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THE GOSPEL OF WELLNESS

GYMS, GURUS, GOOP AND THE FALSE PROMISE OF SELF-CARE

Writing with authority and empathy, Raphael tells a disturbing story of taking a good thing and then overdoing it.

An eye-opening account of how the U.S. has become “a self-care nation, though arguably one that still lacks the fundamentals of well-being.”

A journalist who specializes in health and women’s issues, Raphael is perfectly situated to investigate the massive wellness industry. What started as a movement to increase health and reduce stress has become, in many cases, a cure worse than the disease, with social media “fitfluencers” setting standards that are impossible to meet and a host of self-appointed gurus selling diet programs of every conceivable type. Most of the diets claim to be backed by science, but when Raphael drills down, she finds little reliable evidence and plenty of nonsense. Nevertheless, many people worry endlessly that they might inadvertently deviate from the plan, even if it is making them less healthy. Others stress about chemical pesticides infecting their vegetables and fruit, but the amounts are so miniscule as to be meaningless. “Food has become an utterly fraught ordeal for the average woman,” writes the author. “A Fear Factor episode that never ends. If you’re to take extreme wellness gurus and fad diets at face value, you cannot consume any sugar, gluten, pesticide residue, dairy, ‘chemicals,’ and more.” Some gym programs resemble cults, and countless people get caught in a vicious cycle: You have to work hard to pay for the stress-reduction programs that are needed because you are working too hard. Raphael delves incisively into the marketing techniques used by so-called wellness companies and finds a remarkable level of manipulative cynicism. Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop line is a prime example. “Their health advice always seems to converge to one end point: buy more stuff,” writes the author, who saves her sharpest barbs for the purported benefits of crystals and biohacking. She hopes the pendulum will swing back toward a more sensible center; until then, it’s clear that she subscribes to a useful piece of old advice: If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Writing with authority and empathy, Raphael tells a disturbing story of taking a good thing and then overdoing it.

Pub Date: Sept. 20, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-250-79300-3

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: June 21, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2022

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WHAT THIS COMEDIAN SAID WILL SHOCK YOU

Maher calls out idiocy wherever he sees it, with a comedic delivery that veers between a stiletto and a sledgehammer.

The comedian argues that the arts of moderation and common sense must be reinvigorated.

Some people are born snarky, some become snarky, and some have snarkiness thrust upon them. Judging from this book, Maher—host of HBO’s Real Time program and author of The New New Rules and When You Ride Alone, You Ride With bin Laden—is all three. As a comedian, he has a great deal of leeway to make fun of people in politics, and he often delivers hilarious swipes with a deadpan face. The author describes himself as a traditional liberal, with a disdain for Republicans (especially the MAGA variety) and a belief in free speech and personal freedom. He claims that he has stayed much the same for more than 20 years, while the left, he argues, has marched toward intolerance. He sees an addiction to extremism on both sides of the aisle, which fosters the belief that anyone who disagrees with you must be an enemy to be destroyed. However, Maher has always displayed his own streaks of extremism, and his scorched-earth takedowns eventually become problematic. The author has something nasty to say about everyone, it seems, and the sarcastic tone starts after more than 300 pages. As has been the case throughout his career, Maher is best taken in small doses. The book is worth reading for the author’s often spot-on skewering of inept politicians and celebrities, but it might be advisable to occasionally dip into it rather than read the whole thing in one sitting. Some parts of the text are hilarious, but others are merely insulting. Maher is undeniably talented, but some restraint would have produced a better book.

Maher calls out idiocy wherever he sees it, with a comedic delivery that veers between a stiletto and a sledgehammer.

Pub Date: May 21, 2024

ISBN: 9781668051351

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: March 5, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2024

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THE IMMORTAL LIFE OF HENRIETTA LACKS

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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