Wilser delivers useful advice with cheerful good humor in a book that is wide-ranging but holds few surprises.

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THE GOOD NEWS ABOUT WHAT'S BAD FOR YOU...THE BAD NEWS ABOUT WHAT'S GOOD FOR YOU

A humorous anthology debunking contemporary wisdom about guilty pleasures and bad habits.

“By making ourselves feel good about changing one tiny thing, we're more likely, at times, to miss the big picture,” writes Wilser (co-author: It's Okay to Sleep with Him on the First Date: And Every Other Rule of Dating, Debunked, 2013 etc.). With the exception of government warnings about the dangers of smoking, he maintains a skeptical attitude toward dietary advice, accepted health nostrums, and more. To emphasize his message, he divides the book into two separate sections, each paginated separately and ending in the middle. After finishing one, readers can turn the book over and start on the other one. Despite the jocular attitude he maintains throughout, he consistently claims that his critiques are serious. The author begins the “Bad News” section with a jab at the supposed virtues of juice cleansers, reporting that he followed a juice-only diet for five days and felt terrible. He also tested what the effects would be if he just ate junk food for a month but regulated his caloric intake. His aim was to examine the issue of how to address the problem of obesity—is quality or quantity the paramount factor in weight gain or loss? This time, the rules of the game were reversed: no vegetables, fruit, or unprocessed meats, chicken, or fish. The result: he lost 11 pounds, his bad cholesterol went down, and his good cholesterol increased. “The point,” he writes, “is that moderation is such a powerful force that it works even when you're eating crap.” Wilser also explores controversial health issues such as whether or not it is beneficial to have annual mammograms and prostate tests. More surprising, tooth-brushing right after a meal may erode the enamel.

Wilser delivers useful advice with cheerful good humor in a book that is wide-ranging but holds few surprises.

Pub Date: Dec. 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-250-06380-9

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Review Posted Online: Sept. 3, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2015

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

THE IMMORTAL LIFE OF HENRIETTA LACKS

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.

WHY WE SWIM

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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