Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Outstanding Nonfiction

Well, I have read a whole lot of books in the past three weeks and I have a few that I thought I would highlight. Of course, the three non-fiction titles I am still thinking about are ones in which I learned that a) the pharmaceutical industry is evil, b) the nutrition/food industry, while not evil, is confused and misguided and c) we are throwing away huge amounts of money on humanitarian AIDS relief that pretty much guarantees that it will be used in the least effective way possible. Sigh.....

The first book was Our Daily Meds: How the Pharmaceutical Companies Transformed Themselves into Slick Marketing Machines and Hooked the Nation on Prescription Drugs by Melody Petersen. This was an absolutely riveting, yet very disturbing look at how drugs get approved, marketed and prescribed and I ended up going home and analyzing every drug I take and reassessing my medical and prescription options.

Book number two was In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto by Michael Pollan and although it can be read by itself, I think of it as a companion piece to last year's book, The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals. If you have been with me for a while you might remember me talking about how this book has made me start looking at my food purchasing choices in terms of how far they have travelled and to start making a conscious effort to buy local whenever possible. In Defense is the book that is getting me to look at all of the low-fat, prepackaged foods I purchase (all of which are supposedly "good for me"). His basic premise (and yes, you still need to all go out and read the book!) is: "Eat food. Not too much, mostly plants and don't eat anything your great, great Grandparents wouldn't recognize as food." I am now toying with shopping at farmer's markets unless I have no other choice, starting a garden and making everything from scratch including my own yogurt.

And finally, The Wisdom of Whores: Bureaucrats, Brothels, and the Business of AIDS by Elizabeth Pisani. The author started life as a journalist and later, became an an epidemiologist researching AIDS. She has worked for a variety of NGO's and has seen the programs around the world that have worked and those that have not. Again she has more to say but the important point I took from this book is that until the US (and other countries) stop putting restrictions on this money, especially in not allowing a program to give out condoms and needles, the battle to stop the HIV virus will be a losing one. Our programs are failing because we as a nation cannot be realistic about what prevents AIDS. AIDS prevention does not work when we focus on stopping premarital, extra-marital sex and drug use. It works when we focus on preventing UNSAFE sex and the sharing of needles!

All three of these were eyeopening and fascinating books that I highly recommend reading.

Tomorrow....the fun titles I read on the flight home.


Cate said...

I definitely want to borrow your copy of In Defense of Food!

A Librarian said...

This is one of the books I meant to bring over Monday night....and forgot. Next time I see you I will be sure to have it with me.