The book Clean by James Hamblin has some things in common with Breath by James Nestor. Notwithstanding the authors’ identical first names and the one-word title about a human activity that could also be a verb, the book is about the ways in which we, especially in the Western world, are supposedly cleaner than ever, and the impacts on our health as a result.
James Hamblin is a physician famous for having not showered for five years and went on to write this book, in which he explores the history of soap, our collective obsession with cleanliness and skin products, the importance of nature and our microbiome, and general aspects of hygiene the world over.
The book is of course valuable for anyone trying to live more in sync with the world, but also for the aspiring minimalist (less products, more bang for your buck), the environmentalist (nature must be preserved! we are doing more harm with antibacterials and over-sanitizing), the historian (a great section on the history of New York’s Central Park, in addition to the section on soap), and the health and science-curious (what really is necessary for my skin? what works and what doesn’t?).
I found the book hard to put down, though it raised many other questions, like what really is the best solution to my children’s eczema and asthma? How do we get more outdoor time in the wake of more pollution? How will our skin health fare with warmer temperatures? Lots of great stuff here to ponder in this fascinating book.
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Do not be dismayed by the brokenness of the world. All things break. And all things can be mended. Not with time, as they say, but with intention. So go. Love intentionally, extravagantly, unconditionally. The broken world waits in darkness for the light that is you. – L.R.Knost