Category Archives: Book Reviews

Let’s Read: Book Club

Hey, friends!  How’s it going?  Yesterday, I briefly mentioned an exciting announcement, so let’s get to it:  Jen and I have teamed up to start the Fitness and Frozen Grapes & Jen’s Best Life Book Club!

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We’ll read one book each month, and since we’re both healthy living bloggers, we plan to select readings that address these types of themes:  think athletes’ biographies to trending wellness texts to food and nutrition best sellers.  Each month, our group will meet in New York City for a potluck gathering on a Sunday afternoon (obviously, food would be involved!), and there will be a virtual discussion component as well; on the following Tuesday, Jen and I will blog about the in-person discussion and include links to your digital book review if you choose to write one.  Oh, and we have an official hashtag too:  #FJBookClub!

So what will we read this month? Savor: Mindful Eating, Mindful Life.

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We selected this book because intuitive eating is a popular topic these days, and plus, we both approach nutrition from an athletic standpoint—fueling our workouts, replenishing calories post-workout, etc.—and cleaning eating is important for peak performance.  Overall, we’re curious about intuitive eating, but we didn’t want a book that purely functioned as a how-to guide.

Here’s the Amazon.com description:

With the scientific expertise of Dr. Lilian Cheung in nutrition and Thich Nhat Hanh’s experience in teaching mindfulness the world over, Savor not only helps us achieve the healthy weight and well-being we seek, but also brings to the surface the rich abundance of life available to us in every moment.

If you’d like to join us, then just fill out this Google form.  We’ll send information about the NYC meet up, and we’ll also keep you posted on the virtual discussion and blog link-up.

So go sign up!

What’s the best book you’ve read this year?

Running on Empty Book Review

Raise your hand if you’ve run a marathon!  Keep it up if you’ve completed two … plus a 10-K for 52 consecutive days.  Think it’s impossible?  That’s exactly what Marshall Ulrich did, which he depicts in his book Running on Empty:  An Ultramarathoner’s Story of Love, Loss, and a Record-Setting Run Across America.

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That’s right—at the age of 57, he ran from California to New York, totaling 3,063 miles.  Holy cow!

Brief Summary

From Amazon.com:

“The ultimate endurance athlete, Marshall Ulrich has run more than one hundred foot races averaging over one hundred miles each, completed twelve expedition-length adventure races, and ascended the seven summits—including Mount Everest.  Yet his run from California to New York—the equivalent of running two marathons and a 10k every day for nearly two months straight—proved to be his most challenging effort yet.  In Running on Empty he shares the gritty backstory of his run and the excruciating punishments he endured on the road.  Ulrich also reaches back nearly thirty years to when the death of his first wife drove him to run from his pain.

“Ulrich’s memoir imbues an incredible read with a universal message for athletes and nonathletes alike: face the toughest challenges, overcome debilitating setbacks, and find deep fulfillment in something greater than achievement.”

Product Details

Publisher:  Avery Trade

Publication date:  4/3/2012

Pages:  320

My Review

Another month, another read for Jamie’s virtual book club.  And as indicated from the book’s cover, Ulrich embarked on a crazy journey—3,063 miles in 52 days at 57 years old.

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Even though the plot centers on this cross-country journey, Ulrich uses the act of running as a window into his life.  The book opens up with a discussion on his childhood and his marriage to his first wife, Jean—and his not-so-great health.  This is a story we’ve heard before:  person suffers from obesity/hypertension (the latter in Ulrich’s case); person starts running; person loses weight/lowers cholesterol (again, the latter for Ulrich) and maintains a healthy lifestyle thanks to running.  However, it’s why Ulrich runs that drives the plot:  Jean is diagnosed with breast cancer, so Ulrich uses running to cope with the pain.  When she dies, and when Ulrich remarries and divorces multiple times, he runs to escape from reality.  As he laces up his sneakers more frequently and for longer outings, he eventually discovers ultrarunning and ultimately decides to run across the United States.

