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VITAMANIA

OUR OBSESSIVE QUEST FOR NUTRITIONAL PERFECTION

Though Price doesn’t provide much new information, the reading is easy and the message is clear and significant.

A catchy title that captures our obsession with vitamins and our belief that getting plenty of them will ensure our good health.

However, freelance journalist Price has produced a book much broader in scope than the title indicates. The author provides a history of the discovery of vitamins (the word was not even coined until 1912) and of the finding that certain diseases—e.g., scurvy, pellagra and rickets—are caused by vitamin deficiencies. She also makes clear that there is still much uncertainty about what these chemical entities actually do and how much of them our bodies require. The larger story, however, is about the thousands of dietary supplements that are widely marketed even though very little is known about them. Public interest and confidence in vitamins has led to a similar relationship with supplements of all kinds; according to the author, there are some 85,000 different dietary supplements on the market. Price’s research into the regulation of dietary supplements reveals the forces that created the present situation: Why there is no FDA approval process for supplements, and why they do not need to be tested for safety or efficacy. Consequently, it is nearly impossible for consumers to identify high-quality supplements. So, how does one stay healthy in the midst of all this uncertainty? Price’s answer is simple: Eat fruits and vegetables and other nutrient-dense foods that are naturally high in vitamins. Avoid overprocessed foods from which natural vitamins have been removed and which are then artificially enriched with synthetic vitamins. If you do choose to take a nutritional supplement, try to learn what is in it, and let your doctor know, too. Appendices provide specific data about the nature and function of each of the vitamins, and tables list the recommended daily intake based on age and sex.

Though Price doesn’t provide much new information, the reading is easy and the message is clear and significant.

Pub Date: Feb. 24, 2015

ISBN: 978-1594205040

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: Nov. 19, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2014

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A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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WHEN BREATH BECOMES AIR

A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular...

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A neurosurgeon with a passion for literature tragically finds his perfect subject after his diagnosis of terminal lung cancer.

Writing isn’t brain surgery, but it’s rare when someone adept at the latter is also so accomplished at the former. Searching for meaning and purpose in his life, Kalanithi pursued a doctorate in literature and had felt certain that he wouldn’t enter the field of medicine, in which his father and other members of his family excelled. “But I couldn’t let go of the question,” he writes, after realizing that his goals “didn’t quite fit in an English department.” “Where did biology, morality, literature and philosophy intersect?” So he decided to set aside his doctoral dissertation and belatedly prepare for medical school, which “would allow me a chance to find answers that are not in books, to find a different sort of sublime, to forge relationships with the suffering, and to keep following the question of what makes human life meaningful, even in the face of death and decay.” The author’s empathy undoubtedly made him an exceptional doctor, and the precision of his prose—as well as the moral purpose underscoring it—suggests that he could have written a good book on any subject he chose. Part of what makes this book so essential is the fact that it was written under a death sentence following the diagnosis that upended his life, just as he was preparing to end his residency and attract offers at the top of his profession. Kalanithi learned he might have 10 years to live or perhaps five. Should he return to neurosurgery (he could and did), or should he write (he also did)? Should he and his wife have a baby? They did, eight months before he died, which was less than two years after the original diagnosis. “The fact of death is unsettling,” he understates. “Yet there is no other way to live.”

A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular clarity.

Pub Date: Jan. 19, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-8129-8840-6

Page Count: 248

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Sept. 29, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2015

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