In the past couple weeks I’ve read two books of non-fiction that have really stuck with me.  In fact I haven’t finished reading one of them (it’s quite long) but felt a strong need to share.  The other book is very short; could be read in a couple sittings.  And they’re totally different from one another.  Enough intro; here are the reviews.

How not to die: Discover the foods scientifically proven to prevent and reverse disease

I love this title as it’s exactly what this excellent book by Dr. Michael Greger is about.  The principle concept that Dr. Greger purports is that the most common illnesses that Americans die from can not only be prevented but reversed.  The first section of the book is divided into chapters, each of which is titled ‘How Not To Die From Heart Disease’, ‘How Not To Die From Lung Diseases’, ‘How Not To Die From Kidney Disease’, and so on.  There are fifteen of these chapters, the last of which is titled ‘How Not To Die From Iatrogenic Causes’ (look it up….quite scary).

The facts in each chapter are not anecdotal, they are based are hundreds and hundreds of studies from around the world over many years.  These studies show that most diseases can be prevented and reversed by changing our diet…simple as that.  The problem that Americans face are the drug companies who don’t want you to know it, and the processed food companies and fast food restaurants who definitely don’t want you to know it.  Study after study shows that changing to a whole food diet made up primarily of fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds, whole grains and beans, plus other foods will keep us from developing diseases and may reverse a disease if implemented in the early stages.  Studies show that most drugs we take for these diseases merely mask symptoms and most don’t do a great job (in fact for many symptoms placebos are just as effective).

The second section of the book is titled Dr. Greger’s Daily Dozen.  Again each chapter deals with a food group and cites extensive research into the benefits….it’s really fascinating. I could go on and on about this book (and I have yet to finish it!), but best to check it out for yourself.  Dr. Greger has an excellent website, Nutrition Facts that posts videos such as this.  I know changing ones diet is not that simple, let alone changing a culture’s diet.  Best I could hope for is to educate ourselves and start with some small changes that just may change the way we feel.

tribe, on homecoming and belonging by sebastian junger

is the second book.  Junger’s book also cites many research studies over many years, but his subject is not the physical health of the nation but the mental health.  In the four chapters comprising this slim book he looks into the psychology of the tribe, be it an actual tribe (as in Native American) or the ‘tribe’ created by a common bond such as war.

Modern technology and population growth has made us all look inward to fulfill many of our needs.  We don’t look to family and groups of friends or neighbors for support unless there’s a common cause.  Examples Junger studied include the way British citizens bonded during the German bombardment of London; kidnapped whites in the 18th and 19th century who wanted to live with the Native American tribes who did the kidnapping because of the sense of family and shared living that was missing in white society; and the strong bond soldiers establish through the shared experience of war.  All of these examples  are supported by numerous scholarly studies.

I believe we’ve all lived through some form of bonding from a shared experience.  Remember back to 9/11 when as a nation we came together with great nationalism. Or the outpouring of support for victims of natural disasters such as Hurricane Katrina.  Terrible events bring people together, but at the same time so do shared living situations. One such example is the kibbutz communities in Israel where people live as a collective and each member has a job that benefits the whole.

Tribe is a short book that is packed full of concepts and ideas that will make you think about your place in the world.  It’s not dry reading; the real life people and situations Junger writes of are fascinating.  Give it a read (your local library should have it…mine did) and let me know what you think.

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One thought on “Two Book Reviews (Don’t Worry, Nothing Political)

  1. Thanks Peter. While neither Kate nor I have yet read Dr Gregor’s book, she has studied the subject a lot and has slowly convinced me to adopt a lot better diet. Of course, in my case this takes some perverse turns: I’ve recently discovered “Just Cookie Do” by Hampton Creek. These are delicious vegan cookies with no animal products, no cholesterol, etc. Of course, they still have lots of sugar!

    I’ve only read a magazine article by Junger but he seems to be brilliant. His time embedded with soldiers in Afghanistan probably contributed to thinking about the book. Certainly one of the biggest bonding experiences I’ve had was basic training in the Army. I’m sure that pales in comparison to time spent in combat.

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