Wired to Eat: Turn Off Cravings, Rewire Your Appetite for Weight Loss, and Determine the Foods that Work for You by Robb Wolf, 3/5
If lack of information is the reason you struggle with weight loss, then you may find this book to be life-changing–it certainly contains a lot of information. If lack of motivation is what’s holding you back, then you may find this book to be helpful–its tone is very motivational. However, if you are already familiar with the ultimate weight loss triumvirate Sleep More, Move More, Eat Less Processed Food, but you simply lack the self control to put it into practice, then you will likely find this to be just another useless diet book.
Many of Wolf’s observations are in line with my personal experience, especially that junk food makes you feel hungrier beyond reason and hyper-palatable, highly-processed foods are pure evil. However, I think of these facts as incidental to weight loss; in other words, learning them was simply the by-product of successful weight loss and maintenance in my case, not the cause. If knowledge gained through personal experience is insufficiently motivating, how much less is knowledge gained from merely reading a book? Such pessimistic practicalities aside, Wolf does his best to get his readers fired up and seems genuinely motivated to help people. His use of pop science/psychology is purposeful at least, though somewhat nauseating, and I respect his unusual advice that each person find the foods that work for them (within limits, obviously) instead of slavishly following some one-size-fits-all diet/religion. However, I feel that Wolf does not make nearly as convincing, scientific or detailed a case for the paleo diet as Good Food, Great Medicine makes for the Mediterranean diet (with the added benefit of much less hype and pop science).
Why I read it: My boyfriend thought it sounded interesting but I thought it sounded sketchy, so I read it first to save him time in case it sucked.
Tarzan of the Apes by Edgar Rice Burroughs, 4/5
This is a bittersweet little story, written with the refined yet melodramatic style (and casual racism) that characterizes a lot of literature from the early 1900s. Like most people, I was already familiar with the characters and story line, but I recognized very little of pop culture Tarzan in this original tale.
The edition is noteworthy because it is printed in landscape format, supposedly making it easier to read in bed. I really enjoyed the novelty, but didn’t think it was any easier to read lying down than a normal book.
Why I read it: A lovely birthday gift from one of my brothers and his family.
Film Directing Shot by Shot: Visualizing from Concept to Screen by Steven D. Katz, 4/5
This book offers a fascinating glimpse behind the scenes of the film director’s craft, laying out the many tools, visualisation strategies, camera angles, movements and stagings that are available to the person intent on transferring a story from script to film. The book format is obviously not ideal for the topic and it is up to the reader to imagine how a shot might flow between the still images that are provided, but the author is a clear communicator and most of the concepts are not difficult to understand.
Why I read it: I came across it while browsing through books at the thrift store and thought it looked interesting.
Fire in the Hole and Other Stories by Elmore Leonard, 4/5
I enjoyed Leonard’s punchy, no-nonsense writing style (distinctly American, somehow) and entertaining tales full of cool-as-ice characters, though much of it was more R-rated than I’m comfortable with.
Why I read it: I really liked the TV series Justified and wanted to check out the short story that inspired it.
The New Toughness Training for Sports: Mental, Emotional, and Physical Conditioning from One of the World’s Premier Sports Psychologists by James E. Loehr, ED.D., 4/5
For the casual participant in competitive sports, this book is the literary equivalent of that annoying person who gives you really hard, practical advice when maybe all you wanted was some encouragement and affirmation (I don’t actually know anyone like that, so That Person is probably me). While I was put off by all the self-assessment, soul-searching, diary-keeping, essay-writing, plans, logs and mantras Loehr recommends, they do seem like a plausible way to at least take your mind off negative emotions, clarify your commitment to your sport and get focused.
Defining “toughness” as “the ability to consistently perform toward the upper range of your talent and skill regardless of competitive circumstances” (5), Loehr explores the concepts of Real Self vs Performer Self and how your mental and emotional habits affect your Ideal Performance State. One of the most interesting ideas in this book is wave-making–achieving growth through alternating phases of stress and recovery (mental, emotional and physical). This is something I’d already figured out on some level, but never seen put into words. Also, Loehr’s clarification of just how much stress is healthy was very helpful. I’ve long thought that the whole “no pain no gain” mentality is a bit simplistic and possibly dangerous for people with over-achieving personalities; yes, you should push yourself, but going too far just to make a point is a bad long-term strategy. Loehr distinguishes between discomfort and pain, identifying the first as stress that toughens and the second as a symptom of overtraining.
My first impression of this book was not good, but as I dip into it again to write this review, I start to suspect that it might reward a slower, more thoughtful reading than the first one I gave it. It contains a lot of information, but all very concisely communicated, which can give the impression of shallowness during a quick reading. If it wasn’t overdue at the library, I’d read it again, but perhaps I will buy a copy instead.
Elmore Leonard’s 10 Rules of Writing by Elmore Leonard, 4/5
It’s a bit backwards that a short essay about writing is my first introduction to this author, however Leonard’s fascinating goal to “remain invisible” in his writing and the many similarities between his philosophies and those of screenwriter William Goldman, make me very eager to read more by him.
Why I read it: I very much enjoyed the TV show Justified, which was based on some of Leonard’s short stories. The show’s dialogue was especially good, so I am curious how much of that is a reflection of the source material (judging from this essay, I’m guessing a lot). Also, in researching Leonard, I found that his novels have been the inspiration for many movies, such as Mr. Majestyk, 3:10 to Yuma and Jackie Brown, which makes him even more interesting.
Wrestling Tough: Dominate Mentally on the Matt by Mike Chapman, 4/5
Filled with true stories of hard work, heart and the historic wins and losses of legendary wrestlers, this book helps put the small scrapes and bruises from my once-a-week wrestling class into perspective. Chapman provides an inspiring introduction to the wrestling greats and an in-depth exploration of the mental characteristics they seem to share with each other (and accomplished athletes in all sports). Probably the most useful thing I learned from this book is how important the mental game is–even someone who has put in the hard work to develop a talent can lose to a less talented person who wants it more. It’s not just about the physical moves, it’s about commitment, focus and knowing what you want.
While the book has a lot to offer, it frustratingly spends much more time describing winning qualities than explaining how to actually acquire them. Also, there is a logical weakness to the author’s approach–just because you can find examples of winners who have a certain attribute doesn’t mean that there aren’t winners who lack that attribute, or even losers who have it in buckets. In order to be truly compelling, I feel the book would have to focus not just on the characteristics of successful athletes, but how they differ from their less successful fellows.
Why I read it: Stephan Kesting mentioned it on grapplearts.com as one of his favorite sports psychology books, which put it on my radar. Trying to get in a good mental space for an upcoming BJJ tournament moved it up on my list.