Mid-Year Update 2022

We are nearing the middle of the year but I felt it necessary to give an update now as I have been neglecting this blog. I typically post here 3-4 times a month, but I only had one post in April and this is my first post for May. This was caused by a number of reasons, but the primary cause is that my reading slump has continued. This blog is focused on books, authors, book-related topics, and occasionally about me. Since my reading has slowed, it’s no surprise my activity here has also slowed. I am still reading, though not at my normal pace, and most of the books I’ve read recently have been nutrition-related as I am still interested and learning about how to be healthier both physically and mentally. All good things, but I’m starting to get that itch to hold a physical book and dive into a story that you lose yourself in for a time.

I can’t recall the last book I’ve read that demanded my attention and had me needing to know what happened next. This may be because my recent reading has been almost exclusively non-fiction and in audiobook format. There were a few books earlier this year that I started but just couldn’t get into and eventually put them down. This contributed to the slump but other factors have also contributed. My focus on nutrition and health also includes preparing most of my own meals and exercising regularly. This of course takes up time (the good thing about audiobooks is I can listen while cooking which can even help keep a focus on healthy eating when the book is about nutrition). I recently received a promotion at work which has also kept me busy and put higher demands on my time and drains mental energy. Again, all good things, but free time is harder to find.

Lastly, and I can’t believe how fast time flies, I am also a father of a beautiful daughter who will be one year old in just a few weeks. Taking care of a child demands your attention and time, and I often find myself wanting to do little else but spend time with her. I am grateful I work from home so I can sneak in a little time with her throughout the workday when she is in the house.

All of these have contributed to my lack of reading and thus my lack of posting here. I hope to change this for various reasons. One is that I simply miss reading and posting here. Two is that reading has been shown to reduce stress with there now being various studies conducted that affirm this. Reading as little as six minutes a day can show a sizeable reduction in stress, and unfortunately my increase in work responsibilities has increased stress levels. Stress has also been shown to increase unhealthy weight gain. Just a few more reasons to get back to reading great stories.

Aside from the lack of time, it has also been the inability to find a book that grabs my interest. The few books I’ve read recently I didn’t enjoy enough to recommend to others. Therefore I am turning the tables and requesting book recommendations from you (which is always welcome) so that I can get back into my reading habit and continue recommending books here. I never really need a reason to go to the book store or library and peruse the shelves in hopes of discovering the next great read, but it never hurts to get suggestions from fellow avid readers. I’m sure I will find my next great read soon.

How Not To Die

How Not To Die book coverThe next step on my journey into nutrition was How Not To Die by Michael Greger, M.D., with Gene Stone. This book is filled with interesting information whether you are working toward a healthier you or if you just like general knowledge about the society we live in. The focus is on the 15 leading causes of death in the United States and each chapter focuses on an individual disease, what pharmaceutical options have been created to address it, and what foods have been used to address and reverse the disease. Basically, this book discusses using food, or diet, as medicine with plenty of interesting facts that may surprise you. The second half of the book is Dr. Greger’s daily dozen foods he recommends to promote and maintain a healthy lifestyle that will add years to your life.

I’m not recommending this book because I want to shift your entire focus to your diet or make you feel bad for wanting to eat a burger. Why read a book about diseases if you are healthy? Well, this book is more than just about diseases (though many of the diseases discussed can begin years before being detected). I am recommending this book because it is an interesting read and can be a very useful reference tool to help you or perhaps someone you know. To put it simply, the standard American diet is not healthy and often leads to the leading causes of death in this country. If a few small changes to your eating habits can drastically improve your health, why wouldn’t you give it a shot?

With nearly 150 pages of notes (out of the book’s total 560 pages) that reference the many papers, studies, and other medical and historical publications, Dr. Greger took evidence from the vast resources of medicinal studies and created an easy-to-read book to help us better understand how our diets impact our health. He doesn’t promote any fad diets or specific eating restrictions. He even promotes eating foods in less healthy forms if that is what it takes to help you eat healthier than you are now and hopefully help create a trend upward towards an even healthier you.

