I’ve just finished reading Michael Pollan’s Food Rules. This is a thin paperback that sells for around 12 bucks. You can tell that the publisher has struggled to give it some “paper by the pound” because the typeset is quite large, the spacing between sections is huge, and most of the “rules” are laid out on a single page with the backside blank. Clearly, this could have easily been put together as a pamphlet, akin to the instruction manual for a vacuum cleaner.
Now, I’m a big Michael Pollan fan. He has a great writing style, his research is impeccable, and his ideas are well-aligned with my own (this is what makes him so great 🙂 ). But I have to say that I resent this type of book. It reminds me of great actors who shill for all kinds of crap products when they’re between acting gigs. Some of you who are of an appropriate age will remember the great George C. Scott fronting for those abysmal cars from American Motors. But you needn’t go that far back…last week I saw Robert Wagner in a commercial for some elderly insurance product.
Books like Food Rules make me think that Pollan maybe has a problem with gambling or dope and suddenly needs large amounts of cash. Pollan has stated elsewhere that the idea for the book was driven by doctors who kept asking him for a simple guide to better eating for their patients. In that case, Pollan should have considered partnering up with a health care provider and publishing it as a free pamphlet for distribution in doctors’ offices. It probably would have had a wider reach and an audience among those who really need it.
Not that the ideas expressed are in any way faulty. The Rules are entertaining and can serve as an excellent mnemonic when it comes to crunch time (pun intended) as in for example, choosing a cereal: Rule # 36: Don’t eat breakfast cereals that change the color of the milk”. But books like this damage an author’s credibility, making him appear needy and greedy. “Hell, if he needs the money that bad, just how far is he prepared to go in spinning the truth to make more money?”