Book Review #12

Posted by Leslie Lau on

Photo by Cristina Gottardi on Unsplash

Another month, another book review!

This may be the last review of this format where I provide only a brief overview. I'm being drawn towards deeper discourse on key concepts with what I read, but not sure what this will look like just yet, so stay tuned!

This being the case, instead of my usual three book review, this month I've reviewed five books!

The titles I've reviewed this month are:

"Food - What the Heck Should I Eat?" by Dr. Mark Hyman

"We are one integrated being. We need to care for all aspects of ourselves." - Mark Hyman, M.D.

There is a lot of conflicting information out there around food, nutrition, what to eat, what not to eat, etc. Most claim to be backed by some form of scientific research, but we know that the research methods and/or results can be misconstrued in a way that benefits the sponsor, the article-writer, the food industry being represented, etc.

I am a nutritionally conscious person and Dr. Mark Hyman is one of the most respected experts in health and nutrition, so I was keen to give his latest book a read - it did not disappoint!

'Food' is a synthesis of data and information from thousands of nutritional studies done around the world, summarised and presented in a very simply, logical fashion. The book is structured by food group (e.g. meat, grains, fruits, vegetables, etc.) and for each he will break down the science behind the food group and also validate or debunk claims which have been made with the backing of findings from scientific studies.

At the end of each chapter, he will also provide a list of what you should and shouldn't eat within each food group, as well as a comprehensive meal plan which anyone can implement if you want to adopt his "Pegan" diet; a balance between paleo and vegan diet approaches.

I really liked the fact that it was presented in a very structured and simplistic way so it was easy to read, grasp and absorb the information. It can be read from start to finish or can easily be referenced section-by-section depending on how you want to approach it. I read it from start to finish and I am to use it whenever I have any doubts around certain food groups. I would also like to call out the immense amount of work which would have been put into compiling this book and the enormous number of scientific papers and research which had to be read and reviewed to produce the end product. When he says he's done all the hard work, he truly means it and it is something which needs to be truly appreciated!

I should read this book if...

If you're conscious about your health and wellbeing, whether physical or mental, have an interest in food and nutrition, or are just someone who is looking to improve the way they can promote a healthier lifestyle through diet, this is the perfect way to start.

 

"In Defence of Food" by Michael Pollan

"Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants." - Michael Pollan

'In Defence of Food' provides a view of the stark reality of food and how it is perceived today in comparison to our great-great grandparents, and the negative implications to the health of humanity as a result.

The book begins with the history of food and what this meant to people pre-industrialisation, the beginnings of 'nutritionism', the reductionist approach and view of food as it's nutritional constituents rather than food as a whole, and how the food industry has taken advantage of this information through clever marketing which preys on society who are largely uneducated and ill-informed when it comes to dietary nutrition.

This is a great book as it offers a different perspective on the food industry, the corruption within the industry, and reveals the truth behind how the 'western diet' came to be, and the correlation it has with the rise of the 'diseases of affluence'; i.e. diabetes, heart disease, cancer, etc.

Michael Pollan also provides a very simple way to approach food in a time when there is so much confusion and misinformation around surrounding the things we put in our bodies. He does this in seven words: "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants." That is, if your great grandparents wouldn't know what it is, it isn't food, eat enough rather than until you cannot breathe, and the majority of your foods should be plant-based (the key word being 'most', not all; settle down meat-eaters!).

I should read this book if...

If you're someone who is conscious about your own health and wellbeing, this is a great book to provide some real eye-opening facts around the modern diet and what you can do to promote healthier eating, living and ultimately your longevity. It also speaks to those, me included, who has a strong sense of justice towards ethical practices, planetary sustainability and how we all can do our part to not support the big industrial machine and its immoral practices.

 

"Subliminal" by Leonard Mlodinow

"Nonverbal communication forms a social language that is in many ways richer and more fundamental than our words." - Leonard Mlodinow

This book details the human subconscious and explains how much power and say it actually has in influencing our thoughts, actions, moods, and every day decisions; more than you would think, it seems!

