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Audio Buzz, Past
Audio Book News
By Jonathan Lowe

January 2008

by Jonathan Lowe

Every year, it seems, we feel the need to make New Year's
resolutions. Whether we succeed in sticking to them is a matter of motivation and tenacity. To aid such attempts at self improvement I've chosen several new releases for their unique perspectives and/or scientific rigor. They are especially practical when heard on audio, while stuck in traffic and passing all those fast food restaurant signs, or while being tailgated by frustrated shoppers returning
presents that didn't quite make them as happy as they expected.

First up is a book that turns the head on our modern western diet IN DEFENSE OF FOOD by Michael Pollan poses the argument that the reason why we're getting fatter and more unhealthy every year is because big food processors make more profit selling grains than leaves. That is, whole foods spoil easily, while denatured and milled grains have a long shelf life, and can be transported long distances easier. The most profitable grains are corn and soybeans, which has led to the near extinction of many more nutrient-dense crops. Since the most healthy parts of grains spoil fastest, these are milled out, leaving a bleached "fake" food behind, which is then "enriched" with a chemical spray, and introduced with other potentially hazardous chemicals to preserve freshness. Empty calories and added sugars then lead to a host of diseases over time, including diabetes, heart disease and cancer. Particularly disturbing is the rise in consumption of high fructose corn syrup, present in most non-diet sodas and juices, and many cookies, cakes, and other snacks. It is an unnatural (manmade) but cheap sweetener that is difficult to digest, just as trans-fats are, and is being guzzled by Americans like there's no tomorrow. Those doing the guzzling had better hope there's no tomorrow, too, because their savings on food costs over buying whole foods will translate into their spending far more on drugs and health care in the future! Narrated by Scott Brick, who takes a dramatic approach to the eye-opening text, the audiobook also dispenses sound advice, including limiting your purchases to those items near the walls of supermarkets, since highly processed "fake"
foods tend to line the center aisles. If you take just this advice, you'll lose weigh, outlive your classmates, and may decide to petition your Congressman to declare war on the food industry lobby as well. (Penguin Audio; 6 1/2 hours unabridged)
A year of so ago I published a novel about longevity science, so naturally I was interested in hearing what Michael F. Roizen and Mehmet C. Oz had to say about the subject in YOU STAYING YOUNG--The Owner's Manual for Extending Your Warranty. Dr. Oz is Oprah's doctor, but both men narrate this interesting and comprehensive examination of what causes aging, and how to slow down the process. Some of it relates to things mentioned in the previous book, but here, as told by medical doctors, we see deeper into the science of aging, not just those risk factors most people already know about--smoking, processed foods, saturated fat, sedentary lifestyles, etc. For instance, did you know there's a relationship between flossing and heart disease? Or that sunburn triggers the stem cells grown in your bones to migrate to the burn to repair it, and so if you burn often the odds for a genetic mistake increases, resulting in cancer? Every eight years the body's aging rate gets on a faster treadmill, and the trick is to fool your internal pedometer by minimizing the biological processes that propel it graveward. Avoiding stress--both internal and external--is most important here, since tension and toxins have a direct effect on the cells, turning off and on various genes that regulate their life cycle. Think of tension as anger, frustration, worry and regret, and toxins as tail pipe exhaust, loud noises, and even those greasy, salty french fries you just ate. You can't make up for thirty years of eating holiday cheese balls by popping a vitamin pill, but you can start reversing the aging process, say the authors, by thinking about what you're doing instead of doing it automatically. Popping an aspirin a day and drinking one glass of red wine in the evening may help too, surprisingly. As long as that's all the alcohol you're drinking, and you avoid soda altogether. (Simon & Schuster Audio; 5 hours abridged)

Next, in THE HOW OF HAPPINESS--A Scientific Approach to Getting the Life You Want, author Sonja Lyubomirsky reveals evidence that happiness is 60% a matter of genetic predisposition, and 40% a conditioned response. No doubt you've met people who are happy by nature, and who therefore possess a cushion against the effects of bad things happening in their lives. For the rest of us, without this high set point for happiness, there is the remaining 40% to be manipulated. One of the ways, surprisingly, is simply smiling, even when things may be going wrong. Studies have shown that moods become elevated just by mimicking happy people, or pretending to be happy. Read by the author, the audiobook walks through case studies which demonstrate that money, love, fame, and outward success have little to do with happiness, which is more about an outlook and state of mind than a quantifiable list of causes. Feeling alive and having a relationship to that life which makes it an adventure is far more important than driving a new Mercedes or having a big bank account. (Penguin Audio; 6 hours abridged)

The idea of breaking free from myths regarding happiness iscontinued in THE ULTIMATE CHEAPSKATE'S ROAD MAP TO TRUE RICHES by Jeff Yeager. Here is a man who cares not a wit about designer labels, $4 cups of coffee, or showing off some new gas-guzzling luxury car to friends and neighbors. His primary mode of transport is a bicycle, which keeps him healthier while sparing the air. Yeager advocates living within your means at age thirty, and staying there for life, rather than trading up continuously until hospital bills take what's left. In addition to his many tips for conserving rather than spending on everyday items, he recommends pinching dollars more of pennies, since big ticket items are what most weigh people down. Keep everything else in perspective, and you can really enjoy life more while spending less. According to Yeager, who also reads the audiobook, once you step off the treadmill of "more is better" you'll discover that less means less stress, too. (Brilliance Audio; 8 hours unabidged)

Finally, we come to a true revolutionary. Timothy Ferriss is author of THE FOUR HOUR WORK WEEK--Escape 9 to 5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich. Ferris turned his early dislike of authority into a career by rejecting the established model of deferring life until retirement while "wasting" your prime years in a dead end job. Having designed his own escape from drudgery, Ferriss now sells sports medicines online, and travels the world on the income, while still in his 30s. His purchases, sales, and inventory are all outsourced, so there's no management attention needed, either. And he suggests that listeners can copy what he did by planing month-long "mini-vacations" to do what they really love, and then see if there's a way to continue it. If not, he suggests going back to the office cubical to come up with a new plan. It worked for him, after all. Formerly stuck in a job he despised, making $40G a year, Ferriss now makes $40G a month while living outside the U.S. for 11 months of the year in major world capitals. (Far less expensive than people suppose, he claims.) Utilizing his opportunistic talent for seeing ways to bend the rules, he also won a dance competition in Brazil, and a kickboxing championship in Japan as well. But can anyone follow in his footsteps? Perhaps, but only if they share the same mindset. Self driven and innovative, Ferriss is a rare breed. He doesn't need or desire either the admiration of others, nor their symbols of wealth. He certainly cares not at all for the treadmill lifestyle which characterizes most everyone's experience, watching TV and mimicking their neighbors. "Why retire at all?" Ferriss asks, "if you're doing what you love? Besides, in the traditional retirement you'll be so bored you'll want to stick bicycle spokes in your eyes." ( download to iPod; 8 hours unabridged)

2008 Past Columns

David Baldacci / Mar Reviews

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