I didn't know what to expect from The Paleo Manifesto. My original thoughts were "Oh, great. Yet another paleo diet book. How many times/ways can we talk about the paleo diet?" But I was quite relieved while reading this book and finding out that it was not another diet book. As John has discussed many times during his interviews, he did not set out to write another diet book. He wanted to write a book about the paleo lifestyle. He has said that he hates reading diet books. I'm beginning to feel the same way; so this book is a welcome relief from those.
The Paleo Manifesto is divided into 3 parts: Origins (the past), Here and Now (the present), and Visions (the future). After Chapter 1 - where he tells the story of "Becoming the Caveman" including his appearance on Colbert - he starts Origins by discussing the health and behaviors of captive gorillas, comparing that to modern day humans being kept in a "zoo city" away from our natural environment. Then in the Paleolithic Age chapter, he tells about his trip to Harvard's Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology where he got to hold a skull from 80,000 years ago. He tells about the changes our Paleolithic ancestors went through leading up to the Agricultural Age. Chapter 4 is mostly a discussion about disease, cleanliness, and the rise of cities.
In the chapter on the Industrial Age, John discusses the rise of modern society and medicine: "we learned how to not die." I really liked the discussion about habitat features in that chapter: "features that were constant (e.g., gravity), features that were cyclical over a certain period (e.g., day and night), and features that were varied within certain bounds (e.g., temperature)." This reminded me of Nassim Taleb's Antifragile which I read recently. The last chapter in Origins is on the Information Age, titled "Biohackers." Here he talks about all the new technology and information we have, and how people use it to "hack" their health.
In Part Two: Here and Now, John does give the obligatory discussion of food but not in a typical, boring way we've read in diet books (sorry diet book authors!). He discusses topics like counting calories, eating earth/clay/dirt, cannibalism, and fasting. Then he moves on to a chapter about movement (exercise). He tells of his experience with CrossFit and MovNat, and about humans needing the proper motivation to exercise. Then a brief chapter on barefoot walking and running with a cool sidebar of authors who wrote standing up. I found the chapter on Thermoregulation very cool! John writes about his experience as a part of the Coney Island Polar Bear Swim Club; taking a swim on New Year's Day in the Atlantic Ocean! In contrast, he mentions the benefits of sweat baths and saunas. This is stuff I'm really looking forward to experimenting with. He ends Part Two with a discussion of circadian rhythm (Sunrise, Sunset). This is an incredibly important chapter with good info about SPF levels of sunscreen lotion and vitamin D.
In Part Three, John talks about the future of the paleo movement and our evolution. He tells about his first experience hunting and discusses the arguments vegans and vegetarians make against the paleo lifestyle, including sustainability.
This is definitely an essential book for everyone who eats and/or follows this paleo lifestyle. It's very well-written and fun to read. It's more of a beach book than a text book, for sure. My overall "feel" for the book is that it's more of a why we should live this way. But not necessarily the in-depth science behind why; more of the evolutionary, anthropological reason. Get it! Read it!