The digital age offers so many tempting reasons to hunker down in front of the computer. Blogging and updating one’s Facebook profile don’t burn many calories, however, and neither does that equally fun and sedentary activity–reading.
Enter the MP3 player with downloadable audiobooks, proof that 21st century devices promote virtue along with entertainment. I’m a couch potato by nature, but the combined lure of a great book and a first-rate narrator motivates me to break out the walking shoes. I can cover one or two chapters and two or three miles simultaneously. The best part is that the book distracts me from the realization that I’m (ugh) exercising.
My current choice is Polio: An American Story by UT professor David Oshinsky. Intrigued by a library patron’s enthusiastic review, I now agree that this winner of the 2006 Pulitzer Prize for History falls into the reads-like-fiction tag.
Oshinsky’s depiction of the decades-long campaign to discover causes, preventive measures, and rehabilitation techniques for polio is compelling. Professional rivalries, politics, changing attitudes toward immigration, racial prejudice, Hollywood, and the emerging field of public relations all play major roles. As with the best social histories, the subject offers a focus to help us better understand how American society is evolving.
How did the concept of “poster child” originate? Why is FDR’s face on the dime? How were human subjects endangered by primitive vaccine tests? These answers and other historical footnotes are revealing themselves to me as I log more miles, especially grateful just now to have the ability to do so.