What I’ve Read: The Honest Life: Living Naturally and True to You by Jessica Alba
I’ve blogged prolifically (annoyingly?) about our use of Honest products. When I pre-ordered this book, I expected it to be a long advertisement for Honest products with a few eco-friendly tips thrown in here and there. I was pleasantly surprised to find out it’s actually a good book in its own right and I found it useful and applicable to my life. There are a few throwaway sections, but it’s an engaging, thorough book and one of the more approachable ones I’ve found about making eco-friendly changes at home.
Much of the book is geared toward parents, but there are other chapters—sections on food, style, cleaning, home decor and beauty—that would be interesting to anyone. But, if you are a parent, this book is a goldmine of information on how to make small, healthy changes that could have a big impact. Alba’s Honest business partner, Christopher Gavigan, wrote the original (and best) book on creating an eco-friendly, healthy home—Healthy Child Healthy World. But where that book is dry (no photos!) and full of research tidbits, The Honest Life feels like reading a magazine. There are huge glossy photos of Alba’s gorgeous family and home and each page has a colorful, eye-catching layout—it’s Healthy Child Healthy World for short attention spans, basically.
I think the best thing about this book is that Alba acknowledges on the very first page that she’s trying to make healthy living accessible and affordable, which is admirable seeing as she really didn’t have to. She admits she eats meat, doesn’t have time to wash cloth diapers and won’t grow their own food because she has a “total black thumb.” With that disclaimer up front, the rest of the book presents ideas softly—no scare tactics, no guilt trips.
The food section was one of the best. Each page lists seasonal produce with a few easy ways to prepare it. For example, “Asparagus - Roast it! Just drizzle trimmed asparagus with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and roast at 450 F for 10 to 15 minutes.” Shopping seasonally can be overwhelming if you’ve never done it and these quick and easy preparation suggestions for fruits and vegetables that can be intimidating—like radishes—is really great. (Other foods, like whole grains and meats, are also covered.) There’s a short section on baby food, but I wish it had been expanded a little. Another part talks about eating for weight loss, with Jessica’s weight loss green drink recipe included.
Obviously, the mentions of Honest get more frequent in other chapters (especially the Kids and Clean chapters), but the mentions are off-hand and it doesn’t feel like reading a brochure. Thank god. There’s also a bit of refreshing realism: Jessica admits that she tries to use natural products on her face, but can’t escape her addiction to Retinol products.
The Style and Home Decor chapters are less useful, and the latter especially so if you’ve already read Healthy Child Healthy World. Gavigan discusses healthy home products and resources at length in that book and Alba’s round-up seems skimpy in comparison. The Style tips are good, but the chapter is short and the message doesn’t seem to click compared with the other parts of the book. Did her editors request that she include something about fashion because people might expect it? I don’t know. Either way, it’s the shortest chapter in the book and given the tone of the whole thing, I expected something about organic cotton or natural clothing brands. She does mention how many companies are perusing more sustainable production methods, but then recommends J.Crew, Topshop and H&M on the next page. (There is a sidebar later about children’s clothing and she says that she tries to buy only organic or natural-fiber clothing for her daughters.)
One more thing: the Baby chapter includes a section about diapers that is, of course, pretty much a throwaway. She dismisses cloth diapers with, “I can’t begin to work out the logistics.” If you’re looking for a more reasonable discussion of the pros and cons of cloth diapers or nontoxic disposables, Healthy Child Healthy World devotes significant time to comparing the two. (Gavigan wrote it before Honest existed, so his writing and/or recommendations aren’t tainted with any affiliation to the company.)
I’m glad I bought this book and I’ve already used it several times as a reference—once for food, another time to check the ingredients glossary in the appendix. It’s worth buying the real book instead of the Kindle version (it will be easier for reference purposes, plus it’s full of photos). If this type of book interests you at all, I’d highly recommend it…along with Healthy Child Healthy World. I think they’re a good pairing and worth reading side-by-side. If you’d rather an eco-friendly tips book that’s less baby-oriented, try Beth Greer’s Super Natural Home (another great book).
Have you read this book? What did you think?