Although McCaffrey’s claims to be breaking new ground are exaggerated, sample menus, recipes and tips on how to avoid...



A whole-food advocate shares her transformative experience when she realized that the obesity she struggled to control was caused by processed foods.

At age 30, McCaffrey (Plan-D: The Amazing Anti-Diet that Will Change Your Life Forever, 2009, etc.) was 5 feet tall and weighed 210 pounds. She realized she was unhealthy, but it took a chance occurrence to get her to act. While studying organic chemistry in college and working in an environmental testing laboratory, she decided to check the label of the prepared angel-food cake mix she enjoyed. To her surprise, she recognized that it contained sodium lauryl sulfate, a “detergent-like chemical” that was routinely used at her lab to test “smelly water samples.” Shocked, she began to wonder whether the chemicals in the processed foods she ate were contributing to her obesity. The author describes the next two years as a time of “cognitive dissonance.” Despite her increasingly enthusiastic environmentalism, she could not bring herself to give up the processed foods that she knew were polluting her own body. Only after she had a “vital spiritual experience” (hearing a voice say, “Change your life or die”) was she able to give up smoking and eating processed foods. Just over a year later, she had lost 100 pounds, and she has kept it off in the 20 years since. No longer a compulsive eater, McCaffrey began to study nutrition in order to share her newfound wisdom, and she co-founded the Center for Processed-Free Food Living. In addition to her personal story, the author presents a number of dietary recommendations, some more mainstream than others. Few will quibble over the importance of eating vegetables, fruits and whole grains, but her ringing endorsement of saturated fats will be more controversial.

Although McCaffrey’s claims to be breaking new ground are exaggerated, sample menus, recipes and tips on how to avoid processed foods make this a helpful lifestyle guide.

Pub Date: July 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-7382-1557-0

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Da Capo Lifelong

Review Posted Online: May 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2012

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Skloot's meticulous, riveting account strikes a humanistic balance between sociological history, venerable portraiture and...


A dense, absorbing investigation into the medical community's exploitation of a dying woman and her family's struggle to salvage truth and dignity decades later.

In a well-paced, vibrant narrative, Popular Science contributor and Culture Dish blogger Skloot (Creative Writing/Univ. of Memphis) demonstrates that for every human cell put under a microscope, a complex life story is inexorably attached, to which doctors, researchers and laboratories have often been woefully insensitive and unaccountable. In 1951, Henrietta Lacks, an African-American mother of five, was diagnosed with what proved to be a fatal form of cervical cancer. At Johns Hopkins, the doctors harvested cells from her cervix without her permission and distributed them to labs around the globe, where they were multiplied and used for a diverse array of treatments. Known as HeLa cells, they became one of the world's most ubiquitous sources for medical research of everything from hormones, steroids and vitamins to gene mapping, in vitro fertilization, even the polio vaccine—all without the knowledge, must less consent, of the Lacks family. Skloot spent a decade interviewing every relative of Lacks she could find, excavating difficult memories and long-simmering outrage that had lay dormant since their loved one's sorrowful demise. Equal parts intimate biography and brutal clinical reportage, Skloot's graceful narrative adeptly navigates the wrenching Lack family recollections and the sobering, overarching realities of poverty and pre–civil-rights racism. The author's style is matched by a methodical scientific rigor and manifest expertise in the field.

Skloot's meticulous, riveting account strikes a humanistic balance between sociological history, venerable portraiture and Petri dish politics.

Pub Date: Feb. 9, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-4000-5217-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2010

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An absorbing, wide-ranging story of humans’ relationship with the water.


A study of swimming as sport, survival method, basis for community, and route to physical and mental well-being.

For Bay Area writer Tsui (American Chinatown: A People's History of Five Neighborhoods, 2009), swimming is in her blood. As she recounts, her parents met in a Hong Kong swimming pool, and she often visited the beach as a child and competed on a swim team in high school. Midway through the engaging narrative, the author explains how she rejoined the team at age 40, just as her 6-year-old was signing up for the first time. Chronicling her interviews with scientists and swimmers alike, Tsui notes the many health benefits of swimming, some of which are mental. Swimmers often achieve the “flow” state and get their best ideas while in the water. Her travels took her from the California coast, where she dove for abalone and swam from Alcatraz back to San Francisco, to Tokyo, where she heard about the “samurai swimming” martial arts tradition. In Iceland, she met Guðlaugur Friðþórsson, a local celebrity who, in 1984, survived six hours in a winter sea after his fishing vessel capsized, earning him the nickname “the human seal.” Although humans are generally adapted to life on land, the author discovered that some have extra advantages in the water. The Bajau people of Indonesia, for instance, can do 10-minute free dives while hunting because their spleens are 50% larger than average. For most, though, it’s simply a matter of practice. Tsui discussed swimming with Dara Torres, who became the oldest Olympic swimmer at age 41, and swam with Kim Chambers, one of the few people to complete the daunting Oceans Seven marathon swim challenge. Drawing on personal experience, history, biology, and social science, the author conveys the appeal of “an unflinching giving-over to an element” and makes a convincing case for broader access to swimming education (372,000 people still drown annually).

An absorbing, wide-ranging story of humans’ relationship with the water.

Pub Date: April 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-61620-786-1

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Algonquin

Review Posted Online: Jan. 5, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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