If a little knowledge is a dangerous thing, how can the average health consumer surf through all information that seems to change on an hourly basis? Coffee is good for you; coffee is poison. Aerobic exercise is the best; no, it’s yoga. Avoid white sugar; like brown sugar is better? These shoes are guaranteed to shape your legs, calves and butt; what, are you kidding me?
...a smart and funny book.... Jacobs is curious, thoughtful and respectful of other ideas, no matter how nuts they may be.
A.J. Jacobs, editor-at-large for Esquire Magazine, has never been afraid to take on a challenge. First it was reading the now-defunct Encyclopedia Britannica from the opening cover of the first volume through the closing cover of the last (THE KNOW-IT-ALL: One Man's Humble Quest to Become the Smartest Person in the World). Then it was religion (THE YEAR OF LIVING BIBLICALLY: One Man's Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible), followed by a desire to quell his curiosity on a variety of topics (MY LIFE AS AN EXPERIMENT: One Man's Humble Quest to Improve Himself by Living as a Woman, Becoming George Washington, Telling No Lies, and Other Radical Tests). I submit that Jacobs may (or may not) be humble, but the self-imposed tasks he undertakes are not. These are life-altering situations.
Jacobs adds to his “humble” body of work with his head-to-toe (literally) examination of many of these concerns. Mind, body and spirit come together in his latest title, which must have been as frustrating for him to put together as it is for the reader to get through. Not because DROP DEAD HEALTHY isn’t a smart and funny book; it certainly is. Jacobs is curious, thoughtful and respectful of other ideas, no matter how nuts they may be. Rather, it’s merely because no sooner does he come to the conclusion that “A” is the way to go --- whether as a new diet regiment, exercise routine, or brain-stimulation that will ward off…what was I going to say…forgetfulness --- that “B” comes along to either take its place or make us question long-held beliefs.
The author --- who has admitted to his somewhat germaphobic nature in previous writings --- spent two years trying to, among many other things, get a good night’s sleep; find the perfect diet; stand up straighter; find the best “bathroom technique”; improve his sex life; and lower his stress (yeah, good luck with that, considering the scores of lessons, advice and contradictions he has to keep straight for his 26 separate topics). In his chapter “The Endocrine System: The Quest for a Nontoxic Home,” Jacobs writes a sentiment that could be applicable to all the others in his book: “It’s all about weighing costs and benefits. To be totally safe, I could avoid cell phones. But the stress of living a cell-phone-free life? That might put me in an early grave. You have to choose your…battles.”
The good news is Jacobs’ partial ADD. Once he’s finished with one project, it’s stored in his memory banks (no doubt he keeps something from each one), and it’s off to the next big thing.
Reviewed by Ron Kaplan on April 12, 2012