Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Drop Dead Healthy (A.J. Jacobs)

When author A.J. Jacobs says he is going to do something, he does it WHOLEHEARTEDLY.  Exhibit A: His book The Know-It-All: One Man’s Humble Quest to Become the Smartest Person in the World documents his reading of the encyclopedia from A-Z.  In the popular The Year of Living Biblically, Jacobs lives one year following each rule of the Bible in as literal a way as possible.  And so it is with Drop Dead Healthy: One Man’s Humble Quest for Bodily Perfection, in which Jacobs is determined to make every part of himself from head to toe (and those parts you can’t see) the healthiest they can be.

This is the best type of read – it’s not only enjoyable and funny, but you’ll come away with lots of knowledge you can either take or leave.  Jacobs keeps each chapter short, focusing on how he’s trying to improve that part of his body. For food, he tries eating raw and vegan but also goes to the other extreme and eats Paleo style. What advice is worth taking?  Exercising 20 minutes a WEEK hardcore or working out like our caveman ancestors?  What environmental “dangers” are really worth worrying about?  You might be surprised by the research.

Jacobs fully realizes that he can’t keep up with all this advice for the rest of his life.  There just aren’t enough hours in the day, and some things have to give.  In the end, he’s definitely a lot healthier than he was at the beginning and inspires us all to make little tweaks for big results.


Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Life Drawing (Robin Black)

You won’t find much going on or even very many characters in Robin Black’s stunning debut novel, but in the hands of this talented writer, you don’t need them.  Summed up in one sentence, Life Drawing is about a childless couple who lives in an isolated area until they suddenly get a neighbor.  There, doesn’t sound very exciting, right?  That’s where you’re wrong.

Owen and his wife, Gus, are a writer and artist respectively who are surprised one day to find that someone has moved close to them in their rural area.  Allison is warm and friendly; before long, Owen and Gus come out of their shells and become neighborly, inviting her to come over for dinner.  When Allison’s daughter, Nora, comes to stay for awhile, they all become ingrained in each other’s lives, and Life Drawing quickly becomes a wonderful character study before its shocking, sudden conclusion.

Kudos to Black for this gorgeously written book, where every word is necessary and each paragraph reads like a stirring melody.   


Friday, July 4, 2014

Black Chalk (Christopher J. Yates)

I had high hopes for Black Chalk; you would think that a book with "One game. Six students. Five survivors." on the cover would at least be a little heart-pounding.  But alas, I found myself trying to "get through" this novel rather than enjoying it.

The premise is really exciting, which is why I was anxious to pick this up.  While in college, six classmates begin a seemingly innocent game, where the loser of each round must perform a consequence.  Each consequence gets harder and harder as the game progresses, with reputations, family loyalty, and eventually danger and death on the line.  The game ultimately comes to a head between the final two players left standing, with an ending that really makes no sense.

Even through constant going back and forth between time periods, Yates does a nice job of keeping the story together and plot holes are few, if any. However, none of the characters are particularly likable, and I really didn't care much about the game's outcome.  Black Chalk has an interesting premise, but the execution is a little weak.