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The Man Who Couldn't Eat

3.24  ·  Rating details ·  446 ratings  ·  99 reviews

Im a glutton in a greyhounds body, a walking contradiction, in the grip of the one thing I cant havefood.

Food is not just sustenance. It is memories, a lobster roll on the beach in Maine; heritage, hot pastrami club with a half-sour pickle; guilty pleasures, a chocolate rum-soaked Bundt cake; identity, vegetarian or carnivore. Food is the sensuality of a ripe strawberry

Hardcover, 314 pages
Published September 6th 2011 by Gallery Books
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Ugh. The amount of self-pity Jon Reiner displays throughout this book made it nigh unreadable. When I entered the giveaway for The Man Who Couldn't Eat, it was based on descriptions of the book as unique, compelling, and a very real depiction of what it is like to have Crohn's disease, from the point of view of someone with a special relationship with food. Instead, I received a book which seems to have been written from the point of view of a man who feels he is unique in having what is ...more
Sep 25, 2011 rated it really liked it
When I was in high school, I worked at an insurance company during the summers doing thankless little tasks like filing.

Between getting paper cuts upon paper cuts, I did something I was told not to do Id sit at a desk and read through the long-term disability claims as I was filing.

There was this one mans claim that I still remember to this day.

He was a 28-year-old with beautiful, spidery handwriting. In his claim, he described how Crohns disease had robbed him of the ability to leave the
Feb 10, 2012 rated it did not like it
I really wanted to like this book. I was diagnosed with Crohn's in 2008 and my journey to remission was a rough one. However, Reiner's self-righteousness and pseudoscientific tangents were really off-putting.

For someone as obsessed with food and the nature of Crohn's disease as Reiner, his understanding of the relationship between food, inflammatory bowel syndrome, and the body was disturbing. The macrobiotic is the opposite of what a healing Crohn's patient should be eating, as the fiber and
I'm very torn on how to rate this book. And also torn on how to review it.

In general, memoirs of health issues probably only really appeal to a fairly small of group of people. I do not have Crohn's disease like the author but I do have a very severe digestive system disorder. And like the author I am dependent on Total Parenteral Nutrition (TPN), a form of nutrition that bypasses the digestive tract entirely. You get all your nutritional needs through your veins. And like the author I have NPO
Amber Koppenhofer
Sep 07, 2011 rated it it was ok
The main reason I decided to read this book when I saw it in an email from goodreads is that this story is about a man with Crohn's Disease, and I was diagnosed with Crohn's Disease nearly 6 years ago. I was really hoping I could relate to this man, and have empathy for him, and perhaps even enjoy his story enough to purchase the book, but my hopes were a bit too high.

Let me start by saying that while I had a really rough patch when I was first diagnosed with Crohn's Disease, I have been
Gerald Curtis
Sep 27, 2011 rated it liked it
I felt miserable the entire time I spent with this book. I didnt expect to enjoy the book, being a true account of a man and his familys struggle with Chrons disease. The degree of suffering I endured as I read about his struggles is a testimony to the effectiveness of his account.

I read the book because I have a niece, whose husband died young, due to this disease and I wanted to know more about it and more about what she and her children had been through. I had always thought he was an
Sep 05, 2011 rated it really liked it
Have you ever thought about what it would be like to not be able to eat or drink? Not to fast, not to go without food for 30 hours in support of starving people in Africa, but to really go with nothing passing down your esophagus for longer than a week or two? Welcome to the life of Jon Reiner, who suffers from Chrons disease, leaving him helpless to his bodys attacks against his own digestive tract. Having lived with the disease since his college years, Jon offers up a unique insight into the ...more
Jill Furedy
Oct 19, 2012 rated it liked it
I've been having a lot of issues in connection to a former surgery from my crohn's disease, (scar tissue is closing up my intestine and food can't make it through), so this seemed like something to shake up any thoughts of a self pity party. I guess I expected his scenario to be a lot worse. He couldn't eat for a few months, which is totally hard and obnoxious, but I thought it was going to be a permanent situation based on the title. So partway through the book, I was thinking how I'd feel more ...more
Aug 29, 2011 rated it really liked it