It is crazy how little the average person knows about nutrition. I remember growing up learning about the Food Pyramid which has since been debunked, and I wouldn’t dare follow it given what I know now. My recent dive into nutrition proves how little I knew, and I am glad my current focus is creating a better future for me. I know many people want to be healthier and many know how to be healthier, but they just don’t have the motivation or commitment to make it happen. If you fall into this category, I think books like this can help with motivation because it helps you focus on your future with encouragement to act now. Reading about studies on heart disease makes you want to ensure you don’t develop heart disease. Dr. Greger’s daily dozen foods is available in an app simply titled the daily dozen. The best part is you don’t need to sign up or create an account. It is simply a checklist with access to other information about the food groups to help you begin healthier habits. He has a website NutritionFacts.org which is filled with short videos and articles centered around nutrition. Interested in a new type of food or a natural way to decrease blood pressure? There are dozens of videos averaging 3-4 minutes long to help you learn and better understand your body and how the food you eat can help or hinder your health.

I’ve been focusing on my health recently for a multitude of reasons, but primarily to build a sustainable nutritional and physical regiment to maintain a healthy body and mind. My aim is to be healthy and live as long as possible for my family. The fact I have more energy and feel much better physically and mentally is a testament that it is working. I’m even starting to exercise and eat healthy because I enjoy it. My hope is that you also want to feel great and live as long as possible. I may not know you, dear reader, but I care about you nonetheless. You matter, and I want you to live a happy life.

Happy Reading.

Eat & Run

Eat and Run book coverI had no prior knowledge as to who Scott Jurek was or even that ultramarathons existed before I dove into Eat & Run by Scott Jurek with Steve Friedman. I am not a runner and I do not know anything about the sport except that races exist. I thought marathons were the longest type of race. A marathon is 26.2 miles. An ultramarathon ranges from 50 to 100+ miles. The Spartathlon is a race in Greece that is 152.4 miles (and people run this voluntarily!).

Eat & Run is part memoir, part running, and part nutrition. Altogether, it is a story about Scott Jurek’s life and his experience in the world of ultrarunning while being a vegan. I think, more importantly, this book delves into what drives us as human beings and what is important as we spend our precious time on this earth. As you can imagine, running 100+ miles is a monumental task for the average person and even those who regularly participate in these races often struggle, but part of what entices them to run such distances is the way they push beyond their limits and push through barriers to better understand themselves, physically and mentally, and the world around them.

There is naturally a very small group of individuals who gather around this niche sport, but most of them are minutely aware of their physical needs and capabilities as this is necessary to complete these types of runs. Scott researched and experimented with nutrition to help him become a better athlete, but also to be a healthier individual. His journey into veganism is purposeful despite many fellow runners thinking it wasn’t possible to compete on such a diet. Scott also delves into what drives him to compete in these races and what compels him to continue to push beyond his limits to the edge of what is physically possible.

You will never find me running for 24 hours straight, but what drew me to this book, and how I first learned about it, was the combination of exercise and nutrition. Someone recommended this book to me after a discussion of these topics. I do not plan to become a vegan (each chapter features a vegan recipe FYI), but I am interested in eating more simply to gain the benefits of being healthier and ultimately happier. I’ve begun a journey to improve myself physically through diet and exercise and I already feel better and more energetic. I want to explore this further and fine-tune both areas to maintain a healthy lifestyle so I can enjoy life as best I can but also to spend as much time as I can with my family.

I think we can all improve our eating habits for a better life. Modern foods are not designed to keep us healthy but rather to keep us fed (and often wanting more), and exercise can be difficult to fit into busy schedules and sedentary jobs. Even if you are not interested in running or a vegan diet, you may find Scott Jurek’s journey interesting. At the least, I hope it may inspire you to take a step, especially if it is a first step, toward a healthier and happier you.

Happy Reading.

The Genius Life

The Genius Life book coverThe Genius Life is Max Lugavere’s follow-up to Genius Foods, which I have recommended in the past. Genius Foods focused on a detailed breakdown of nutrition and how our diets impact our bodies and, more importantly, our minds. The Genius Life looks at other factors alongside nutrition that may be hindering our physical and mental health and is split into seven chapters that cover food, our circadian rhythm, the importance of sun and sleep, exercise, the various chemicals found in day-to-day products that disrupt our body, depression and anxiety, and how to incorporate some or all of the suggestions found in this book into your life and make them habits.