During the first 18 days of this journey, Ulrich has a running partner of sorts, though—Charlie Engle, who you may know from the documentary Running the Sahara. (Yes, I watched it to get pumped up for the Seneca7, and I’ve seen it two or three times since, too.) Prior to this news, I found the book to drag a bit, but at the mention of Charlie’s name, I perked up.  The unexpected intertextuality pulled me in, and I knew there would be drama ahead.  For those who are unfamiliar with Engle, he’s an accomplished runner—though not in the same ultrarunning echelon as Ulrich—and he’s also extremely intense and volatile.  Several people cautioned against working with Engle, including his former Sahara teammate Ray (who I absolutely loved in the film), and since I’m such a gossip hound, I plowed through the book, waiting for the big confrontation.  It did not disappoint.

Aside from the drama, I thought the book was OK.  Even though Ulrich used ultrarunning in the same way Strayed used hiking to share the story, his narrative wasn’t crafted as seamlessly and the inclusion of some sections felt forced.  Obviously, though, you’re not going to read an ultrarunning book for the quality of writing.

Discussion Questions:

1.  Ulrich writes that during his runs, he “… invented pain, embraced it, made it my [his] own” (Ulrich 20).  Do you embrace pain during your workouts?  How do you cope with it? 

2.  In preparation for his 3,063-mile run, Ulrich participated in a 72-hour run with the goal of completing 70 miles each day for three days.  However, about 10 hours into day one, he started questioning himself and eventually quit.  How do you deal with negative thoughts during workouts?  Do you use mantras?

3.  Ulrich outlines his ten commandments of endurance, one of which states “focus on the present and set intermediate goals” (Ulrich 68).  Do you set mini-goals during your workouts?   

Happy 200th Anniversary, ‘Pride and Prejudice!’

Good morning, friends!  I hope you enjoyed the weekend!  Alas, it’s moan Monday, but here’s some good news:  today marks the marks the 200th anniversary of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.

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What—you don’t know the anniversary of one of your favorite books?

Yes, I’ve read this novel more times than I can count, and this book seems to get better and better each time.  Even though I liked Pride and Prejudice when I finished it for the first time in middle school, I definitely grew to appreciate it after each subsequent reading; there’s no better way to start high school Christmas break or college winter break than paging through a favorite book.

Even though the story takes place in the 19th century, Austen’s text defines timelessness.  Elizabeth Bennet is one of my favorite literary heroines, and I relate to her on so many levels.  Pride and Prejudice contains so many timeless characters—I know people who so closely resemble Mary Bennet and Charlotte Lucas it’s scary—and fortunately or unfortunately, there was a George Wickham-esque character during my high school days. (Interestingly, it took me a while to make the connection—I felt like I knew him from somewhere, yet couldn’t put my finger on it—so I didn’t make the Wickham distinction right away.  However, this dude eventually proved to be a 21st century, high school version of this character.) So, even though Austen wrote Pride and Prejudice two centuries ago, the characters she crafted proved to be universal, timeless, and totally spot-on—you go, Jane!

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Just a Jane Austen doll at The Strand.  Totally normal, right?

Anyway, I have no probably admitting that I’m a Janeite“the self-consciously idolatrous enthusiasm for ‘Jane’ and every detail relative to her”—so it should come as no surprise that after my high school graduation, my parents and I traveled to London, and we also visited Bath for a few days, mainly to visit the Jane Austen Centre.

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2008 throwback.

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My mom and I were in heaven, and my dad was such a trooper!  Although he did “read” Northanger Abbey—at least every other page.

In college, I even took a class titled “Jane Austen in Film.” (Liberal arts institution for the win!) We read a bunch of her books—including Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, Northanger Abbey, and Mansfield Park—and then watched and analyzed their film adaptations.  Oh, and we also took a country ball dancing class.

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Dancing might not seem challenging, but I was a hot, sweaty, and confused mess by the end!  During Austen’s days, dancing and attending balls allowed young people to interact with each other—away from the watchful eyes chaperones.  Plus, an individual’s proficiency on the dance floor was thought to be directly related to how good of a spouse they would be. (Remember how Mr. Collins royally messes up and proves to be an embarrassment?) After taking this class, I couldn’t imagine looking presentable (aka not sweaty), dancing gracefully, and engaging in witty banter.  Talk about pressure!  Although I would solider through the above if I got to wear one of those gorgeous dresses.

