Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Hold Tight, by Harlan Coben

This was a great travel (i.e., airplane) book because it is a true page turner, and the time just flew by (so to speak).

My only criticism is there were an awful lot of characters to keep in mind, I almost needed to build a mind-map of them and their interconnections.

Breach of Duty, by J. A. Jance

This paperback kept my attention throughout a flight; what more can I ask? Well, for just slightly more exciting writing. Jance has her followers, and maybe I'm overly demanding. There's just a bit too much explanation of everything.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Inside the Jihad: A Spy's Story, by Omar Nasiri

This is an outstandingly great autobiography. It not only held my interest, it gave a sense of the Muslim perspective on world events, a perspective that seems absent in much of Western news coverage (not to mention, international policy).

I recommend it highly.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Plague Ship, by Clive Cussler

This was a workmanlike, but somewhat clumsy action / suspense novel. Not particularly great, not even particularly well written - I guess I'd say it was written well enough to satisfy a check-list of requirements for the genre. It lacked real excitement, real believability.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Resolution, by Robert Parker

I can't remember the last time I read a western; the only reason I read this one is that I like all of Robert B. Parker's mysteries and figured I'd give it a shot.

I liked it. Interestingly, I could see that the dialog, the pattern of interaction between the two heroes, matched the Spenser mystery novels very closely.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The Prefect, by Alastair Reynolds

I often borrow library books based on positive reviews in magazines. That's how I came upon this book in spite of it being in a genre I don't particularly avoid: sci-fi. It took the first 150 pages or so to get used to, but a solid plot and interesting characters make a book of any genre enjoyable.

This was pretty good.

Monday, July 21, 2008

The Gerson Therapy, by Charlotte Gerson and Morton Walker

I'm not certain if I'd put The Gerson Therapy up with The China Study in terms of pure research substantiation, but for certain if I or a loved one faced cancer I'd want to use the Gerson approach, if only because there's virtually no downside (other than that of delaying more standard techniques such as surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy).

In a nutshell, the therapy is: organically grown fresh fruits and vegetables, no meat or dairy products, 13 glasses of fresh squeezed juices daily, and coffee enemas.

Bet I got your attention on that last one, didn't I?

The sad thing is, that's the only way they want you to have coffee. You can't drink it. While it's tempting to imagine a dialog like:

"I want to drink coffee."
"Not going to happen." "
But I really want it." "
Up your butt with it then!"

The reality is that there's - at least a level of - scientific explanation and research behind the choice of coffee as a detoxifying enema.

Interestingly, they don't advocate drinking water either. But then again, with 13 glasses of fruit juice a day (one per hour), how thirsty can you get?

This book is really targeted at folks who already have a cancer issue. (So, thankfully, I'll keep imbibing my coffee the old fashioned way, in my mug.) I don't know how real it is. The claims are that it would successfully treat the cancers that killed my dad, and the work behind it was already well established when he was ill in 1984 - just as today, not accepted by the medical establishment. Since that same medical establishment didn't do much good for him anyways, it would have been nice to have heard this option from someone then. The message - to me, at least - is clear: take responsibility for your own care, and don't blindly trust physicians, pharmaceutical firms, hospitals nor insurance businesses to put your health and life as a priority.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

The China Study, by T. Colin Campbell

This is not an easy book to read, but it may be the most important one I've read.

But first, let me diverge from the book.

I'm not really a conspiracy theorist, and I am not against big business at all (I work for a big business, I read the Wall Street Journal daily, and I invest in a variety of businesses - including pharmaceutical firms). And even so, I find it quite easy to believe that the US government is not sincerely advancing our health, that drug firms dominate current medical research and thinking (through their sponsorship of research, advertisements in medical journals which lead to a financial dependence relationship, and through repetition of commonly accepted wisdom to generations of physicians).

