This Crazy Vegan Life: A Prescription for an Endangered Species reads like a lifestyle book for omnivores who are considering a vegan lifestyle. Overall this book is pretty substantially focused on weight loss and speaks to someone who may be wrestling with excess weight and poor eating habits. However, it is still broad enough that even those who are already eating a healthy diet and maintaining their weight will find something of value. The premise of the book is that through a vegan lifestyle that emphasizes whole foods, exercise, and mindfulness one can not only lose weight but start a journey towards a healthier life and more longevity. I say lifestyle because Pirello is careful to point out several times throughout the book that this is not a quick fix or a fad diet, but a lifestyle that one must be willing to embrace for a lifetime.
For the most part, Pirello achieves this aim. She manages to give the reader a very good sense of what a vegan lifestyle entails and its benefits (for weight, health, the environment, animal welfare, etc.) as well as a good crash course in nutrition and and exercise. All of these topics are presented in a manner that is suitable for a beginner. In other words, she assumes no prior knowledge about nutrition or veganism. This means that the book is very approachable if you are new to either or both. However, if you're already quite familiar with veganism, nutrition, or exercise a lot of what you find here will be review. In either case, Pirello does a good job of breaking down the shift to veganism step by step and even providing a 21 day plan with menus and recipes to ease yourself in. I especially appreciated that although the recipes she includes are loaded with whole grains and vegetables they don't feel like "diet food" and sound very appealing. As she mentions in her book, a routine is only good if you can stick to it and with recipes like Tangy Pear and Blueberry Salad, maple popcorn, and mini pumpkin cupcakes with orange glaze she makes it seem VERY doable. She also explains a lot of culinary terms, especially as it relates to vegetables, that should help make those who do not cook a lot feel more comfortable with the recipes.
Although I appreciated these aspects of the book there were a couple of things that kept me from giving it a 5 star review. The biggest one for me was the absence of end or footnotes or sources. The author cites a lot of medical studies and nutrition facts, which I appreciate but does not provide detailed source information to check out on my own. For the sake of clarity, she does include a resource list, but these do not seem to be clearly related to the studies cited in the book. I recognize that not everyone takes the time to check out sources but when health and nutrition are involved I love going straight to the source whenever possible. As a point of comparison, Michael Pollan, who she mentions in her book has 23 pages of sources in In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto and also includes all the cited articles on his website. It's clear that Pirello did a lot of research for this book so I only wish she made the sources more accessible to the reader. To me this not only instills more confidence in the data mentioned, but also helps me to deepen my knowledge on health and nutrition through my own follow up research.
The other thing I didn't care for is that sometimes the author's tone seemed to slip into hyperbole, particularly when it comes to describing the ill effects of eating animal products. I get that this is done for added emphasis and gives the book life. However, at times I felt like it was a bit much. This is largely a personal judgement and I recognize that others will find the same tone enjoyable. I think it only bothered me because at times it was coupled with nutrition information that could be a bit vague. For example, she mentions that Splenda is broken down into a toxic compound which she deduces will have negative effects on the body. However, she fails to mention in what quantities and to specify what these negative effects will be. This is a case where a footnote would have been fantastic as I would have loved to get more information on this.
Even with these complaints I think there is still a lot of value to be had in this book. It's approachable, thorough, and great for a beginner. Compared to other books I have read on the vegan lifestyle like Vegan Freak: Being Vegan in a Non-Vegan World and Skinny Bitch I think it does the best job of setting you up with the tools you need to be successful. Of the three it also focuses the most strongly on making sure you don't just don't switch from regular junk food to vegan junk food by favoring whole foods. Of these three books I would definitely recommend This Crazy Vegan Life: A Prescription for an Endangered Species the most, but still think there are areas in which it could be improved to be a more rigorous vegan resource.