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And speaking of dancing, the Netherfield Ball is set to take place this spring.  Anyone want to go?

Of course, going to a ball brings up the dividing question among Pride and Prejudice fans:  Who’s your Mr. Darcy—Colin Firth or Matthew Macfadyen?

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Sigh.

Have you read any of Jane Austen’s classics?  Which novel is your favorite?  Who’s your favorite literary heroine?

Wild Book Review

Is it just me or has the healthy living blogosphere exploded with praise for Cheryl Strayed’s Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail?

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This memoir has been on my radar for a while, and while home for the holidays, I told my Colorado-based, seasoned-hiker cousin about it; we decided to start a virtual book club and chose this text as our first read.  On the train back to New York City, I couldn’t stop reading:  Strayed’s honest tone and carefully crafted narrative caught my attention.  Overall, I liked Wild, but wouldn’t readily recommend it; I wouldn’t classify it as a must-read.

Brief Summary

From Amazon.com:

A powerful, blazingly honest memoir: the story of an eleven-hundred-mile solo hike that broke down a young woman reeling from catastrophe—and built her back up again.

At twenty-two, Cheryl Strayed thought she had lost everything. In the wake of her mother’s death, her family scattered and her own marriage was soon destroyed.  Four years later, with nothing more to lose, she made the most impulsive decision of her life: to hike the Pacific Crest Trail from the Mojave Desert through California and Oregon to Washington State—and to do it alone.  She had no experience as a long-distance hiker, and the trail was little more than ‘an idea, vague and outlandish and full of promise.’  But it was a promise of piecing back together a life that had come undone.

Strayed faces down rattlesnakes and black bears, intense heat and record snowfalls, and both the beauty and loneliness of the trail.  Told with great suspense and style, sparkling with warmth and humor, Wild vividly captures the terrors and pleasures of one young woman forging ahead against all odds on a journey that maddened, strengthened, and ultimately healed her.

Product Details

Publisher:  Knoph

Publication date:  3/20/2012

Pages:  336

My Review

Non-fiction, memoir, travel writing—however you classify Wild, it’s fundamentally sound from a writing perspective.  It’s tight, yet descriptive, making the reader feel as if they’re hiking with 26-year-old Strayed during the summer of 1995 on the Pacific Crest Trail (which goes from the Mojave Desert through California and Oregon to Washington State).  The book centers on Strayed’s hike, and the author first briefly recounts her childhood and young adult years—her father vanished when she was six, her mother recently died, and Strayed used heroin and slept around—before sharing that she separated from her husband and was working as a waitress when she set off in search of “radical aloneness.”

I’ve never been hiking, so I don’t think I fully understand Strayed’s gutsy (yet reckless?) decision to start her career on one of the toughest trails in North America.  However, she makes no attempt to hide her inexperience—she didn’t try on her hiking boots before hitting the trail, she didn’t practice packing her backpack named Monster, etc.—and I valued her honesty.  Personally, I compared her choice to someone who wanted to tackle an Ironman for their first triathlon, specifically a challenging course like Lake Placid—which is nuts.

Anyway, throughout the book, Strayed seamlessly transitions from life on the trail—eating dehydrated meals, sleeping in a tiny tent, and losing blackened toenails—to her past, telling the audience about her childhood, her relationship with her mother, her failed marriage, and her heroin habits.  This rhetorical technique usually finds its way into travel novels, yet it works in this memoir, too:  Instead of sharing her entire life story in the first 30 pages, she continuously moves from past to present, effectively connecting and building a relationship with the reader.

 

I enjoyed “meeting” Strayed’s fellow PCT hikers, but I wondered how accurately they—and the journey itself—were portrayed; she did wait 17 years before writing this memoir.  I also would’ve liked to hear more about the actual hike, but further discussion would’ve veered toward travel writing and downplayed Strayed’s life experiences.

 

Discussion Questions:

1.  Do you enjoy outdoor activities like hiking, backpacking, and camping?

2.  Strayed uses the activity of hiking as a way to tell her life story.  If you wrote a memoir, what activity would act as the “window” into your life?

