Monday, November 21, 2011

The Book Of Better.

Earlier this month, someone at Three Rivers Press (part of the Crown Publishing Group at Random House) sent me an email about a book they just released, written and designed by a creative director at Nike who has had type 1 diabetes for 30+ years. The book was called The Book of Better and they wondered if they could send me a promotional copy. (I almost missed their email, as I've never had any contact with RH before, and it sort of looked like spam. Whoops.)

I got the book. I read the book. I sticky note-d the crap out of it.

I really do like the book. I would have paid money for it.


It's not without its faults - I'll get to that later on - but overall, I'm a big fan of both the message behind the book and the way in which that message was delivered.

The whole theory - if you hadn't guessed it yet - is that while life with diabetes can never be perfect, it can always be better. Even if "better" is just a teeny tiny bit better. The book's author, Chuck Eichten, uses a casual, self-depricating approach that I appreciated. He admits early on in the book that he's made plenty of mistakes himself; that he is, in no way, a medical professional; that this book is a way to share what he's learned in the past few decades with diabetes.

There's plenty of humor, which I totally hated. (What? I'm kidding. Of course I loved that.) It's hard to not like a book about diabetes that uses wording like "work my ass off", "A woolly mammoth's diet consists of (I don't know what).", "Diabetes makes you holier (Editor's note: Ha! Puns! Love!)", "There's plenty of fallout poop that comes with diabetes", and "OMIGOD!". There were several times while reading that I "Heh!"ed out loud. It's clever writing.

The formatting reads in much the same way as a blog - it goes heavy on the graphics, uses a lot of short and repetitive sentences, and tends to go HEAVY on the CAPITALIZATION and BOLDED WORDS. (It was a little overboard for my liking.)

One of my very favorite parts of the book was the following analogy:

"We shouldn't get confused into thinking that one variety [of diabetes] is not as bad as another variety. It's like saying, "My hair is not on fire that bad." That is crap. If your hair is on fire, you should treat it with concern and the utmost haste. My rule: If my hair is even slightly on fire, I don't pretend it's not. [...] Whatever type you've got, diabetes is screaming - YOUR HAIR IS ON FIRE! And we need to get that issue under control before it negatively affects our future."

And that's pretty typical of how the book works - humorous analogies made, strong viewpoints established, and suggestions for action supplied. Chuck makes the smart choice to address the viewer as part of his team - "we" instead of "you", most often. He addresses all of those real-life complaints and concerns that PWDs have. He makes relatable analogies about motivation and persistence. He uses his own experience to supply the "why should I". He can scold you while making you laugh, which in turn, makes you think.

He talks about feeling "at fault" for having diabetes, about how we PWDs can become obsessive over food, about how frustrating it is when results are anything but consistent, about the "foreverness" of living with diabetes - and he does it all in a way that makes you feel like he gets you.

There were, however, some parts of the book I take issue with. Take it away, bullet points:

  • While the book is advertised as being for anyone - type 1, type 2, parents, children, diabetes veterans and newly diagnosed folks alike - it felt mostly geared to young (and not quite as young) adults with type 1. While that isn't necessarily good or bad, it's something you may want to be aware of.
  • While the dynamic visual presentation is nice, the choice of sometimes laying white text over a yellow background led to some squinty-eyed reading. No me gusta.
  • Chuck sings the praises of insulin pumps. Loudly. Ear-piercingly. Like he doesn't have neighbors. And then he might get a megaphone. And then he might put a microphone in front of that megaphone. Really - it got ridiculous. I understand that insulin pumps can be a great tool on one's diabetes utility belt, but they aren't for everyone, and no one wants to be made to feel guilty for not using one. Insulin pumps are not the Holy Grail. (And not having one doesn't mean that your mother was a hamster, either.)
  • The page title "You can make your type 2 diabetes go away" ranks high on my WTF? Meter. The author does admit that he's oversimplifying things by saying that, but really? Couldn't you just use a few more words to say that the only part that can go away are the symptoms? This isn't Reader's Digest, after all.
  • When talking about how to treat lows, Chuck says, "When you start to feel low, you can simply turn down the amount of insulin you are getting. And the feeling of low bloods sugar goes away. I am not making this up. It actually goes away." Not if you've still got 5 units on board, buddy. Not every time.
  • Lastly, I found it disappointing that with as many times as the insulin pump is mentioned, CGMs don't even register a mention until page 225 (the book has 275 pages). Maybe Chuck doesn't use a CGM himself? Hard to say. But if it were my book, CGMs would have been mentioned right after the whole "OMGILOVEDIABETESTECHNOLOGY!" bit.
All in all, it was an entertainingly relatable and encouraging book. I think it's worth the read!

Disclaimer: Three Rivers Press provided me a free copy of this book, but did not oblige me to write about it in exchange for receiving a copy. As I mention in my blog disclosure, I'll talk about things if I like them (or really don't like them), and this was one of those cases. 


  1. I'm working my way through the book too and the pump thing stood out for me as well. Especially as a member of the MDI crowd, his lack of acknowledgment of the fact that "better" can be achieved without a pump was a bit of a bummer. I'll be bringing this point up on a future episode of JT, if I can get him on.

    Nice work Kim :)

  2. Great review Kim. Agreed on the white print on yellow pages. I thought maybe it was just cause I am getting on, but I asked my 9 year old to read it and she couldn't either :0)
    And the HAIR ON FIRE caught my attention.
    I dog-earred my pages. The book is one giant dog ear :0)

  3. They sent me the book as well but, I haven't had time to read it. To be continued!

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