"Natural Causes: An Epidemic of Wellness, the Certainty of Dying, and Killing Ourselves to Live Longer," by Barbara Ehrenreich

This book is blunt: Nothing in modern life prepares us for the leaving of it. We treat aging as a sin. We’ve replaced “health” — an absence of sickness — with “wellness” and a flurry of overtesting, fad diets and pointless “alternative” treatments. 

“Every death can now be understood as suicide,” Ehrenreich writes. “We persist in subjecting anyone who dies at a seemingly untimely age to a kind of bio-moral autopsy: Did she smoke? Drink excessively? Eat too much fat and not enough fiber? Can she, in other words, be blamed for her own death?” 

At 76 years old, Ehrenreich has decided she is old enough to die. She forswears annual exams, cancer screenings and any other measure “expected of a responsible person with health insurance.” There will be no more mammograms, tedious lectures, pawing physicians. “Not only do I reject the torment of a medicalized death, but I refuse to accept a medicalized life.”

Ehrenreich has called herself a “mythbuster by trade.” The wellness movement, as you might imagine, doesn’t stand a chance. She fillets it with ease and relish — revealing the paucity of research supporting the usefulness of everything from annual physical exams to meditation — and dismantles nostrums about the innate balance and wisdom of the body. (Ehrenreich has a doctorate in cellular immunology.)

There are, however, a few swan dives into near-nonsense. And more surprising, Ehrenreich never really grapples with the obvious point that most Americans suffer from a lack — not excess — of access to basic health care.

— Parul Sehgal, The New York Times