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      Something Wicked This Way Comes...   10/09/2019

      The Autumn Supporter Giveaway!       Welcome to the very first of the seasonal BCF supporter giveaways! This month also marks one year since I took on the forum, so I want to say an extra huge thank you to all of you for keeping this place going. I have a little bit more to say about that later but, for now, let's get to the giveaway!     The Autumn Giveaway winner will be getting two Penguin Little Black Classics, The Tell-Tale Heart by Edgar Allan Poe and To Be Read At Dusk by Charles Dickens. Both of these little books contain three atmospheric short stories, perfect for autumnal evenings. The winner will also get Mary Shelley tea (a lavender and vanilla black tea) from Rosie Lea Tea's Literary Tea Collection (https://www.rosieleatea.co.uk/collections/literary-tea-collection) and a chocolate skull, to really get that spooky atmosphere .   and...   A special treat for a special month. The winner will choose one of the following recent paperback releases from the independent bookshop Big Green Bookshop:       The Wych Elm by Tana French A House of Ghosts by W.C. Ryan Melmoth by Sarah Perry The Familiars by Stacey Halls  The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein by Kiersten White   The winner will be chosen via the usual random selection process in one week. Patreon supporters are entered automatically. If you aren't a patreon supporter but you'd like to join in with this giveaway, you can support here: https://www.patreon.com/bookclubforum.   I really hope you're all going to like this introduction to the seasonal giveaways. It's been a lot of fun to put together. Other chocolate skulls may have been harmed during the selection process…     
willoyd

Willoyd's Reading 2019

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At the Edge of the Orchard by Tracy Chevalier ****

Although this was specifically read for one of my book groups, it is actually a book that has been sitting on my shelves waiting to be read for a short while. Tracy Chevalier has never quite made it on to my 'favourite authors' list, but on the quiet I have found myself reading most of her books - it's only The Lady in Blue and The Last Runaway that I have yet to read.  This has to say something about the general quality of her books, as it's not often I read such a high proportion of an author's work, particularly a modern writer.

After a run of books set in England or the Low Countries, Chevalier's last two have taken her back to the country of her birth, most specifically Ohio. At the Edge of the Orchard is initially set in the Black Swamps, SW of Lake Erie, although it later moves to California.  Set in the mid-19th century it focuses on the Goodenoughs, a family of settlers who for some not fully explained reason have settled in one of what sounds like one of the most inhospitable places in  the mid-West.  James and Sadie, the parents, have gradually descended into sullen antagonism which every now and again flares up into out and out anger, usually centred on James's passion for apple trees, in particular his efforts to grow eaters. Sadie's passion, it seems, is for alcohol.  In the meantime the children, in particular the quiet, almost studious, Robert, are caught in the middle.  Eventually (for reasons only later revealed) Robert leaves home and eventually finds himself in California, initially in the gold rush, but latterly working for plantsman William Lobb, using the knowledge he gained from working with his father.  Gradually his previous life threatens, or is it promises?, to catch up with him.

 

Chevalier has a penchant for writing historical fiction that has her characters interacting with real-life people and involved in discoveries and creations that can be seen today, and this is no exception. The legendary Johnny Appleseed features from early in the story, William Lobb (and his brother) is well documented, and others also come to the fore. The discoveries etc? That's part of the story!   And Chevalier is a good story teller, often outstanding, bringing characters and situations to mental life.  She doesn't always hit the bullseye (Burning Bright for instance was a disappointment), but she definitely succeeds more often than not, and is always worth trying!

 

The first two-thirds of the book promised much, and by half way I was convinced this was going to be one of her best. In Robert Goodenough she has in particular developed a character of realy sympathy and depth. Others in the group were mixed in their views - I think it depends on how much one enjoys some of the detail that Chevalier brings in, and what one makes of her characters, although Robert was universally well regarded!  For me, that detail helped bring the story alive (particularly when she describes James's and Robert's efforts in growing their apple trees - at the heart of the first part of the novel) and in itself produced some discoveries (I didn't know.....!), others felt it got in the way. 