The memoir opens with Reiner telling the reader a little bit of background about himself. He is a glutton in a greyhound's body. He has to live in a self-imposed exile from many of the foods he enjoys eating. He lets the reader in on the pain he experiences due to Crohn's. His own kids must eat healthy due to his fear of passing on the disease to his children compounded by the fact that his wife has diabetes in her family. He goes on to tell the reality of
May 07, 2013 rated it did not like it
I have never been so relieved to finish a book and have it no longer claiming any of my precious time. There are a few lovely sentences peppered here and there, but for the most part the writing is awful. Tons of boring, unnecessary details and side stories, disjointed jumping around and the author's voice itself is beyond wearing. He obviously finds himself to be very clever but yet can't seem to figure out why no one ever laughs at his jokes. He tends to focus on the negative, both in the ...more
Trevor Tupper
Feb 26, 2012 rated it it was ok
Speaking as someone with Crohn's Disease I at first found this book masterful the way it accurately described the same type of turmoil I went through. About half way through the book I found I disliked the amount of self pity the author was displaying, it became more unbearable than Crohn's symptoms. I got about 75% through the book when I had to just set it down. Would not recommend.
Aug 25, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2011, non-fiction, memoir
"In the sensuality of eating, the nose teases and the mouth consummates. The intensity of the dinner's aroma is playing havoc with my senses, as so many smalls have lately, and I'm transported."

This quote is used by the author very early in the book to describe how he feels in the kitchen of his own home while unable to eat anything. Jon Reiner has Crohn's disease and has been in and out of the hospital with the disease for over 20 years. Often his bouts end in an NPO - nothing by mouth, which
Feb 12, 2012 rated it really liked it
The Man Who Couldn't Eat is Jon Reiner's personal story about returning home from an uneventful grocery shopping trip only to have his stomach explode. As he struggles to heal after a poorly performed surgery, he is put on TPN. He is sent home to spend months living without eating or drinking - absolutely nothing by mouth. His deep surgical wound is left open and covers his gut. The battle to survive takes Jon on an emotional roller-coaster through denial, anger, depression, and finally ...more
Oct 23, 2011 rated it it was ok
I am not familiar with Crohns disease. So to read what Mr. Reiner went through dealing with this disease, it was disheartening. I can not imagine having to live with Crohns disease. Always having to worry about what you eat not because you want to lose weight but because you never know when some type of food could be like a time bomb towards your body.

Reading about the stool blockage that formed in Mr. Reiners small intestine and tore a perforation in his intestinal wall, which caused a rupture
Jul 07, 2012 rated it really liked it
As someone who has lived with this disease since I was 6, I am all to familiar with what the author has gone through. His ability to describe what it's like to live with this disease and survive the more humiliating aspects show his talent as a writer. I am asking my family to read this book because I have never been able to describe what it feels like to live with this disease and he has done the best job of any author I have ever read of putting a face on this disease. He is able to explain ...more
Aug 08, 2011 rated it did not like it
Shelves: 2012
I think this book was very poorly written. Although I do not have Chron's disease, I don't think this book would be very helpful to someone who does have it. All this book is a litany of complaints and woe-is-me.

At one point, he even wanted me to feel sorry for him for having to stay at home and take care of the house. Seriously? Many people do that every day and I do not feel sorry for them, I respect them. But only if they don't whine about it like a little baby.

Yes, I know I am sticking to a
Aug 07, 2011 rated it it was ok
When will I learn that a good magazine article does not necessarily make a good book? I was very much looking forward to the publication of this book after reading the original article. Simply put, the article made the point better and more efficiently. I have similar health issues, so just the fact that someone was writing about TPN (IV nutrition) and what it's like to be NPO for an extended period of time, is something I strongly appreciate. I was looking for an intensely shared experience, ...more
Apr 13, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2012-reads
As a self-professed foodie struggling with managing what, and how much, goes into my mouth the title alone made this book irresistible. Not being able to eat is a concept that I find incomprehensible. Mr. Reiners narrative made me understand, with gritty clarity, what it must be like not to be allowed to eat.