As a proof point, consider the US food pyramid. Most folks imagine that this represents the US government's guidance to all Americans for the healthiest possible diet. Far from true. The food pyramid is provided by the USDA (Department of Agriculture), whose mission is to increase the business of agriculture. The pyramid doesn't come from the FDA (Food & Drug Administration) or the NIH (National Institutes of Health) - although it isn't clear these folks would do any better given their own biases towards drugs, radiation and surgery.

So what's the metric of success for the USDA, authors of the pyramid? Increased economic value - financial success - of America's agriculture industry. Which means, by the way, meat, poultry, and dairy producers. So guess what? The pyramid features meat, poultry and dairy.

Now I'll get off my soapbox and back to the book. With this background, though, you can see why I found The China Study so believable: the fact that mainstream medicine doesn't align with Campbell's work means nothing to me.

Importantly, Campbell's research shows that genetics aren't the final answer. Even if one has a hereditary genetic predisposition to cancer, a diet avoiding animal proteins and dairy can be the dominant factor in the disease, and prevent it. This important statement, that our genes are not our fate, is also the thesis of the extremely well respected Dr. Dean Ornish; see, for example, his three minute video at TED talks.

(Dr. Ornish is a UT Austin grad, summa cum laude, who went on to Baylor College of Medicine, Harvard Medical School, and Mass General Hospital. He's one of the very few forward thinking physicians whose credentials are so superb and whose research is so impecable that the medical establishment can't just blow him off.)

So what's the bottom line: avoid animal proteins. Eat fruits and vegetables and some fish if you'd like. Avoid milk, cheese and dairy products.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

The Last Oracle, by James Rollins

This unappealing, uninteresting novel reads like a script for a (very unappealing) made-for-TV movie. There's virtually no character development and the plot is ridiculous and incredible.

Friday, July 18, 2008

The Five Tibetans, by Christopher Kilham

The same gentleman who gave me the Walker books also gave me this little gem, after a spontaneous demonstration of his own flexibility - and watching someone in his late 60s bending and stretching like a rubber band was pretty inspiring. So I thought I'd give this book a shot.

Clear, credible and simple (although, at least on my first time trying the poses, not so easy).

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Aligned Thinking, by Jim Steffen

I ran into Dr. Jim Steffen at an ECM user group event in New York City a few weeks ago. We chatted a bit about his book and my experience with my book and publisher. Much to my delight, returning from a business trip to my office a couple of weeks later I found that Jim graciously sent me a copy of his book.

Well, it's taken me some time to get to it, but I finally had some time this evening to read Aligned Thinking. I don't want to give too many details about the content here, because the style with which Jim conveys the approach works so well. Suffice it to say that Aligned Thinking provides a set of organizing and reframing techniques to help one achieve improved productivity, efficiency and - perhaps most important - attitude.

In particular for me the notion of reframing what I do in terms of my primary desires and associated necessary conditions was helpful.

The problem with a book like this is that - no matter how clear the messages, how obvious they may seem (after you've read them) - putting the techniques into practice requires commitment and effort. That is probably why Jim has a successful coaching practice, including an interesting and unusual concept of virtual coaching; more info at his web site.

Become Younger, by N. W. Walker

This is the last of the set of Walker's books I was given. To be clear, just because I poke fun at some of Walker's ravings doesn't mean I ignore the root messages, or don't appreciate the chance to read his work. There are just so many soft-balls to hit that I have a difficult time resisting!

There's nothing new to say about this one. It either was the basis for many of Walker's other books, or a compilation of sorts. One thing for sure: Walker does know how to stay on message. Fresh and raw fruits and vegetables. He likes them juiced. More information about my colon that I ever wanted to know.

Pure & Simple Natural Weight Control, by Normal Walker

I've decided to finish reading all the Walker books in one fell swoop, because they're just too odd to pace myself though. Having already established that Dr. Walker is - well, let's just say eccentric - I try to just chuckle about the weirder things he writes and take away items of value.

The notions of this book are consistent (and somewhat redundant with; you can even see the copy and paste sharing of passages from other books) with Walker's fundamental theme: stick to a plant based, raw diet and life will be good.

