This book club update has been a long time coming. Three books made it to the list this time with quite a variety in their genres. We dive deeper into the science of nutrition, hear about solo tramping (hiking) experiences in Aotearoa and open our eyes to a bit of spirituality through the eyes of a seagull.

Curious? Yes, I know, a spiritual seagull, say what? How can one not be curious, right? Off then, go get yourself a cuppa something and hopefully you get inspired by some of the following musings of mine on books.

The Proof is in the Plants, by Simon Hill

I think most of us would agree that there seems to be a lot of conflict when it comes to the way we eat. Accompanied by even more confusion about what the actual science behind it all says (or not).

Enter the author of this book: Simon Hill. He focusses on evidence away from personal beliefs and emotions (as much as possible to be fair, since by default every single one of us naturally is biased in some way).

This is one of the books that may have saved me a few uncomfortable (because I didn't know better) and unnecessary (because I had to justify a personal choice that did not fit the majority) discussions.

One of my favourite parts of the book is the image of "the hierarchy of evidence in nutritional science" that gives a quick overview of quality of evidence. Before we can look at what's considered scientific evidence, specifically underlying studies and their interpretations, it's good to have a basic understanding. That way it becomes clear very quickly why there are so many conflicting claims in the field of nutrition.

Personally, I think a conversation about what we eat as individuals cannot take place without the impact of our choices on our environment, on this planet as a whole. After all, what's the point of living a long life on a planet that is becoming uninhabitable? How joyful and healthy can an individual's life be if the majority of the species (our own included) are either going extinct or are suffering?

Current data suggests that switching to a plant predominant diet (at least 80 -90% or more of the food eaten is plant-based) is one of the inevitable steps we have to take to tackle climate change consequences. Yet, we get caught up in public discussions about changing our ways. How meat and other animal products have always been there. I get it, it's scary to let go. After all, I myself didn't become vegan overnight but very slowly over a span of a few years. Food is deeply ingrained in most, if not all, cultures.

Let me tell you about an interesting finding in the dietary evolution of Giant Pandas. Yes, yes, I know, big jump here. Why is she talking about pandas now?? But stay with me.

I had a phase when I was really curious and read quite a bit about them. While a completely different species compared to humans the fundamental principle of evolution is somewhat similar, I assume. Pandas consume primarily bamboo - up to 99% of what they eat. Research has shown that there's a very high probability they once were carnivorous. They slowly kicked the meat, introduced more and more plants and, according to the findings, only settled for bamboo as their primary food source a few thousand years ago. It's still a mystery why this happened and there's not enough data to make final conclusions (yet). But researchers assume it could be a mix of food competition, human interaction and climate change. In summary, these bears naturally stopped eating meat because it simply wasn't viable for their survival anymore.

And here we are, supposedly most intelligent species on this planet, turning more and more of this earth into a giant farm while killing a crazy amount of plant species, animals and ourselves.

So, if there's one thing I want to suggest (next to eating more plants, yes, yes), and it's the point of this book club to begin with, it's to read. Don't take for granted and simply believe what one person, one groups says. This includes what you read here! Read, read, read. And check resources. There's an unlimited amount of information out there. Read different resources, always remain skeptical and check where the information is coming from.

This is part of the reasons I'm recommending this book. The author doing a remarkable job to put scientific research into easily digestible text, yet without threatening credibility or drifting off into emotions.

Definitely a book worth reading!

Jonathan Livingston Seagull, by Richard Bach

I read this book in one go tucked away in my sleeping bag in a tent camping at Lake Hāwea, Aotearoa New Zealand. I'd walked to Sawyer Burn Hut during the day and this was the perfect story to finish off a beautiful day.

When writing my book reviews I always try to give as few insights about the content as possible. Simply to leave a potential future reader with as few preconceptions as need to while still igniting a desire to read the book.

With this said, this book portrays the story of a seagull who wants to go beyond the standard and expected ways of a seagull. It very much reminded me of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry's Le Petit Prince (The Little Prince / Der kleine Prinz) which is one of my all-time favourite books.

What I like so much about Le Petit Prince is the same I like about Jonathan Livingston Seagull. To see the world a little less from the oftentimes limited point of views of grown-ups and much more through the eyes of a child whose imagination is still abundant and full of awe. Sorry to the grown-ups out there but I'm certain you know what I mean ;)

Solo: Backcountry Adventuring In Aotearoa New Zealand, by Hazel Phillips

This one was pure joy to read for a multitude of reasons.

First, the author mentions a few tramps I've done and huts I've visited myself. More than once I found myself reading a passage about a hut I was at in that very moment.

Second, she shows no fear to talk about something we should give a name more often when it actually happens: sexism, in particular discrimination towards women (Note that I think ALL forms of discrimination should be pointed out, talked about more openly and eliminated eventually to some day have societies where we all can feel accepted and somewhat safe.)

I find myself sort of numbed most times I get a sexist comment or behaviour thrown my way. Surprisingly, as by now with all the involuntary training I've had over my lifetime I should be an absolute pro. But nope, too many times I simply become numb. Mainly, either because I get very angry and want to calm down first. Or it's one of these nasty, microaggressive comments that make me question if I even heard that correctly and to not upset anyone I just keep my mouth shut and let the moment pass. Arrrr, I hate when that happens!

This has got much better over the past years. What helps along the way is talking to and sharing with others about experiences. And in return to hear from others about their experiences and how they've come to handle similar situations. This includes reading about them. Yet another reason to read more, right? Books are awesome, **sigh**.

Spending quality outdoor time SOLO, as in by myself and myself only, has also been profoundly beneficial to my increasing confidence. This is where we come full circle with this book and also something I recommend to anyone (even before reading!): Spend more time outdoors, solo every now and then. And don't forget to take a book on your adventure ;)


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