Spring Deals Automotive HPC Best Books of the Month New-season heels nav_sap_plcc_ascpsc Stream your favorites. Amazon music Unlimited. Learn more. All-New Fire 7, starting at $49.99 Starting at $39.99 Grocery Handmade Personalized Jewelry Home and Garden Book a house cleaner for 2 or more hours on Amazon TheGrandTour TheGrandTour TheGrandTour  Echo Dot Fire tablets: Designed for entertainment Kindle Paperwhite AutoRip in CDs & Vinyl Shop now TG18SW_gno

on July 22, 2010
This review in written solely about the cover photograph. Who in their right mind cold have chosen it? I won't end go into detail. It's so obvious.
1010 comments|Was this review helpful to you? Report abuse
VINE VOICEon September 23, 2012
Horse movies, horse stories, I'm bound to be caught up by either. And I actually watched the associated movie while reading this book. And enjoyed both of course. After all, Seabiscuit is such a heartwarming story about courage and never giving up, it kind of embodies the American spirit.

Hillenbrand takes the story of Seabiscuit and turns it into a history tale that you'll be glad to enjoy. Seabiscuit of course is the little racehorse that noone thought would amount to anything, until he was turned around by three very unique men. Those men being Charles Howard, the owner, who took a handful of change and made himself into a millionaire. Tom Smith, a cowpoke turned horse trainer who didn't say much, but knew his way around horses. And Red Polland, the jockey who would connect with Seabiscuit on such a level that he couldn't help but win races. There were other supporting people of course, like Howard's wife and the other jockey George Woolf and they too played their roles in Seabiscuit's success.

Hillenbrand does a great job of telling us about the people in this book. She found quotes about them and from them and used it to really define how they were in real life. I can totally see them acting the way she says they did and when you read other accounts of Seabiscuit, it lines up. Especially Smith and his quiet manner and it was well known that Howard liked the spotlight and publicity. But then there was Seabiscuit too. We'll never know what that horse may have been thinking while racing, but I think Hillenbrand does a great job of describing his spirit and what could be going on with him. She doesn't assign any thought or speech to him of course, but the way she describes his running seems authentic and well done.

The history was well researched. The appendices and explanations at the back show that much. She spent a lot of time researching for this book and undoubtedly that's why the movie was made off of this one. She also ties all the people's and the horse's history together so that it weaves as one and isn't too jumbled around. It does get to be a little too much information in some parts and drags a bit, but this seems to only happen in the beginning of the book and it moves with a much better pace later on. I also loved the pictures she included of Seabiscuit, the other horses, and even some of the jockeys and other people in Seabiscuit's life. It really added to the book since you could see exactly what everyone looked like, albeit in black and white.

A well researched book about a remarkable animal. Seabiscuit is definitely one of my favored historical figures even if he is a horse.

Copyright 2001
326 pages

Review by M. Reynard 2012
22 comments| One person found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Report abuse
on October 25, 2014
Good writer. The author really knows her craft and writes well. The reason the book only gets 3 stars is that about a third of the way into it she lost me with excessive detail about ancillary characters. I know she did a lot of research but by showing it off with so much detail about Pollard and others she drowned the story. The story picks up about 75 pages from the end and roars to a great finish.

I recommend the book but it is a slow read until the end. Now the question is whether to read Unbroken. I am sure the author wrote it well, but the story of Japanese torture and then going back for a reunion after the War has been told before with Flyboys and some of the Burma Railway books. Do I really want to stay up at night reading another Japanese torture book?

I am hoping she has her sights on something more exciting next time as she does write well.
33 comments| One person found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Report abuse
If you think Steinbeck's fictional Joad family had a tough time during the Great Depression, read Laura Hillenbrand's "Seabiscuit" to find out what it was like to be a down-at-the-heels jockey or trainer trying to make a living from `The Sport of Kings' back in the 1930s.

