Thursday, May 31, 2012

"Drop Dead Healthy: One Man's Humble Quest for Bodily Perfection"

375 pages

For The Know-It-All, A.J. Jacobs read the entire Encyclopedia Britannica. For The Year of Living Biblically, he attempted to follow every rule in the Bible for a year. For The Guinea Pig Diaries, he did a whole bunch of crazy stuff, including practice Radical Honesty and attend the Academy Awards disguised as a movie star. Now, in Drop Dead Healthy, he chronicles his latest endeavor: trying to become the healthiest person alive. Basically, this means doing a ton of research and meeting with lots of experts, then trying all the different things that are supposed to make human beings more healthy. Jacobs focuses on different parts of the body--the heart, the lungs, the stomach, the skin, etc--for a month each and writes about what did and didn't get results. And, of course, drives his poor wife, Julie, crazy during the whole thing. 

I have enjoyed all of A.J. Jacobs' books--in fact, I like his style so much that I originally subscribed to Esquire magazine just to read more of his writing between books. I like experimental journalism in general, but I especially appreciate the goofy but thoughtful approach Jacobs uses. Obviously my expectations for Drop Dead Healthy were high, and I was not disappointed. As usual, Jacobs really did his research and covered angles that I hadn't even thought of. It did seem a bit overwhelming in some places; perhaps it would have been less staggering if he'd chosen a more narrow focus for the project. There's just so much information out there and so many experts who contradict each other, so maybe Jacobs bit off more than he could chew. Still, I actually learned quite a bit. Sure, there's plenty of stuff that we've all heard before--always eat breakfast, move as little as possible, and just suck it up and floss, for goodness' sake--but he weeds out some things that don't work and comes up with some good tips for actually doing some of the things the experts recommend. And I was cracking up through the whole thing. Jacobs isn't afraid to make fun of himself, and there are certainly plenty of opportunities to do so in a book about trying to be more healthy (think feeling wimpy next to the muscleheads at the gym and trying poop without sitting down). The best thing about this book, however, is that it made me much more aware of my health and how I treat myself. It sort of gave me a wake up call about how much better I'll feel if I do a few small things for my health, and it definitely motivated me to eat more fresh, local foods; get more sleep; move more throughout the day; and more. Drop Dead Healthy is a book I'd recommend for anyone who feels like they need a boost in inspiration and wants to have some fun along the way.

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