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'Comfortably Numb'

By Charles Barber

Pantheon, $26

This book, subtitled "How Psychiatry Is Medicating a Nation," is an analytical study written by Charles Barber, a lecturer in psychiatry at the Yale University School of Medicine.

He is highly critical of the way antidepressants and psychiatric drugs are marketed and prescribed in the United States. He argues that while the mentally ill are being denied the treatment they need, ordinary Americans with ordinary problems are being overmedicated.

Using both statistical and anecdotal evidence, Barber recommends caution, careful watching, using natural means and being medically convinced that those who are prescribed potent drugs needs them. He believes any kind of change in health comes slowly with hard work. — Dennis Lythgoe

'Cancer on $5 a Day'

By Robert Schimmel with Alan Eisenstock

DeCapo, $22

Robert Schimmel, one of Comedy Central's 100 Greatest Comics, has been doing comedy for a long time. So it makes sense that when stricken with cancer, he would use humor to help him through the stress and uncertainty.

He was diagnosed in 2000 with stage III non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and needed chemotherapy immediately. His TV dates took a nose dive, and he started entertaining regularly at the Mayo Clinic.

The candid description of his journey is alternately funny and moving. The author uses a light-hearted approach and even throws in some typically tasteless humor that ordinarily does not get on TV. — Dennis Lythgoe

'A Cardiologist's Guide to ...'

By William S. Gruss, M.D.

Renaissance Health Education, $49.95

This is an awfully expensive book, considering it is small and only 189 pages long. But — using a textbook approach with lists and boxes of information — it provides a cardiologist's advice about heart disease, cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer's, obesity and old age.

A majority of Gruss's patients are over the age of 50, and he believes that with the right nutrients, diet and lifestyle, a person can stay healthy and active well into their 80s and 90s.

Once you've read it, this book makes a great reference work, at least until the next interpretive medical book reverses it. — Dennis Lythgoe