cover image DR. ROBERT ATKINS: The True Story of the Man Behind the War on Carbohydrates

DR. ROBERT ATKINS: The True Story of the Man Behind the War on Carbohydrates

Lisa Rogak, . . Penguin/Chamberlain Bros., $24.95 (320pp) ISBN 978-1-59609-038-5

This disappointing bio isn't sure if it's meant to dig up and reveal scandal or to study a business/diet plan/trend in American culture and the man behind it. Atkins (1930–2003) is the man behind the low-carb diet mania, of course: the author of numerous books, creator of an eating plan that subverts conventional wisdom and no stranger to controversy. Rogak, who's written books on travel, pet care and Howard Dean, shares glimpses into Atkins's early life in Ohio, his longstanding interest in art and the way in which the low-carb lifestyle developed from a diet practiced by a small group of devotees to a thriving business that captured the attention of millions. Throughout, there's a tendency toward negativity; Rogak copiously quotes Atkins's former classmates and colleagues on the doctor's inflated sense of importance, as well as his consistent efforts to get nurses to go home with him (Rogak apparently did not interview Atkins's widow), although Rogak also says he is "greatly misunderstood." The author's inconsistency in clearly attributing the anecdotes and quotes she presents makes for disjointed reading. In the latter chapters—when Rogak relies more on interviews rather than speculation or quotes from former lovers and competitors—the text's rhythm is smoother. However, the book's uneven tone overall and scant sourcing will likely inspire more skepticism than satisfaction. Agent, Scott Mendel. (Jan.)

Forecast: Apparently the first biography of Atkins, this should garner initial attention.