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Feeling Healthy: A Reading List from Open Book Night

Our conversation about FEELING HEALTHY at Open Book Night in April tended toward books on eating well and understanding the industry and labeling around food in America. We also thought about gardens and ways to find peace with past trauma in our lives.  Open Book Night meets at the Mid-Manhattan Library on the second Friday evening of the month from 6 to 7 PM. We’d love to hear your book recommendations in person at our next gathering on Friday, May 13! And please add your suggestions to this reading list.

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To begin our evening we started off talking about the wonders of the Prescription of Nutritional Healing by Phyllis A. Balch. In its fifth edition, it is a popular reference to learn about vitamins, minerals and supplements. Our reader found it an insightful avenue to learn how food and vitamins can help in healing.

The next reader, Joy, found Squeezed by Alissa Hamilton to be an eye-opener about food marketing. It is a thoroughly researched look into orange juice from Yale University Press. Enlightening facts include the amount of sugar that o.j. contains and the variety of flavor profiles used by different orange juice manufacturers. Wheat Belly by William Davis and Four Fish by Paul Greenberg were also singled out as food specific titles that our readers had enjoyed and found helpful in learning about nutritional information.

From there our conversation transitioned to Food Politics by Marion Nestle. This title discusses food regulations and how the Federal Drug Administration and United States Department of Agriculture are affected by lobbying to congress by major food manufacturers. Marion Nestle, a professor at NYU, also writes a blog called Food Politics where “Her research examines scientific and socioeconomic influences on food choice, obesity, and food safety, emphasizing the role of food marketing.” Her latest book, Soda Politics, takes on soda in our diets and the politics, history and culture that go along with it.

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Another research scientist’s book was also recommended. T. Colin Campbell, the co-author of The China Study, looks at 50 years of food research to show how food affects the body. He attempts to prove the unreliability of nutritional information as foods affect people differently in Whole: Rethinking the Science of Nutrition.

Too Big to Fail by Andrew Ross Sorkin was recommended by a reader concerned about the pharmaceutical industry and how big companies are controlling government interests in America.

Miriam read Rebecca Solnit's essay "Revolutionary Plots" from her book: The Encyclopedia of Trouble and Spaciousness. Gardens provide us with food, but also create community spaces, and an opportunity to think about and discuss larger issues of food production. Solnit says; "... if we should all be connected to food production, food production should happen everywhere, urban and rural and every topsoil-laden crevice and traffic island in between." The essay really encouraged her to think about how creating gardens can give people a deeper understanding of where their food comes from, and to imagine how in every bit of space possible, is a garden waiting to happen. It’s exciting to think of all the community gardens and roof-top gardens sprouting up in all sorts of city nooks and crannies. Even beekeeping and chicken raising is on the rise in urban areas. You can find more books about gardening in our colleague Gwen’s blog post "I Want a Garden!"

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A couple more exciting books on the subject of food innovation and evolution are Katherine Gustafson’s Change Comes to Dinner: How Vertical Farmers, Urban Growers, and Other Innovators are Revolutionizing How America Eats and Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals. Pollan’s In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto was also recommended as an easy to read and enjoyable book.

Another reader recommended a book that dealt with emotional health and healing from sexual assault by confronting it. She couldn’t remember the exact title, so I chose three titles from our collections that suggest talking about a trauma in order to begin healing from it. Invisible Girls: the Truth about Sexual Abuse by Patti Feuereisen uses personal narratives to advise on preventing, reporting, and recovering from abuse. Strong at Heart: How It Feels to Heal from Sexual Abuse compiled by Carolyn Lehman records the healing process of nine survivors of abuse. Speak by Laure Halse Anderson is a novel about a young girl who finds she must talk about what happened to her in order to confront her silence and isolation after being raped.

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Finally, to begin each day feeling healthy, two photographers from opposite coasts share a picture taken each morning with each other. Their collection in A Year of Mornings: 3,191 Miles Apart shows the juxtaposition of their worlds, but also brings comfort, family, nature, and breakfast together as a way to practice mindfulness in noticing and finding what is special in the small everyday things around us.

From health to nature! Do you have a favorite book about animals, the environment, back to nature, nature vs. nurture, landscape painting, photography, or any book that connects to the natural world in some way? Our theme for Open Book Night next week is exploring THE NATURAL WORLD. Come share a book that helps you connect to nature!

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