Hillenbrand not only gives her reader a fresh perspective on the Depression, she also lets us into the hearts and minds of three men and one great racehorse. Before reading this book, I had the vague notion that Seabiscuit was a gelding who won a big match race against War Admiral.

Okay, I thought, so Seabiscuit got lucky. War Admiral was a triple-crown winner, and even War Admiral's sire, the immortal Man O'War lost one race.

I could not have been more wrong (for one thing, Seabiscuit was a stallion).

In some respects, Seabiscuit was like the Depression-era survivors who filled the stands to watch him: hard-bitten, tough, struggling to win in spite of bad knees and the weight that race-track stewards piled onto his back when he began to win. The bay colt started thirty-five (!) times at age two, and evidently impressed no-one as he could have been claimed for $2,500 more than once. At age three, when trainer Smith bought him for his new owner, Buick-dealer Charles Howard, he paid $7,000 for a colt whose, "... body, built low to the ground, had all the properties of a cinder block. Where Hard Tack [Seabiscuit's sire] had been tall, sleek, tapered, every line suggesting motion, his son was blunt, coarse, rectangular, stationary. He had a sad little tail, barely long enough to brush his hocks. His stubby legs were a study in unsound construction with squarish, asymmetrical `baseball glove' knees that didn't quite straighten all the way, leaving him in a permanent semicrouch."

Paging through old issues of "The Blood-Horse," I see that Seabiscuit at age three was described as `useful.'

It was not until the colt turned four that his rags-to-riches fairy tale truly began. At four and five he was one of the best handicap horses in training, although he lost the Santa Anita Handicap (the `Big Cap') twice in close finishes---and this was the one race that his owner, Charles Howard had set his heart on winning.

The fairy tale might have ended when Seabiscuit turned six---he injured his knee and was retired to stud. But his owner never gave up hope.

