Booklist on We Have Met the Enemy by Daniel Akst
In a book full of startling facts, this might be the most startling: of the 2.5 million deaths in the U.S. annually, “something approaching half could be prevented . . . if people simply managed to lead healthier lives.” But this isn’t a book about living a healthier lifestyle. It’s an exploration of “the challenge of moderation in the face of freedom and affluence.” The weapons of mass consumption, Akst calls them, are everywhere. We eat too much food, spend too much money, have too much sex. It’s not that we lack willpower; rather, the temptations have vastly multiplied over the years. In the course of defining the reasons why self-control is becoming such a rare commodity, Akst examines our tendency to blame everything except ourselves, citing a woman he met who blamed excess weight on genetics, fast food, advertising, and high-fructose corn syrup — all while polishing off two plates of waffles and cream cheese. It is this kind of willful self-destruction, Akst concludes, that’s killing us in greater and greater numbers. A very thought-provoking and colorfully written book.