I know that I’m a little late to the game on the whole “gift guide” this year. Last week I covered what *not* to buy your kids (a screen-based device), earlier this week I covered how to stay active with a baby (a Chariot stroller), and today I thought I’d give some suggestions on the best science and/or health books that I’ve read in the past year (in no particular order).
1. The Sports Gene
Written by David Epstein of Sports Illustrated, this book covers all of the many factors that contribute to elite athletic performance. It covers training (Epstein takes a *lot* of swipes at Malcolm Gladwell’s idea that it takes 10 000 hours of training to become an elite performer), physiology, genetics, ethinicity, sex, you name it.
The book is absolutely riveting. I normally don’t get all that excited about books on physiology since I spend my days immersed in it, but this book was amazing (the book was lent to me by my colleague Dany MacDonald, and at first I was a bit skeptical, but it was every bit as good as he promised). Incredibly readable, covering the science but in a way that is very approachable for non-experts, and absolutely fascinating from start to finish. It was good enough that I assigned one of the chapters to my undergraduate physiology students, and it led to a much better discussion than anything from the textbook.
Perfect for: Anyone interested in the science of sport performance.
2. What makes Olga run?
This book takes a more focused approach, with author Bruce Grierson following 91 year old track sensation Olga Kotelko, recounting her accomplishments and examining the underlying science of aging and sport performance. This book has less hard science than The Sports Gene, but is no less compelling as it follows how impressive Olga is compared to her peers, and how she almost appeared to improve with age (sadly, Olga passed away earlier this year).
Perfect for: Anyone interested in active, healthy aging.
3. The Diet Fix
The Diet Fix was written by the physician and blogger Yoni Freedhoff (disclosure: I consider Yoni a friend, and received a demo copy of the book). The book explains why “dieting” doesn’t actually work (as many people already know through personal experience), then provides a number of simple techniques to help improve the quality of any diet (keeping a food diary, making sure you include protein and other filling foods in all your meals and snacks, etc). It also includes a number of simple, healthy recipes (if you’ve read Yoni’s blog, you know that he’s a big proponent of home cooking).
It’s a common sense book for a field (e.g. diet books) that often lacks any kind of sense whatsoever. I’ve personally recommended Yoni and his book to a number of friends and family, and will continue to do so. My only critique is that he left screen time until the last two pages of the book (I guess the topic was so important that he had to save it until the very end!).
Perfect for: Anyone looking to have a healthier diet, and especially those people who are easily taken with fad diets.