I Started a Book Club

Book Club IconI started a book club through meetup.com. If anyone has some recommendations for good contemporary fiction, please let me know. I’d like to work out my list for the first few months.

What are the requirements for inclusion on my list? Books must be in paperback and ubiquitous enough to be found in a local library. A big bonus if they are available for the Kindle (I may only use Kindle-available books for purely selfish reasons). Oh and they must be good books, hopefully with a bit of an edge.

I’m also considering doing some kind of virtual version of the book club. Perhaps I would do it in SecondLife, or via a group in Facebook or on my message board. Sounds like fun and not that much more work since we would read the same book in the different locations.

Pollan vs. Taubes

I find it interesting that in the book Omnivore’s Dilemma, the author Michael Pollan takes, not one but two jabs Gary Taubes and his 2002 article, “What if It’s All Been a Big Fat Lie?” The first is in the introduction, and the second is here:

It remains to be seen whether the current Atkins school theory of ketosis—the process by which the body resorts to burning its own fat when starved of carbohydrates—will someday seem as quaintly quackish as Kellogg’s theory of colonic autointoxication. What is striking is just how little it takes to set off one of these applecart-toppling nutritional swings in America; a scientific study, a new government guideline, a lone crackpot with a medical degree can alter this nation’s diet overnight. One article in the New York Times Magazine in 2002 almost single-handedly set off the recent spasm of carbophobia in America.

I wonder if Pollan has read Taubes book. I’d be shocked if he hadn’t. To me there is much that they agree on. For instance, I bet they both would agree that we would be more healthy if we ate like our great grandparents did, and that traditional cuisines lead to healthier people than modern processed diets. They both see the large amount of processed carbohydrates like high fructose corn syrup as harmful to those that eat it. Furthermore, Taubes goes to great lengths to establish that cutting carbs to lose weight is not a late 20th century fad. It’s the accumulated wisdom of doctors and patients going back at least two centuries, precisely the kind of cultural wisdom that Pollan so admires in traditional cuisines.

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Good Calories, Bad Calories in a nutshell

I’m surprised how long it has taken me to get through Good Calories, Bad Calories by Gary Taubes. After 2 and half weeks, I’m still not done. I’m on the last chapter though. Maybe I’m just a slow reader.

The book is dense, bringing together a huge number of scientific studies that date back to the beginning of the the 20th century. His goal seems to be to overwhelm the reader with evidence that many of the assumptions about diet, obesity and disease are wrong. He isn’t content to give you one or two examples of studies that suggest that carbohydrates are the primary factor behind obesity, diabetes, heart disease, cancer and a range of other modern illnesses that were rare before the 20th century. He piles it on, determined to make sure that someone can’t read his book and dismiss it as “some fad diet book.” If you say he is wrong, you better bring your citations with you.

I’ve enjoyed the ride, but I wonder how many readers get bogged down and don’t finish it, or don’t care so much about the reams of evidence that Taubes has compiled and want to skip to his conclusions. One passage near the end that jumped out at me as something that people need to know:

By the mid-1960s, four facts had been established beyond reasonable doubt: (1) carbohydrates are singularly responsible for prompting insulin secretion; (2) insulin is singularly responsible for inducing fat accumulation; (3) dietary carbohydrates are required for excess fat accumulation; and (4) both Type 2 diabetics and the obese have abnormally elevated levels of circulating insulin and a “greatly exaggerated” insulin response to carbohydrates in the diet

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Poker Books and the Kindle

Like every good geek who plays poker, I have read books on poker, lots of books. So when I got my Kindle, I started thinking about how wonderful it would be to carry around my poker library with me. Poker books tend to be heavy and thick. And if you like to travel light like me, a few less poker books in your carry on bag would make a big difference.

Many of my favorite poker books are from Two Plus Two Publishing and none of them are available yet. Judging from this thread on their forums, they have no plans to release Kindle versions of their books. That’s a shame.

So what is available for the Kindle now? Well there are several books by Phil Helmuth. They all look like crap honestly. I don’t particularly like him anyway, but more importantly, I did once buy his book, “Play Poker Like the Pros” and returned it within a few hours. I just couldn’t read it and from what I did read, it was very light on useful advice.

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