3.  What’s your favorite biography or memoir?   

You Are an Ironman Book Review

When I bought You Are an Ironman: How Six Weekend Warriors Chased Their Dream of Finishing the World’s Toughest Triathlon by Jacques Steinberg, the cashier asked me if I’ve completed this grueling endurance event. (“One day!” I told her.)

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Using the 2009 Ironman Arizona as a lens, Steinberg delves into the lives of seven age groupers (or average Joes) and “attempts to bore deep into the lives, minds and souls of these athletes” (Steinberg 6).  I enjoyed following these weekend warriors in their path to 140.6 (the total mileage of an Ironman), and this book is definitely a niche read—it’s catered to those who have soft spots for swimming, biking, and/or running—so I would recommend it to a very specific reader.

Brief Summary

From Amazon.com:

As he did so masterfully in his New York Times bestseller The Gatekeepers, Jacques Steinberg creates a compelling portrait of people obsessed with reaching a life-defining goal.  In this instance, the target is an Ironman triathlon-a 2.4-mile open-water swim followed by a 112-mile bike ride, then finally a 26-mile marathon run, all of which must be completed in no more than seventeen hours.  Steinberg focuses not on the professional who live off the prize money and sponsorships, but on a handful of triathletes who regard the sport as a hobby.  Vividly capturing the grueling preparation, the suspense of completing each event of the triathlon, and the spectacular feats of human endurance, Steinberg plumbs the physical and emotional toll as well as the psychological payoff of the participants of the Ford Ironman Arizona 2009.  His You Are an Ironman is both a riveting sports narrative and a fascinating, behind-the-scenes study of what makes these athletes keep going.

Product Details

Publisher:  Penguin Books

Publication date:  6/26/2012 (reprint)

Pages:  304

My Review

For a triathlete to hear Mike Reilley’s legendary voice that proclaims, “You are an Ironman,” they must complete a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike, and 26.2-mile run in no more than 17 hours.  Arguably the world’s most challenging endurance event, an Ironman appeals to a small demographic, so Steinberg aims to answer why these athletes “choose to put themselves through so much agony and effort in pursuit of a single goal” (Steinberg 4).

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In order to keep the focus on the seven age-group athletes, Steinberg heavily quotes their blog posts and training journals to illustrate the hurdles they face—getting into sufficient shape, remaining injury free, and completing the first two legs before the cutoff time.  Even with background information sprinkled in when appropriate, the author’s reliance on these texts didn’t work for me.  Don’t get me wrong—I value and appreciate the amount of training (and suffering) the individuals endured, and rhetorically, I understand why Steinberg shared their first-person narratives.  However, the sheer amount of extended, wordy quotations severely downplayed what should’ve been a series of awe-inspiring stories.  Concise writing could’ve effectively conveyed what it’s like to overcome a fear of open-water swimming, to spend six hours in the saddle, to cross the finish after 15 hours of non-stop work.  Again, the text highlights the individuals, but I think a professional writer who could draw on personal Ironman experience (Steinberg concedes he hasn’t completed one) would find a way to effectively summarize these emotions and struggles, making for a more powerful book. (Wait, did I just come up with my book idea?  Train for and complete an Ironman and fuse my experience with those of others?)

Even though the book fell short from a rhetorical standpoint for me, there were some quotations that I found relatable:

“Such training alone has also been known to enable people to rewrite their long-standing definitions of themselves” (Steinberg 14).

“‘…I never give up, and this is a fun way to prove it.  I want them [my daughters] to see the pained expression on my face as I run by and know I am suffering but not giving up … I want to see how far all that training can take me physically and mentally.  That, and swimming, biking, and running on a regular basis is damn fun.  And, I can eat a lot of chocolate and not feel like a slob.’” –Tom, a 42-year-old high school English teacher from Glendale, AZ (Steinberg 23)

“‘Note to self:  you shouldn’t plan to train for both a marathon and half Ironman at the same time.  You will become the jack of all trades, and master of none.’” –Leanne, 30-year-old nurse from Wilmington, NC on training for the Boston Marathon and Ironman Arizona (Steinberg 96)