 

But then, we moved into the last part, around one-third of the novel, and it was like moving into a different book.  Suddenly the plot galloped along, characterisation and setting were put aside, and all the carefully built up atmosphere was subsumed to the mechanics of a fairly standard family saga with all too convenient events and coincidences. There were vestiges of the earlier parts of the book left, but what had promised so much unfortunately moved into the almost breathlessly predictable and mundane. It's almost as if an editor/publisher had told the author to get on with it and finish the book pronto. Whatever the cause, the novel sadly declined from one of Chevalier's strongest to the weaker end of the spectrum - better than Burning Bright, but below her others.  It's still a good read, and so much better than some of the dross our book group has read recently, but she is capable of so much more.  So, 4 stars (so still 'recommended'), but with Falling Angels at 6, and several others at 5, that's a relative disappointment.  On the plus side though, Robert Goodenough will certainly feature as a candidate for my favourite character of the year come the end of year review!

 

 

Edited by willoyd

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Great review! It's a shame about the last third of the book :(. I'm glad it was still a nice read and that you enjoyed it more than the usual book club book.

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I didn't know Pure was one of your 6 star reads, I have it on my shelf (thanks to @vodkafan!) and now I'm looking forward to it even more! Now We Shall Be Entirely Free sounds great too, I'll be adding that to my to-read list.

 

At the Edge of the Orchard sounds like a really interesting concept, it's a shame about the last third of the book. 

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1 hour ago, Hayley said:

I didn't know Pure was one of your 6 star reads, I have it on my shelf (thanks to @vodkafan!) and now I'm looking forward to it even more! Now We Shall Be Entirely Free sounds great too, I'll be adding that to my to-read lis

 

I only hope they live up to expectations now!  For future reference, if you're interested, I list all my six star reads in one of my introductory posts on page 1 of the thread.  There's currently around 120 of them.

Edited by willoyd

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Oh yeah, I did see that list at the beginning of the year but I'd forgotten Pure was on there! You do have a few books that I've also loved on the list, so I think that's a good sign.

I really want to read The Essex Serpent now too because Melmoth was amazing. I will post a review of it soon. 

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The Body in the Dales by JR Ellis **

Murder mystery set, surprisingly enough, in the Yorkshire Dales.  A body is discovered during a caving expedition, and the question is as much about how it got there as who did it.

I wanted to like this, and to some extent did, as I had some fun in tracing the geography, given its local proximity (quite a few of the madeup names are fairly obviously based on real names, and thus real places). 

The plot itself had some promise, but....well it was obvious that there was a but coming up....but the writing left a lot to be desired.  I think the best word I can find to describe it is clunky.  It just never flows, with dialogue in particular very stilted.  The author all too often fell into the 'telling not showing' trap, leaving characters sadly undeveloped (but overworked - even to the extent of describing a character's clothes twice in three pages), and characterisation predictable to the point of corniness; the 'Yorkshireness' in particular was laid on with a trowel.  It didn't help that the solution was fairly obvious from fairly early on, whilst I had worked out the culprit by half-way (and if I can do it, it can't be difficult!).

And yet, the book isn't unlikeable.  I suppose it's just amateurish.  I'll probably read the other two, just to see how the author uses the area (and because we already have them from a Kindle sale). So, to that extent, I've just managed to scrape a three star award although, to be honest, it probably should have been a two.

 

PS - it's once you have read a book like that, that you begin to appreciate quite what a good writer someone like Tracy Chevalier is, even when, by her own high standards, she is a bit disappointing.

 

PPS - decided later that this really is only 2 stars - otherwise compares unfairly with other books.

 

 

Edited by willoyd

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I read the first couple of lines of that and thought 'ooh this sounds good' and then 'oh, maybe not so good...' It's a shame the writing was so flawed because the basis of the story sounds so promising! Hopefully the writing improves for the next two.

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I've got these books on my tbr pile, a shame about  the writing style but it will be interesting to see if it gets better with subsequent books.  They sound a fairly light read though and it's always nice when you recognise the setting.

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9 hours ago, Madeleine said:

I've got these books on my tbr pile, a shame about  the writing style but it will be interesting to see if it gets better with subsequent books.  They sound a fairly light read though and it's always nice when you recognise the setting.

