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All Natural: A Skeptic's Quest for Health and Happiness in an Age of Ecological Anxiety
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All Natural: A Skeptic's Quest for Health and Happiness in an Age of Ecological Anxiety

3.74  ·  Rating details ·  379 Ratings  ·  74 Reviews
In this age of climate change, killer germs, and obesity, it's easy to feel as if we've fallen out of synch with the global ecosystem. This ecological anxiety has polarized a new generation of Americans: many are drawn to natural solutions and organic lifestyles, while others rally around high-tech development and industrial efficiencies. Johnson argues that both views, wh ...more
Hardcover, 352 pages
Published January 29th 2013 by Rodale Books
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else fine
Mar 17, 2013 rated it really liked it
From the cover, I somehow didn't expect this book to be as substantial as it turned out to be. It's full of fascinating, clearly presented information - I especially enjoyed the chapter on plant toxins - presented in a gently humorous tone. Striking the correct balance between shrilly smug skepticism (peruse any atheism forum online for an example of the tone) and wide-eyed hippified tree-hugging compassion is tricky, and I believe Johnson has pulled it off flawlessly.

If you can hear a 'but' com
Jul 17, 2013 rated it liked it
I wanted to like this book. I'm a skeptic, and I'm a hippie of sorts. I can get exasperated at what some of my friends are willing to believe, without credible evidence--and apparently without much understanding of how to judge credibility. This does not at all apply just to hippies, but that's the author's background, so it's what he's looking at, and it sounds like an interesting premise. But I don't think the execution lives up to the potential.

The book is about his inquiry into "all natural"
Mar 28, 2014 rated it really liked it
Award-winning journalist Nathanael Johnson was raised by two radical hippie parents who insisted on homebirth and outlawed refined sugar in their house throughout his childhood. As he grew up, Johnson found himself skeptical of the superiority claims of his parents' organic lifestyle while retaining that lingering fondness and sense of comfort/wholesomeness associated with it. It is with this disposition towards "all natural" products and practices yet strong desire for irrefutable scientific pr ...more
Mar 06, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: nature, non-fiction
I was excited to read this book, but found myself bored by many of the topics Johnson lingers on and had to force myself to finish it. For example, first fifth of the book was about natural/midwife births versus hospital births. I thought the book was going to be more about natural food and consumer products versus their mainstream counterparts - which it wasn't. When Johnson shared personal stories, especially about his hippy upbringing, the book was interesting.
Feb 01, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This book is entertaining and well researched. If the cover appeals to you, so will the entire book.
Feb 10, 2013 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed the take this author has on natural vs. technological issues. He was raised by hippies, and is drawn to natural approaches--but also understands science and wants to take the best of that into account. His agonizing and searching also coincided with his beginning a family, and so issues of birth, nutrition and immunizations were very timely for him. I am overjoyed to see a book by an author that doesn't reject either approach out of hand but that also takes science and reality i ...more
Apr 10, 2013 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Lea by: Erica
3.5 stars, rounded up. This books is made up of previously written essays that were put together and elaborated on to form a book. Each chapter represents a new idea and is connected with the underlying theme of technological vs all-natural. Don't read this book looking for answers, be prepared to think for yourself. Johnson does a good job of providing information from both sides of the argument without the usual condescension or one sided-ness you typically find with this type of book. Althoug ...more
More philosophical than practical and a bit disjointed in organization, but interesting enough to hold my attention.
Sher❤ The Fabulous BookLover
Lots of useful information, but it was too "wordy". The author scrambled off topic way too many times and I just couldn't hold my focus with this one.
Natanya Bittman
Apr 05, 2018 rated it liked it
I picked this up with a firmly “natural” based point of view and did not expect to be swayed by anything Johnson would have to say from the skeptic camp. But I wondered what his arguments might bring to light and so I read it with mild curiosity. I enjoyed his reporter’s eye and personal reflection but I felt like he stretched the skepticism where there really wasn’t anything significant to argue. It was as if the editor said, you’ve got to present two sides, come up with something! But there wa ...more
Sep 26, 2017 rated it really liked it
Vastly entertaining book looking at the benefits of nature v. technology in various fields: birth, food, vaccines, the environment. A natural fence straddler having been raised by hippies and then having embraced technology, Johnson deftly explains why a person would rely on one rather than the other in life philosophy and then discusses the pros and cons of birth. Packed full of information and never boring, All Natural is a fascinating read.
Jan 23, 2018 rated it it was ok
Mistitled - this man is a no skeptic