There are some really fascinating case studies which demonstrate the power and level of influence the unconscious mind actually has over us and our every action, and highlights to us the core evolutionary function that the unconscious mind plays in the life of all species, not just human beings - that is, providing us the reflexive abilities required to survive in the wild.

In the modern world, this obviously plays less of a vital role in our survival, given our requirement for memory indicates to others our intelligence, and subsequently our worth in society, and we certainly aren't foraging for our food and thus do not need to remember which berries are poisonous (we have Google for that!) or have any saber-toothed tigers lurking and ready to pounce at every corner.

The author, Leonard Mlodinow, also covers in detail the concept of unconscious bias; that is, our beliefs, preferences, values, likes, dislikes, and the huge role the unconscious mind actually has in determining these seemingly personal characteristics and choices. Our environment, especially during our childhood and adolescent years play a huge part in shaping our unconscious minds, thus shaping who we are.

    I should read this book if...

    A really interesting read for those who are interested in all things neuroscience and how the brain works and why we do what we do, when we do them! If you have followed any of my previous book recommendations in the past, and enjoyed "Incognito" by David Eagleman, 'Subliminal' will also be a good read for you!

     

    "How to Change Your Mind" by Michael Pollan

    "When the ego dissolves, so does a bounded conception not only of ourself but of our self-interest." - Michael Pollan

    I had already been a fan of Michael Pollan's writing through his health, food and nutrition based books (I reviewed 'In Defence of Food' above) when I heard about 'How to Change Your Mind', so I was immediately intrigued as the topic of psychedelics is interesting to me.

    This book tells the history of psychedelics in modern society, when it came into the mainstream in the 1950's. Initially discovered and synthesised by Albert Hoffman, LSD became commonly used as a compliment to traditional psychotherapy. It yielded some positive results and some believed in its potential to heal all of society, but as it gained notoriety, it inevitably fell in the hands of recreational users looking for a trip. The misuse and negative effects/casualties, coupled with the fact that we didn't know nearly enough about how it worked led to the demonization and illegalisation of its use.

    As part of this book, Michael describes his own calling to experiment with psychedelics and details his own experiences with different varieties, and the profound effects it had on him and his way of viewing the world. He makes it clear that intention is key when exploring psychedelics, and he further highlights the criticality of 'set and setting;' that is, your mindset towards this exploration, your intention behind it, and the environment you're in, feeling safe, supported, etc. In the end, there are many benefits which are associated with its use, both backed by scientific research and also more spiritually inclined.

      I should read this book if...

      If you're looking to learn more about psychedelics, this book is a great place to start, as it gives you a taste from all angles, from history, science, spirituality, tradition, ceremony, benefits, etc.

       

      "The Third Door" by Alex Banayan

      "If you can change what someone believes is possible, they will never be the same." - Alex Banayan

      This is a very entertaining read which I can refine into one simply, but powerful message: there is always a way.

      The book follows Alex's journey as a disillusioned college student who seeks to quell his yearning for more in this life. The book surrounds an analogy, which becomes his ethos, of trying to get into a nightclub. There is always the front door, where the majority of people line up to get in, there is the VIP entrance, where those who make or are born into fortune are able to skip the line, then there is the third door - down the back alley, over the fence, up the stairs, through the bathroom window; there is always another way.

      The journey is a crazy ride of tenacity, perseverance, determination, unwavering focus, obsession, creating opportunities, making your own luck, and sheer power of will to get to the end goal, of a published book. The amount of craziness he experiences throughout this book is like something out of a movie (e.g. he 'hacks' a television game-show to win all the prizes which he then uses the proceeds of to fund the first part of his journey)!

      I should read this book if...

      A very entertaining story of a regular guy who simply wanted something bad enough that he did everything within his power to make it a reality. A great read, funny, and just an inspiring tale and reminder of what we are all truly capable of.

        ***

         

        Any questions or comments regarding the books I've reviewed this month? Any book suggestions on what I should read and review next? Just want to say hi? Please feel free to get in touch through email or by leaving a comment below!

         

        Strive to live, live to strive.

         

        Book cover images courtesy of Amazon.com

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