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”


the antidote

I just finished Dreamland: The True Tale of America’s Opiate Epidemic.

Two weeks ago, everything I knew about the U.S. epidemic could’ve fit a single paragraph.

A week ago, I could’ve told you a little about the Florida pill mill American Pain thanks to a book of the same name.

This morning, though? I could tell you plenty of things about the epidemic, but I’d rather just say one  thing about the book.

The best books feed head and heart. This book fed both for me in ways that could keep me running for a long while.

I had goosebumps for the last half-dozen pages of the book. While I can’t excerpt all those pages, there’s one short passage that says much, beautifully:

I believe more strongly than ever that the antidote to heroin is community. If you want to keep kids off heroin, make sure people in your neighborhood do things together, in public, often. Form your own Dreamland and break down those barriers that keep people isolated. Don’t have play dates; just go out and play.


Silver Star strikes again

In my July 2011 post “Dead Moms Can’t Care,” I wrote:

The costs of providing health care to those who can’t afford it themselves may not be miniscule. But the costs of not providing it? Those are even worse. Those costs include children left to literally live out their childhood in boxes. I tutored those children my final year of law school. They include the children left to foster care, which is sadly often more full of villains than heroes. They include two grown daughters holding their mom tight as she breathes her pained last breaths at 52–in part because she rightfully feared the consequences of the cost of health care–and the grandchildren who will never feel her love firsthand as a result.

My just-younger sister Rachael was one of the two grown daughters in the last sentence. She handled getting our mom onto low-income government insurance, taking Mom to appointments, and battling errant bills such as the one that inspired my 9/14/09 tweet here.

Two years ago, I wrote this about how Rache lifted Mom into the light: Continue reading “Silver Star strikes again”


I used to think it was funny when people called books “lifesavers.” I’d enjoyed many books, but never to the point where they’d actually improved my life in observable ways.

Now, it would probably be fair to say that each book I read changes my life. I read to see through others’ eyes, to learn a fraction of what they’ve learned and to understand the ways they’re reasoning. Each book I read helps my roots grow deeper.

That being said, there are a few books that have changed my life for the much, much better.

The first was Gavin de Becker’s The Gift of Fear. It affirmed that instincts are a powerful force for good, no matter who mocks or belittles them; indeed, those who belittle often have something to gain by another person’s instincts being overridden.

Even more importantly, one of my sisters might not have survived an abusive relationship but for wisdom I gleaned from The Gift of Fear. It gave me the words to communicate my concerns to her. Now, a few years later, she’s not only alive, but kicking (, punching, blocking, and all other things martial arts/boxing).

The second was Rick Hanson’s Just One Thing. A friend recommended it to me about five years ago, suggesting it would help me retrain my brain to be less stressed. Thanks to this book, I learned (1) about the principle of neuroplasticity and (2) how to apply these principles to become less stressed. I’m coming back to this again, having come to understand that destressing isn’t work you do one time and call done. It’s work that must be undertaken ongoing for best results!

The third was It Starts with Food, which taught me how to ease inflammation at a point where I was scarily inflamed. After a couple of months eating as recommended by the book, my bloodwork looked great and I felt great. I ate mostly according to its principles until this time last year, when I became overwhelmed by political readings and lost all equilibrium. I’m getting back into the swing of things now, and am so grateful to know exactly where to fall.

This list will probably grow with time, but for now: These are three books that have changed my life for the better.

those who are searching

A little more than four years ago, a carpet changed my life. 

I came into my office one Monday and found myself choking on fumes. The building’s carpets had been replaced over the weekend, and they were noxious. My colleagues and I coughed and wheezed through our first days.

The carpet vendor, saying they got this complaint a lot with this carpet, came in and did a steam cleaning. This took some of the edge off the smell, but I continued to struggle with all kinds of reactions to what lingered.

While my colleagues adapted within a couple of weeks, my reaction worsened by the day. The strictly physical pain was bad enough, but what really terrified me was when I started losing mental ground.

I called my sister ranting and rambling one evening. I was trying to figure out what to do; I had a family to feed, and so feared the consequences of either staying or going. Stay and hurt myself further, or leave and struggle financially?

I was so incoherent in my agitation that my sister was terrified. She told me the next day, “You sounded just like Mom.”

Our mom suffered years of mental illness before she died of cancer in 2010. To hear I sounded like Mom was jarring.

I did not want to follow that path.

I found a new job, and left pronto.

What is this doing on my book blog, though? Continue reading “those who are searching”