The Art of Racing in the Rain

The Art of Racing in the Rain is one of the best pieces of literature I have ever read. At first glance, it looks like a novel with a superficial gimmick, (just like so many others), and the book jacket even makes it seem a little that way. After several chapters, however, this book becomes incredibly deep. It is really the most philosophical, thought provoking and deeply touching book I have read for many years, and I cannot hesitate to give it the highest recommendation to any reader.

This is not a book of epic length or scope, but rather a complete and beautiful journey, from the beginning to the end of the life of a dog. The seeming gimmick is that the dog, Enzo, serves as our narrator, and he is endowed with a near-human capacity for thought. However, Enzo is not a trite character, making predicable jokes about humanity. Alright - maybe a few moments are predictable near the beginning of the book, but in truth Enzo is a beautiful character, full of spirit and humor and independence, and above all else the ability to connect with any reader (or at least with me) and inspire them in ways they never expected.

My wonderful, wonderful girlfriend has always recommended the best books to me, and this was one from her. Over the last couple days I read about a third of the book, or maybe almost half, and then tonight before going to bed I read the entire remainder, unable to stop or sleep or think about anything else. The plot of the book is incredibly engrossing, and I felt I could intimately relate to every level of depth and theme within the story.

The biggest testament to that fact is that much of the book is about car racing. (Although the title first made me think of dog and master racing through a park, it's foremost about cars.) I have never been nor ever will be genuinely interested in car racing, and yet I never felt my involvement in the story lessen for a moment, even when the writing turned to the racetrack. Every chapter had something I could connect with.

I certainly won't name all the themes in the book, (I'll let you discover those yourself), but I will say that I realized as I was reading and afterward that the ideas of The Art of Racing in the Rain are closely linked to many other books I've read. I was reminded of mysteries and courtroom dramas, but also Steppenwolf by Hermann Hesse, one of my favorites, and the book The Judas Tree. Different ideas are constantly broached, but never in a shallow fashion, and when certain ideas are returned to, nothing is ever tedious.

Then there is Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, a classic philosophical novel which I read back in high school and from which I'm sure The Art of Racing in the Rain takes its title's inspiration. Unlike Zen, however, Racing in the Rain pursues a vigorously humanistic and story-based philosophy, free of the heavy and clouded jargon that only scholars with Ph.D's are fully trained to understand. There is no great effort required on the reader's part to take up The Art of Racing in the Rain - merely a willingness to be taken on a beautiful journey.

The moment I finished the book, I cried a few laughs of joy and sadness, and let out a tearless sob of emotion. This sort of book restores in me a faith in the importance of literature for humanity.