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Book reviewers rarely declare competing interests, but in this instance I feel compelled to do so because Ian Roberts is an old friend, a former post-doc, and someone I greatly admire. Recently, he spoke at my retirement and previewed the messages in this book. In it, Roberts links fuel energy, obesity and injuries, but not as you might expect. Those who know Roberts will not be surprised to learn that politics are interwoven in the arguments. And the book is indeed a collection of arguments that are intended to promote action, or at least serious consideration even when the reader disagrees.
This book is so skilfully written that it is by no means another arid, scholarly treatise. It is scholarly beyond any doubt, but it is written with ease and grace. Where else in a scientific text can you find similes such as ‘like an arthritic finger’ or ‘like a steel skeleton’ on the same page? There are also many clever puns and memorable phrases. In short, the authors have managed to strike a perfect balance between the journalistic and the scientific. For scientists, it is a pleasantly easy read; for lay persons, it is not intimidating. It is short and well focused, but the topics are so …