I was devastated, however, to read that "Beer is probably the most destructive liquid which we can put into our system." [Page 54.] Might have to ignore that claim, lumping it with the goofiness of suggesting that soy meat substitutes be avoided because "...the protein-digestive juices are alerted to care for concentrated proteins, as the mind vicariously enjoys the flavor of meat. ... The result is the indigestibility of the food with repercussions of toxemia as the end product." [Pages 60, 61.]

Oh boy.

I also notice that in this book, Walker has claimed not only his usual DSc degree, but also a PhD. No, it isn't polite to snipe. But really...

Bottom line: hey, how can you argue against eating fresh fruits and vegetables?

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Fresh Vegetable and Fruit Juices, by N. W. Walker

As mentioned previously, I was recently given a number of books on health. Which, with two down, I'm about to refer to as "quirky books on health."

This book makes pretty good sense, and, to net it out translates to a strong advocacy of carrot juice.

Like Walker's other book, there are some credibility concerns. Maybe it's just my engineering-style view of information, or my natural cynicism, but Walker's definition of enzymes is a good example for my squeamishness (page 3):

"...enzymes are not 'substances.' Enzymes are an intangible magnetic Cosmic Energy of Life Principle (not a substance) which is intimately involved in the action and activity of every atom in the human body, in vegetation, and in every form of life."

Okay then.

So there I was, imagining that enzymes are molecules that increase the rate of chemical reaction by lowering their activation energy. In other words, enzymes are catalysts for biological reactions.

Well, maybe that's what Walker meant.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

What's Wrong With What We Eat, by Mark Bittman

In this TED talk, Mark Bittman (a food writer) describes the prevalent approach to food in the US as a direct result of agri-business (and its effective lobbying / control of US agencies), and ascribes to it a level of danger equivalent to the atom bomb. Not so much, interestingly, because of the negative effects of the US diet on our health (although he does discuss that too), but primarily because of its impact on global warming and water supply.

This is a talk worth watching.

Colon Health, by Norman Walker

This is the first of a series of books I'll be reading over the next week or two, and blogging about here, relative to health. These books were a gift from an amazingly healthy advocate of fresh, organic raw fruit juicing and a vegan diet.

The author, Dr. Walker, is passionate, and after reading this I do believe that I should think about the overall health of my colon. But. He doesn't come across particularly credibly in general as a health adviser. For example, he shares an anecdote (page 66) where in his recommendation for someone suffering a heart attach is foot massage.

Now it may well be that foot massage is the answer for a heart attack. But if I keel over, I'd sure prefer to go to the Heart Hospital and get a full suite of therapy to keep me alive.

Overall, I suspect that if one carefully separates the items of real value from the hype, there's some positive content in this book.

Shadow of Power, by Steve Martini

This book is longer than it needs to be, but other than occasionally dragging under its own weight, it is an entertaining legal thriller.

In fairness, I rushed through it a bit, eager to get to a few new books that were given to me today.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Quicksand, by Iris Johansen

A mystery about a serial killer (yuck) and touching upon psychic phenomena. And a bit too much relationship trauma for my taste.

In many ways, not my cup of tea. But a well written and engaging book.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

The Wrong Hostage, by Elizabeth Lowell

I enjoyed Ms. Lowell's other book enough to want to read more - even though this was a prequel to "Blue Smoke and Murder," it was worth reading. A fun, interesting action novel.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Silent Joe, by T. Jefferson Parker

The best action / police / mystery novels transcend the genre with depth and texture, with characters who pull you into a relationship and writing that moves you through the work without even noticing you're reading a mystery at all.

That's this book. Nothing negative to say about it. Just plain outstandingly good writing.

The Echelon Vendetta, by David Stone

This is an outstanding spy novel. I'd give it four and three-quarter stars, imposing a small penalty for an ending that felt unnecessarily rushed.

Unlike an all-action novel, there's real depth to the main character, and an interesting and complex approach to the writing.