Thursday, July 10, 2014

Go Wild

Go Wild was written by Dr. John Ratey and Richard Manning.  I’m a Manning fan, and I was hoping for a book with rhythms similar to the writing of Tom Brown, Richard Nelson, or Jay Griffiths — work rooted in a spiritual connection to the family of life.  Our current path is a dead end.  If Big Mama Nature decides to let two-legged animals have a future, the key to survival is returning to a path of reverence, respect, and balance, like our ancient African ancestors lived.

Be aware that Go Wild does not take you on a fascinating tour of wild cultures.  The authors did not live with wild people, or interview any.  The book will not thoroughly erase your cultural programming and make you wild and free, nor will it transform you into a wild hunter-gatherer, shaman, sorcerer, or medicine woman.

The book’s subtitle is “Free Your Body and Mind from the Afflictions of Civilization.”  But most of the major afflictions of civilization are not targeted — automobiles, television, cell phones, computers, education, wage slavery, materialism, submitting to masters.  Despite this omission, the book does provide interesting discussions about a variety of lesser-known afflictions.

Go Wild is a self-help book that offers many suggestions for eating better and living better.  Sugar is poison.  Shun grains, including whole grains, and avoid all other foods rich in carbohydrates — bananas, honey, potatoes, organic fruit juice, and so on.  It’s far healthier to get your calories from fats.  Run regularly, outdoors, not on a treadmill.  Sleep 8.5 hours every night.  Avoid artificial light.  Forge tribe-like bonds with your marathon-running buddies.  Practice meditation to revive your mindfulness, contentment, and joy.

Go Wild is primarily a science book, based on a Cartesian mindset that perceives living beings to be amazingly complex biochemical machines.  Two-legged animals raised in civilizations are severely damaged biochemical machines, and this book is an up-to-date shop manual for do-it-yourself backyard mechanics.  It’s about tuning up your brain and body for maximum performance, so you’ll remain happy, sharp, and fit well beyond 100, maybe 200.

Readers are introduced to a parade of medical doctors, biologists, psychologists, psychiatrists, endocrinologists, paleoanthropologists, and other assorted researchers who discuss their big discoveries.  Hot topics include oxytocin, vasopressin, cortisol, phytoncides, telomeres, neuroplasticity, neurogenesis, homeostasis, allostasis, dopamine, dyslipidemia, epigenics, and lipoproteins.

Folks who seriously follow some or all of the suggestions in this book will have a decent chance of experiencing genuine benefits.  Being raised in civilization causes many injuries, some of which can be healed, and many that cannot.  This book is likely to appeal to millions of pudgy, unhappy, poorly nourished, sleep deprived, stressed out, walking dead, well-educated professionals who are looking for ways to improve their health and wellbeing.

Ratey, John J. M.D., and Manning, Richard, Go Wild, Little, Brown and Company, New York, 2014.


Riversong said...


Nice to see you actually critique a book that pretends to offer valuable insight while obviously aimed at maximizing sales and profits (another curse of civilization).

What Is Sustainable said...

Riversong, my #1 objective with this blog is to recommend valuable sources of information, as a service to pilgrims who are actively seeking to learn (over 58,000 page views so far). I’m not interested in being a book critic. I wrote a brief review of Go Wild as a service for Amazon customers, who might imagine that the book has something to do with wild humans — a voyage into the long, long era that preceded civilization.

Since I read the book, and wrote a review, I included it here. Ratey has a large audience, and I expect Go Wild to sell well. Many will find it interesting, and learn a lot from it. I don’t expect to be reading self-help books in the coming months, but stuff happens sometimes.

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown said...

Oh looks like a great self-help book! Is it the first kind focusing on going wild in a civilized environment?
However, many of the suggestions seem to be widely known. Doing sports, meditation, maintaining friendships, sleeping enough and a paleo diet is not that revolutionary... Or do I miss something?

P.S. I would like to know your position on paleo diet. I suppose you agree on most of it. Is that right?

Greetings from Germany :)

What Is Sustainable said...

Guten Tag!

Going wild is not a new idea. Here are some reviews:

The Tracker

Unlearn Rewild




I don't eat a purely paleo diet (whatever it is), but it's a good idea. The modern diet is killing us!

Unknown said...

I finally read the book. It is indeed a book which can change your life. It offer many ways of how to live closer to nature. It also offers many insights into human evolution and what we are made for. Thank you Rick for the great review! Definitely feel enriched by the book :)

What Is Sustainable said...

Unknown, you're welcome. Glad you enjoyed it.