Take this review with a grain of salt, as I'm new to audiobooks and in fact Salt Sugar Fat was my first ever audiobook. I'm still processing whether I like audiobooks, or which books are good for audio, and which books I should read on paper. Also, I struggled with issues of staying focused while listening (usually on crowded train rides to/from work) and having to keep up with many names (both of people and of products/chemicals) without the ability to turn back a page or two, etc.
Having grown up on much of the food and companies discussed, be it Fritos or Oscar Meyer bologna, Mac & Cheese, et al., not to mention being recently diagnosed as borderline diabetic, this book forced a lot of soul searching in terms of how much I'm to blame for my poor eating habits and health, and how much blame can be laid at the feet of these processed food companies. Naturally I am not blameless, but frankly I never realized the extent with which these companies also shared the blame. Moss lays out the case that they should share a lot of blame, and for the most part I was there with him. Partly this is due to Moss being able to find food industry people who now regret some of their companies' excesses, while also showing some sympathy to the fact that these are companies with shareholders and responsibilities to grow the bottom line.
As other reviews have mentioned, the narration does tend toward the conspiratorial and in fact makes Moss sound more hard-hitting than I think he is.
I still have 30 minutes left on this but there's nothing in those 30 minutes that will surely cause me to leave less than a 5-star review all around.
I should say that I have lived in Japan for 11 years now and so I have to admit I approached this book with some trepidation, fearing it would be a catalog of stereotypical portrayals and that I would be wincing a lot. In all honesty I was prepared to sit through a lot of the same things you can find on any "I'm teaching English in Japan for one year" blog (guilty as charged).
To be fair, stereotypes do come up a lot, but in Barry's fair hands he never lets himself get carried away -- you get a real sense that he knows these stereotypes are on one hand true, but on the other hand not really fair. And he leaves a lot of hints along the way that the reader (or listener) should also not get too carried away.
What surprised me most was how much has *not* changed in the 20+ years since Barry wrote this. Sure Japan is a hell of a lot more nuanced than you'll ever know from this book, but again Barry cops to this. What was equally surprising was how much Barry, in the three short weeks he was in Japan, "got" about Japan, fundamentally. Sure the portrayals are broad. But they were also very insightful.
Besides all of this, the book is just sooooo damn funny. I'm listening to this mostly on my commute on public transportation and it's all I can do to not burst out laughing every minute, which if you read/listen to Barry's book, you'll know is not really the thing you want to be doing as a "water buffalo" (Barry's phrase) foreigner in Japan.
Lastly, I had no idea who Arte Johnson was but he does an incredible job. Honestly, the recording will make you think it's Barry, because Johnson is on fire and so keyed in to the first person narrative. I'm sure some people will find his impersonations of Japanese speaking English borderline offensive (although in his defense it may have been written that way by Barry), but I got over that real quick and accepted in as part of Barry's humor (again because you never get the feeling that Barry is taking himself so seriously). Johnson also mispronounces a lot of Japanese words, but again that might be the way Barry wrote it. Still, these are mere quibbles.
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