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Drop Dead Healthy

A.J. Jacobs has already improved his spirit and his mind by following the Old Testament for a year (in The Year of Living Biblically) and reading the entire Encyclopaedia Britannica from cover to cover (in The Know-It-All). Now he humbly — and once again with great good humor — broaches the diet & exercise craze.

I see mention of this book everywhere I turn lately, The New York Times, Washington Post, NPR. Some reviews are more positive than others, but most critics applaud his pursuit of self-improvement.

Then there are the very entertaining articles by the author himself. The Slate article about hygiene (repeating the title of which would get this post blocked by every school under the sun), the Huffington Post article about weight loss, and especially “37 Takeaways from Drop Dead Healthy” on the Simon & Schuster website where #1 (Sitting is worse for you than a Paula Deen glazed bacon donut) is later followed by #20 (Are still sitting? If you continue to do so, there’s a 43 percent chance you will be dead by the end of this list).

JACOBS, A. J. Drop Dead Healthy: One Man’s Humble Quest for Bodily Perfection. 384p. S & S. 2012. Tr $26. ISBN 978-1-4165-9907-4. LC 2011039172.  Drop Dead Healthy e1334237036385 Drop Dead Healthy

Adult/High School–After “perfecting” his mind in The Know It All (2004) and his soul in The Year of Living Biblically (2007, both S & S), Jacobs’s newest quixotic quest is to perfect his body, embarking on a two-year whirlwind tour of all the scientific and pseudo-scientific health advice he can get his hands on.  Despite the hyperbolic subtitle, however, Jacobs displays admirable amiability and humility, making him a perfect guide through the morass that is fitness literature.  He is genuinely interested in becoming a healthier person and takes readers through each body system as he makes improvements in his lifestyle, never claiming to have discovered the ultimate answer, but simply offering readers his usually quite astute observations as they come.  The book, then, is more a personal narrative than a real health guide, but readers may be surprised at how much practical advice it contains and how aware of their own health they become.  Adding to the personal narrative are several powerful chapters that recount Jacobs’s last years with his aging grandfather.  These chapters are nominally connected to the main narrative by his quest for longevity (which his 94-year-old grandfather clearly has achieved), but in practice they are a moving account of what has been a key relationship for Jacobs with a truly incredible man. Between these two narratives there is more than enough for any fan of narrative nonfiction, particularly those with an interest in healthy lifestyles.–Mark Flowers, John F. Kennedy Library, Vallejo, CA

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Angela Carstensen About Angela Carstensen

Angela Carstensen is Head Librarian and an Upper School Librarian at Convent of the Sacred Heart in New York City. Angela served on the Alex Awards committee for four years, chairing the 2008 committee, and chaired the first YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adult committee in 2009. Recently, she edited Outstanding Books for the College Bound: Titles and Programs for a New Generation (ALA Editions, 2011). Contact her via Twitter @AngeReads.

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