Book Reviews – December 2017

By | December 25, 2017

Oh hey, look, more book reviews.

Cataloochee, A Novel by Wayne Caldwell

Ambitious novel telling the story of a few generations living in the area in Tennessee that is now the Great Smokey Mountains. The prose was true to the “country” way of talking, but not pretty. There were a lot of characters, but the most prominent one was painfully unlikable. I just read another book (Homegoing) that told a story spanning generations, and Cataloochee compares unfavorably.

This sentence was the only thing I noted.

Pretty good, he thought, to marry a woman, live with her seventeen years, and still like having her around.

Seems like a sweet enough life.

Marcus Aurellius: A Life by Frank McLynn

A biography of the former emperor of Rome who ruled from 161 to 180 A.D.  I picked it up because I love the idea of stoicism and Marcus is a famous early stoic. Unfortunately, this book was about 750 pages of dense paragraphs full of mundane details painting a picture of a very different time. I think some of that detail is necessary, but I gave up after 250 pages. I just don’t have the brain space to care about that time period right now.

Attached: The New Science of Adult Attachment and How It Can Help You Find – and Keep – Love by Amir Levine and Rachel Heller

I wrote an entire post about this book I liked it so much. The authors talk about how to form a healthy attachment and create a stable and loving relationship by knowing yourself and picking people who complement your attachment style.

I think their website is pretty good if you don’t want to read the whole book.

The Art & Science of Low Carb Performance by Jeff S. Volek and Stephen D. Phinney

Great science explanations of why humans thrive on a low carbohydrate diet. This is what Gary Taubes told me in Good Calories, Bad Calories and Why We Get Fat and What To Do About It. I think this is the right diet. Low carbs, moderate protein, a good amount of fat.

He gives a lot of good advice on what to eat and what to avoid. It’s hard to follow as a vegetarian, but I don’t think that’s a reason to completely shun it.

Carb the Fuck Up by Harley ‘Durianrider’ Johnstone

The author is vegan and preaches a high carb, low fat diet. Vegan bodybuilding? Interesting! My hopes were high.

Unfortunately, I can’t connect with the way this guy writes. I do think it’s possible to get a six-pack as a vegan, but reading this book felt like he was yelling at me. Filled with memes, I found it difficult to absorb and didn’t finish it.

StrongLifts 5×5. How to Build Muscle & Lose Fat through Strength Training by Mehdi

This guy advocates a specific weight lifting routine to get strong. The more research I do, the more I’m convinced that weight lifting is the superior way to work out. And I dig what this guy is saying. Why spend a ton of time isolating different muscles when you can do a specific set of exercises that targets everything? Gradually increase the amount of weight you can lift and you’ll get stronger. “Muscle size is directly related to strength gain.” That makes sense to me.

If I ever get a gym membership, I want to try this routine. He wrote the book for men, but I think the exercises would work for women as well. It’s a bunch of squats, deadlifts, bench presses, overhead presses and barbell rows. About half the book is just testimonials and success stories.

The 4-Hour Body: The 4 Hour Body: An Uncommon Guide to Rapid Fat Loss, Incredible Sex and Becoming Superhuman by Timothy Ferris

I’ve heard of Tim Ferris before, but I’ve never read anything he’s written. He takes my love of measuring and experimenting to a degree above and beyond. I found his book articulate and thorough, full of nuance and advice. Almost too much advice.

The author warns you against reading the book all the way through. He suggests you pick the chapter you want and follow that. That’s definitely the right approach. I plowed through and it was just too much information. A lot of good advice and now I’m overwhelmed and in dire need of a new voice. I’m not having much luck with these 700+ page monsters.

Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer

Guy graduates college and then begins his life as a nomadic hobo. He ends up in Alaska, dead. A journalist pieces together his story and tells it here. It took me longer than it should have to read because I didn’t really like the character.

Starting Strength: Basic Barbell Training by Mark Rippetoe and illustrated by Jason Kelly

A book explaining the superiority of weight training over using machines at the gym. He advocates compound exercises that train your body the way it moves naturally. These same exercises come up over and over again. Squats, deadlifts, bench presses are the way to go. The author goes into excruciating detail on every single exercise, with pictures and dozens and dozens of pages worth of explanations. The good kind of excruciating.

When I join a gym with a variety of weights, I will read this again.

25 thoughts on “Book Reviews – December 2017

  1. Ally

    PBS had an episode called “Return to the Wild: The Chris McCandless Story” wherein his sister gives the whole other truth of what drove him to leave. Let me just say, his father is quite the piece of work. I recommend you stream the documentary to really get the tragedy.

    1. Thriftygal Post author

      The book hints that he’s not a great guy, with the cheating and the second family stuff. Thanks for the heads up about the documentary!

  2. gosimon

    I have met Dr Stephen D. Phinney from The Art & Science of Low Carb Performance. There is a thieving community of ketogenic adapted vegetarians, if targeted using his approach very easy to cut as much fat as you wish to loose.

    1. Thriftygal Post author

      A thieving community? I’m trying to do some version of keto veg, so I’ll definitely look into this some more. Thanks!

