Review: A Hunter Gatherer's Guide to the 21st Century

Evolution and the Challenges of Modern Life

Heather Heying and Brett Weinstein

Portfolio / Penguin

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book cover.  A Hunter Gathere's Guide to the 21st Century

It's been a while since I've published a book review and I'm thrilled to be coming back with this one.

Do you geek out on science-y stuff, especially when it comes to food and health and culture.  If so, then I think you’ll like A Hunter Gatherer's Guide to the 21st Century..

The book isn’t just about food specifically, it’s about us as a species and how we’ve come such a long way from the forests of our ancestors into today’s high tech world of social media, processed food-like substances, hook-up culture and helicopter parenting.  Yet we are still homo-sapiens at our core, and although we can adapt to change, it’s what humans do, the pace of change and the things we are changing may not be in our best interest. 

There is a whole section in this book dedicated to food, and I intend to go back and read it again.  The authors lead us through what food is to humanity, not just what we eat but how and why.  I mentioned this quote in my article about gluten-free bread, but it bares repeating here.  "humans no longer eat just to satisfy energetic requirements any more than we have sex just to make babies."  There are social and cultural implications and both food and sex serve their obvious purpose as well as creating and solidifying bonds that support our mental health and the stability of our families and communities.  

Still on the subject of food, family and community, they talk about the 'breaking of bread' and observe that: “if you had a list in front of you of the people you know and the people with whom you’ve broken bread, you’d find that the broken bread with list is special."  Breaking bread has a special meaning to anyone with celiac.  First, we can't have bread, not normal bread anyway, and when we do share a meal with friends and loved ones we quickly find that it's a planning ordeal. 

“if you had a list in front of you of the people you know and the people with whom you’ve broken bread, you’d find that the broken bread with list is special."

Like my other favorite author, Michael Pollan, Heying and Weinstein promote the importance of cooking and give us the evolutionary back ground to this.  Sorry raw foodists.

The book also has sections on sleep and sex as well as parenting and religion which to me are all fascinating.  Maybe you could say I came for the food and stayed for the sex?  Well that's not all.  They bring in some autobiographical colour from their time as university professors when they talk about parenting and school, and wade into the murky waters of sex and gender in the corresponding chapters.  

If I had to critique anything I would say that, when it came to the parenting and school sections, it got quite autobiographical and a little preachy.  Yes they are both professors and so have expertise in the educational world, and I do agree with their approach to challenge young people rather than protect them, but I enjoyed these sections less because of the tone.

Do I recommend this book?  Like I said at the beginning, if geeky science-y stuff is your jam then yes.  If you'd rather stick to the purely practical, well there is some of that too. I think it's a good book.

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