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Recommended Books

The China Study by T. Colin Campbell and Thomas M. Campbell II

This is an amazing book on nutrition. Referred to as the "Grand Prix of epidemiology" by The New York Times, this study examines more than 350 variables of health and nutrition with surveys from 6,500 adults in 65 counties, representing 2,500 counties across rural China and Taiwan. What makes this really compelling is not just the scale, but the fact that a really high percentage of the people studied never leave the county they were born in. This makes the study even more valuable since it nearly removes environment as a factor in the study. The authors do a good job of citing myriad references, and this book pretty much seals the deal on whether or not there is a connection between the food we put into our bodies and its relation to cancer and heart disease. The author has put out an article entitled Why China Holds the Key to Your Health that does a good job summarizing the study. If you don't read the book, at least read the article, and if you don't read the article, at least read this great summary from Judaism and Vegetarianism.

Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things

This book is a must-read because of how many thoughtful ideas the authors present. It's a real eye-opener in terms of the direction industry and technology are going. This isn't a book only for tree-huggers, so to speak, but for everyone who is a consumer. The book at times made me feel depressed and guilty over the over-consumption we've become accustomed to. Everything we consume comes in a package that we throw away, and eventually we even throw away the product it came in. Why read a book that makes one feel this way? Well, out of the frustrating realization of the facts (such as that there are 22 ingredients in shower gel but many of them are to counteract the other ingredients!) are glimmers of hope for the future (such as the fact that the shower gel was reconfigured with only 9 ingredients that appeared at first to cost the producer more money but in the long run saved them 15%).

The authors have taken some of their case studies and expanded them to fill a good portion of this book. There's great insight in this book, along with fascinating challenges. For example, there's the idea that recycling may cause more harm than good because of the amount of energy involved coupled with the fact that original product is actually "downcycled" into something less durable. For example, recycled paper needs chlorine added to it, so you end up with chemically-soaked paper to use. It's a trade-off, therefore: your original nearly-chlorine-free paper or the recycled version?

Disease-Proof Your Child by Dr. Joel Fuhrman

Dr. Fuhrman writes with such confidence in the ability to address multiple diseases through diet alone that this book is a valuable resource for those even without children. One highlight is the great commentary on the amount of protein we actually need in our diets.

Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer

This book contains a staggering set of viewpoints regarding the consumption of animals by humans. It starts off with the author's vacillating experience with vegetarianism but it's obvious pretty early on that the author is not going back to eating meat ever again. Written in the context of having to explain to his newborn son why they eat meat, the author approaches the topic with wit and respect. As 5-year vegetarian, I was curious to see if the author would reach a definite conclusion, and if they would tread any new ground. We've read a lot on the topic of animal welfare (and we highly recommend "Thanking the Monkey" for not just a look at how we treat the animals that become our food, but those we use for show at zoos, circuses, and as pets). This was still a fresh enough approach to me to make this one of my favorite books of the past several years. We'll be recommending it to others readily. The teaser posted in the New York Times by him on October 7, 2009 is a great way to determine if you want to read the rest of this book.

Farewell, My Subaru: An Epic Adventure in Local Living by Doug Fine

A quick and funny read about one man's journey towards self-sustainability in the New Mexico desert.

Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser

This is the book that started it all for Kathy and Scott. The section on slaughterhouses is a bit overdone and he drags out a few other topics as well. However, what is presented in this book made us wonder why we ever ate meat.

Fasting and eating for health: a medical doctor's program for conquering disease by Joel Fuhrman

This was a recommendation from our sister-in-law, Dalva. There are some pretty radical ideas in this book, but it makes for interesting reading. The general thinking is that when you are sick, fasting can help. The human body dedicates a lot of energy to digesting food and distributing the resources throughout the body. By eliminating that temporarily (but never giving up drinking water), the theory is that the body can rededicate its resources to fighting whatever ails it. There is a fascinating story in this book about a man with clogged arteries who goes on a fast. By monitoring his bloodwork, it can be seen that his blood cholesterol actually rises even though he is fasting. The theory here was that his body began to attack the diseased tissue within it -- the linings of his arteries.

Judaism and Vegetarianism by Richard Schwartz

Published in hard copy in 2001, this book is now available free online! Even though the book has a slant towards Judaism, it mostly makes references to the Old Testament and as such, it can be appreciated by more than just Jews. Beyond that, even, it's really just an overall great collection of facts on vegetarianism, including a great summary of The China Study as well as a couple of other texts.

Mad Cowboy: Plain Truth from the Cattle Rancher Who Won't Eat Meat by Howard F. Lyman

This is a captivating book told in a very straight-forward manner. Mr. Lyman is a former cattle rancher who had a scare when he had a tumor on his spinal column. He swore off all animal food products and wrote an incredibly well-researched story. He made waves when he relayed his story on Oprah Winfrey's show after which she swore off hamburgers forever. He puts a good monthly e-newsletter as well.

The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals by Michael Pollan

We're fans of Michael Pollan's essays, but this book blew the socks off of Kathy when she read it. Scott found it to be a bit slow and drawn-out.

Thanking the Monkey: Rethinking the Way We Treat Animals by Karen Dawn

This is not necessarily a vegetarian or vegan health book, but instead it is a look at the way animals are treated when it comes to food, hunting, entertainment, pets, medical testing, and so on. The book is a witty, well-cited, and humorous take on animal rights.

I could see how someone would dismiss this type of book as nutty stuff, but really, it's not. It's merely stating various talking (or thinking) points with the goal of getting you to think differently about things that you normally don't think about. She has a huge bibliography in the back so she did her research. The book is short on the really gory photographs that one might find in a pro-animal book such as this, and I appreciated that. She spends the last chapter talking about how to effectively get people thinking about animal rights via peaceful and non-annoying methods, which is a great way to exit the book as you then feel as if you can help make a difference all by yourself.