More book reviews

The Inheritance of Loss – Kiran Desai

Everybody was miserable and then their dog is stolen. The language was like being dragged through a briar patch.

Art and Fear – David Bayles & Ted Orland

I wish I could quote the whole book here. It just made me giggle again and again. For example, this is me reading Tarot cards;

Art is exquisitely responsive. Nowhere is feedback so absolute as in the making of art. The work, vibrates in perfect harmony to everything we put into it – or withhold from it. In the outside world there may be no reaction tow hat we do; in our artwork there is nothing but reaction.

The breathtakingly wonderful thing about this reaction is its truthfulness. Look at your work and it tells you how it is when you hold back or when you embrace. When you are lazy, your art is lazy; when you hold back, it holds back; when you hesitate, it stands there staring, hands in its pockets.

And this is the recipe for changing someone else’s mind;

When Columbus returned from the New World and proclaimed the earth was round, almost everyone else went right on believing the earth was flat. Then they died – and the next generation grew up believing the world was round. That’s how people change their minds.

Water for Elephants – Sara Gruen

I really liked the unobtrusive language in the book. I didn’t much care for the way the author tried to build tension by switching back and forth between the main character as a young man and then again as an old man. I thought it was unnecessary and jarring. I don’t like to be distracted from a story once it gets going – just ask my husband who like to channel surf during commercials!

A Thousand Splendid Suns – Khalid Hosseini

There was a character in this book that I just adored. She had all kinds of hardships in her life but somehow she managed to radiate kindness. And her kindness paid forward to others. Imagine how bad things would have to be to consider going to Pakistan as a refuge– bad. I thought it was charming how Hosseini wrote this story as a love letter to Kabul. And I will say that if I managed to build a life where my children were finally safe I would not leave it. Hosseini gave detailed backgrounds of the female characters. But there was one male character I could not understand and I would have liked to have known more of what made him tick.

I was going to put this with my other book reviews but there’s a limit to how long a post can be.

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I ♥ Dan Simmons.

While waiting for my copy of ‘The Fall of Hyperion’ I read ‘The Terror’. What a weird book. I don’t mean weird in a bad way it’s just that it’s hard to categorize something that starts out so realistically and subtly deteriorates into strange conjecture. The book I’ve read that is most like it is ‘Life of Pi.’

The first half of the book is well written historical fiction. Simmons peppers his work with references to literature and poetry I suppose he collected during his years of teaching. The general theme of first half of the book is of British arrogance along the lines of Nathaniel Philbrick’s Mayflower’ and Giles Milton’s ‘Big Chief Elizabeth’. But halfway through the story turns to science fiction/fantasy based on Inuit myth. It’s a cool twist.

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I think it would be difficult to read ‘Hyperion’, like it and not want to read ‘The Fall of Hyperion too. There were two themes in the second book that made me think the kind of ideas that gnaw away at me. First was the ‘Core.’ While the book must have been written in the late 80’s for me ‘The Core’ symbolized a science fiction version of the internet as an evil collective unconscious. I have a problem with this. My views were shaped by the first astronauts who dreaded being in the black void of space. But that isn’t what they reported feeling. They felt the vacuum was welcoming and teeming with warmth. Buddhism teaches that joy, not evil — lies in the moments between dreading the future and regretting the past. There comes a time in the book where the Core disconnects from humans and the effects are madness and chaos. I wonder if that is what would happen if technology suddenly became impossible.

The other compelling theme was an anti-aging therapy called ‘Paulsen’s treatments’. Of course we are bombarded by what celebrities are doing in attempts to fool Mother Nature. In the book I like how Simmons unflatteringly described the characters who partook of such treatments.

There is a terrible monster in ‘The Fall of Hyperion’ called the ‘Shrike.’ It reminded me of the ‘Stobor’ in Heinlein’s ‘Tunnel in the Sky’. I guess science fiction books always need and have a terrible monster?

When I first picked up ‘Hyperion’, it felt too familiar – like Mary Doria Russell’s ‘The Sparrow’. In the ‘Sparrow’ Russell explores Jewish mysticism. I would say on first glance that with the two Hyperion books, Simmons is simply angry at the Old Testament God.

I subscribe to the Lyle McDonald newsletter. I thought this week’s was extremely interesting. Here is an excerpt (he’s interviewing a contestant from ‘The Biggest Loser’):


BL: Our goal was to lose 1lb per day (3500 calories). Our particular trainers philosophy was that she was going to BURN it off you in the gym and if you had a poor day in the gym the VERY first question that was asked was “Did you eat”. It had to be pounded into us that we had to eat. It seemed counterintuitive for many of us in a weight loss contest but it proved itself out when a teammate of mine upped his workouts to 6 hours per day and shrank his food to 500 calories per day (on his own) and only lost 3 pounds in 7 days while everyone else averaged 7-10.

My comments: This is an interesting idea as it’s something I noted years ago and have commented on previously. The combination of lots of exercise with big caloric deficits tends to work extremely poorly and seem to slow instead of hasten fat loss for some reason. This is part of why I strongly recommended against lots of exercise in the Rapid Fat Loss handbook; the deficit inherent to the diet is already large enough to the point that adding a bunch of training seems to cause more harm than good. I don’t know if the issue is simply metabolic slowdown or if there’s something else going on (this my current new project now that the protein book is finally done) but I’ve seen it happen time and time again: excessive caloric deficits plus excessive amounts of exercise seem to do more harm than good. If you are burning a lot of calories through exercise, you have to eat. If you want to cut calories hard, you have to reduce activity.


After spending a good four years on weight loss boards and maintaining a +/- 25 lbs loss myself it appears that weight loss (& maintenance) is not a matter of eating as little as possible but instead– of finding a *sweet spot* where calories are high enough to maintain metabolism but still the deficit is low enough–from diet or activity to allow for weight loss.