Like Genius Foods, this follow-up is chock full of great information broken down for easy reading. All data and research referenced in the book is cited if you want to dive further into any specific area. Many statistics were surprising to me. For example, the average person spends approximately 93% of their time indoors thanks to our modern lifestyle. I thought there was no way this could be correct, but then I examined my own time. I currently have a job where I work from home. Many of my hobbies are sedentary such as reading, writing, playing video games, or watching movies all of which often take place indoors (I do try to read outside when possible). Even most of my exercise is inside, at least for weight training, though I do try to get outside to go for long walks. The 93% of time spent indoors has subsequently led to 42% of the U.S. population being deficient in Vitamin D. So get out and spend at least a little of every day getting some of that beautiful sun.

I really enjoyed Genius Foods which helped me become more conscious of my eating habits and how my diet impacted my health, physically and mentally, and I believe I’ve come a long way with improving both since first reading it. Naturally, I picked up The Genius Life to learn even more and help refocus my attention on ways to be even healthier. The benefits are invaluable. I have much more room to improve, but I already have more energy, feel better mentally and physically, and hopefully will maintain great health and extend my life as long as possible so I can spend it with my family. I say this now having been exercising regularly for 3-4 months and losing almost 30 pounds in the past year (not including the 10 pounds I had put back on last holiday season, whoops!).

We only get one life and I think books like these help us realize how much better off we can be if we paid more attention to our environments and what we put into our bodies. It is never too late to get on a better, healthier path in life. This book has helped me do just that, and I hope it can do the same for you.

Happy Reading.

Fullmetal Alchemist

Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood coverIt has been over a month since my last recommendation. This is partly due to my reading slump and other demands on my time, but today I am recommending a story that is one I consider top-tier. This is the manga series Fullmetal Alchemist by Hiromu Arakawa. I first discovered this story via the anime adaptation which has two versions (which I will discuss shortly), but first let’s begin with a quick blurb to see if this is the type of story you are interested in.

“In an alchemical ritual gone wrong, Edward Elric lost his arm and leg, and his brother Alphonse became nothing but a soul in a suit of armor. Their journey to restore their bodies through the power of the Philosopher’s Stone begins here.”

That was taken from the back of volume one of the deluxe edition. There are 18 volumes included in the deluxe edition and 27 in the original version (the deluxe editions combine the 27 into 18 hardcover volumes).

I hope this caught your interest, because as I stated above, this story is incredible. The Elric brothers are alchemists. Alchemy, for a simple explanation, could be equated to magic. The entire system centers on the Law of Equivalent Exchange. For example, by using the right alchemical formula, an alchemist could change water into hydrogen by removing the oxygen. The correct materials are present. They can change the chemical and/or physical makeup of things with alchemy but only if the materials are present. Alchemy cannot therefore create something from nothing. Except perhaps with the Philosopher’s Stone.

Though I recently read the manga series for the first time, I did watch the 2003 adaptation Fullmetal Alchemist and the 2009 adaptation titled Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood. The reason two versions exist isn’t simply that the latter is a remake. The first was adapted while the manga was still being written and the show went on past the published material and thus took creative liberties to conclude the series resulting is quite a few differences from the source material. The 2009 adaptation is more accurate as the series had been completed and it therefore stayed true to the source material. This is perhaps why I believe it to be the better version.

What I like about this series is the blend of comedy, drama, ethics, morality, and the questions of what it means to be human and what is the value of a human life. It covers topics such as genocide, so this series does delve into some heavy areas and there are some impactful moments, one of which stands out as a forever “too soon” reference within the fandom. If you’ve read or watched this series, then you likely know what I am referring to.

The series is rich with interesting characters both good and bad. I would even dare to call it timeless due to the nature of the worldbuilding and the fact it centers on those questions that humanity will always be considering despite the fact no concrete answer will ever be possible.

If you’ve never heard of this series, then I hope you look into it either by reading or watching. I of course recommend print format but also the 2009 adaptation if you want to watch it. Both versions are currently available on Netflix. In the spirit of Equivalent Exchange. I thank you for reading my post and I hope you got something from it that you find as valuable as the time spent reading it.

Happy Reading.