He’s a wide-eyed hippy who only barely condones vaccinations and condemns pasteurization. This is a personal musing of one man’s attempt to reconcile himself to the harmful idiocy his hippy parents raised him with disguised as a work of investigative non-fiction. No fact is sourced and anecdote is always taken as evidence.

Avoid this book - I sincerely fear for the health, sanity and safety of Jose who read it uncritically.
Jul 14, 2017 rated it liked it
The last chapter was really spectacular in terms of a balanced look at non-Western medicine. The rest of the book was incredibly dry.
Jun 20, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2013-reads
Sigh. I need to get back to writing my responses during the reading or immediately after I finish a book. But I had some impressions while reading All-Natural that I want to get down:

Johnson writes whopping, cue-the-orchestra conclusions to each chapter - so many writers can't do that. He shows off this skill by writing 5-6-7 of these conclusions (for each chapter).

Even if the reader doesn't give a damn about the dilemma of being drawn to the "natural" while holding a skeptical, science-based w
Chris Laskey
Jun 25, 2014 rated it liked it
Third time trying to review this... My main problem with this work is that there is some science behind the discussions within, but very little and certainly not a whit about any studies when the value of nature is questioned. So there exists a half hearted attempt to set one value against the other and his bias runs through all of his questions. This is not to disagree with the idea of nature or natural processes being better - Let's face it who doesn't want to be more natural - but I do want s ...more
Sally Ewan
May 13, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
The author, impelled by his wife's pregnancy, decides to see if the 'natural approach' to life is better than that offered by science and technology. He investigates childbirth practices, the immune system, nutrition, toxins in food and vaccines, environment, agriculture, and healthcare. Raised by parents with a decidly natural bent, he shares many personal experiences related to these topics. (Not a word about education, though. Not even a passing reference to it!)

My worldview affected the way
Dec 18, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2014
This book really frustrated me. I thought I would love it - no one loves a debate bout "natural" vs. man-made/chemical/processed more than me. But it didn't feel cohesive - which makes sense now that I find out that each chapter had been written and published elsewhere separately - and I felt like it didn't provide a convincing argument either way. I was especially interested in the chapter on vaccines and I felt that one was particularly disappointing, although I did learn that the use of vacci ...more
Lisa Lewis
Jun 03, 2014 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this book, but I wish that Johnson had a stricter editor. His ideas and arguments are thoughtful and important, but so wordy and rambling I am afraid that many people I would like to read this book will not get through it. Maybe a Cliff notes version would help?
Johnson comes from a personal perspective of having been raised by the crunchiest of granola parents (think home childbirth, his brother cutting the umbilical cord, being raised free of diapers and sugar and television an
Wendy Clark
Mar 16, 2015 rated it it was amazing
In the words of the author, my dad and husband both "flinch" towards medical science while my mom and grandma both "flinch" towards alternative medicine, so I enjoyed the author's ability to relate to both views as he examined the different subjects. I used to flinch towards medical science until I got pregnant. Then my own HMO-funded doctors prescribed herbal supplements, acupuncture, and "hope" to deal with my frequent, debilitating migraines. Although I still have the tendency to prefer the m ...more
Jun 04, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Please let Nathanael Johnson be just one of many of his generation to strive to take the best of what technological advancements and the kind, loving and responsible side of humanity (aka the right and left hemispheres of our brains) and come up with ways we can all participate in making this world a better place. I found the sections on cooperative forest management, industrial pig farming and medical care the most fascinating but the whole book is worth reading. Johnson has a gentle but carefu ...more
Chris Jennings
Jul 12, 2014 rated it liked it
The chapter about birth and pregnancy should be required reading for all men. My mind was blown. Other sections didn't capture my attention as much, but overall I really enjoyed this book. You can tell that Johnson has worked closely with Michael Pollan, this book follows the tried and true Pollan format. I admire the ambition to cover all of these topics in one book but maybe this would have been better suited as separate examinations of each subject. Just as I got hooked on the story of artifi ...more
Alex Templeton
Jan 01, 2014 rated it really liked it
Johnson grew up in a completely crunchy-granola family; as an adult and new father, he uses this book to delve into whether or not his parents' kind of decisions made good sense. A book like this is why non-fiction was (or should have been) invented: to allow intelligent people to explore complex issues in ways that provoke the reader's mind to start a-whirling. As a currently pregnant lady, I was definitely interested in the chapter on all-natural (unassisted?) birth, but also found the other c ...more
Nov 24, 2013 rated it liked it
This is not a book I would normally pick up. I read it as part of college stuff. I'm not all that into non-fiction books about the 'organic/natural' way and all of that.