 

Yes, and that is, as I suggested, probably why I landed up giving it 3, not 2, and why I'll probably land up reading the others.  They're a very quick, easy read, so it's not as if they need much investment.  I've just bought Frances Brody's A Death in the Dales, for the princely sum of £2.50 (new) for similar reasons.  It'll be interesting to compare.

Edited by willoyd

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I have Frances Brody's books too, a nice cosy read does no harm once in a while!

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Reading catchup: 3 books.

 

Three books to catch up, all this month (May):

 

The Butterfly Islands by Patrick Barkham ****

The author attempts to find all 59 of the recognised native butterflies in the UK in one summer.  A well told story, with some interesting material about the butterflies themselves.  At times, almost inevitably, it threatened to become a bit repetitious, but Barkham is a good enough writer that it never became so.  I'm definitely going to be taking a much closer look at butterflies from now on!

 

How To Read A Novel by John Sutherland **

Disappointingly, this was almost nothing to do with the title subject at all.  An awful lot about the mechanics and parts of books (a whole chapter on the 'blurb' for instance), whilst the advice on actually reading pretty muched boiled down to ignore everybody else and do your own thing.  Bluntly, I found this rather boring, and started to skim read well before the end.

 

The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd ***

Masses of rave reviews for this story, set in 1960s South Carolina, of a 14-year old white girl running away from an unhappy single parent home to try and lear more about her dead mother.  She lands up in a household of three bee-keeping black sisters where this develops into something of a coming-of-age story.  Thoroughly readable, I can see why it was so popular, but I found it rather too sentimental and lacking in nuance.

This was the 13th book in my Tour of the USA, the book for South Carolina.

 

Books acquired for reading this month (mostly charity shop)

A Game of Ruff and Honours by Annie Green

Oak and Ash and Thorn by Peter Fiennes

My Garden and Other Animals by Mike Dilger

Water Ways by Jasper Winn

A Death in the Dales by Frances Brody

The Martian Girl by Andrew Martin

Gods of the Morning by John Lister-Kaye

A Sting in the Tale by David Goulson

Edited by willoyd

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I read Secret Life of Bees ages ago for a book group read, and agree with you - pleasant enough but very schmaltzy!

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4 hours ago, Madeleine said:

I read Secret Life of Bees ages ago for a book group read, and agree with you - pleasant enough but very schmaltzy!

 Thank you Madeleine; glad it wasn't just me! Sometimes wonder if you're missing something when so many reviews rave.

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Three more books for May

 

Origins by Lewis Dartnell ****

Subtitled How The Earth Made Us, this is a look at the influence of the Earth's geology and geomorphology on human history.  At just over 280 pages it can only be a fairly broad brush overview, and much of it is was pretty straightforward, but it was well written and there were some interesting insights - it was an easy, pleasurably educative, read.  There is probably room for something that addresses the subject in rather more depth though, although given that so much of history in so many ways has been formed by aspects of the landscape, it might be difficult to keep this within sensible bounds.  Perhaps Dartnell's broader approach was the best answer after all!

 

Maigret Gets Angry by Georges Simenon *****

An above average Maigret mystery, one set during his retirement.  As enjoyable, as character based and as atmospheric as ever.

 

A Game of Ruff and Honours by Annie Green ***

The first novel in an intended time-travel series, this one set in Jacobean London.  A light-hearted, enjoyable romp that felt decently accurate historically (as far as such a novel can be!), I galloped through this in one short and one longer sitting inside 24 hours. Independently published by a first time author, initially for the Kindle but now in paperback, there were some minor problems with the proof reading for the Kindle edition (more than one 'X and I' should have been 'X and me', poll axed for pole-axed, inconsistent comma usage, etc) which did distract me once or twice, but that's partly my weakness!  I am, however, looking forward to the next in the series. This would, I reckon, appeal to those who enjoy Jodi Taylor's books, although a bit more 'historical', and not quite as frenetic (personally, I preferred this, but then I'm likely to be biased, as I know the author).

