Sunday, April 4, 2010

Book Review(s) - Michael Pollan

Back at the beginning of March, I won a drawing at Not Dabbling in Normal, and in the package, Kim also included a copy of Michael Pollan's Food Rules.

Great. Book.

It's one of those little books with a paragraph or two per page that can easily be devoured in one afternoon. And it is fantastic. It's a simple guide to the foods we should be eating (and avoiding) and a little bit about the way we actually eat them. I think every American should read that book - maybe more than once, to get it to sink in. There were a few bits in there I might not completely agree with, but the majority of it was spot on, and written in a wonderful way and presented in the type of format that makes it a book people actually can read.

Food Rules was spawned from Pollan's earlier book In Defense of Food (which came following The Omnivore's Dilemma. I'm reading them in reverse order, inadvertently.) Being one to never be satisfied with only bits of a story, I'm now about 3/4 of the way through In Defense and I'm thrilled with it.

If you've ever wondered what the big deal is about high fructose corn syrup or soybean oil (aren't soybeans supposed to be healthy?) you should read this book. If you're overweight and have cut all the fat out of your diet and still aren't losing weight and can't figure out why, you should read this book. If you wonder whether or not organic is really that much better than the produce that comes from modern agriculture, you should read this book. If you want to learn a little bit more about the politics of our diet and the Food Pyramid, you should read this book. If you spend too much time thinking about what you're eating and have a terrible relationship with your food because of it, you should read this book. If you're a Real Foodie and just want to learn more and get more ideas on what you could be eating, you should read this book.

I won't tell you it's an easy book to read. It's journalistic, it's full of citations and footnotes and some science jargon (though he tries to make it easy for average folks to understand) There are times to I have to re-read a paragraph because I didn't quite digest the information the first time through (which reminds me vaguely of my college anthropology text.) But really, if you make the effort to read it and understand it and apply it, this book has the potential to change the way you eat, and by that medium, to change your life.

So many people I love dearly suffer from "Western Diseases" - friends and loved ones struggle constantly with obesity; my dad has cancer and my brother died of it; my grandfather has diabetes; my mom has diverticulitis; my grandma had a stroke; my other grandfather died of leukemia. These diseases are everywhere we turn, as long as we're looking in America.

I'm willing to bet most of you have a similar list. If you do... you should read this book. (And so should the loved ones on your list.)

I haven't even read Omnivore's Dilemma yet, and I'm pretty sure (from reviews and reactions online) that it might turn out to be even better than In Defense of Food. I've got that Dilemma on the shelf next to me, and I'll read it next. But for now, put in a request at the library for In Defense. It's so worth taking the time to read, no matter who you are.


janene said...

All fantastic books!

I'm re-reading Omnivore's Dilemma myself, in preparation for seeing Michael Pollan speak at a university not too far from me next week.

Enjoy the reading!

Julie said...

So cool to know you're reading them too, Janene! And HOW NEAT to hear him speak. Can't wait to hear how that goes.

I've made note of the books you suggested in a previous comment. Once I finish the books I've got checked out now, I'll definitely look them up! Thanks for recommending them. :o)

PS - Do you have a blog? I have looked at your profile, but don't see a link to one. Would love to "get to know you" better if you have one!

Wendy said...

I've read the Omnivore's Dilemma - pretty interesting stuff. I think that's the one with some hefty and interesing chapters on "corn sex", right?

Julie said...

LOL Wendy, yes. Corn sex. :o) I'm through the first section of Dilemma now, and I have to say, I enjoyed In Defense of Food more. Just a personal opinion, both a great, but I don't think I needed quite this much detail. I'll finish it regardless though.