Weekday Vegetarian is one of the first series of TED Books, based on the very popular series of TED talks (inspiring lectures from notables in technology, entertainment, and design). These books are meant to be based on the lectures that inspired them, short reads, and inexpensive–this one was $2.99 as an e-book from Amazon.
Hill’s idea, to convince people to give up meat only during the week, is simple. Much of the short e-book is aimed at presenting the good points of giving up meat: health benefits, ethics, resource management, etc. Unlike some other books on the topic, however, Hill is compromising. He recognizes that for some (like him), giving up meat completely is not an option. The book reads like a persuasive essay: persuade the meat-eaters that they can comfortably give up animals five days per week, and (to a lesser extent) convince the hard-core vegetarian that you can be a weekday vegetarian without being a fraud.
Obviously, I’m completely sympathetic with the book’s aims. However, this one was a bit of a let down for me. If you’ve done any research at all on vegetarian diets, a lot of what Hill has to say about the health risks of meat and the industrialized meat industry will not be news. On other subjects, I was disappointed by the lack of information presented. The “Doesn’t My Body Need Meat?” chapter deserved much more than 2.5 pages. There’s no mention of how vegetarians should handle hard-to-get vitamins like D and B12. Also, Hill concludes the chapter with a discussion of athleticism and diet, but he devotes more space to telling us what an Ironman Triathlon is than he does explaining the mechanics of how these athletes do what they do. Finally, I was also disappointed by the book’s recipes (which had been a main selling point to me). The recipe portion made it obvious that this is not really a book for the everyman. I have a feeling the average U.S. meat eater would look at a selection of recipes like “Asparagus and Morels,” “Inari Sushi Bento,” and “Dandelion Quiche” and immediately place an order for the meat lover’s pizza at Domino’s. Given that the book is so premised on “anyone can do this,” it seemed odd that the recipes weren’t more tailored to ingredients and dishes that would be familiar to carnivores or available on a budget. (I am 100% sure that “dandelion greens” are not available at my corner Albertsons.)
If you don’t know much about being a vegetarian or you really want to convince a meat-lover in your life to make changes, this book might be for you. It’s a really quick read, though: About half of the book’s 51 pages are recipes and resources and the whole thing almost has a rushed feel. I had high expectations for this one because it was advertised as a TED book, but the quality just seemed lacking. There are a few more in the TED series I’d like to read… but if they’re all as light on content as Weekday Vegetarian I might just save my three dollars.