Gunter Grass

Heroes on the Road

What does a Hero read when covering the biggest cycling event of the year in one of the most beautiful countries in Europe? Answering this question is the task that I, Intern Hannah, was given this week.

Several Heroes are making the trip from our headquarters in the Windy City all the way across the Atlantic to get an intimate view of that most-watched peloton. They’ll be bringing you heroic tour coverage direct from the source, and we here at headquarters wanted to give them something to chew on as they traverse the highways and byways of Europe. For Hero enjoyment and edification, we present:

Guns, Germs, and Steel; the Fates of Human Societies, by Jared Diamond

As our Heroes head into one of the great bastions of western society, I thought it might be good to spend some time thinking deeply about the ebb and flow of history. What has brought us to a day where men hurl themselves across France on thin carbon contraptions wearing tight synthetic clothing? These are the sorts of profound questions that should preface any worthwhile endeavor.

Peeling the Onion, by Günter Grass

Cycling has known more than it’s share of scandal, and this author can relate to that. (And how! You don’t get much more scandalous than the furor over a beloved author revealing he was in Hitler’s Waffen SS at age 17.) As the Heroes are contemplating issues of personal integrity and international politics, Grass’ unique perspective, inherent honesty, and linguistic elegance will surely help inform the conversation. His ruminations on the past, on personal guilt, and on the great complexities of the human nature are but a small part of why this book made the list.

Abe Lincoln in Illinois, Robert E. Sherwood

A play written in 1937, this work about our state’s most beloved former lawyer will help keep our heroes company while they sojourn in foreign lands. As they follow the path of ‘ol Abe from a simple farmer’s son in rural Illinois, through his years as a lawyer in Springfield, and ultimately to the Presidency, they’ll remember that life, (like a tour stage) has many ups and downs. But ultimately some men are destined to be great, and they will work towards that glory through all obstacles they encounter.

(Bonus reason: Heather Hero originally hails from the UK; this short work will give her the chance to learn a little more about the state in which she now resides, and it’s most frequently invoked former resident. Er, President.)

Markings, by Dag Hammarskjöld, translated by Leif Sjöberg & W. H. Auden

So far in this reading list, Scandinavia has been woefully under-represented. Coming in to save the day is Dag Hammarskjöld, a former Secretary-General of the United Nations, and a statesman of noteworthy legacy. In his book Markings, he explores themes of faith and devotion to the greater good. Aside from being just simply a beautiful book (inside and out), this work will give our Heroes food for thought as they witness the great teamwork that the Tour exemplifies. A journey undertaken for the good of others, losing yourself in the goal of another’s good… I think there are a few cyclists in this Tour who can relate to that.