Thursday, September 1, 2011

First, What Are Reading? Volume 13, September 2011

Here are my answers to the four questions I ask on the first of each month:
first, what are you reading?
what do you like best about it?
what do you like least?
what's next on your list to read? 

As always, I hope you'll consider your current reads on your blog and/or sharing here in the comments or on Facebook.  Happy reading!

What are you reading?  

Get Real: What Kind of World Are You Buying? By Mara Rockliff.  This book is about responsible buying and consumerism. 

Good Calories/Bad Calories by Gary Taubes.

What do you like best about them?

Getting Real is very eye-opening in its discussion of where things come from. I like best that it challenges kids to not think as consumers but as people.  The book helps kids realize that they hold enormous power in their buying power, and also that they are influenced by the ads they see, regardless of what they think.   I gave it to my 13-year-old daughter after I read it, and told her that I didn’t agree with everything in the book.  She agreed that she didn’t like everything about it, but especially thought that she was more immune to advertisements than others.  I had to laugh at that, and we had a good discussion about trying to remain conscious about the lure of consumerism.

I think that’s one of the best take-away points.  You are influenced by the culture around you.  Realizing it and accepting it will help you be a savvier consumer, and overall a better person.  That’s not just true about consumerism, but also media we consume.  If you think you can watch or read whatever is around and think it has no effect on you, you’re wrong.

I’m not sure what I like about Good Calories/Bad Calories.  He is good and award-winning science writer, but it’s a science and nutrition book I found hard to get through.

What do you like least about them?

Getting Real is a little, no, a lot, on the frankly polemic side against any sort of non-local business, whether it’s Wal-Mart, Starbucks  or McDonalds. I find those kind of attacks that shed more heat than light, and disregard the strides these companies have made.  I will admit, of course, that it’s because of the strident protests by people like Rockliff.   What I find annoying about Rockliff’s approach is that it’s kind of an either/or, rather than a both.

For instance, I can find much more, and better quality, organic produce, at our closest Wal-Mart than I can at our local grocery store.  I also can find that at our local farmer’s market, which I do in the summer, but I am so grateful to have the source of great healthful produce (and inexpensive other groceries) year-round from Wal-Mart.    And while my kids dislike McDonald’s in general (except for the breakfasts), I enjoy the oatmeal and the salads and enjoy having those healthful options when traveling or needing a drive-through.

I just don’t buy the notion that all big business is bad, just like I don’t buy the notion that big government is bad.  I’m glad that there are McDonalds, Starbucks and Wal-Marts, and I’m glad there are national parks, the military, and lots of other things in federal government.  I know both those “biggies” can improve, but Getting Real seems to think we’d be better off without big business, instead of trying to improve them, in the same way some more radical libertarians want to do away with the federal government.   Both those are too extreme for me.

Good Calories, Bad Calories is frustrating because there’s essentially no conclusion, other than the argument it makes that a low-fat, high carbohydrate diet is not good fit for human consumption.  More troubling, I find, is Taubes apparent claim that the only way to live healthy, long and trim, is with essentially a no-carbohydrate diet.  He claims that people who eat only meat suffer no ill effects.  Some of the arguments in the book just made my head spin.  So if eating only meat and high-protein, high-fat foods is the only way to go, what do you do when it’s your birthday?  No birthday cake?  No vegetables?  Strange.

Reading this gave me a kind of reverse of déjà vu from reading The China Study several years back, a book that makes an equally dense and impassioned, well-documented argument that the only way to live healthy, trim and long is through a vegan diet.   I’d like to get these two authors in a room to duke it out.

My problem with both of those nutrition exposes (not sure how to get the accent there, I mean the noun, not the verb) is a tendency to over-dramatize.   Yes, clearly, the low-fat, refined carbohydrate diet is not healthy, but I thought we all know that by now.  By the same token, few people will be able to stay on either a no-carbohydrate or completely vegan diet forever, regardless of how healthy.

Much more interesting, but only occasionally referenced, was the notion that overweight and obese people do not necessarily overeat, but may have a barely perceptible hormone imbalance.  That would be interesting to explore or solve.

Finally, I just found it ridiculous that Taubes dismisses exercise as a way to manage weight and stay healthy.   I’m not going to even start on that.

What’s next on your list to read?

I’ve actually just finished The Wilder Life:  My Adventures in the Lost World of Little House on the Prairie by Wendy McClure, and I LOVED it, but I want to wait to next month to write about it.  It’s that good.  Stay tuned.

I’ve also downloaded for the Kindle App some Georgette Heyer books, written in the mid-20th century.  They’re kind of romance/mystery/madcap books for people who love Jane Austen.  I learned from Austenblog earlier this month that there was an e-book sale, so I grabbed a couple of titles I have not yet read.    Unfortunately, I have not had much free “fun reading” time, but having these great Heyer books makes me want to find some time.

So, what are you reading?  Any books to add to my growing stacks?

1 comment:

  1. I just finished Elizabeth Elliot's Passion and Purity! This was a re-read from my pre-marriage days. It was so uplifting! I'm reading a lot of chasity/virtue/purity books these days as I have a tween in this house and more to come. :)