 

 

Edited by willoyd

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June update

I've not added to this blog for almost a whole month now (although have been tracking books read on the Book Activity thread), so one big update covering the last 4 weeks.  First of all, reviews; I've completed 4 books so far this month:

 

Barring Mechanicals by Andy Allsop ****

A slim volume, being an account of Andy's efforts in riding the British Blue Riband event of audax cycling, the London-Edinburgh-London (usually known as the LEL). The event is held every 4 years, and the challenge is to complete the ride in just over 116 hours (for 1400km).  Every 60-100km there is a control at which your 'brevet' (route card) is stamped, and at which food, and sometimes a bed, is available. Andy did the ride on a recumbent - not the best vehicle for the northern hills.  It's fairly lightly and well written, very absorbing, and I ripped through it in a day or so.  Probably one that will largely appeal only the specialist fan, but the insights are I think universal.  They aren't laboured, but they are there.  The mental grit shown by those who complete (only 40% of the field in 2017) is pretty awe-inspiring, but it's all so understated by all concerned.  The event itself is heading towards legendary status.

 

Daughter of the Desert by Georginal Howell ******

(later retitled Queen of the Desert)

A biography of Gertrude Bell, one of the most amazing people I've ever read about.  My first real insight into her life came with the film 'Letters from Baghdad' produced by and starring Tilda Swinton (phenomenal in Orlando).  This unfortunately came out at around the same time as the film 'Queen of the Desert', based on another biography (by Janet Wallach) and starring Nicole Kidman, which rather overshadowed 'Letters' in the publicity stakes in spite of being vastly inferior - the Wallach book is also vastly inferior to the Howell.

 

Howell started the book as the result of a project at the newspaper where she worked, The Sunday Times, when the editor commissioned staff to write about their particular hero for the magazine - and Howell wrote about Bell.  It then grew into a full-blown book.  Bell herself led a remarkable life, breaking down barriers in Victorian - early 20th century Britain left, right and centre.  The first woman to take a first in modern history at Oxford (one of very few who even went to university), desert explorer extraordinaire in the Middle East, climber in the Alps with a number of first ascents ( in her first seasons, taking her skirts off at the first hut she reached, presumably to climb in her substantial underwear), internationally respected archaeologist, led up organisng and developing missing persons bureau for the Red Cross in France at the start of WW1, only woman to hold formal rank in the Middle East expeditionary force during the war, diplomat and virtual architect of the state of Iraq.....and so on and so on. 

 

At times Howell's work does drift dangerously close to hagiography but, given Bell's hero status, that's not really surprising.  It is also, on occasions, a little bit unsettling, as Howell follows a theme through to its end in one chapter, then effectively goes back in time to deal with the other aspects of Bell's life in the next.  Thus, for instance, a whole chapter is devoted to her relationship with the great love of her live, Dick Doughty-Wiley, ending with his death in 1915; the next chapter then resumes in around 1906 and examines her desert explorations in more depth.  It's understandable why, but it can phase the unwary!  Aside from these (relatively minor) caveats, it's an absolutely superb read: Howell's narrative gallops along, she uses Bell's own (and extensive) writing very effectively to really bring her to life, and neatly fits in a wealth of description and detail. She's not afraid to address some of the more controversial or contentious aspects of Bell's life (like her support for the anti-Suffragist movement) either.

 

In short, I loved this book from start to finish, and it's the first book this year to receive a full 6 stars. It was read for our reading group, and that opinion was more generally held too.  It certainly provoked one of the fullest discussions we've had for a while - almost 2 hours worth, there was so much to talk about (Bell's life mainly!). 

 

The Art and Science of Low-Carbohydrate Performance by Jeff Volek and Stephen Phinney ****

An excellent introduction to eating a low carb diet as an athlete.  This is something I've started taking an interest in, mainly because I've discovered that I'm pre-diabetic, but the implications of the science are far more widespread if there really is a connection between the increasing prevalence of diabetes and the pre-diabetic state (now reckoned to represent between one-third and one-half of the over-60 population), and the institutional move to the view that carbs, even complex carbs, are 'good' and fats, particularly saturated fat, are 'bad' (gross simplification warning!). I'm still exploring these ideas, but this proved an interesting and thought provoking first read on the subject.

