Category Archives: Non-fiction

The Paleo Solution

The Paleo SolutionAt the end of July, I read The Paleo Solution by Robb Wolf, one of the world’s leading experts on the Paleo/Primal/Caveman “diet”. (I put that in quotes because it’s more like a way of eating for life.) I’ve been interested in health/nutrition/fitness since I was a kid and have read books and magazines on those subjects, but the information is usually the same and pretty much follows the USDA’s Food Pyramid guidelines.

Most of the information in Wolf’s book was pretty revelatory to me. Some things, such as the importance of eating fresh, local food in season when possible and eating grass-fed meat rather than corn-fed meat and wild over farmed fish, I’d been informed about through Michael Pollan’s books and the documentary Food, Inc. (all highly recommended, by the way). I was extremely intrigued by what I was reading in The Paleo Solution. Namely, that grains, legumes and dairy are inflammatory, interfere with nutrient absorption and eventually are the culprits that lead to modern diseases such as Type II diabetes, cancer, heart disease and auto-immune diseases, among other conditions.

The “diet” itself is based on emulating how our Paleolithic ancestors ate for hundreds of thousands

Author Robb Wolf

of years. It makes the most basic kind of sense, really, and Wolf effectively gets that across. The advent of agriculture (what UCLA evolutionary biologist Jared Diamond called the “worst mistake in the history of the human race”) only came about 10,000 years ago, a time period that experts say has not been sufficient for our bodies to adapt and evolve to overcome the detrimental effects of grains, dairy and the unnatural abundance of sugar, trans-fats and refined carbs in our modern diet.

I can’t stress how much I recommend this book and this way of eating. I’ve been striving to stick to it and have already experienced benefits and I’m looking forward to experiencing many more. This is one of those rare books that I’d put in the “life-changing” category. It contains so much invaluable information, which can also be found at Robb Wolf’s website.

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A Walk in the Woods

Recently, I finished reading Bill Bryson‘s A Walk in the Woods. I had started reading it right  after Christmas and eventually got distracted by other books. But I took it with me on a 6-day backpacking/camping trek through the Grand Canyon because I thought it was appropriate. Ok, so the Grand Canyon is different terrain than the Appalachian Trail, but it was appropriate enough.

Bill Bryson, an American, spent 20 years in England before moving to New Hampshire with his family. In order to reacquaint himself with his native land, he decided to hike the entire Appalachian Trail, which spans from Georgia all the way to Maine. The book details his ensuing adventures and tribulations.

Bill Brysonis obviously a writer who will make you start giggling like a maniac when you’re reading by yourself in a

Bill Bryson

Author Bill Bryson

coffee shop, and you’ll try to keep your mouth closed, but the laughter will splutter through anyway. My mother was reading the same book in the Grand Canyon, and she started laughing a number of times while reading in our tent. What makes A Walk in the Woods especially funny is the fact that neither Bryson nor his hilarious sidekick Katz is a natural born hiker or anything close to an athlete. The contradictions, such as fueling a journey through the wilderness with Little Debbie cakes and Snickers bars, are so spot-on American.

And besides being funny, A Walk in the Woods is quite informative as well. I knew next to nothing about the Appalachian Trail when I first picked up the book and thumbed through it, but I learned a lot and felt pretty darn inspired and protective of the AT by the end of it. Bryson really makes a plea for preserving the Appalachian Trail and the vision that led to its creation. It really is magnificent. In fact, I almost felt like climbing out of the Grand Canyon and trekking on over to the Appalachian Trail.

All in all, this is an enjoyable, informative, and rather quick read that will instill patriotism and perhaps get more people outside.

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The Year of Magical Thinking

Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking is quite the opposite of what I expected from the title. It details a year in her personal life, and what a year. After her only child, Quintana is hospitalized with the flu (which becomes pneumonia, which becomes septic shock), her husband of 40 years, writer John Gregory Dunne, dies of cardiac arrest at their dining table, shortly after they had gone to visit Quintana in the hospital.

Throughout the book, Didion gives readers a glimpse into her head during this time; she elucidates her stages of grief and mourning. During the time she is writing, she is still trying to understand them herself, still trying to bring her husband back to life. Hence, her “magical thinking”. She is reluctant to give away his shoes and clothes, in case he should somehow return.

The intellectual Didion discovers that grief causes the mind to play tricks; she discovers how shallow sanity is.

After reading the jacket cover, I began the book expecting it to be pretty depressing. But Didion really did aJoan Didion, John Gregory Dunne and Quintana beautiful job of trying to make sense of death and sudden misfortune while slipping back through the decades to certain poignant moments of the life she and her husband, and their daughter, shared together. Forty years is a long time to be married. I don’t know what that’s like, but Didion’s reminiscences underscore just how close you become to a person after 40 years, how much a part of her Dunne had become.

I was especially struck by how honest and open Didion is in her accounts. She really doesn’t hide behind anything; her mourning experience, simultaneously unique and standard, is raw and self-medicating.

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