Thursday, April 29, 2010

Books of Botswana Reading Challenge

As part of its celebration of the nation of Botswana this year, Middfest International is sponsoring a Books of Botswana Reading Challenge. It features the works of Alexander McCall Smith, specifically his "No.1 Ladies' Detective Agency" series which is set in Botswana. The books are a great introduction to the country as well as intriguing detective fiction. I have read several of them and really enjoyed them.

There is a flyer which outlines the reading challenge. The overall goal is to inspire individuals to read one or more of the books, email Middfest to enter a prize drawing, and then attend a Botswana Tea 'N Talk on September 26, 2010 (just prior to Middfest itself, which runs from October 1-3). That event will feature a talk by a historian of Botswana and prize drawings for readers. Just to note, the April 21 book signing by Alexander McCall Smith had to be cancelled due to the Icelandic volcano interrupting his travel plans (there is hope it will be rescheduled).

The Gardner-Harvey Library would like to support this effort by offering our resources over the summer or in the early part of fall semester. I have recently ordered copies of all 11 No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency books for our collection (in addition to two by the historian) for individuals to use. Our library would be happy to serve as a meeting spot for any interested book discussion groups. I would be interested in leading a book discussion group as well. If I or my staff can help get groups started or offer guides to discussion questions, we would be glad to do so.

We also have DVDs of the first season of the HBO series based on the books. I would love to offer viewings of the episodes on campus or we'd be happy to lend those out for individual use.

If you would be interested in reading one or more of the books, watching the DVDs, participating in or leading a discussion group, please contact the library. It's great to read on your own, but discussing books with a group can be a lot of fun and bring out aspects of a work you never noticed.

Friday, April 16, 2010

The End of Overeating: Casper Lecture, & Book Discussion

This year Miami University Middletown invited Dr. David Kessler, former U. S. Food and Drug Commissioner and current Dean of the University of California, San Francisco School of Medicine to campus as the 2010 Casper Lecture Series speaker. Dr. Kessler is a physician, lawyer, and author of The End of Overeating: Taking Control of the Insatiable American Appetite, 2009. On the evening of April 13, 2010 and again on the morning of April 14, Dr. Kessler spoke earnestly and knowledgeably of the brain circuitry and conditioned hypereating the American food industry has fostered by combining sugar, fat, and salt in its food products and which it uses to its advantage. He shared his scientific findings and suggested ways of addressing these health concerns as individuals and as a nation. To learn more, watch this video.

Prior to Dr. Kessler’s visit, the MUM Book Discussion group had a merry time discussing a number of questions, ideas, and insights gleaned from the book’s pages. The Gardner-Harvey Library provided free copies of the title to ten participating readers. Eating for health is not as easy as one might think, given the American culture of 24/7 eating and ubiquitous access to processed food. Food rehab is needed to combat the Cue-Urge-Reward-Habit cycle. Specific strategies to aid individuals are supplied in the closing chapters. If you would like to read and discuss this title with others, please see the list of book discussion questions that follow, compiled by the Assistant Library Director and discussion facilitator Beth Tumbleson.

  1. Why do we eat: nutrition, survival, stimulation, entertainment? Why do Americans tend to overeat?
  2. Before reading The End of Overeating, were you aware of the deliberate attempt by the food industry to capture your appetite and your dollars?
  3. After reading The End of Eating, what insights and impressions have lingered and shaken your core beliefs?
  4. What new vocabulary did you learn in these pages? (Bliss Point, Conditioned Hypereating, Hyper-palatable, Multisensory Experience)
  5. What startling scientific discoveries did you make in reading these pages? (Rewiring Brain Circuitry, Elevated Dopamine Levels, etc.)
  6. How are the efforts of the food and advertising industries personally affecting you the consumer at the grocery store, restaurants, vending machines, etc.?
  7. Why does the American culture foster 24/7 eating? How has the average American’s weight changed since the 1960s?
  8. What role do fast food restaurants and junk food play in your family’s life? Why?
  9. When eating/consuming becomes big business where profit matters more than nutrition, what ethical dilemmas are raised in the American culture?
  10. Do business and government have a responsibility to safeguard the individual’s and nation’s health? What reforms would you like to see put in place nationally? (Insurance Rates Tied to Lifestyle Choices, Financial Incentives for Healthy Lifestyle Choices, Food Tax on Unhealthy Items, Calories Listed on Menus, Healthier School Cafeteria Menus, etc.)
  11. How has your life and those you love been threatened by overeating? How has the obesity epidemic touched your life? What diseases concern you most? (Cancer, Cardiovascular, Type 2 Diabetes, Stroke)
  12. In what ways are the health care and insurance industries also profiting from the Western diet which results in chronic medical conditions?
  13. Now that you understand the Cue-Urge-Reward-Habit cycle, what changes will you make which were outlined in the Food Rehab chapters?
  14. Because eating cues are personal and are related to our emotions and memories, how might you establish healthier habits in future? How might you assume greater accountability in one or two areas of your life?