Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Drop Dead Healthy, A.J. Jacobs

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

A.J. Jacobs

Category: Nonfiction: Science; Biology; Humor

Synopsis: Jacobs tries to improve himself one body part at a time.

Date finished: 21 October 2014

Rating: ****

I adored A.J. Jacobs first two books, The Know-It-All and A Year of Living Biblically, but I detested his third, My Life as an Experiment. In the first two, he read the whole Encyclopedia Britannica and lived according to every rule of the Bible. In the third, he tried several experiments to make his life easier. One was to outsource his life. I’m fully convinced that he outsourced the writing of that book. It was definitely not up to the standard set by his first two books.

Gratefully, this one was. I’d put off reading it for two reasons: I was afraid it would be as bad as My Life… and secondly, I tend to stay away from health-related material. But a work friend assured me this one was as absurd and funny and informative as his previous work, and when I found a copy for $2.00 at a used bookstore, I figured I’d give it a whirl.

In all of Jacob’s work, he sets out to transform his life. In his first two books, he tries to improve his mind and his spirit, and in this book, he focuses on his body. Now, I’m someone who doesn’t use doctors or medicine, not so much as a vitamin tablet. But there is a lot more to health than prescriptions and annual exams. And Jacobs talks about all of it. And I have to say, I loved it.

I believe he carried this study out for two full years. Each chapter focused on a different body part or aspect of health (heart, ears, skin, bladder, teeth, adrenal system, etc. etc.). He worked to lose weight, lower blood pressure, and feel healthier. For humor’s sake (and Jacobs IS funny), he will perform an outrageous activity or meet with a health guru who generally takes things further than your average person would (the barefoot runners, extreme chewers, finger fitness gurus). Then he’d bring the discussion back to the mainstream and try more traditional methods. He also included a lot of research to balance out the extremity and pop medicine in other parts of the book.

I could feel that Jacobs was into this project. Whereas his last book (I swear this is the last time I’ll bring it up) was just too weird and free-range, this one was focused and well-plotted. It was even more that way than his first two books. This didn’t feel as much like a stunt as his other work. Maybe Jacobs is finally maturing?

What did I come away with? (Other than a bunch of great one-liners and bits of trivia and pop physiology such as: your lungs weigh 11 pounds; since your body has to heat icy beverages, you burn one calorie for every ounce of ice water you drink; white adults have an average of 30 moles on their bodies; one of the inventors of Lasik wears glasses because he’s wary of taking the risk…) This book teaches one about balance. It’s not possible to follow all the advice about diet and health and exercise, so people must choose what seems logical for them. I was also struck by the Number One Rule of Doctors and Health Care (my phrase, not Jacobs’): Doctors don’t agree. You can find someone to back up any health claim or cure. Paying too much attention can make you nutty.

I’m glad I gave this book a shot. I’m happy to report that I’m back on the A.J. Jacob’s train, and I eagerly await his next adventure.

Would you recommend this to a friend?

You might also enjoy:
The Know-It-All
A Year of Living Biblically

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