“‘This was my first-ever BRICK like this, and wow, was it challenging,’” Leanne wrote in her journal.  ‘I am more and more starting to appreciate and understand what IM and IM training is all about.  It’s mentally challenging as well and I realize how those ‘tired’ miles are when training.’” –Leanne (Steinberg 178)

“‘The journey is the reward’ … Laura had always felt that it was ‘a privilege’ to be able to train as she did, ‘not a burden or chore.’” –Laura, 46-year-old retired social worker from Sacramento, CA (Steinberg 203)

Discussion Questions:

1.  Has a personal hobby (running, reading, baking, etc.) helped you reframe or “rewrite” how you see yourself?

2.  Have you experienced a “journey [that] is the reward?”   

3.  Have you ever thought about doing a triathlon?

The Courage to Start Book Review

For the month of November, Jamie’s virtual book club read The Courage to Start:  A Guide to Running for Your Life by John “The Penguin” Bingham.

Not to judge a book by its cover, but this illustration really set the tone for the entire text.  Happy, whimsical, and approachable, this penguin portrays Bingham’s approach to running.  As I read along, he maintained my interest with honest, relatable stories, and his passion for running remained omnipresent through each tale.  Overall, I found Bingham’s book good; it was an enjoyable read, but I won’t revisit it anytime soon.

Brief Summary

From Amazon.com:

“The miracle isn’t that I finished.  The miracle is that I had the courage to start.”

Take your first step toward fitness and a happier, healthier life.

Has the idea of running crossed your mind, but you haven’t acted on it because you don’t think you have the body of a runner?  Have you thought about running but quit before you started because you knew that you would be breathless at the end of your driveway?  Well, put aside those fears because you can do it.  John Bingham, author of the popular Runner’s World column “The Penguin Chronicles,” transformed himself from an overweight couch potato who smoked into a runner who has completed eleven marathons and hundreds of road races.

Forget about the image of a perfect body in skintight clothes, and don’t worry about how fast or how far you go.  Bingham shows how anyone can embrace running as a life-enhancing activity—rather than as a competition you will never win.  In an entertaining blend of his own success story and practical advice, Bingham provides reasonable guidelines for establishing a program of achievable goals; offers tips on clothing, running shoes, and other equipment; and explains how anyone can prepare for and run distances ranging from a few miles to marathons.

After all, in running and in life, the difference between success and failure sometimes comes down to a single step.  Waddle on, friends.”

Product Details

Publisher:  Touchstone

Publication date:  4/7/1999

Pages:  208

My Review

The Courage to Start takes the form of a how-to manual amped with motivation.  Bingham’s voice and personality shined though, which makes running seem accessible.  Thanks to his relatable personality, he easily guides the reader through the process of becoming a runner.  A few times, I thought to myself how much fun it would be to go on a long run with Bingham.  He’s been around the block once or twice, and he’d many more stories to share.

Bingham broke his book into four parts—“The Courage to Start,” “The Next Step,” “The Road to Victory,” and “Running for Your Life”—and each section details common questions and challenges associated with each stage.  Using his experience as a lens, he delves into the world of couch-potato-turned-regular-runner, sharing tips, tricks, and words of wisdom.  However, even though I don’t consider myself a seasoned runner—I’ve only been running somewhat seriously for one year—I found Bingham’s insights too basic for me.  That being said, I do think these tips would prove perfect for newbies.

“Becoming an Athlete” was my favorite chapter, which isn’t surprising given my history of high school and collegiate athletics.  In this section especially, Bingham portrays running and being athletic as a feasible goal for everyone.  “You can become an athlete by choosing to use your body, whatever that body is, as an instrument of self-expression and self-growth” (Bingham 67).  What’s more, I also appreciated his discussion on self-identification because it’s a concept I struggle with everyday. (Am I a runner?  A triathlete?  A swimmer?  A biker?) “I’m a runner because I run,” he writes.  “It’s simple Cartesian logic.  I run; therefore, I am a runner” (Bingham 69).

Discussion Questions:

1.  Bingham ran a bit when he was younger, but he didn’t start running on a regular basis until he was 43.  When did you begin running?

