Two Mini Book Reviews {Year of No Sugar // What Makes Olga Run?}


My last two mini reviews were in September, so today’s post is long overdue! I have been challenging myself to read more nonfiction lately {I aim for at least one book a month} because I rarely venture into that genre. It’s been fun so far, and it’s a nice change of pace from my usual YA and middle grade choices! Anyhoo, my first two choices both discuss health in some way AND have bright blue covers, so that was good enough for me :) Do you have any nonfiction recommendations?

Year of No SugarTitle: Year of No Sugar

Author: Eve O. Schaub

Published: April 8th, 2014 by Sourcebooks

Pages: 303

Genre: Adult / Memoir

Source: Library / Paperback

Summary: It’s dinnertime. Do you know where your sugar is coming from? Most likely everywhere. Sure, it’s in ice cream and cookies, but what scared Eve O. Schaub was the secret world of sugar–hidden in bacon, crackers, salad dressing, pasta sauce, chicken broth, and baby food. With her eyes open by the work of obesity expert Dr. Robert Lustig and others, Eve challenged her husband and two school-age daughters to join her on a quest to eat no added sugar for an entire year.

Along the way, Eve uncovered the real costs of our sugar-heavy American diet – including diabetes, obesity, and increased incidences of health problems such as heart disease and cancer. The stories, tips, and recipes she shares throw fresh light on questionable nutritional advice we’ve been following for years and show that it is possible to eat at restaurants and go grocery shopping – with less and even no added sugar. Year of No Sugar is what the conversation about “kicking the sugar addiction” looks like for a real American family–a roller coaster of unexpected discoveries and challenges. {Goodreads}

My Thoughts: As a type one diabetic, keeping track of what I eat and learning what’s in my food has simply become routine, but it has also led to my fascination with studies on food, health, and the relationship between the two. And so, I think it was only natural that my first pick for my little nonfiction challenge was a memoir on eating no sugar. Unfortunately, despite my initial interest and excitement over finding a book that screamed “me,” I never found myself invested in the author and her family’s story. I can’t put my finger on the exact reason, but I suspect that my less-than-stellar impression stems from the sense of disconnect between Schaub and the reader {of course, this will be different for each individual, but I personally wasn’t feeling it} and there being so many “cheats,” for lack of a better word, that I began questioning whether you could really call their project a year of no sugar.

On a more positive note, I do appreciate the no-sugar recipes included in the back of the book; this memoir could serve as inspiration for others, so having resources readily available might be the final push they need to embark on their own no sugar adventure. I also admire the amount of facts and statistics the author uses to back up her claims. You could tell that Schaub learned a LOT from this project, and the information she included helped to support her story.

While I still think what the author and her family did was a terrific experiment, I struggled to push past reading a single chapter in one sitting. Even with a few positive elements, the book’s list-like style of writing {i.e more telling, little showing}, misleading promotion, and odd disconnect between author and reader makes this one a miss, not a hit, for me.

Pros: The recipes and tips included in the back of the book are helpful and fit the purpose of the memoir. The author also supports her claims with a good amount of information.

Cons: As mentioned above, the memoir is much more telling instead of showing. I felt disconnected from the author’s story as well.

Heads Up: Some language, but nothing major!

Overall: I give it 2 1/2 stars {** 1/2}.

What Makes Olga Run?Title: What Makes Olga Run?: The Mystery of the Ninety-Something Track Star and What She Can Teach Us About Living Longer, Happier Lives

Author: Bruce Grierson

Published: February 18th, 2014 by Henry Holt and Co.

Pages: 224

Genre: Adult / Nonfiction

Source: Library / Hardcover

Summary: In What Makes Olga Run? Bruce Grierson explores what the wild success of a ninety-three-year-old track star can tell us about how our bodies and minds age. Olga Kotelko is not your average ninety-three-year-old. She not only looks and acts like a much younger woman, she holds over twenty-three world records in track and field, seventeen in her current ninety to ninety-five category. Convinced that this remarkable woman could help unlock many of the mysteries of aging, Grierson set out to uncover what it is that’s driving Olga. He considers every piece of the puzzle, from her diet and sleep habits to how she scores on various personality traits, from what she does in her spare time to her family history. Olga participates in tests administered by some of the world’s leading scientists and offers her DNA to groundbreaking research trials.

What emerges is not only a tremendously uplifting personal story but a look at the extent to which our health and longevity are determined by the DNA we inherit at birth, and the extent to which we can shape that inheritance. It examines the sum of our genes, opportunities, and choices, and the factors that forge the course of any life, especially during our golden years{Goodreads}

My Thoughts: What Makes Olga Run? certainly isn’t my typical reading choice, but I am so happy that I picked it up! Like Year of No Sugar, I was really excited to get to this one based on the intriguing premise, but unlike my first nonfiction pick, this one managed to keep my interest.

Bruce Grierson’s relaxed style of writing best shows the two main focuses of the book: his exploration on how to live longer based on Olga’s successful track career and his personal connection with Olga that is formed out of these studies. It’s informative, but never boring, and I don’t think you’ll realize just how much information the author packs in until you’re done reading. The scientific side {which Grierson does a terrific job explaining in terms that are easy to understand} is balanced out with anecdotes from Olga and other track stars. This may be a study on how to live a longer life, but what I loved most was reading about Olga’s own experiences. Even better was seeing the friendship that develops between Olga and the author throughout the course of the study; I think it was that personal touch that helped to better shape the book.

In the very end, Grierson wraps up the book with nine rules based on Olga’s lifestyle and scientific studies. The tips are nothing new, but they are good reminders that to live a better and longer life, it starts by taking care of the body you have. To end this satisfying read on such a positive note was a welcome surprise and reinforced my overall impression of What Makes Olga Run?. 

Pros: The author strikes a nice balance between informative and entertaining. I also liked the personal touches weaved throughout the book.

Cons: Nothing comes to mind!

Heads Up: I can’t think of anything that would raise concern at the moment.

Overall: I give it 5 stars {*****}.

Have a wonderful evening!


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