Why ‘Food Rules’ is Awesome, Part 2

I posted earlier this week about Food Rules, a book by Michael Pollan that offers 83 basic “rules” on what and how to eat for a healthier life. That post focused on the message and what I came away with. This post focuses on the book’s medium.

What do I mean by ‘medium’? I mean how the eponymous Food Rules are presented.

Here are some things the book employs in presentation that I admire, adore, and would love to or am already thinking about using myself someday:

  1. A concept-driven list. The 83 “rules” are all the items of a themed list, the driving idea being “eating better”. The introduction even offers a mantra that underlies all of the rules to follow: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” Other books that do this include, among others, a personal favorite of mine: Wreck This Journal by Keri Smith, whose pages encourage alternately encourage readers to burn, tear, drag, throw stuff at and sew them.

    One of 83 of Michael Pollan’s Food Rules

  2. Clean copy. Dividing different ways to accomplish the same idea into small, numbered items (a collection of “rules”) is genius: it has the same effect as taking a long-term, hard-to-visualize goal and breaking it down into achievable increments. The idea becomes not only accessible in aesthetic (i.e., not an overwhelming amount of text), but in practice. We can work towards the ends one step, one idea, one page at a time.

    A page from Wreck This Journal by Keri Smith

  3. Marriage of word and image. Granted, the edition I picked up of Food Rules happened to be the illustrated one– it works. Maira Kalman’s paintings are colorful and engaging: a pleasure to view, and something more concrete to fix the ideas the book presents in our mind. Wreck This Journal does use some illustration, but relies more on reader engagement (i.e., commanding readers to poke holes in the page or spill something on it). It is my hope that a future project will combine the best of both image and reader engagement.

An illustration from Food Rules by Maira Kalman

All this said, of course, my gushing simply can’t do these books justice– go pick up a copy of Food Rules and Wreck This Journal see for yourself how awesome they are!