I've never had any experience with A. J. Jacobs prior to this book, but I've been hearing about him for some time. He is known for a brand of full-immersion non-fiction, where he LIVES whatever he is writing about. One big blogger hit was "The Year of Living Biblically", where Jacobs follows every single rule of the Bible for an entire year. Which by itself is enough to make a person go "hmmmm".
But living healthy? Alright, I've been on a bit of a health trend for the last 9 months, so I thought I might learn something here. Book Addiction Heather loaned me the audio, and I was in the mood for something non-fiction and maybe funny.
Synopsis: A.J. Jacobs looked in the mirror and saw a middle-aged, doughy and out-of-shape guy, and worried about whether he would be around to raise his three small boys to adulthood. What better project then than to throw himself into every nook and cranny of the business of improving his health? The task was daunting...like 53 pages worth of things to do. So with gusto, Jacobs takes it all head-on.
He covers all the bases. Sure, there are the topics one would expect to see...like eating the right foods and exercise. But even in the realm of normalcy, Jacobs finds the abnormal, like a diet and exercise regime tailored to that of the caveman (throwing boulders in Central Park??), paying attention to the number of times he chews before he swallows, the cardio benefits of pole dancing, or walking on a treadmill while on his computer, for example.
He takes off from there, exploring skin and mole removal, the immune system and nurturing his phobia of germs, improving brain function, sleeping habits, maintaining healthy private parts and boosting the libido, decreasing stress, and how to have the most productive bowel movement. While Jacobs injects his humor into this experiment, his efforts are earnest and thorough and his tips are practical and helpful. He did, after all, lose 16 pounds along the way and competed in a triathlon. You may not ultimately embrace a pedestrian helmet or wearing noise-cancelling headphones all day, but you may pick up the inspiration to live a healthier life.
My thoughts: This was a fun little romp. Not quite as fascinating as the Mary Roach books, but almost. But similar to Mary Roach, a little bit of this goes a long way. I would not be able to listen to this type of book all the time, but is a nice side trip once in awhile.
Jacobs is totally over-the-top. He doesn't just do intensive research on, let's say, healthy testosterone levels. He gets himself tested, and against his wife's wishes even, takes Clomid (a medication I actually used myself when I was trying to get pregnant) to increase his numbers, thus making him aggressive and feisty. He doesn't just Google sleep disorders, he attends a sleep clinic.
I think his wife must be a saint.
So did I learn anything here? I like the idea of out-sourcing my worrying to someone else, thus reducing stress. Let Susie Poo do the worrying about that weird pain in my foot, and I'll worry about whether or not she will get a promotion. Kinda makes sense, in a weird way, doesn't it? And there is some good, old-fashioned practical advice at the end of the book that rang true. Everything in moderation. Shopping the perimeter of the grocery store and avoid all that processed crap in the middle. Own a pet. Walk. Avoid white flour products. Stop shoving so much food in your mouth. That kind of thing. Good stuff.
A word about the audio production: Jacobs actually narrates the audio himself, and does it well. There are some authors that narrate their own work and are so good at it, I will never read their work in print (ahem, Joshilyn Jackson, David Sedaris, Sarah Vowell). I'm not sure I'm at this point with Jacobs, but he was pleasant and delivered the message in the spirit in which it was intended.
Audiobook length: 10 hours and 10 minutes (416 pages)
3.5 out of 5 stars