My Reading Year 2018, Part 2: Non-fiction

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I read a lot of non-fiction this year.  Here are a few of the stand-outs.

1.  Factfulness by Hans RoslingFactfulness cover

This book changed my view of international poverty and struggle, and helped me change my focus to bring effective action to world concerns still in progress. The book was recommended by Bill Gates, and written by the founder of Doctors without Borders, a lifelong physician and epidemiologist. A quiz at the beginning of book revealed my ignorance about international poverty, and the ignorance of most of the educated people in the richest countries. The author reviews 10 areas where our perceptions are wrong, and how the facts lead to different conclusions.

Towards the end of the book, he reviews what we should be teaching our children as a summary.
-There are countries at different levels of health and income; most are in the middle. (Developed and third world is no longer a useful way to define the world).
-Each country’s socioeconomic position is changing; what was true in the 1960s and 70s is now wrong. We must all constantly re-educate ourselves.
-People and countries are moving up income levels; most are improving.
-Life was not perfect in the past, and in general, was much less safe, more violent, and much more of a struggle than today.
-Things can be getting better and still bad. (Improvement does not equal perfection, and there is still work to do).
-Much of what we think of as country specific in ways people do things–use the restroom, cook, get around– may be income level specific, changing as countries improve income levels.
-We do not need to use fear and worst case scenarios to get people motivated to change. This causes all our work to be held up as false by detractors. (See Al Gore and the environmental movement).
I recommend this book for anyone looking to understand more about the world today.  (It is the book I’m giving the most for Christmas!).

2.  The Obesity Code by Jason Fung

Obesity code cover

Obesity is increasing in the United States, with about 30% of adults considered obese (BMI >30), and another 30% overweight (BMI 25-<30). Childhood overweight and obesity are also increasing significantly. ( Calculate your BMI here)

What if traditional advice about cutting calories and increasing physical activity is not the only way?  What if weight gain is not due to excess calories, but to stimulation of insulin release and energy storage due to constant exposure to insulin from our constant exposure to food?

Dr. Fung proposes intermittent fasting as a way to avoid constant insulin secretion, and thus, to lose weight.  This book presents the scientific rationale and data on this dietary practice.  Fasting  practices such as the well-studied 5:2 plan (eat regularly 5 days a week, fast and keep calories to 400-500 on 2 fasting days while drinking as much non-caloric fluid as you desire), and time restricted eating (eat for 6-8 hours daily, fast for the rest) are discussed.  This is turning out to be a way to lose weight and decrease risk for diabetes, hypertension, and hyperlipidemia.

3.  Hellhound on his Trail, Hampton Sides

Hellhound Hampton Sides cover

A meticulously researched examination of Martin Luther King, Jr. in his last days, and his assassin, as well as the international manhunt that led to his eventual capture.  I learned so much about the time period and MLK.  Highly recommended.

4.  Books about nature: Deep: Freediving and What the Ocean Tells Us about Ourselves

Deep Freediving cover

The Nature Fix

Nature Fix cover

The first is about freediving and ocean exploration.  This technique involves holding one’s breath for minutes and descending 30-50 feet into the ocean with no scuba gear. An interesting examination of the history of our relationship with the ocean and of what lives in the deep.

The second is about how good it is for us to get outside. Forest-bathing, all the rage in Japan, is a good start, and incorporating time in nature in our daily lives will make us happier and more resilient.

Happy reading, all!  More reviews coming up soon.


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Photo by Janko Ferlic on


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