Book Review: Chestnut Hill Local. Page 12. Thursday December 24, 1998
By calling her latest book 'Health & Fitness In Plain English,' Dr. Jolie Bookspan implies that previous publications on the subject are often couched in language that is anything but plain. The point is well taken. In observing that clutter is the disease of American writing, critic William Zinsser has hit the nail on the head. "We are a society of unnecessary words, circular constructions, pompous frills and meaningless jargon."
All the more reason, therefore, to rejoice at finding a book--especially a health book--that is absolutely free of clutter. No useless ornamentation or pompous frills here. The subject is much too important to monkey around with and the author knows this. She also knows that in order to write clearly, one must think clearly. This is easier said than done, of course, but Bookspan has admirably kept her promise to use "plain English" throughout the 357 pages of this ambitious treatise. She seems instinctually to have honored Thoreau's advice to "Simplify! Simplify."
A warning on the book's back cover sets the tone: "If you care about keeping fit, you've been bombarded with exercise and nutrition advice. Most of it will cost you money. Some can cost you your health. You need straight talk on what works and what doesn't. This powerful guide cuts though the hype and brings you the truth. Before you invest in an exercise gimmick, stop at your health food store, or sign a contract at your local gym, find out about..."
There follows a daunting list of questions and problems we can expect to encounter in our quest for good health:
(1) The six worst stretching mistakes. (2) Best routines to end back pain. (3) Firm bodies or massive muscles--how to get what you want. (4) The biggest health food store rip-offs. (5) Food and herb stimulants from coffee to ma huang--the good, the bad, and the dangerous. (6) The best machines and routines for back and biceps, shoulders, chest, triceps, and legs--without getting hurt.
Bookspan's credentials are most impressive. She is a sports medicine and post rehabilitation specialist and a former research physiologist for the United States Navy. She served in the U.S. Army and received her M.Ed. and Ph.D. in exercise physiology and environmental physiology.
A researcher who has worked at the University of Pennsylvania and Temple University, Bookspan has spent 18 years studying how the human body works in conditions of heat, cold, altitude, immersion, exercise, injury, high G forces, and weightlessness. She is also the author of several medical textbook chapters, the book "Diving Physiology In Plain English," and numerous articles that have appeared in publications such as Triathlete, Fitness Cycling, and Underwater USA. She lives in Philadelphia.
Her new inspiring book was published by Kensington Books, New York. Each of its 31 chapters is headed by an appropriate quotation. These are drawn from a variety of sources ranging from Holy Scripture and Shakespeare to Yogi Berra and Coco Chanel. Many of them are very funny. All are pertinent. Taken in toto they represent both sides of the argument and, in doing so, reflect the author's willingness to play the game fair and square. In short, she doesn't stack the cards.
If this hasn't already persuaded you to beg, borrow, or steal Jolie Bookspan's book, we'll be surprised. Better yet, run out and buy a copy from the bookseller of your choice. Perhaps literature drawn from "a well of English pure and undefiled" is coming back in style. One can only hope.