic career writing about horses and racing, weaves the narratives of an unlikely owner, an uncommon jockey, and one very special horse into a story that is both transformative and historically important.

 
circlingthesunCIRCLING THE SUN
Paula McLain
Beryl Markham was a writer and British-born Kenyan known for her pilot skills and unconventional lifestyle. Markham, the first woman to fly across the Atlantic from the east to west, was an unconventional woman and a pilot, but her first love was horses. As a child, abandoned by her mother and brother, only Beryl stayed with her father in the largely unknown land, training horses. McLain attempts to bring Markham to life in this watered-down, love-centric version of her life. The novel is fun, and digs a little into the world of horseracing in Kenya in the 20th century.

 
lordofmisruleLORD OF MISRULE
Jaimy Gordon
A brilliant novel that captures the dusty, dark, and beautiful world of small-time horse racing, where trainers, jockeys, grooms and grifters vie for what little luck is offered at a run-down West Virginia track. Tommy Hansel has a plan: run four horses, all better than they look on paper, at long odds at Indian Mound Downs, then grab the purseor—cash a bet—and run before anyone is the wiser. At his side is Maggie Koderer, who finds herself powerfully drawn to the gorgeous, used up animals of the cheap track. She also lands in the cross-hairs of leading trainer Joe Dale Bigg. But as news of Tommy’s plan spreads, from veteran groom Medicine Ed, to loan shark Two-Tie, to Kidstuff the blacksmith, it is Maggie, not Tommy or the handlers of legendary stakes horse Lord of Misrule, who will find what’s valuable in a world where everything has a price. – publisher marketing

 
yearattheracesYEAR AT THE RACES
Jane Smiley
Pulitzer Prize-winning author Jane Smiley gallops into a realm she knows well in this memoir about her lifelong love of horses. Smiley draws upon her firsthand knowledge of horses, as well as the wisdom of trainers, vets, jockeys, and even a real-life horse whisperer, to examine the horse on all levels practical, theoretical, and emotional. She shares not only cute stories about her own horses, but also fascinating and original insights into horse and human behavior. To all this she adds an element of drama and suspense as two of her own horses begin their careers at the racetrack. A Year at the Races is charming, funny, and a bit outrageous: a candid exploration of the abiding bond between humans and horses, told with panache, intelligence, and humor. – publisher marketing

 
blackbeautyBLACK BEAUTY
Anna Sewell
Possibly the most well-known and beloved classic of horsemanship, Black Beauty lives in the minds and hearts of generations of readers. Born in a beautiful meadow, Black Beauty first knows gentle humans. Life carries him far from home to the stables of a gentleman, and then to the grueling work of a cabhorse. Where will life carry him next, and who can he trust? This is one classic that will never go out of style.

 
blackstallionBLACK STALLION
Walter Farley
When 17-year-old Alec Rasmay frees a wild black stallion during a shipwreck at sea, boy and horse are stranded on a deserted island. Alec spends his days earning the stallion’s trust and keeping them both alive. Once rescued, boy and horse turn to the tracks where they make an unlikely name for themselves. This is another classic tale of horsemanship and friendship that will have readers of all ages cheering.

 
nationalvelvetNATIONAL VELVET
Enid Bagnold
A butcher’s daughter in a small Sussex town ends her nightly prayers with “Oh, God, give me horses, give me horses! Let me be the best rider in England!” The answer to 14-year-old Velvet Brown’s plea materializes in the form of an unwanted piebald, raffled off in a village lottery, who turns out to be adept at jumping fences exactly the sort of horse that could win the world’s most famous steeplechase, the Grand National. Richly atmospheric of rural life in England between the World Wars, National Velvet has enchanted generations of readers since its 1935 debut. The heroine’s grit and determination, backed by the support of her eccentric and loving family, offer an inspiring example of the struggles and rewards of following a dream.
publisher marketing