A helpful guide offering encouragement to those looking for ways to lead healthier lives.



Obesity researcher and health writer Guyenet seeks an answer to why, “between 1980 and the present, the U.S. obesity rate more than doubled” despite our national obsession with dieting.

It is certainly not for lack of information, since there are thousands of self-help books on the subject of the relationship between diet and health and longevity. After exploring and rejecting a number of the proposed solutions, the author, who has a doctorate in neurobiology, concludes that it is not necessarily fats or refined sugar in our diets that are the culprits. Following in the footsteps of Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking, Fast and Slow (2011), Guyenet looks to the structure of the human brain and how it has evolved over time. “The brain’s thought processes can be roughly divided into two systems,” he writes. “System 1 is fast, effortless, intuitive, and unconscious, while system 2 is slow, effortful, rational, and conscious.” The first is impulsive and ruled by the brain’s reward system, so our conscious attempts to follow a strict diet are undermined by anticipations of tastiness “selected over millions of years” when food was scarce and difficult to procure. Putting food on the table can be hard work. In a world in which calorie-rich convenience foods are readily available, this presents more temptation. The gratification that these foods provide overrides feelings of satiation and encourages us to overeat. Guyenet explores the latest research on how insulin regulates fat storage, as well as the role of the neurotransmitter leptin, which controls appetite. He also finds a direct relationship between sleep loss and eating behavior; we often compensate by eating higher-calorie foods. Not getting enough regular, restorative sleep “increases the reward system’s responsiveness to food cues.” What we eat is largely a matter of individual choice, but the author supports regulating advertisements for unhealthy foods that target children.

A helpful guide offering encouragement to those looking for ways to lead healthier lives.

Pub Date: Feb. 7, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-250-08119-3

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 7, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2016

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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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Loads of good explaining, with reminders, time and again, of how much remains unknown, neatly putting the death of science...


Bryson (I'm a Stranger Here Myself, 1999, etc.), a man who knows how to track down an explanation and make it confess, asks the hard questions of science—e.g., how did things get to be the way they are?—and, when possible, provides answers.

As he once went about making English intelligible, Bryson now attempts the same with the great moments of science, both the ideas themselves and their genesis, to resounding success. Piqued by his own ignorance on these matters, he’s egged on even more so by the people who’ve figured out—or think they’ve figured out—such things as what is in the center of the Earth. So he goes exploring, in the library and in company with scientists at work today, to get a grip on a range of topics from subatomic particles to cosmology. The aim is to deliver reports on these subjects in terms anyone can understand, and for the most part, it works. The most difficult is the nonintuitive material—time as part of space, say, or proteins inventing themselves spontaneously, without direction—and the quantum leaps unusual minds have made: as J.B.S. Haldane once put it, “The universe is not only queerer than we suppose; it is queerer than we can suppose.” Mostly, though, Bryson renders clear the evolution of continental drift, atomic structure, singularity, the extinction of the dinosaur, and a mighty host of other subjects in self-contained chapters that can be taken at a bite, rather than read wholesale. He delivers the human-interest angle on the scientists, and he keeps the reader laughing and willing to forge ahead, even over their heads: the human body, for instance, harboring enough energy “to explode with the force of thirty very large hydrogen bombs, assuming you knew how to liberate it and really wished to make a point.”

Loads of good explaining, with reminders, time and again, of how much remains unknown, neatly putting the death of science into perspective.

Pub Date: May 6, 2003

ISBN: 0-7679-0817-1

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Broadway

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2003

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