cover image The Oldest Cure in the World: Adventures in the Art and Science of Fasting

The Oldest Cure in the World: Adventures in the Art and Science of Fasting

Steve Hendricks. Abrams, $30 (448p) ISBN 978-1-4197-4847-9

Fasting, long regarded as being “on the wrong side of respectability,” deserves serious consideration as a medical treatment, argues journalist Hendricks (The Unquiet Grave) in this thought-provoking survey. Hendricks writes that the practice has been shown to help with illnesses as varied as asthma, psoriasis, irritable bowel syndrome, and migraines. But it’s “simply too counterintuitive to think not eating could make you healthier,” and the medical community has yet to embrace it. That’s a mistake, Hendricks insists: it’s cheaper than drugs and has fewer side effects, and he touts it as an “astoundingly and variously useful” method that’s been hiding in plain sight for millennia. The author weaves a fascinating personal narrative (fasting helped his idiopathic hypersomnia) with a comprehensive history of the practice, from prehistoric humans who fasted from necessity up to modern-day clinics that use it. While enthusiastic, Hendricks is careful not to oversell fasting’s benefits (there’s much it “cannot do, no matter how many incautious boosters say otherwise”), and he pulls no punches when highlighting flaws in research, as with studies that emphasize “profit rather than health.” His levelheaded, irreverent approach and sharp reporting set the book apart. The result is a winning mix of captivating storytelling and fascinating science. Agent: Max Sinsheimer, Sinsheimer Literary. (Sept.)