That said, however, this book surprised me. It's well written. It stays on relatively neutral grounds. I read it rather quickly and enjoyed the read.

At times it felt like it sort of veered away from the 'nature vs. technology' debate, but it stayed interesting. At times it sort of made me cringe (the childbirth section and the pi
Jun 19, 2013 rated it liked it
When I first got this book from the library, I thought, "Finally, I have been wanting someone to write this book for years!" This book discusses whether the "natural" approach to many lifestyle choices is any better than choices that have been made possible by technology and scientific advances. I am drawn to things that are natural, but am also extremely skeptical, especially when "natural" means that scientific progress is categorically dismissed. I don't know what kind of answers I was hoping ...more
Austin Larson
Jul 05, 2014 rated it really liked it
A compelling piece of autobiographical nonfiction. The author recounts his childhood as a home-birthed, diaperless, cosleeping, unvaccinated northern California hippie and his young adulthood as a skeptic of everything that he had grown up with. He uses the occasion of the birth of his first child to examine the evidence and reconcile the two viewpoints. Naturally, he concludes that the right answer is nuanced. For instance, vaccination is a no-brainer, but pharmaceuticals for irritable bowel ar ...more
Kimberly Laplante
Jan 08, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: first-reads
I received this book in a first-reads giveaway and really enjoyed it. I appreciated Johnson's presentation of both the "natural" and "technological" perspectives on issues of medicine, food, the environment and birth. It is rare to read a book on any of these topic from someone not firmly rooted in either camp and I really enjoyed the questioning nature of the book. If you are looking for someone to give you definitive (if slightly inaccurate) answers to questions in any of these issues, this is ...more
Dec 06, 2014 rated it really liked it
Captivating read, especially for non-fiction. Johnson did a great job of bookending the chapters with his experiences, it helped me put into perspective some of the bigger picture ideas he talked about. After I finished I was blown away by the amount of work that must have gone into this. There was a LOT of information here, and he presented it in a digestible way, without putting out a lot of bias. He mentioned several times that the challenge was in balancing the natural and the technological, ...more
Mar 12, 2013 rated it liked it
I enjoyed the book, it was a pretty fast read. The first couple of chapters were the best. I really enjoyed reading about midwifery and pasturazation of milk. Well- researched and thoughtful. The chapter on pork was truly scary, I will try to never buy industrial raised pork again. The chapter on the forest didn't really hold my interest and the last couple of chapters felt like something thrown in to make a book. The book did somewhat have the disjointed feeling of essays and stories printed el ...more
Jun 04, 2013 rated it liked it
These are all subjects I have already studied extensively on my own, in my quest to make all of my major decisions informed ones. There are some good nuggets of information within this book, however I disagree with the author on a number of points.
I do appreciate his well-thought-out and *mostly* open-minded approach, but I feel he chickened out and resorted to political correctness a couple of times here.
This is a decent book for those who are just beginning to inform themselves about living
Apr 26, 2013 rated it really liked it
I'm almost done with this book and I really enjoyed it, especially the chapter on birth. Johnson has a engaging conversational style and a thoughtful approach to analyzing his research questions. He also throws in some new ideas and I really enjoyed learning about the topics and looking at them a little differently. He also has clever and funny asides, self-examinations, and admissions of what he doesn't know, which made him a likable narrator and investigator. Definitely recommend if you are in ...more
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