All I need to be entertained are cats within ear-scratching distance and a good book . . .OK, maybe that's not ALL I need, but it's a good start.

I love to read. And I love to get recommendations for books to read.

I started Cats and a Book to share the books I read with others. Some I love, some I don't, but you may love the ones I don't, so you're welcome to post your own comments and suggestions.

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Happy reading!

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Drop Dead Healthy, by A. J. Jacobs

Drop Dead Healthy:  One Man's Humble Quest for Bodily Perfection, by A. J. Jacobs, is his most recent foray into his favorite stunt non-fiction genre. In past books, Jacobs has read the encyclopedia and lived the Bible, writing with intelligence and honesty about his experiences.  This time, Jacobs undertakes "to become as healthy as humanly possible" by focusing on different body parts and exploring the claims, fads, and the industry that has grown up to support human beings' efforts at achieving ultimate healthiness.  Or as he says, " . . . to turn my current self--a mushy, easily winded, moderately sickly blob--into the embodiment of health and fitness."  He starts with a list 53 pages long of advice he had been collecting, including the obvious like "eat leafy green vegetables" to the not-so-obvious "hum (prevents sinus infections)" to the unlikely "win an Academy Award" (because Oscar winners tended to live three years longer on average than non-winners).

Readers should be warned that this is not an advice book.  Jacobs does synthesize his own learnings from the experience at the end of the book, but he doesn't proclaim any particular path to healthiness.  What's more, some of the methods he explored may be counter to the reader's quest for ultimate good health--running barefoot and the "caveman" workout come to mind.  Not to say that these approaches may work for some people under some circumstances but just as Jacobs' writes, they're not for everyone.

What makes Jacobs' books endearing is his transparency.  Whether it is his low testosterone level (which he does manage to improve) or his relationships with his eccentric Aunt Marti (who battles cancer despite her almost obsessively healthy lifestyle) and his aging grandfather, Jacobs is honest.  His self-effacing humor and candor make his struggle for healthiness seem attainable for anyone, albeit using the methods that work best for them.  Not everyone may find working at their computer while walking on a treadmill to be practical.  But, Jacobs reported that this and other lifestyle changes made him " . . . like climbing a flight of stairs without my heart thumping like a cartoon animal in love."

Drop Dead Healthy is entertaining, and if it inspires a reader to make healthier lifestyle choices, then the book accomplishes more than it sets out to do.  Jacobs isn't a health guru and he doesn't seek to change his readers, but it would be difficult not to absorb some nugget of health wisdom.  And if that helps any reader's heart not thump "like a cartoon animal in love" then the book is a success on multiple levels.

Drop Dead Healthy was published in 2012 by Simon and Schuster.

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