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14 February 2013 @ 03:52 pm
First 3 books of 2013  
Let's keep it brief, shall we?

Book 1
The Other Side of Normal - Jordan Smoller

A Harvard psychiatrist looks at what constitutes a mental disorder, based on the spectrum of what is normal. His take is that mental illness is sometimes a diagnosis of a constellation of issues that often don't look at the intersection of biology and environment. That is to say, we are willing to say grief and depression are normal after a loved ones' death, but we have a hard time drawing the line when that grief/depression is expected to revert. Or, more to the point of blurred lines, anxiety is a normal evolutionary development that everyone possesses. The ability to tamp down anxiety, then, could be as much about understanding the normal range of its uses, via neuroscience tests as much as talk therapy. Very well done.

Book 2
Unbearable Lightness - Portia de Rossi

Speaking of mental illness, this memoir looks at body issues and anorexia from a woman who worked through them in the spotlight. I is weary enough to read someone explain how they tied their self-worth to their looks in general and weight specifically. I can't imagine living it, much less struggling with my sexuality in such a raw way. The book ends on the happy note that we know her life to be now. but you hear a lot of the blunt details along the way.

Book 3
Salt: A World History - Mark Kurlansky

I read one of his books last year, on baseball in the Dominican Republican. There, like here, the author relies too much on factoids and long, winding sentences to pad this book. In fact, the first section of the book, a look at the chronological importance of salt in preserving food and maintaining health from ancient China to the Roman Empire, is a repetitive drone that could easily have been done in about 50 pages at most. He instead writes for three times that amount, detailing the archaic ways each society gathered and produced salt. Worse are the recipes, throughout the book, that he feels showcase a time and place. Instead, it just pads the book and perhaps lends to his self-important view of his work. Most reviews on this and his other books have been raves but I was unimpressed.