 

Beside the Ocean of Time by George Mackay Brown *****

Thorfinn Ragnarsson is a good-for-nothing dreamer schoolboy living in the Orkneys in the 1930s.  The author follows him through his life and his dreams, revealing through them changes to the island (fictional Norday) and his life, and the impact of these dreams.  The story is told in deceptively simple language, which left me wondering early on whether I was really going to get much out of the book, but this very simplicity and its sense of poetry almost hypnotically pulled me into the dreams and the story as a whole.  GMB was a prominent poet, and it shows.  Another book group read, and another one that I loved, if not quite achieving 6-stars (at least, not yet). I'm certainly seeking out more of his writing, and may even reread this in the near future - I read it in one evening without putting it  down so that would be no chore!

 

Books acquired this month for reading

France, A History from Gaul to De Gaulle by John Julius Norwich (e-book)

Normandy '44 by James Holland

Inspector Cadaver by Georges Simenon

Stalingrad by Vasily Grossman

In Search of Mary Shelley by Fiona Sampson

The Tunnel through Time by Gillian Tindall

Colditz, the Full Story by Pat Reid

Sowing the Wind by John Keay

 

 

 

Edited by willoyd

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Reading group today, where we discussed Moonwalking with Einstein.  It seems we either decently enjoyed it, or just didn't finish it (only 3 out of 8 of us finished), no ifs or buts between. Full review to follow, but interesting that 2 of the 3 were the only men in the group - coincidence or not?

 

Anyway, I've now moved on to The Western Wind by Samantha Harvey, which has started really well, recommended by a friend.  Book group choices for this month: 

I See You by Clare Mackintosh

I Claudius by Robert Graves

 

Looking forward to both - the latter especially as it's been on my list for some years now - and enjoying the recent variety.

 

 

Edited by willoyd

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Some more mini-reviews

I do seem to struggle keeping up with reviews, so another collection of shorter comments to at least keep up with the reading.

 

The Rhine by Ben Coates ****

Spotted this in the library, and it immediately appealed as we cycled the length of the Rhine from source to mouth a few years ago.  Living in the Netherlands, he travels the opposite way. Unlike previous books on the same topic (I've tried both Patrick Leigh Fermor and Bernard Levin), this proved a thoroughly satisfying read.  It never aspired to great literature, but it was very readable, a good balance between information and entertainment, and I enjoyed comparing notes and learning more about the cities along the way.  If anything, that also highlights my main complaint - to a large extent it appeared he city-hopped his way along the river, each chapter generally focusing on one, and there was little about the sections in-between.  Going back to my diary of the trip, our experience was that the cities had a relatively small impact, and we spent and enjoyed most of our time exploring the landscape and smaller towns/villages along the way. But maybe that just reflects our interests.  Whatever, I'm certainly going to read his other (earlier) book about the Netherlands, and keep my eye out for future books.

 

Moonwalking with Einstein by Joshua Foer ***

Read for one of my book groups. The author is a journalist who, having reported on the American Memory Championships and been told that anybody can become competitive as long as they prepare properly, takes on the challenge and works towards competing in it.  Along the way, he looks into the history of memory development, or, perhaps more accurately, looks into why our memories have so deteriorated through time (mainly because we've externalised memory to other forms of storage, like writing, printing, electronic etc).

The sections on the history I found fascinating; those on his preparations I found increasingly tedious, particularly as the techniques, and their detailed explanations, became more and more complicated and specialised.  This was thus a book of 'two halves', and if I could have split the halves apart, I would have done.  As it was, I found myself glazing over whilst reading through the technical detail, then snapping back in at other times.  There was a very good book on memory in society and how we use it, or don't, but it never quite took off.

Incidentally, quite a few of our group found themselves rather put of by the slightly unpleasant first page - the author even apologises for it!  You can see what he was trying to do, but it wasn't the best start.

