The Underdog by Joshua Davis is an odd yet ultimately endearing book. It tells the story of Josh Davis, a “jobless 129-lb data entry clerk.” Josh is like most of us, at least at one point or another in our lives, in that he thinks he is destined for great things. His beauty queen mother installed this in him from a young age. The problem is that Josh is not talented in any of the traditional physical sports that provide a path to youthful fame or achievement. Unlike most of us, however, Josh doesn’t give up so easily.
The book describes the lengths Josh goes to in order to achieve something that will define his life and set him on a clear path to success. He tries arm wrestling, bull fighting, Sumo wrestling, retro running (running backward), and extreme sauna competitions. Josh doesn’t win any of these competitions, but his good nature and determination endear him to people all over the world. Interestingly, by pushing himself in these weird events he also begins to understand himself better and to see what is truly important: his wife and family.
In the end, Josh finds work as a writer for Wired magazine and manages to settle down and fulfill his wife Tara’s three simple requests for their life together: “direct sunlight, a dining room, and a bathtub. ” The story of Josh’s journey is a fascinating glimpse into the quirky part of America that seeks to push the boundaries wherever they find them. It is at turns weird, laugh out loud funny, and endearing in its honesty. I found it an enjoyable and entertaining read.