July 16, 2021

Tom's Favorite Books

Here is a link to the New York Times Bestsellers List. Not that I have ever used it to guide me to a book purchase, but it is always interesting to know what the herd is stampeding after at any point in time.

What follows is supposed to be a reverse chronological list of books that I have particularly enjoyed (or maybe even intensely disliked). In any event, books that I felt strongly enough about that I wanted to say something about them, and in the case of good books, those that I would choose to read again.

Keeping Sharp by Sanjay Gupta MD 7-2021

This book popped up when my wife brought it home from the library. He discusses things we can do to preserve our minds and insofar as possible stave off dementia. A good book, though he likes to repeat himself. He offers 5 main things a person ought to do:

  1. Exercise - an hour a day is best, 20 minutes minimum, weights twice a week.
  2. Challenge your mind - learn new things
  3. Sleep - don't be the typical American, get 7-8 hours
  4. Diet - more fruits, vegetables - less sugar
  5. Social connections - cultivate them, don't isolate

The Lifetime Reading Plan by Clifton Fadiman

There is a "New" Lifetime Reading plan that adds John Major as an author. Apparently he was added to bring non-western writings into the coverage. Initials at the end of each article indicate who actually wrote it. I was skeptical of this book at first, but have become increasingly pleased with Mr. Fadiman's writing. One comment I particularly enjoyed was about John Stuart Mill, who was educated entirely by his father. He says:

This saved him at least ten of the years most first-rate minds are compelled to waste in our own school system.
You have to like a man who writes things like that.

You Can't Fire Everyone by Hank Gilman

My wife brought home a pile of management books when she started a new position. This one caught my eye, and she suggested I might enjoy the fellows sarcastic sense of humor. Indeed I did. He is a writer/editor who has worked for Newsweek, Wall Street Journal, and Fortune. I am not sure if I need to read a management book, but so what. It is worth reading both for the humor and the bluntly delivered high quality insights.

Why we're polarized by Ezra Klein
A good friend gave it a strong recommendation. It looks like the kind of thing I would rather get from the library rather than buying, but the library doesn't have it. Reviews indicate that the writer does a good job being balanced in the first half of the book but drifts into attacks on the right in the second half, which is too bad. It may be one of those books that is worth reading just because you won't agree with the author.

Tracks by Robyn Davidson
This book was written in 1980 by a woman who travelled across the western Australian desert with 4 camels. It is a great book. An amazing piece of introspective honesty. A major theme is breaking loose from the pressure to conform. From the postscript: "when you understand that country, it is the easiest thing imaginable to wander through it with minimal equipment". Also: "Wherever there is pressure to conform (one person's conformity is often in the interest of another persons power), there is a requirement to resist."

In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan
This is an excellent book. My boil down of the books message is that much of what we hear about "nutrition" from the "experts" is bunk. The gospel changes from year to year, the message has been wrong time and time again, and the concept of guiding our diet based on nutritional components is fundamentally flawed. If these people have not lost our confidence by now, they should have. In addition, the food processors have manipulated our laws to allow all sorts of misleading labelling. The positive advice is to eat food! Eat what your grandmother would have recognized as food! Eat more basic stuff (plants), shop around the margins of your grocery store, and avoid processed food. After reading this book and pondering some of its rules (anything with an ingredient list longer than about 5 items or with unknown and hard to pronounce chemical substances in the list is not food), I decided to give up Cliff Bars and other "energy bars". Oddly enough these seem to be the quintessential processed food -- a blob of unrecognizable "stuff". I had other reasons for this decision, but this book pushed me over the edge on energy bars.

Galloway's Book on Running by Jeff Galloway is a true classic.
There are mountains of running books out there, but this one stands the test of time, and as I gain more experience running, I realize that this guy really does know what he is talking about.

Born to Run by Christopher McDougall.
No, I am not compiling just a list of running books, that just happens to be what I am reading lately. This is a great book and a great story even if you are not into running. If you are, this is something you definitely need to read for a number of reasons (just go read it). McDougall has a great sense of humor that I find exactly to my liking (the book has several times brought me up short and started me laughing). Some don't like his style, you can't please everyone.

Younger next Year by Chris Crowley and Henry Lodge.
I really enjoyed this book and am putting much of its advice into practice. This is a book on aging and how to beat the rap, insofar as possible. It is not just an exercise book, though it is that first and foremost. The authors write alternate chapters, and I must admit that I enjoy Chris's humorous and cynical writing style (though I am sure it will put some people off). Some (but not all) of Henry's science seems pretty sketchy, though his conclusions are solid.


Have any comments? Questions? Drop me a line!

Tom's Favorite Books / tom@mmto.org