My Favourite Reads of 2014

happy-new-years-cat

As a new year approaches I like to take a look back on what books I’ve devoured over the last year. These are my top 3 favorite reads, for both fiction and non-fiction, that I read in 2014:

*Click on the links to see my reviews of each of these

Fiction Top 3

3) Winter’s Bone by Daniel Woodrell: One of the mostly beautifully written modern stories I’ve ever read. The novel’s tone is dark and lurking but is balanced with the fierceness of  Ree, the female protagonist. A quick and awesome read.

2) All The Light We Cannot See By Anthony Doerr:  Winner of the Goodreads Choice Award 2014 for Best Historical Fiction! This novel is one of the most popular published books of 2014 and it’s worth all the attention. Following the lives of two young people who are on opposing sides of World War II, the novel explores humanity at one of its worst times in history. This book has all the feels! Worth the read.

1) Stupid Children by Lenore Zion: I can’t say enough good things about this book. I came across this small-time publication through The Next Best Book Club on Goodreads and I was lucky enough to be apart of a group discussion with the author (see my review for some insight into this discussion). This book has a strange but amazing concept. After Jane’s father attempts to commit suicide, he is institutionalized and she is sent to the foster care system. The family she is adopted by is apart of the Second Day Believers cult. The novel depicts Jane’s upbringing with this family and the ordeals of living within a cult. This book is funny, creepy and extremely thought provoking and is the kind of book I almost want to read again. Support small press and buy this book!

Non-Fiction Top 3

3) The Romanov Sisters by Helene Rappaport: This novel won the Goodreads Choice Award 2014 for Best History & Biography! Lucky for me, I was able to read this book through Netgalley.  For those that have never explored non-fiction or even a history piece, I’d recommend this one for you. This informative book reads so much like a fiction and it gives a massive insight to the lives and personalities of the Romanov family.

2) Skin Picking: The Freedom to Finally Stop by Annette PasternakThis book is a bit personal but it was so immensely helpful that I have to include it. For anyone suffering from a BFRB (body-focused repetitive behavior), please read this book! It’s informative and has real exercises and practices that will dramatically help you get a handle on your condition. Life changer!

1) Diet Cults by Matt FitzgeraldWe are constantly bombarded with information of what to eat and what not to eat. Tragically, all of this information often times contradicts itself depending on the source and whatever died fad is currently being endorsed making being healthy quite confusing. Matt Fitzgerald, a professional coach and athlete, makes food simple again with this book and breaks down the data that many diet cults perpetuate. He never bashes diet fads but explains why they appeal to people, why they work for a short time, why our bodies can adapt to eat anything and how to get back to the basics and stop stressing over food! This was a game changers for me with my approach to food.

Diet Cults by Matt Fitzgerald

22050940
4/5 stars.
ebook, 336 pages.
Read from May 11 to July 19, 2014.

This book reaffirms many of my beliefs in regards to food and was, in a way, a relief to read for this reason. I am a very active person but my eating habits are far from clean ( I just love beer too much) but through moderation I’ve managed to find a balance between food and exercise that keeps me healthy. Diet Cults explores a variety of diet fads and discusses why they work for some people, why they are hard to maintain and how they have shaped how we feel about the food we eat. Fitzgerald then delicately discusses each of the fads and explains their fallacies (while never fully discounting all of them either) as people are constantly searching for the ‘one true way’ to eat. Fitzgerald then lays down the science with how adaptable the human stomach is and provides a variety of  diets from cultures all over the world to show just how diverse they are in terms of their nutritional content.  As Fitzgerald concludes, to the dismay of some diet-faders, there is no ‘one true way’ to eat and advocates for more agnostic eating.

Fitzgerald is an athlete and sports nutritionist and has written numerous pieces on running and fitness. As he discusses in this book he wasn’t always fit and trim either and had to work hard to get back on track. One thing that Fitzgerald notes is that athletes are by far the best and most agnostic eaters, which may sounds really obvious but that is because athletes eat for optimal performance, but this doesn’t just mean physically. Food has a powerful way of shaping our moods; we like to eat for pleasure, and it is this aspect that athletes and agnostic eating really advocates. As many diet fads have endorsed, most of us believe that if something is tastes good then it must be inherently bad for us which isn’t necessarily the case. While that Big Mac is never going to be good for you, Fitzgerald discusses the benefits of coffee, potatoes, wine and chocolate and breaks through some of the myths surrounding them (hooray)! He also goes to explain that through moderation,  items like a Big Mac can still be something you indulge in from time to time. There is no food that is off-limits in this book.

As someone who has never been overweight, I can’t imagine what it must be like for so many people who are wanting to lose weight as the amount of information that’s floating around on the internet alone is enough to overwhelm anyone. Fitzgerald truly makes food simple; his writing is down to earth and simple to read but still provides you with all the nitty-gritty and well-researched details.

Fitzgerald breaks down all the groups of food as such:

Food table

There are only two essential types of foods that we require to live healthy: fruits and vegetables. Get enough of these and you’re good to go but for the average person, especially an active one, we often require a bit more which is where the recommended foods come in. Fitzgerald gives a good break down of what types of foods are included in each group but for example, in the nuts and seeds section, he includes items like olive oil and all-natural peanut butter, where as commercial peanut butters are not included as they contain way too much sugar and unhealthy oils. Within high quality meats, he includes almost any part of a chicken, while bacon and hot-dogs are classified in the low quality meats area under acceptable foods. Other foods, include things like alcohol and anything else that doesn’t fit into the other categories.

The idea of moderation is that you eat more of the essential and recommended items than the acceptable ones. While this is such a simple concept that almost seems too obvious, nothing is off limits in terms of food choices. Fitzgerald just wants to reestablish a healthy and pleasurable relationship with food again and it’s easy to forget sometimes with many people’s busy lifestyles. Food is meant to be enjoyed, not rushed or rammed down our throats just out of pure necessity and by following some basic moderation, getting some exercise and stepping away from the crazy calorie counting it’s simpler than we think to be healthy.

Fitzgerald effectively questions the madness of dieting with this book and brings nutrition back to its simple basics. Now what are you waiting for?! Shed some food-guilt and read this book!