Winnie Abramson, One Simple Change: Surprisingly Easy Ways to Transform Your Life (Chronicle, 2013)
I keep picking up books along these lines and being disappointed by them. You’d think by now I would know better, but I still suffer from what seems to be a fundamental illness—believing that it is possible to write a self-help book that doesn’t come from the same sources. A sane one, in other words. There’s also the problem that I keep listening to the media and the public when it comes to self-help books, and why would anyone who likes self-help books be promoting one that went against the grain like that? But still, I drank the Kool-Aid(TM) with this one (something Winnie Abramson would frown on, obviously) and grabbed a copy of One Simple Change from the library after dozens of positive reviews and recommendations. What I discovered was part what I expected and part absolutely terrifying.
Let’s get the terrifying part out of the way first, and it depresses me mightily that I am saying the same damn thing twice in the space of three years. This is another book written by someone who quotes Fereydoon Batmanghelidj as an authority on why human beings need to drink more water. I will say it as explicitly as possible: if you are reading a book and you find that its author recommends you read, or listen to, Fereydoon Batmanghelidj, everything else in that book should be suspect, and you should independently confirm anything that author says before following any of that author’s advice. Why is this? Because Fereydoon Batmanghelidj was a complete and utter whack job who believed, among other insanities, that the cause of AIDS is human beings not drinking enough water and getting enough sea salt. The second I see Batmanghelidj’s name in a book being quoted as an authority on anything, I dismiss the book immediately. One Simple Change has some other problems (I have previously held forth about what I have come to call “the ideological coloring of the unproven”, for example, which Abramson has jumped into with both feet shod in concrete blocks), but they all pale in comparison to that one.
The “what I expected” part—which I should be fair and tell you covers most of what’s here—is far less damaging, but if you’ve read two or three other nutrition-based self-help books before, there’s probably nothing in here you haven’t seen. You may not have seen it in this combination—I think this is the first time (no more than the second) I have encountered an author who is simultaneously this anti-GMO who is okay with eating meat (though of course it must all be organic, etc. etc.)—but it’s still nothing new. Normally, I would give Abramson a break for not including copious footnotes, since she goes out of her way a number of times to say “I don’t have research on this, but…”, but unfortunately, her quoting of Batmanghelidj, and worse her inclusion of Your Body’s Many Cries for Water in the Recommended Reading section at the end of the book (the last chapter of Your Body’s Many Cries for Water was where Batmanghelidj introduced his idea that water can cure AIDS, as well as postulating the hypothesis, common at the time it was written, that AIDS was god’s plague on homosexuals), is a prime example of how going with your gut about things like this can lead you way, way down the wrong road. Pass this one up. * ½