      1. gosimon

        If you ever need a hand hit me up can design something for you pending your goals.

          1. gosimon

            Step one adapt to diet, nuts like almonds, some peanuts, macadamia nuts, also some 80% + dark chocolate. (Try not to hit higher than 10g Total carbs. (Otherwise fat metabolism wont ramp up. Lots of veg spinach, broccoli, zucchini, cauliflower, green leaves etc no real limit. I recommend taking a magnesium tablet like Doctor’s Best, Magnesium, High Absorption, 100% Chelated, 120 Tablets Magnesium (elemental) (from 2,000 mg magnesium glycinate/lysinate chelate**) from iherb, as switching from a diet higher in carbohydrates form lentils/rice and breads messes with electrolytes as it take four weeks to adapt, also ensure you add Himalayan salts to your foods. For external fats add olive oil, avocado oils as you see fit. You’ll loose some weight but it will level off after adaption. Once that happens you’ll need to become more targeted while in a fat burning mode, let me know once ready.

          2. Thriftygal Post author

            Yeah, that’s pretty much what I’m doing. Except I’m allergic to nuts and not taking magnesium.

          3. gosimon

            Next step then is to reduce fats keep to 88g per day and keep low carb you’ll loose weight but one day slip up will cost a week. Then reduce to where you wish and increase foods back to maintenance.

  3. David Rio

    Hey Anita,

    The thing of the gym membership that frustrates me is that you don’t have access to it when you are traveling. Have you thought about that?

    Check out this book “You are your own gym” ( you may find it useful.

    Another one you may want to read is “Convict conditioning” ( I really like this one. It makes a great case for body weight exercises as a strength training. And it does so by focusing on 5 main exercises that you can do anywhere. He offers a range of tweaks on each exercise, so you can increase difficulty as you gain muscle and strength.

    I am not into heavy strength training. I do a lot of walking (maybe too much sometimes:, bicycling, exercise snacks (, swimming and yoga (Only 1 hour a week; but intense). I basically take any chance I have to move. All those activities bring me joy.

    Finally, take a listen to this podcast ( Very nice discussion about the latest findings on fitness and endurance from a scholar. He came out with a book that I have yet to read “The one minute workout” ( Horrible title, but since I found him very eloquent and knowledgeable about the topic, I am going to give it a try.

    Those are a few things I wanted to share.

    You go girl!

    P.S: Is there such a thing as walking too much? 🙂

    1. Thriftygal Post author

      Yeah, I’m trying to do this thing without spending any money. And moving around so much makes it hard to join a gym. When I settle in one place though, I’ll be all about a gym. Thanks for all the recommendations! And no, there is no such thing as too much walking. 🙂

      1. Erin

        I’ve been doing the 5×5 using their free app and it works for me, I really like the build in rest timer! It ramps up weight pretty quickly, so I think it’s great if you’re starting out and want to make gains quickly before shifting to another program. As I have got to heavier weights, I have been doing the same program, but only 5 sets of 3 reps. Rippetoe says 3 repetitions work better for female lifters, and it definitely helps me lift heavier weight!

  4. Annie E Lawson

    Starting Strength is the bible of lifting! Try reading Jim Wendler’s 5-3-1. Take his voice with a grain of salt and I find it highly entertaining (in that offensive kind of way). Wendler is the man when it comes to strength gains and his program helped me a ton.

  5. Herman Hudson

    From a health standpoint the only book you mention that is worthwhile is The Art & Science of Low Carb Performance. Based on your interest in bodybuilding I’d like to recommend for you, The New Rules of Lifting for Women by Lou Schuler and Cassandra Forsythe. Enjoy…

  6. Brian T

    Strong lifts works. I have lost fat (not necessarily weight) and my clothes started fitting better. A few things I think are really important about the routine are:

    1. Incredibly easy to follow. For guys like me that never really spent much time exercising, it made the routine that much easier to pick up. I see women do it as well and it seems to work just fine for them.

    2. There’s a plan in place if you hit plateaus or have an off day. He makes it clear it won’t be a linear process (although the majority of the time it is). We’ll have off days and there’s plan to take that into account.

    My main issue for not doing as well as I could is my eating habits. I’ve made adjustments but it’s been a slow progress.

    It might appear repetitive to some, but the nuance comes in adding the 5 lbs on each visit. The added weight forces you to be more alert.

    1. Thriftygal Post author

      Yeah, I like that the author gave tips on what to do if you plateau or go backwards. It seems like it works!

  7. ironmine

    Hi Anita
    Did you read Stuart McRobert’s books: Brawn (1991) and The Insider’s Tell-All Handbook On Weight-Training Technique (1996)?
    These might be the only weight training books that you need to read.

  8. Mr.C

    Hi Anita

    You know….you really shouldn’t give away the ending of a book in your review :). My wife and I happened to be midway watching the Into the Wild movie (we sometimes watch a movie over a few days….I know…it’s weird) then she read your post and saw the spoiler. She’s pretty bummed. 😀

    1. Thriftygal Post author

      D’oh! In the book, it’s revealed he dies like in the first couple of pages. I didn’t realize there was a movie with the plot dangling like that. Sorry!


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