2.  Waddling, round, and emperor-proud, Bingham says he runs like a penguin.  How would you personify your running style? 

3.  What’s your greatest running accomplishment?  Brag, friends!

Mile Markers Book Review

When Jamie posted about starting a virtual book club, I wanted in.  I love reading, especially books about all things fitness, health, and wellness, so I didn’t think twice about joining.  For the month of October, we read Mile Markers:  The 26.2 Most Important Reasons Why Women Run by Kristin Armstrong. (And who was also married to alleged doper cyclist Lance Armstrong!)

OK, I’m not going to run in circles:  I had high expectations—given the publisher (Rodale) and the author’s credibility (who blogs at Runner’s World)—but overall, I found this book inaccessible.

Brief Summary

From Amazon.com:

“In Mile Markers, Runner’s World contributing editor Kristin Armstrong captures the ineffable and timeless beauty of running, the importance of nurturing relationships with those we love, and the significance of reflecting on our experiences.  This collection considers the most important reasons women run, celebrating the inspiring passion runners have for their sport and illustrating how running fosters a vitally powerful community.  With unique wit, refreshing candor, and disarming vulnerability, Armstrong shares her conviction that running is the perfect parallel for marking the milestones of life.  From describing running a hardfought race with her tightly-knit group of sweat sisters, to watching her children participate in the sport for the very first time, Armstrong infuses her experiences with a perspective of hope that every moment is a chance to become a stronger, wiser, more peaceful woman.  Running threads these touching stories together, and through each of them we are shown the universal undercurrents of inspiration, growth, grace, family, empowerment, and endurance.”

Product Details

Publisher:  Rodale Books

Publication date:  3/1/2011

Pages:  288

My Review

Although I believe Armstrong’s purpose behind writing Mile Markers was well intended, I had a very difficult time relating to her, to her stories, and to her experiences.  Granted, there is a 20-plus-year age difference, which equates to different life stages.  However, even in terms of running, the one interest we share, I struggled to find common ground.

Before getting to the not-so-great, I appreciated the book’s structure; twenty-six chapters (plus an epilogue for the final .2) organized by themes—like “endurance,” “body,” and “confidence”—made reading the book easy.  These categories helped the audience stay engaged and let them spot the underlying message.  Also, from a writer’s standpoint, I valued how Armstrong avoided using clichéd similes.  Peppered with unique comparisons—“… I felt as stiff as an Old Navy mannequin …” (201)—her narrative seemed fresh and authentic.

Even though I found Armstrong’s tone, structure, and writing style effective, I felt isolated by a lot of her stories.  Don’t get me wrong; I’m not discounting her as a runner or writer.  However, I couldn’t relate to her entire “mothers” and “kids” sections, which is unsurprising.  Being a mother and having kids comprise her self-identity, so a majority of her anecdotes revolve around these characteristics; and since our writer-reader relationship lacked that commonality, I had trouble connecting with Armstrong.  Also, her narrative emphasizes running with friends—whom she lovingly calls her “sweat sisters”—but this focus on sisterhood didn’t resonate with me.  Again, this running group accounts for a huge part of her running and social life, but I don’t have a “sweaty sisterhood” of my own to draw upon.  Finally, as a runner, I respect Armstrong’s accolades:  Running a sub-1:35 half-marathon, qualifying for the Boston Marathon, and taking on trail running are impressive feats, but from a running standpoint, I felt like she’s totally out of my league.  I wish I could run a marathon on the trails of Austin after dropping my kids off at school, but frankly, I don’t think that’s ever going to happen.  Overall, I think a reader who has a lot in common with Armstrong will enjoy this book, but that reader isn’t me.

Edited to add:  Here’s Jamie’s post with links to all participating bloggers–check it out!

The American Way of Eating Book Review

Have you ever discovered a great book when you weren’t looking?  I have my mom to thank for this review—if she hadn’t picked it up from the library, it would’ve taken me much longer to find Tracie McMillan’s The American Way of Eating.

Tell-all books about food fascinate me—I read Eric Schlosser’s Fast Food Nation in 10th grade and immediately stopped eating anything that warranted the question, “would you like fries with that?”—so after thumbing through McMillan’s book, I knew I’d read it.

