Wednesday, October 29, 2014

In Defense of Food

An informative and quick read by Michael Pollan, yes another one of his books, called In Defense of Food.  In the book Pollan discusses how food has changed over the centuries, based on much of the socialization of people in society.  He goes into depth with the change of diet and its implications for healthy living and disease.  By all accounts, Pollan is the standing “czar” on all things food.  After a brief “manifesto” on the importance of eating, the book is separated into three sections, the age of nutritionism, the western diet and diseases of civilization, and getting over nutritionism.  I thoroughly enjoy hearing Pollan’s own stories about growing up with margarine in the 1960s (when it was all the craze) to him walking through his garden to pick out the evening’s meal.  Pollan’s expertise and knowledge of the food industry legends (on nutrition, dietary consumption and food science) is second to none.  Add in his ability to investigate and provide primary sources to his points and you have the quintessential author of our time on a topic he has learned so much about.  Pollan’s helpful hints are the icing on the “cake” – ok bad joke, but…  here goes some closing suggestions that he provides to his readers on how to eat:  pay more money and eat less food (it’s what the French do); eat meals (like the Italians) by sitting together and make it a social event; sit at a table when you eat; don’t get your fuel from the same place as your car does (those drop-in gas stations); try not to eat alone (so true!) - more of the social piece; consult your gut (as soon as your stomach is fed – stop eating!); eat slowly (good advice for my son Christian) - taste what it is you are eating!; cook; and if you can, plant a garden (‘nuff said on this one).  Our food supply has been replaced by fake ingredients made by man and we need to go back to the by scratch ingredients that made our great grandparents enjoy the taste of food.  Thanks Michael Pollan for your in depth and thorough, rather stark, view on our current food supply.  Very informational read which will make you think twice before biting into that Big Mac (which I can say I have never had, truly!).

Monday, October 27, 2014

Kane and Abel

I really like the story-telling prowess of Jeffrey Archer and this second RA Favorite Book of his, Kane and Abel, was just as good as the first. Archer continues to use historical stories as the basis for his storyline and this time he uses the biblical piece of Cain and Abel whom battle to the finish in this 20th century updated version. The two characters (Kane and Abel in this one) come from very different backgrounds, though their desire to destroy each other using current day tactics of successful business men parallels the brute force of many thousands of years ago. The two men are born on the same day, April 18, 1906 but have very different upbringings to eventually become despised enemies, though they never meet each other, except in cases they don’t know they are meeting each other! William Lowell Kane is born in Boston as a third-generation wealthy and powerful banker. Kane is also educated at Harvard and a hard-working, driven man (that is the only thing he shares in common with his rival). Abel Rosnovski (originally named Wladek Koskiewicz) is born in Poland to great poverty, one of seven children, and eventually is given away to a Baron who is later killed, and “Abel” then escapes death and immigrates to the United States. The two men’s lives finally connect while Abel is moving his way up the ladder in the hotel industry when his boss commits suicide after losing all of his assets in the 1929 crash of the stock market. When Abel is about to lose his interest in the hotel chain as well, he reaches out to the bank holding the note and speaks to Kane, who based on policy needs to say no to the request to give Abel a loan to keep the hotels afloat. For Abel this lack of help begins a bitter feud that will persist for 30+ years. The various turns of life’s challenges help ruin both men from the greatness they should have achieved. There are many interchanges between the two men and their careers and at each turn they both attempt to ruin the other. The biggest turn of events occurs much later in the story when the children of the two men end up meeting each other (without knowledge of their lineage) and fall in love. Archer has a way of connecting his stories to real life historical events occurring at the time of the story (presidential elections, stock market collapse, and world wars). There are also a number of special twists that make this thriller a special book. I personally get really engaged in Archer’s work and highly recommend it to others. It was a great book to listen to while flying back home from Rome.

Saturday, October 18, 2014


Time for a thriller with a scientific/technology driven story by popular American author Michael Crichton.  The book is called Prey, and based on his well-received previous stories like Jurassic Park, you probably know what is in store for you.  This book is a bit less “over the top” but still is riveting with a new breed of life being created by a company that is experimenting with a new human species of sorts.  Jack Forman is a former software programmer married to Julia who is a high-ranking executive employed at a nanorobotics firm called Xymos.  The couple has three children.  During his inability to find a job (he was fired for having attempting to turn in one of the executives of the firm for stealing money but Jack is the one who lost the job and now he is being blackballed in the industry), Jack is home raising the kids.  Jack notices sudden changes in his wife, thinking she is having an affair with someone from the company, he catches her in lies.  Julia is becoming aggressive and almost “bi-polar” in her mood swings.  Julia is rarely home and on one night after dinner returning to work she is almost killed in a car accident. The children notice the changes in their mother and also a “presence” of sorts in the house, like a spirit of some sort.  Jack is finally offered a job at Julia’s company to assist with the software product he had created at his former company and is asked to come and fix the flaw, which Julia’s company is now dependent.    Jack goes to the off-site location which begins a steady spiral of incidents that leads him to confronting the “evil presence,” a new force which was technology-created by Julia’s company and he learns has taken over the other’s bodies!!!  This thriller ends with a confrontation with the virus which infiltrates the body of others with certain contact by those who have the virus, Julia and the man she is having an affair with, Jack’s former mentee!  The story takes place over a seven day period with the narrator (Jack) giving a detailed account of the timing and the decisions and choices he needs to make along the way.  A good read as I find with all of Crichton’s books.  Listening to it doesn’t do as much justice to reading or I’m sure if (and when) it makes it to the big screen. 

Thursday, October 16, 2014

The Light Between Oceans

An incredibly sad and moving story of love and heartbreak written by M.L. Stedman called The Light Between Oceans.  The story is set in Australia and begins with the main character, Tom Sherbourne’s return from fighting in World War I. He gets a job opportunity working at a lighthouse overseeing the ocean.  He meets a visiting young woman, Isabel, who he eventually marries.  The couple lives on the remote end of the island at the lighthouse, only returning to see her family from time to time.  The couple desperately hope to conceive children, which they finally do.  The couple is exuberant with the news, but alas, Isabel has a miscarriage.  The struggles continue for the two and after two more miscarriages it appears their hopes of being a parent disappears.  Two weeks after the third miscarriage, Tom notices a boat has drifted ashore.  As he enters the boat he hears shrieks, a child is on the boat! Along with a deceased man, presumably the father.  Tom tells Isabel, and she helps nurse the baby to health, using her own breast milk, which started to come in during her 7th month of pregnancy.  Tom also buries the man’s body so no one will realize that he was with the child. Tom suggests they bring the baby into the village to see if they can locate family.  Isabel is hesitant and that marks the challenge in their ethical dilemma, what to do.  Isabel drags the process out and after a significant period of time passes and acquaintances visit, Isabel passes the young child as her own newborn, not alluding to the fact she had a miscarriage. Tom is consumed with guilt and eventually when they go to mainland two years later he learns of a mother who lost a husband at sea with a newborn baby.  What to do?  Tom pleads with Isabel to turn the baby over, while Isabel refuses.  What happens next will surprise, Tom writes a note indicating that a man and woman who have stolen the woman’s child!  Both Tom and Isabel have very challenging “next steps” in a story that has no winners, only losers.  Beautifully written, but I would not suggest listening to it… the Aussie accent is hard to decipher!  A story that challenges the human condition in how to handle adversity.  A best-selling novel, well worth picking up.