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This is Part 5 of a 5 part series summarizing the key points of the book How Not to Die and sharing my reactions as a proud junk food vegan and, thus, a suspicious reader from the start. Begin with Part 1 | Introduction >> Part 2 | Message >> Part 3 | Common Themes >> Part 4 | The Junk Food Perspective >> Part 5 | Final Takeaways

Part 1

I recently read the massive-tome-of-a-book, How Not to Die, by Dr. Michael Greger, MD, and Gene Stone. Published in December 2015, this book has long been on my radar, but I was hesitant to read it both due to its size (576 pages!?) and the inevitable (and sure-to-be devastating) impact it would have on my life as a self-proclaimed “junk food vegan.”

But I finally read it.

My father suffers from Crohn’s disease and gastrointestinal/inflammatory challenges; he has long struggled to find foods that he both enjoys and can consume without trouble. A few months back, he was given Dr. Greger’s book as a gift. If he was going to read it (and I hoped reading it would encourage him to finally consider going plant-based for his health), I wanted to read it, too.

Over the next 5 days, leading up to the PBS feature scheduled for Tuesday, August 8th (8pm ET), in which Dr. Greger will summarize How Not to Die, I will publish one post a day discussing the book. In addition to a brief summary of key points, I will share my reactions as a proud junk food vegan and, thus, a suspicious reader from the start.

Following this introduction, the series will include posts on:

The Message | Common Themes | The Junk Food Reaction | Final Takeaways

How Not to Die

What You Call a Thing

What you don’t know won’t kill you, right? But with a name like “How Not to Die,” it’s hard to not be interested in knowing what the book has to say. I certainly don’t want to die. Do you want to die? Why wouldn’t we want to learn how to avoid dying—or at least prolong the inevitable? (Lest you be fooled, we all will die eventually; but Dr. Greger’s piece explains how not to die prematurely.)

From the name alone, the book sounds promising. At the same time, it sounds like a sneaky catch! Like some sort of click bait…for books. Judging this book by its cover (or, rather, by its title), I was sure that the lessons within would mean I’d either have to sacrifice pleasure for health, or accept my early demise. Because, you know, nothing worth doing or eating is ever good for you. So I began with a healthy dose of skepticism.

The Premise

The blueprint of Dr. Greger’s book is a series of lessons about maintaining health through wellness and a plant-based diet. Let food be thy medicine.

As Dr. Greger constantly probes throughout the book: “what does the science say?” Though the headlines and soundbites might sound credible, take nothing at face value. Do some digging and find out the truth. If you don’t have time for that, don’t worry! Dr. Greger has done all the leg work for you with this book.

The knowledge Dr. Greger shares in How Not to Die is fact-based, referencing numerous scientific studies as well as lived realities to present the latest understanding of the most significant illnesses, diseases, and ailments that afflict society—each contrasted with steps we can take to reduce our likelihoods of suffering from such societal epidemics.

But who is Dr. Michael Greger?

Dr. Greger is a physician. The story takes root in his early childhood experience of observing his grandmother’s recover and reverse her heart disease. She achieved this through a plant-based diet. This launched Dr. Greger on a path toward plant-based medicine. After he graduating from medical school, where there was surprisingly little education on nutrition (more on that in Part III), he eventually began giving talks on the power of food in health, hoping that no one else would miss this critical tool in their medical training. Now, he shares information daily through his website,—a non-profit charity run by Dr. Greger which provides nutrition information. (All proceeds from book sales are donated to

But aren’t we living longer than the generations before us?

While it’s true that we are living longer, we’re living longer but with fewer healthy or functional years. We’re experiencing severe and debilitating health challenges later in life. Thus, we’ve lost the quality of our lives.

At the same time, and though recent generations are living longer than their ancestors, today’s youth might actually die sooner! I’m not a mother yet and it’s not in my immediate future, but I would like to have a family some day. If there’s a way I can protect the health and happiness of my family, I’d like to know about it.

And so there I found myself, reading a health book while munching on potato chips. Little by little, the book’s impact gelled in my brain, and I took the message to heart.

Check back tomorrow for more on the book’s overall message. For more resources, head to Be sure to watch the PBS special on Tuesday, August 8 at 8pm ET.

This 5-part series includes:


About the Author

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