Read this marvelous book to see what Seabiscuit, his owner, trainer, and jockeys accomplished when the rugged, little stallion turned seven---well past the retirement age for most Thoroughbreds. Another book about the same period in horse racing that you might enjoy is Sunny Jim: The Life of America's Most Beloved Horseman, James Fitzsimmons. Sunny Jim could have been Seabiscuit's trainer--it was one of the few good 'uns he let slip through his fingers.
22 comments| 8 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Report abuse
on February 2, 2004
Where to begin? About ten pages in, I began to smell a rat. This work claims to be nonfiction, but I'm not so sure.
The style of reporting at the time was to overhype. Everyone knows this, but instead of a turning a jaundiced eye, Ms. Hillebrand decided to adopt this practice as her own. There seems to be no tidbit about Seabiscuit reported at the time that she is prepared to disbelieve. Look at how many things in the bibliography are marked "SB" -- which, she explains, is the designation she uses for newspaper clippings which have no date or source attribution. If she could corraborate these through another source, then why not list the other source? She crows, in the Acknowledgements, about finding many cases where the facts she was researching were confirmed by multiple witnesses. Someone please tell the author this is called "corraborating evidence", and it is what you rely on when writing a historical account. Not faded overhyped singleton news clippings of unknown origin, which are quoted from oh so often without the slightest bit of skepticism. (For fun, swing on over to snopes dot com and do a search for "Seabiscuit".)
There are so many little details -- facial expressions, sighs, crowd reactions -- that are "just so", obviously written to thrill rather than inform, and it's quite impossible to believe that any historical research method short of a time machine could possibly reveal them. And these tidbits are always presented in such a way as to make Seabiscuit's rise more dramatic, trainer Smith more mysterious, jockey Pollard more unlikely.
The popularity of this book and its accompanying movie have effectively clouded the waters, so we'll probably never know the true story of Seabiscuit. Ms. Hillenbrand has launched an effective campaign towards his establishment as a fairy tale, however.
44 comments| 14 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Report abuse
on November 16, 2010
I've not yet read this book, so my rating only reflect on the physical quality of the edition I purchased. The "library binding" edition does indeed have a rigid, durable binding, but in all other respects is identical to a paperback edition. The dimensions of the page are small, and the book is printed on very inexpensive paper that is likely to yellow very quickly. The binding also is so close to the printed margin that is difficult to read the beginning of each line. Save yourself some money and buy the paperback edition.
33 comments| 3 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Report abuse
on March 6, 2001
Let me say a few things up front: I have never set foot on a racetrack, I have watched the Kentucky Derby maybe twice on TV and I have little interest in jockeys, horse trainers or horses in general. For those who think this is a book about a racehorse, think again. It is a wonderful, descriptive work about the underdog, about triumph over adversity, about personality in animals and, most importantly, about a rarely discussed slice of America.
With a keen sportswriters eye toward detail as well as broader context, Ms. Hillenbrand has written a vivid description of an amazing animal, the three men around him and an era in American sports and history. Seabiscuit was a fascinating creature, not only for his deceptive power but for his playful, competitive nature. Ms. Hillenbrand helps us understand this horse as a person - a person you instinctively root for. His owner, a self-made success in the automobile industry, displays concern for the horse as if it were a child. Seabiscuit's trainer embodied the western spirit and had an uncanny bond with the horse - he was a real-life horse whisperer. Finally, the harrowing, rough and tumble life of a jockey during the 1930's is painted here with unsympathetic accuracy, as we learn about the trials of Red Pollard. Seabiscuit was the hub of these three lives and their extraordinary accomplishment on the racetrack.
The book builds toward two climaxes - the match race against War Admiral (which Ms. Hillenbrand desribes in such wonderful detail) and the ever elusive Santa Anita Handicap. Although historical, the book has a novel-like suspense that keeps the uninformed reader rapt and engrossed. This book, which describes the regional split between east and west coast race horses, really describes the potential and scrappy nature of the American west. Thank you, Ms. Hillenbrand, for such a terrific read.
44 comments| 321 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Report abuse
on April 2, 2017
As many of you know I love horses. I ride and spend time at a local stable on a regular basis. I have not, I’ll admit, never been a huge fan of horse focused fiction novels. They never seem to capture the thrill I feel when I ride or the love I feel when I care for them. Now, horse-based movies, whoa doggie, I love those. And I remember when my husband and I saw ads for Seabiscuit. My husband turned to me and said, “I suppose you have to go see that one?”

We did see Seabiscuit and he eventually bought me the DVD which came with a copy of Laura Hillenbrand’s novel, Seabiscuit: An American Legend, on which the movie was based. It’s languished on my shelves since. Then came the #ShelfLove Challenge and I thought, “I should read it at some point.” Then I thought, “I really don’t like non-fiction books and that one looks soooo long.” So I kept passing it over.

Well, it was silly of me to pass Seabiscuit: An American Legend over for so long. It is a meat and potatoes book. Hillenbrand spends a great deal of time setting up the story, getting our main characters in the right space at the right time, but once they join forces behind a scrappy horse named Seabiscuit. We got off to the races…

I’ve seen the movie, I knew how this book would end. What I didn’t anticipate were all the twists and turns to get there. The movie doesn’t delve into the lives of the jockeys (which was brutal) and the politics of horse racing. There were horrible accidents, backroom deals and a nation united behind an underdog. So while there were dry moments, I was fascinated by the history of horseracing in America and I loved learning more about a horse with a lot of heart.

