The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

October 2, 2009

Book review: Dietgirl's adventures an honest look at weight loss

“The Amazing Adventures of Dietgirl”

By Shauna Reid

In 2001, Shauna Reid weighed in at 351 pounds. The realization that something had to be done about her weight came one day when she was hanging clothes on the line to dry and she noticed how big her knickers were. Thus the six-year journey of “lard busting” to lose over half her body weight began.

Unbeknownst to anyone, when Shauna started this process she began writing a blog on the ups and downs of dieting. Blogging turned out to be her “favorite lard busting tool” and her entry into the world of publishing, her lifelong dream. Shauna talks opening and candidly about attending Weight Watchers meetings where she lost her first 100 pounds, and later other programs she tried.

This is not just a diet book. The journal entries contain her current weight and amount lost. She talks about her family, how she gained all the weight (her obsession with her weight started when she was 5 years old after an off-handed comment was made to her), her feelings on exercise, work, dating, etc.

There are setbacks where Shauna regains weight — sometime a little, sometimes several pounds — but her determination to be healthy prevailed. She eventually learns to make “non-scale goals” and learns to love exercise (she eventually runs a 5K.) It took four and a half years to realize that weight loss is truly a lifestyle change, and she wasn’t going to just stop once that magic number appeared on the scale.

This is an honest, humorous and insightful look at weight loss. Anyone who has ever tried to lose weight and keep it off will relate to Shauna’s struggles and triumphs.

Learn more about Shauna’s superhero, Dietgirl, at

“Think Like a Champion”

By Donald Trump

In these 50 short essays, Trump talks about the qualities and skills needed to succeed in the business world and, to some extent, in life itself.

Each essay begins with a quote. Trump ties each quote into the topic of that specific essay, explaining how the meaning of the quote applies to business, deal making, leadership and success.

While the book is an easy read, Trump gives the reader lots to think about. He credits his father for setting an example. He talks about the importance of an education. There are numerous examples of his tenacity to make deals happen, what it really takes to succeed (few things in life happen overnight) and how to lead.

This is a business book that needs to be read more than once and pondered often.

“Gang Leader for a Day: A Rogue Sociologist Takes to the Streets”

By Sudhir Venkatesh

Although this is Venkatesh’s third book, I had not heard of him until reading “Freakonomics” by Stephan J. Dubner, in which Venkatesh was interviewed and highlighted in one of the chapters. This book expands on that chapter and the research Venkatesh did for his dissertation.

While doing research for his graduate studies, Venkatesh takes his multiple-choice survey into the projects of South Chicago. He soon learned his boldness could have gotten himself killed or at minimum, beat up, when he is held by a few gang members. Here he meets J.T., a local Black Kings, or BKs, gang leader who — much to Venkatesh’s surprise — is impressed by his boldness and research.

J.T. takes him under his wing and introduces him to life in Robert Taylor Homes, believing the outcome will be his biography. Over the course of a number of years, Venkatesh witnesses the inner workings of gang life and leadership. He will observe drug transactions, prostitution, extortion, beatings, domestic violence and drive-by shootings. He learns about the cycle of poverty, how most people can be bought, and the true sense of community and family in the projects.

The book is based on Venkatesh’s notes and personal experiences. Eventually he graduates and moves out of Chicago. Names and businesses have been changed.

It’s a fascinating study by one person who dared to wander into an area of Chicago that many, including police and emergency personnel, refuse to enter.

Susan Wray is the manager of the Blue Springs North branch of the Mid-Continent Public Library and former director of the Joplin Public Library.