Bye-bye, beer. Farewell, fruit.

In my last post, I explained how glad I was to have stumbled upon science writer Gary Taubes. As of that post, I’d only read The Case Against Sugar. Since then, I’ve also read his Why We Get Fat and about half of Good Calories, Bad Calories.

The more Taubes I read (and hear, having listened to a half-dozen podcasts featuring him as guest), the gladder I become. Two weeks ago, I was scratching my head, trying to figure out what had gone wrong with my health and how to get it back on track. I perceived my recently diagnosed asthma and allergies as symptoms, not root causes, but I couldn’t figure out the root cause(s). Similarly, I couldn’t understand why generally eating Whole 30-style wasn’t taking me back to health the way it had before. Continue reading “Bye-bye, beer. Farewell, fruit.”

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The Case Against Sugar

Since my just-younger sister turned me on to Overdrive, an app enabling folks to check out ebooks and audiobooks from local libraries, I’ve perpetually had ten books–the maximum permitted by my library–on hold. I’ve mostly used the app for these books, ignoring books currently available.

Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s Antifragile was a notable (delightful!) exception to this rule. Based on how much I loved that mid-night, non-hold find, I should’ve expanded my book searches. And yet, despite this, I ignored most books currently available … until last week, when I checked out The Case Against Sugar by Gary Taubes.

It might have sat on my phone unread but for a bad allergy/asthma reaction last Sunday. I’d gone to a theme park with my family and some family friends, only to find it progressively harder for me to breathe. It took me a couple of hours to realize I should check pollen levels; when I did, I saw they were “moderate” for some of my allergens. Continue reading “The Case Against Sugar”

Walking in the Grass

Recently, I’ve started walking in the grass as often as I can.

When I randomly checked out Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s Antifragile from my library last September, I had no expectations for it. I certainly didn’t imagine it would eventually impact where–and how–I walk!

In Antifragile, Taleb points out that “robust” is hardly the opposite of fragile. While something fragile exposed to stress might break, that which is robust merely endures it. It’s neither hurt nor improved by exposure to stress. That which is antifragile, on the other hand, grows and thrives from exposure to some stressors.

One example he cites is muscle growth from deadlifting. By introducing muscles to the stress of increasingly heavy weights, muscles prepare to handle even heavier loads. Stress inspires growth. By depriving ourselves of stressors, then, we’re potentially depriving ourselves of growth.

Taleb offers plenty of other examples of this phenomenon, including reflections on the benefits of fasting, but many have faded from my memory in the months since I read Antifragile. It was only at random that I recently recalled a note on how always walking on even surfaces is another way we deprive our bodies of challenges that help them grow. Continue reading “Walking in the Grass”

differences in material demands

A few weeks ago, my husband and I visited L.A.’s The Last Bookstore on a date. I left with an armful of books, only a handful of which had been on my radar before I entered the store.

One of the books I’d picked up was Audre Lorde’s Sister Outsider. I’d read about Lorde many times before, and always had the sense I’d read her someday. The STAFF PICK sticker on this book’s cover bumped that up to “in the next couple of days.”

Continue reading “differences in material demands”

Wisdom By Book

I first encountered Political Economy professor Mark Blyth on February 2017 The Dig episode “How Austerity Brought Us Donald Trump.” I expected to endure boredom for a better sense of how things fit together. Instead, I found myself laughing almost immediately; Blyth made even this subject entertaining!

For a few months, I listened to every Blyth presentation I could find. I was tickled when I learned Mark Blyth and one of my two favorite authors, Nassim Nicholas Taleb, are friends, but didn’t listen to much Blyth after last April.

A few weeks ago, I got a hankering to hear some more Blyth. I found him on a podcast called Mixed Mental Arts (“Not So Austere“). And, oh! What luck that turned out to be for this bookworm! Continue reading “Wisdom By Book”

The Authors Who Wrote Me Back

This morning, nausea compelled me to do something I almost never do: put everything down, close my eyes, and just rest. Soon enough, I recalled an email exchange I once had with author David Brin. The memory made me chuckle … and then think about the authors who wrote me back.

In middle school English, we read many books. Of all those, I recall only one by name: Bette Greene’s Summer of My German Soldier. The book moved me, but the book stands out for other reasons.

Instead of writing a book report on Summer, Ms. Heyerly had each of her students write a letter to Ms. Greene. I wrote that I wanted to be a writer, turned in my letter, and forgot about it … until a big envelope from Greene arrived at my home several months later. In the envelope was the cover of her then-new book, The Drowning of Stephan Jones, signed with a note encouraging me to keep writing. Continue reading “The Authors Who Wrote Me Back”

The Reading Bridge

On Friday, my family and I visited Long Beach Public Library’s main branch. While we visit our own branch often, it’s tiny by comparison. I thought—correctly!—my sons would be wowed by the main branch’s size, in space and number of books.

I checked out a couple of Raina Telgemeier graphic novels in Spanish. I read Ghosts on Saturday. I was so touched by it, I stopped by the bookstore on a Sunday to buy it in English. I wanted to share it with my family, both as someone who loves both Dia de los Muertos and someone whose physical life was cut short by Cystic Fibrosis.

The book is simply … breathtaking.

While at the bookstore, I looked at a copy of Telgemeier’s Sisters. A little girl nearby said. “You shouldn’t read that unless you’ve read Smile. It won’t make sense!” She added that they were so good, I should definitely read both.

I told her I had Smile at home, and just read another Telgemeier book.

”I love her!” the girl said. I replied that I was now extra excited to read Smile, and thanked her for her recommendation.

”You’re welcome!” she replied as I began walking away.

I smiled all the way to the cash register. While many perceive reading as a solitary activity, I see little ways—like this—every day that books connect me both to others and to the varied ways we experience this world.

The act of reading is solitary in some ways, but a bridge in so many others.