Brief Summary

From Amazon.com:

“What if you can’t afford nine-dollar tomatoes?  That was the question award-winning journalist Tracie McMillan couldn’t escape as she watched the debate about America’s meals unfold, one that urges us to pay food’s true cost—which is to say, pay more.  So in 2009 McMillan embarked on a groundbreaking undercover journey to see what it takes to eat well in America.  For nearly a year, she worked, ate, and lived alongside the working poor to examine how Americans eat when price matters.

“From the fields of California, a Walmart produce aisle outside of Detroit, and the kitchen of a New York City Applebee’s, McMillan takes us into the heart of America’s meals.  With startling intimacy she portrays the lives and food of Mexican garlic crews, Midwestern produce managers, and Caribbean line cooks, while also chronicling her own attempts to live and eat on meager wages.  Along the way, she asked the questions still facing America a decade after the declaration of an obesity epidemic:  Why do we eat the way we do?  And how can we change it?  To find out, McMillan goes beyond the food on her plate to examine the national priorities that put it there.  With her absorbing blend of riveting narrative and formidable investigative reporting, McMillan takes us from dusty fields to clanging restaurant kitchens, linking her work to the quality of our meals—and always placing her observations in the context of America’s approach not just to farms and kitchens but to wages and work.

“The surprising answers that McMillan found on her journey have profound implications for our food and agriculture, and also for how we see ourselves as a nation.  Through stunning reportage, Tracie McMillan makes the simple case that—city or country, rich or poor—everyone wants good food.  Fearlessly reported and beautifully written, The American Way of Eating goes beyond statistics and culture wars to deliver a book that is fiercely intelligent and compulsively readable.  Talking about dinner will never be the same again.”

Product Details

Publisher:  Scribner

Publication date:  2/21/2012

Pages:  336

My Review

Overall, The American Way of Eating struck a perfect balance of investigative reporting and historical information.  While giving the reader insight into the individuals she met, McMillan relays background statistics to set the stage—did you know hydrogenated fats were invented in France?

The book’s organization works to its advantage.  McMillan didn’t complete her legwork in the published progression, but presenting her findings in this manner—field to store to plate—moves the narrative along in an appropriate manner.  Again, in each section, she provides both narrative and facts; for me, there were several points that started to drag due to an information overload, but it seemed like McMillan knew my attention was wavering because she soon transitioned back to narrative.  Hands down, it was McMillan’s interactions with people in the fields, stores, and restaurant that kept me reading.  Her coworkers came to life, which kept me engaged and interested in a way that the historical information didn’t.  That’s not to say it wasn’t relevant, but I’m definitely out of “college reading mode,” and all the data and statistics shocked my system.  If you’re interested in healthy living, cooking, eating, and investigative reporting, you’ll love this book.

Have you read The American Way of Eating?  What did you think?  Have you read similar types of books?

Drop Dead Healthy Giveaway Winner

Good morning, friends!  Is it really Monday already?  In that case, it’s time to announce the winner of the Drop Dead Healthy Giveaway:  congratulations to Rhapsody in Books!

Please send me an email at carrie.stevens205@gmail.com with your mailing information, and I’ll get the book to you ASAP.

Breakfast

I’m heading to the YMCA for some swimming and running, so I went with an old fave for this morning’s meal.

Two Kashi waffles with PB and banana slices.  Plus two cups of unpictured coffee.

Talk to you in a bit!

My First Giveaway

Good morning, everyone!  I have an exciting opportunity for you—remember my review of the New York Times Bestseller Drop Dead Healthy by A.J. Jacobs?

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Here’s an opportunity to win a copy of the book! (Giveaway open to residents of the United States and Canada, only.  Sorry!)

To enter:  Simply leave a comment on this post telling me about one of your favorite healthy habits.

You can earn an extra entry by tweeting the following:  “I want to win a copy of @AJJacobs’ book Drop Dead Healthy from @CarrieStevens25 http://tinyurl.com/c8sqvrt.”  Just be sure to leave another comment on this post with your tweet.

I’ll randomly pick a winner Monday morning!  Good luck!