Daniel X and the Total Gym.

I’ve been reading; it’s how I plan to eliminate the piles of unread books that litter my house. Unfortunately, not all my reading has been from the unread masses – when I’m sad, I want to touch base with old familiars rather than deal with new acquaintances. Still, props to me for getting through three so far. *

Okay, two point five.

Okay, two and a couple of chapters but in my defense, The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel van der Kolk was always going to be a difficult read. I’m often resistant when it comes to dealing with the effects of trauma. And yet, I like the book so far. The doctor writes well and there are plentiful anecdotes and case studies, features I appreciate in mental health texts. I’ll pick it up again. I need to find out what happens to Tom, Bill, and the rest.

But the subject matter was moving into “relevant to me” territory and I didn’t want to get into the whole PTSD and ACES thing. I don’t feel like unpacking my issues at the moment. That’s more a November thing. Or February.

Meanwhile, on to Daniel X.

I don’t know why I continue reading books by James Patterson. I don’t enjoy them. It’s not that he’s formulaic; I have no objection to the tried and true especially when the underlying ideas are interesting. It’s the writing style. It gets my back up. The Patterson books I’ve sampled all feature very short (three-page) chapters. There’s no flow. I can’t do what I like to do with books and disappear into another world. The short chapters are jarring.

My latest and likely last was The Dangerous Days of Daniel X, a collaboration with one Michael Ledwidge. Many of Mr. Patterson’s books are now co-operative efforts. Ghostwriting is a system that works for many popular series, including the late Robert Ludlum’s Bourne books, post-Steigg Larsson Lisbeth Salander books, and the eternally-popular Nancy Drew.

James Patterson’s books are usually about action; this book is no different although genre-wise, you might shelve it under science fiction. If you want a moderately interesting, easy to read, and entertaining novel about a young boy with exceptional powers who’s on a mission to avenge the murder of his parents by intergalactic aliens and broken up chapters don’t bother you, give Daniel X a go.

I’d planned to get back to the aforementioned The Body after finishing with Daniel but one of my ordered books came in. Christie Brinkley’s Timeless Beauty. What are you going to do?

I’m not a girly-girl but I love health and beauty books. Once upon a time, I used them to self-flagellate. There’s nothing like obsessing over unattainably perfect people to give one’s eating disorder a boost. This has been one of the interesting challenges of recovery. What things can I still like? What can I still attend to without it being an eating disorder thing?

Can I still love fashion and health and beauty books? Is that allowed? I could file this book under a different category. It could be in a new, “Christie Brinkley” section. I’m kind of a fan. I have been ever since her first beauty book. **

That she doesn’t look much different thirty years on irritates a little even though it’s well-earned, a testament to living well and taking care of yourself. Not that she’s not beautiful. It’s just that she also seems like an admirable person. I’m more likely to follow advice from people I like.

I notice her teeth especially. They’re amazing. There’s ample opportunity to inspect them in the recent Timeless Beauty. Pictures of Ms. Brinkley are plentiful, as one would expect in a self-referencing health and beauty book. I don’t mind, she looks good in almost every shot, both posed and candid, and because she’s sixty-one, I find it inspirational and aspirational.  

Except for the pictures featuring the weird model smile. With open mouth and visible teeth, the expression that hovers between a smile and artificially joyful surprise gets old. When you see it in passing in a magazine, you pay it little mind. When you see it page after page, however, it starts to feel weird, forced, and a little bit alien.

Always take the advice proffered in these kinds of books with a grain of salt. Treat them like entertaining op-eds. Sometimes the information is based on science, sometimes it’s based on personal opinion. Question what you read. Take what you need and/or like and leave the rest, though do heed the warnings to see your doctor before making any significant changes to your life.

I wonder how many people do that.

The format of the book is familiar. It is of a type. There are nine chapters to the book and they cover a range of related topics: diet, exercise, skin, hair, makeup, clothes, frequently asked questions, and gratitude. Nothing unexpected, nothing new or surprising, but still entertaining and informative if you haven’t made acquiring this kind of information a religion. If you have, it’s still entertaining.

Ms. Brinkley writes well, something I remember from her first diet and exercise book of decades ago. She comes across as intelligent, passionate, involved in life, and determined to share the things that have served her well in her life, including a discussion on the benefits of practicing gratitude.  

She has a lot to be grateful for, to be sure, and sometimes the book drifts into the realm of slightly out-of-touch, a fact she acknowledges as she interviews her chef about nutrition and gardening.  Eating healthy meals prepared by a chef using the ingredients from your personal greenhouse is not everyone’s reality. Still, the recipes are reasonably manageable and the photos are mouthwatering.

She pumps a few of her own products in the book: a skincare line and a hair extensions effort. I found that marginally irritating in a book with a list price of thirty dollars US. Still, the products she sells are reasonably priced and manufactured per her vegan and cruelty-free principles. I find them tempting in addition to marginally interesting. Since she doesn’t mention her own things exclusively, and since she provides a well-organized resource guide at the end of the book, I decided to let the irritation the plug generated go.

In terms of appearance, it’s a lovely book. Beauty books often seem more like coffee table art than practical tomes. The pages are smooth, the font creative, the colours well-integrated and soothing. Each chapter starts with an inspirational quote or message related to the content. The book moves at a pleasing pace and the accessibility of the information is enhanced via numerous text boxes, images, and sidebars.

There’s nothing new here, there’s no earthshaking content, although Ms. Brinkley did confirm that even incredibly beautiful supermodels get a bit of work done. What she seems to want to drive home is this message: take good care of yourself because you’re what you eat and do. Ms. Brinkley is a lifelong vegetarian and recommends eating close to nature. She isn’t judgmental about it though she does point out the environmental cost and for the carnivores, suggests attempts at reducing meat consumption. As for exercise, “it doesn’t matter what you do, as long as you do something”. She wants people to be kind. She wants people to be good global citizens.

She has a section on the Total Gym that generated a smile. I’d forgotten about the exercise machine she used to sell on infomercials. In a truly odd pairing, she sold them alongside Chuck Norris. After looking at it again, I think I want one. I’m so suggestible.

There are interviews with various experts Ms. Brinkley has worked with also scattered through the chapters. They’re breezy and friendly but the amount of information provided is low. You have to do further research to get satisfaction. That’s true of all books of this type, however. They’re basically surveys. For depth, you look elsewhere.

Timeless Beauty by Christie Brinkley is not the best health and beauty book I’ve read. It’s also not the worst. I enjoyed it. Not as much as some but enough to add it to my library. Then again, I picked it up at a book clearinghouse for a reduced price. I’m not sure I’d be as thrilled with my purchase if I’d paid full.

*I counted the books that make up the unread part of my library. There are forty-three unread books, not counting those already ordered or publish-pending. I’m not going to get through them all. Most still appeal but some seems as thrilling as liver and onions. I’m not an offal fan.

** Christie Brinkley’s Outdoor Beauty and Fitness Book. Christie Brinkley. Simon and Schuster: New York. 1983.

*** Timeless Beauty. Christie Brinkley. Hachette Book Group: New York. 2015.

One thought on “Daniel X and the Total Gym.

  1. I recently read The Body Keeps the Score and while it was very interesting at first I gave up less than halfway through. Maybe trauma is not a problem for me or maybe I just need a Total Gym and Christie Brinkley or a reasonable facsimile. 🙃

    Liked by 1 person

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