Seabiscuit: An American Legend won’t be for everyone. It’s thick and at times, dense and boring. But if you thought the movie Seabiscuit was a bit lackluster, you might give the book a shot especially if you enjoy horses and are looking for a book that will give you hope during a dark time in American history.
0Comment| One person found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Report abuse
on August 15, 2013
For this reader, Hillenbrand's book comprises two parts. The first and by far the greater part is a good story of a fine race horse Seabiscuit and three men - Seabiscuit's trainer Tom Smith, his principal rider Red Pollard, and his wealthy owner Charles Howard. We follow these men and Seabiscuit through some difficult times when he was not winning races and then through some great times when he was. The personalities and characters of all are well developed so that the reader comes to know them, understand them and feel the loss when they ultimately pass on. It is apparent to the reader that Hillenbrand's efforts included a prodigious amount of research.
The second part only comprises melodramatic and/or anthropomorphic phrases scattered here and there through the book but taken together, they insult the reader's intelligence and cast doubts on the integrity of the research and writing that created the first part. These phrases are often accompanied with observations or with actions of the characters or with quotations from the characters that no one could possibly know of or verify. These had to have been invented by Hillenbrand as no one now could possibly know of them or attest to them. Here are some examples - the page numbers of the quotations are those in the Ballentine Books paperback version.

page 123 - "His left ear swung around lazily, as if he were paying attention to something in the infield. His stride slowed. His mind seemed scattered"
page 143 - "he lunged forward on the bleeding leg --- and charged on, a lurid spray of blood flying out behind him"
page 144 - "Pollard felt Seabiscuit's mouth harden down on the bit: resolution"
page 151 - "Smith saw Masked General level his eye right at War Admiral --- for the first time in his career, War Admiral hesitated"
page 167 - "He could see that the horse was fooling around, playing with Aneroid"
page 167 - Pollard is quoted as saying "Go get him, Biscuit - you broke his heart once - break it again!" and it is said of Pollard that "he crouched over the bed as if moving over his horse - his forehead was puckered in sweat"
page 178 - "Seabiscuit spun through the gap like a bullet rifling down a barrel"
page 178 - "the clockers banged their thumbs down on their stopwatches - the hands stared back at them: 44 1/2"
page 181 - "Howard looked at Seabiscuit --- "We'll try again - next time we'll win it""
page 257 - "once a horse gives Seabiscuit the old look-in-the-eye, he begins to run to parts unknown"
page 273 - "Seabiscuit was looking right at his opponent - War Admiral glared back at him, his eyes wide open"
page 273 - "Woolf felt a subtle hesitation in his opponent, a wavering - he looked at War Admiral - the colt's tongue shot out the side of his mouth - Seabiscuit had broken him"
page 313 - "He leaned toward Howard and said five words: "it's Seabiscuit, wire to wire". Howard wheeled on Smith in amazement. He jumped up, ran to the betting booth, and emptied his pockets into the clerk's hands"
page 321 - "She spotted a water wagon parked ahead, track workers perched up on top of it, and ran toward it - her dress whipped in the wind"
page 322 - "a jockey in the pack heard a deep plaintive sound rise up over the shouts --- it was Pollard, crying out a prayer"
page 323 - "for the last time in his life, Seabiscuit eased up to tease an opponent"
page 325 - "Pollard said "I got a great ride --- the greatest ride I ever got from the greatest horse that ever lived"
page 323 - Pollard is quoted as saying "I'll never throw a leg over another horse unless it's for a canter in the park"
page 339 - Smith is quoted as saying "I never dreamed the old boy would go so quickly!"

These melodramatic, anthropomorphic, and unverifiable instances are a tiny portion of the whole but they are striking because they differ so much from the greater part of the book and because they cast a doubt in the reader's mind about the integrity, accuracy and honesty of the whole. But why does this matter? Isn't every author permitted a little license, a little latitude, a bit of straying from the truth? The answer is no - not when your goal has been to set down what actually happened to a race horse and his attending humans. If the author believes a horse will hesitate due to the stare of another, can envision resolution in a horse that has no concept of such an emotion, and discern a sweaty forehead or a dress whipping in the wind when such was never noted down at the time, then how does a reader know where the line is between fact and fiction? Accordingly, I found myself constantly looking over on the internet to check on facts discussed in the book (such as Seabiscuit's overall record) as I could no longer trust Hillenbrand's statements.
0Comment|Was this review helpful to you? Report abuse
on March 8, 2013
Hillenbrand, Laura - Seabiscuit
Random House, New York