We meet Mr. Reiner as he is writhing on the floor of his NYC apartment suffering from a serious complication to his Crohns disease. Delirious with pain he slips in and out of consciousness.
Aug 15, 2011 rated it liked it
Being completely honest here, I know very little about Crohn's disease. It's not an illness that gets a lot of publicity (like breast cancer), and while I knew it had something to do with digesting food, I didn't really know anything else. So, when I heard about this book, I was interested to learn a little more about the disease and Jon Reiner's experience of dealing with this disease. Reiner chronicles one year of living with this illness, following an awful episode where his insides burst ...more
Sep 24, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I met this author when I was down in SF for a conference, we've been in touch, and I'm committed to helping him get this story out there. This is the review that I posted for him on
I very highly recommend this unique & fresh memoir.
Reiner's story will take you on a journey you will be swept up into and deeply moved by, whether you are a Crohn's disease survivor like the author, or have never even heard of this rotten autoimmune disorder. Jon addresses universal human
Sheridene Lenton
Feb 22, 2013 rated it it was ok
As someone diagnosed with this disease and i have only been battling g it for almost four years now, i was excited about the prospect of reading a book which would have shared the things we face with this disease. My excitement was, however, short lived. The overall concept of the book I am pleased to see people sharing their battles and progress with this disease as it needs as much publicity as it can get! I feel for Jon Reiner and his family, i can relate to some of his stories, however i do ...more
Crystal Patriarche
Sep 19, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I absolutely love reading a good memoir and this book was by far one of the most intriguing, captivating, well-written, laugh out loud funny, heartfelt, heartbreaking books (memoir or otherwise) I've read all year. I found myself so engrossed in the story of THE MAN WHO COULDN'T EAT - and it's so much more than a food memoir. It's also about marriage, health, survival, family, parenting, wellness, illness, life, tragedy, recovery, desire - desire for more, for food, for life. I absolutely adored ...more
Kristin Strong
Oct 09, 2011 rated it liked it
This is a well-written book, but my lord was most of it depressing. I had a really hard time sticking with it, but I did -- the author's emergence from his absolute lowest state into a sort of acceptance and realization of what he's got (rather than remaining concerned with what he's denied, as he is throughout much of the book) almost made it worth it.
Until I read this, I knew very little about Crohn's disease. I knew it was a disease of the digestive tract, but not how serious it is, much less
Oct 28, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoir, non-fiction
I don't have crohn's disease, but I do struggle with chronic illness and the way it affects my marriage and my kid. I identified quite a bit with Jon and his struggles to not be the jerk that it's easy to become when just staying alive becomes a struggle.

The author doesn't sugarcoat anything, and doesn't try to show himself only in a good light. The book ends with him experimenting (and struggling) with a macrobiotic diet, and I wish there were an afterward or something to tell us how that
Oct 06, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. As a fellow Crohnie on a liquid diet at the moment I really appreciated the author's vivid in-depth descriptions. It is hard to describe the pain and the crazy food cravings but he did an amazing job with it. I highly recommend this to anyone who wants to understand what we go through -- food can be our best friend and worst enemy. I only ever had to be on TPN for a week after an emergency surgery landed me in the ICU (anastomotic leak following a previous ...more
May 30, 2012 rated it it was ok
I picked up this book based on having heard the 04/02/12 Radiolab podcast episode "Guts," in which the author and his story were featured. After reading the book, though, it feels to me as if the subject was handled more concisely and compellingly in that radio segment. The book was an outgrowth of an Esquire article, "How Men Eat," for which Reiner won the 2010 James Beard Foundation Award for Magazine Feature Writing. I may try to get my hands on that article at some point. Word length ...more
Jun 02, 2014 rated it really liked it
I have Crohn's and incredibly I'm going through exactly what JR described in the book. Intestinal rupture. TPN. Nothing to eat. As a fellow Crohn's sufferer, it was really interesting to see how Reiner reacted to different situations. I found myself thinking, 'Oh, I wouldn't have done that' at several intersections in the book. I wish he had gone into more of his history and life with the disease, but instead he wrote about some of his relationships with friends to 'fill out' the book. It was a ...more
Oct 12, 2011 rated it liked it
Interesting look at the life of someone suffering from a bad case of chronic Crohn's disease. At one point the author couldn't eat or drink anything for months and used a pump and catheter in his arm to get nutrition. In periods of remission he loved really good food, and fantasized about it while he couldn't eat. The author received a James Beard award in 2010 for other magazine writings. The book lays out the impact to the man, his family and marriage, etc. Makes me really, really glad that my ...more
Jamie Mason
Apr 23, 2012 rated it really liked it
This is a hard book. That's not bad news. In fact, it's quite a good thing. The only way Jon Reiner could tackle the tale of such an unfathomable ailment is by being a magician with words. And he is. There is a kind of grim deftness and sleight of hand required to make you forget that you could never imagine what it is like to be prohibited from eating or drinking -- anything -- for months on end.

For brave foodies, this is a horror story.

But take heart, it's not entirely depressing. It's funny,
A depressing, self-pitying memoir of a year in the life of a man suffering from Crohn's disease. I picked this one up because I'm fascinated by all aspects of medicine. I was hoping for, and most likely expecting less angst and more substance. The central idea of not being able to eat horrifies me, and I wanted to know more about the disease that would cause that to happen, and how and why.
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