There’s nothing like the gift of a good read: inexpensive, highly personal, and endlessly giving. Books can be downloaded, distributed, recycled, and regifted innumerable times, yet each new title is a unique present that says something about both the giver and receiver. Here are four of my top science, research and/or health suggestions for this holiday season. Put them on your list or buy them for your favorite brainy bookaholic; you won’t be disappointed.
1. The Story of the Human Body: Evolution, Health and Disease by Daniel Lieberman. From amazon.com: “In this landmark book of popular science, Daniel E. Lieberman—chair of the department of human evolutionary biology at Harvard University and a leader in the field—gives us a lucid and engaging account of how the human body evolved over millions of years, even as it shows how the increasing disparity between the jumble of adaptations in our Stone Age bodies and advancements in the modern world is occasioning this paradox: greater longevity but increased chronic disease.” For a compelling preview, listen to Terry Gross talk with Dr. Lieberman about his new book on Fresh Air.
2. The Sports Gene: Inside the Science of Extraordinary Athletic Performance by David Epstein. From amazon.com: “We all knew a star athlete in high school. The one who made it look so easy. He was the starting quarterback and shortstop; she was the all-state point guard and high-jumper. Naturals. Or were they? The debate is as old as physical competition. Are stars like Usain Bolt, Michael Phelps, and Serena Williams genetic freaks put on Earth to dominate their respective sports? Or are they simply normal people who overcame their biological limits through sheer force of will and obsessive training?” Here’s an interview about the book conducted with Sports Illustrated writer David Epstein by Dave Davies on Fresh Air.
3. David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits and the Art of Battling Giants by Malcolm Gladwell. From amazon.com: “Three thousand years ago on a battlefield in ancient Palestine, a shepherd boy felled a mighty warrior with nothing more than a stone and a sling, and ever since then the names of David and Goliath have stood for battles between underdogs and giants. David’s victory was improbable and miraculous. He shouldn’t have won. Or should he have? In David and Goliath, Malcolm Gladwell challenges how we think about obstacles and disadvantages, offering a new interpretation of what it means to be discriminated against, or cope with a disability, or lose a parent, or attend a mediocre school, or suffer from any number of other apparent setbacks.” Here are some great NPR clips (an interview by Kai Ryssdal on Marketplace and a short segment from the TED Radio Hour) regarding Malcolm Gladwell’s perspective on his new book.
4. Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us by Michael Moss. From amazon.com: “Every year, the average American eats thirty-three pounds of cheese (triple what we ate in 1970) and seventy pounds of sugar (about twenty-two teaspoons a day). We ingest 8,500 milligrams of salt a day, double the recommended amount, and almost none of that comes from the shakers on our table. It comes from processed food. It’s no wonder, then, that one in three adults, and one in five kids, is clinically obese. It’s no wonder that twenty-six million Americans have diabetes, the processed food industry in the U.S. accounts for $1 trillion a year in sales, and the total economic cost of this health crisis is approaching $300 billion a year. In Salt Sugar Fat, Pulitzer Prize–winning investigative reporter Michael Moss shows how we got here. Featuring examples from some of the most recognizable (and profitable) companies and brands of the last half century—including Kraft, Coca-Cola, Lunchables, Kellogg, Nestlé, Oreos, Cargill, Capri Sun, and many more—Moss’s explosive, empowering narrative is grounded in meticulous, often eye-opening research.” Dave Davies catches up with Michael Moss about the book during this Fresh Air interview.