Born 5/23/1933; died 5/17/1947
Sire - Hard Tack - son of Man O War
Dam - Swing On
Grew up on Claiborne Farm, Paris, KY.
Owner - Charles Howard
Trainer - Tom Smith
Jockey - Ray "Red" Pollard

A novel of powerful personalities, and the man who recognized something in a quirky little stallion no one else wanted. The man was Tom Smith, who had grown up in the Indian Lands, and learned to read the signs of horses that he would be able to interpret so well.

In the 1935 Narragansett Stake Race, Smith saw something in the horse that no one else did, including the legendary trainer Jim Fitzsimmons, who was Seabiscuit's trainer at the time. Smith immediately called Howard back in California and told him he had found his horse, and a deal was struck.

Howard took a train East, and paid $8,000.00 for a horse he could have bought for $2,000.00 in a claiming race the month before. Seabiscuit was packed onto a train and shipped to Rosemont, CA., home of Howard's magnificent 17,000 acre ranch, and they went to work finding a rider. Smith slept with Seabiscuit all the way to Rosemont in his special car, talking to him all the way.

After some months, Ray "Red" Pollard was tasked with the job of learning all of Smith's unusual training styles, and how to communicate with "the biscuit." It didn't take long before "the Biscuit", with Pollard's coaxing and Smith's training methods, which were more than somewhat unorthodox, began to win his races - all of them.

A feud began between the former trainer, Fitzsimmons and Smith/Howard. In the West, the "biscuit" was virtually unbeatable. In the East, Fitzsimmons's "War Admiral" had won the Triple Crown, the Holy Grail of Horse Racing in 1937. Howard wanted a match race, and Fitzsimmons was playing hard to get, boasting that no horse (let alone one he couldn't get to run, and that he used to train) could beat War Admiral.

A match was finally scheduled, only to be delayed by horrendous weather, at Pimlico, in Maryland. The day of the rescheduled race (11/1/1938) between the 2 horses of legendary fame was to take place after all. The crowds filled the stands to double their capacity. There was no starting gate, as we are familiar with today - a single rope stretched between the two horses was the starting line - the finish was obvious.

Fifty thousand people packed the infield; the stands held another 70,000; outside the track were another 50 - 70,000 fans to see the "Race of the Century", as it was billed. It was broadcast nationwide; even FDR took time out of his day to listen to the race, as did Congress.

When the rope dropped, signaling the race was on, the horses were running neck and neck for almost the entire race. As the final 1/4 mile post came up, Biscuit eyeballed War Admiral once, and put on a burst of speed the likes of which no one had ever seen before, or since, the little stallion leaving War Admiral in his dust, winning the race by 4 lengths. The crowd went crazy!

The nation went crazy. He returned to California with apples,oats and carrots galore in his special boxcar, Tom Smith still sleeping by his side all the way. The Biscuit was named Horse of the Year for 1938, but there was one more prize Howard desperately wanted to win - "The Hundred Grander", at Santa Anita Racetrack which would be run in March, 1939. He proved his worth once again, and was retired from racing on April 10.

There isn't a writer today who could deliver the goods as Hillenbrand has done in this book of exceptional character development and style. Hollywood made a movie out of her script, which they absolutely ruined in the process.

I wouldn't give you 5 cents for a movie ticket, but I paid $19.95 for the book, which I'll keep as a classic on my shelves. If you have any interest in what these magnificent creatures can do, get this book - they were born to run, with the right training and a lot of patience, and run Seabiscuit did. The diminutive little horse with more heart than any other animal alive had given Howard all his trophies and became a symbol for the Nation of just what the little guy could do.
0Comment| One person found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Report abuse