This Friday and every Friday for the next several months I'll be featuring a book in the Harper Perennial Imprint. Some were recently published, some will be released later this year, all are worth a closer look.
Neal Pollack's Stretch: The Unlikely Making of a Yoga Dude is a memoir you don't want to miss. It's a funny, mocking, and realistic tale of how a pudgy 30-something guy ended up becoming an advocate for the practice of yoga.
Neal Pollack was out of shape. The hair on his head was thinning and the hair on his face was pretentious—traits a New York Times critic gleefully pointed out while panning his second book. Combined with the predestined failure of his punk rock band, it was almost too much for Pollack to bear. He was willing to try anything to get his life back on track . . . even yoga.Admit it, this premise has you intrigued. The thing that caught my attention is that Pollack was not at all your typical candidate for taking yoga classes. He is a self-admitted meat-eating, pot-smoking, punk rocker kind of guy. And although he never lost sight of the holier-than-thou attitude that some yoga practitioners project, he kept an open mind and was able to recognize the positive changes he underwent thanks to his classes.
While struggling to master difficult poses without kicking other yogis in the face, Pollack actually, remarkably, began to feel better, both in body and mind. Soon he found himself immersed in the "weird and circuslike" world of yoga. He participated in a 24-hour yogathon, attended yoga conferences and Asian retreats, went to yoga rock shows, started getting regular assignments for Yoga Journal magazine, and, finally, began teaching yoga classes himself.
Stretch mercilessly lampoons the bizarre, omnipresent culture of yoga, but it's also a story of profound personal transformation. Pollack started off mocking yoga. Now he's become one of its most enthusiastic proponents.
- Kirkus Reviews calls Pollack "a highly entertaining guide as he investigates the good, bad and ugly of the yoga spectrum. . . . There is also a lovely authenticity to his discovery of his yoga fundamentalism."
- The San Francisco Chronicle says, "Ultimately, Pollack lampoons himself more than the culture, and this is perhaps the most compelling evidence of Pollack's conversion: his inability to be snarky about yoga."
This book was featured as part of my Spotlight on the Harper Perennial imprint. For information about the imprint, please read Erica Barmash's welcome note posted here on June 18, 2010. I encourage you to add your reviews of Harper Perennial books to the review link-up page; it's a great way to discover Good Books for Cool People. See the alphabetized review index to see what others are saying. And don't miss the The Olive Reader, the Harper Perennial blog.