Sunday, May 17, 2009

Book Review: Elisabeth Hasselbeck's "The G-Free Diet"

The G-Free Diet: A Gluten-Free Survival Guide, by Elisabeth Hasselbeck (NY: Center Street, 2009).

The publisher sent me a copy of this brand-new book by television personality Elisabeth Hasselback, a celiac herself, and here's my thoughts.

A new book about the gluten-free diet is always welcome and having a celebrity author brings extra public awareness to the issues of celiac disease and gluten-intolerance. I applaud Mrs. Hasselback for bringing her own experiences to print (embarrassing digestive disturbances and all) and letting more people know about the symptoms and long-term health effects of celiac disease.

The most useful chapters are the ones in which she describes strategies for food shopping and preparation and ways in which she and her family, a combination of gluten-eaters and "G-free" dieters, avoid contaminating kitchen work surfaces and cooking implements. Hasselbeck also dishes out lots of good advice about how to approach family, friends and restaurant workers when eating away from home. There are many recommendations for specific restaurant chains which offer gluten-free dining options and information regarding certain food brands and products, although this kind of data is so easily changed that the book became dated the minute it rolled off the printing press.

The concerns I have with the way the book is packaged. I assume that is the author's picture on the front dust jacket pushing away a tempting assortment of crusty breads and rolls. Why make these breads so delicious-looking? Why don't they look moldy or misshapen or bad for you, like a squishy, spongy, loaf of supermarket bread? I say, forget the food stylist for that cover photo and just show the sparkling health of Mrs. Hasselbeck next to some unappealing piles of glutenous products.

The dust jacket blurbs are also kind of goofy. The quotes on the rear jacket promote the gluten-free diet as a "lifestyle" option that can help you lose weight, and as the "next big movement in health and wellness". 95% of Americans with undiagnosed celiac disease, suffering from any of the myriad, commonplace and sometimes subtle symptoms, might pick up a copy of this book, scan it quickly and get the wrong idea to self-diagnose and stop eating gluten before being medically tested. The actual text of the book and Dr. Peter Green's foreword do caution against this, but the dust jacket just sends the wrong messages out.

Hasselbeck's book is a nice addition to the gluten-free library and would be good to peruse if you are newly diagnosed as a celiac or want to pass on a copy to a friend or family member who wants to cook for you. For an introduction to gluten-free living, I personally favor the more comprehensive information in Danna Korn's "Living Gluten-Free for Dummies" (2006) and the glorious and delicious writing of Shauna James Ahern's "Gluten-Free Girl" (2007). However, Hasselbeck's "The G-Free Diet" has the opportunity to introduce many more people to the issue of celiac disease and gluten-intolerance because they are familiar with her from "The View" and "Survivor". She has lots of good information to share and is working hard to promote the book and the issue of celiac disease, so it is a welcome book. Just throw away the dust jacket.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

May Book Giveaway: Medieval in LA by Jim Paul

Last month, The Book Trout swam through her used book store and selected a copy of D.M. Thomas' "The White Hotel" to give away and the winner is Genevieve from sunny Southern California. Congratulations Genevieve!

For the May book giveaway, I am offering a hardcover copy of the novel "Medieval in LA: A Fiction", by Jim Paul (Washington D.C.: Counterpoint, 1996), which sounds like a funny, philosophical novel about a man visiting Los Angeles and finding illuminating encounters in the most mundane events.

To enter the giveaway, simply leave a comment below by the deadline of Sunday, May 31st, 2009, midnight (Eastern Standard Time) and I will randomly pick a winner. Good luck, everyone!