 

The Big Fat Surprise by Nin Teicholz ****

Another book in my exploration of diet issues relevant to diabetes development. This is an examination of the science behind the pre-eminence of the complex carb based, low fat, diet promoted by dietary authorities in the US and UK (mainly US), in particular the demonisation of saturated fats.  It makes for extremely uncomfortable reading, as increasing levels of obesity and diabetes (a 2014 report published in the British Medical Journal suggested that 1 in 3 adults in the UK are prediabetic*) have coincided with the publication of this advice, and the author suggests that much of this advice has been based on poor science (or, at least, poor interpretation of the science).  It's very interesting stuff, which turns so much of what is currently the norm and accepted practice on its head, although quite a few reviewers have found it heavy going; personally, I appreciated the depth of discussion.  So, maybe saturated fat, cholesterol aren't quite the devils, and complex carbs and polyunsaturated fat not quite the godsends they are often portrayed.

 

*the concept of prediabetes is itself somewhat controversial, mainly it appears because of the danger of making 'patients' out of healthy people, and certainly there is conflict between the views of WHO and the American dietary authorities on how it's defined and used.  However, as a marker of the need for a wider population lifestyle change, it seems to still hold, although those changes many not be what are conventionally portrayed as necessary.

 

The Western Wind by Samantha Harvey ***

There is no doubt that Samantha Harvey can write - there's some beautiful material here.  However, for me her plotting left a fair amount to be desired:  the tracking backwards in time didn't quite work (I found it more confusing that anything else), and it never seemed to be going anywhere. Yes, one finds out what happened (to the victim), but much else?  One learns about the relationship of church to village, the power pressures from outside, and several characters start to develop promisingly, but I reached the end feeling that things had never really got beyond the start.  A pity, as this held so much promise.  Still, the quality of writing suggests that this is an author worth following up, and I enjoyed much of it for that alone.

 

I See You by Clare Mackintosh *

A Richard and Judy choice which, at the least, usually indicates at least a solid read.  It seems to me they misfired on this one though, although I have to confess that this is a genre I have increasingly little time for; I only read this as it was a book group read.  It is promoted as a psychological thriller, and it certainly fits the recent mould, following a similar, well worn, path to the likes of Gone Girl, The Girl on the Train et al.  So if you liked these, then you may like this, but for me its unpredictability was in fact all too predictable and obvious, I didn't care about any of the characters, there were too many sterotypes, and too much suspension of disbelief was required.  A thoroughly unpleasant (in more ways than one) and unrewarding experience.

 

 

 

Edited by willoyd

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Quite a mix of reviews with those last books! At least the majority were either good or had redeeming qualities. 

'The Big Fat Surprise' sounds interesting and fits with a discussion I saw recently about our growing distrust of dietary advice. We definitely see some very mixed approaches to fat and carbs in particular, I wonder whether that's because of the different interpretations of scientific research on diet? I've also never heard the term prediabetic before, so that's interesting!

 

 

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On 23/07/2019 at 5:53 PM, Hayley said:

We definitely see some very mixed approaches to fat and carbs in particular, I wonder whether that's because of the different interpretations of scientific research on diet?

 

I think it also shows how much politics (personal, if nothing else) creeps into science.  The book is basically written on the same lines as Ben Goldacre's books (Bad Science, Bad Pharma etc). The question for Teicholz is the quality of the science behind well-established guidelines, and the answer increasingly appears to be that it simply isn't there, too much relying on epidemiological evidence -  which can only show an association, not a causation - and too little on clinical trials, which are difficult, but where undertaken simply don't show the causation that those who propound high carbs low fat would like to see, rather the opposite.  The latter have then worked hard to denigrate and discredit the work undertaken, whilst at the same time failing to do the quality work themselves.

It's the same with concepts such as 'the Mediterranean Diet'.  This is often referred to (there was an article just this week in the national papers talking about the influence of this diet), but nowhere is it clearly defined and, where it is described (in general terms, never delineated), it's plain wrong.  For instance, fish is an important element of the Mediterranean diet it is claimed, yet fish consumption amongst the populations upon which this diet was drawn is actually low compared to meat such as lamb and pork (there is other evidence to show fish is an important part of a healthy diet, but the point is that there is no evidence from the populations studied in developing the Mediterranean diet concept).

