Mister Owita’s Guide to Gardening by Carol Wall
Carol Wall writes a moving memoir about how a slowly developing friendship with her Kenyan gardener, Giles Owita, helps her embrace life. Carol’s writing is very frank; she is a cancer survivor and does not pretend to be optimistic. She worries about her health, her marriage, and her parents, and argues with her husband Dick when stressed. Resistant to flowers, especially azaleas and roses, Carol doesn’t want to work in her neglected yard, and is frustrated when Giles doesn’t follow instructions. An English teacher, she is surprised to learn that Giles has a Ph.D. in horticulture, even though he works part-time at a grocery store. His formal, distant wife Bienta has a secret she can’t manage to share with Carol, even though she considers her a friend. After three years, her yard is gorgeous, Carol enjoys flowers and gardening, and counts Giles as a close friend and confidant. Family and major health issues affect the Walls and the Owitas, but Carol’s outlook on life is forever changed.
Drop Dead Healthy by A.J. Jacobs
Writer A. J. Jacobs is always ready for self-improvement. He read the entire Encyclopedia Britannica and spent a year trying to follow every rule in the Bible, resulting in the books The Know-It-All and The Year of Living Biblically. A case of pneumonia has A.J. ready to listen to his wife’s pleas for him to shape up, especially as he gets winded while playing with their three young sons. So, at 41, he consults numerous health experts as well as his hippy aunt Marti. A. J. spends more than two years on his project to become healthier, and we follow along as he tries all kinds of exercise programs, including playing cave man in Central Park and literally running to do his errands. He explores many different diets, looks at noise pollution, the dangers of sitting all day, and tries to avoid toxic chemicals, all the while chipping away at a very long list of health related goals. Becoming an Okinawan woman seems impossible, but how about the fact that Academy Award winners live three years longer on average than non-Oscar winners? Always interesting and frequently funny, A.J. comes away from his quest with some very sensible suggestions on how to get healthier.