So it's not about interpretations alone, although that is an element (in particular overstretching interpretations), but about the quality of the science undertaken and the way a theory has been put forward and accepted by natonal bodies without proper scrutiny, when the science might actually be pointing exactly the opposite way, i.e. our western diet is overloaded with carbs and insufficiently based on fats and protein, particularly meat.

Prediabetes is a somewhat controversial concept, in that some authorities don't like the idea as it can make patients out of healthy people (eg some prediabetics being prescribed medicine that would normally be restricted to diabetics), and distract attention from the need to improve population-wide diets etc rather than just focusing on a limited population (prevention versus cure I suppose). I've found it useful though, as a warning signal that things have been going the wrong direction and that I need to put changes in place.

Edited by willoyd

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On 4/16/2019 at 5:27 PM, willoyd said:

 

Land of Plenty by Charlie Pye-Smith, a personal exploration of farming in Britain, where the author visits a range of farmers (and farms!) as he takes a look into the state of farming today.  It was short (perhaps a bit too short) and felt just a wee bit on the superficial side at times (primarily, I think, because he was trying to keep things fairly straightforward for the lay reader), but I still felt I learned a lot - but then, like money, I don't know much about farming (which is why I was reading the book!) . He touches on some of the big issues raising their heads, not least the environmental impact of various practices (good and bad),  and appears to try to present a balanced viewpoint, although how balanced it was I'm not really qualified to tell.  I came away feeling that many farmers are just as concerned about what is happening to the countryside as any environmentalist, and are trying, within financial limits, to do something about it (whilst trying to sustain their business - not easy, especially with pricing pressures), but that society as a whole has to take a long hard look at itself and at what is expected from our domestic food producers.  Amongst the supermarkets, Morrison's seems to come of it better than most!  A very worthwhile read - but I feel I've still got a lot to learn, and there's room for something in more depth. 4 stars

 

 

 

Oh this sounds right up my street. I might have to check it out!

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That's very interesting, thanks for going into more detail! It's disturbingly easy to see how scientific research can be misinterpreted and then relayed to the public in a way that's actually quite misleading. The 'Mediterranean diet' is a particularly interesting example too because that's something we see stories on every summer, with eating more fish always being the key point!

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We have been given so much conflicting advice about diet over the years, often with long claimed healthy diets suddenly being turned on their heads. I don't think one diet fits all and we have to find what suits us in particular. As I've gotten older, I definitely notice carbs are what puts the weight on whereas when I was younger, it wasn't a problem. I've recently read some evidence that the type of calories you eat have a clear effect on the calories you burn.  Eating a diet high in simple, processed carbs can disrupt the hormone balance of insulin and glucagon which can increase hunger and slow metabolism.  Those with abnormal insulin function are more likely to put on weight with this kind of diet.

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From what I've read and experienced, can only agree with you @poppy . I think that it also extends beyond simple, processed carbs - particularly for those with abnormal insulin function: blood sugar spiking can come from complex carbs too.  I'm not yet at that stage (although prediabetes suggests a build up of insulin resistance), but have now cut out or drastically reduced most cereal based foods - especially pasta, bread, rice (wholegrain or otherwise), plus potatoes etc - with carb volume equally reduced; most of what I do get is from vegetables and fruit (moderated).  The difference has been marked, not least sloughing off the weight with surprising ease.  I also feel far better, and find that I have no desire to go back to eating those foods.  But, as you say, this may well be horses for courses.  I remain increasingly suspicious though of standard dietary balance recommendations favouring carbs of any sort and demonising saturated fats (this includes current NHS recommendations even to prediabetics).
 

Edited by willoyd

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A healthy diet can mean different things to different people.  Our local sports arena has recently implemented "healthy food" at their food stalls, and no outside food allowed.  it really annoys me as due to health issues my son needs a high salt, high fat diet.  Not what is usually considered "healthy".  It now means we can't attend sports events as they won't allow anything outside in, even for health reasons, and it only takes an hour or so of inadequate sodium for him to become very ill.  I really don't like when people try to push their idea of "healthy" on to others, whether that's low fat, paleo, low carbs or whatever else the latest fad diet is.

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