Josh Rottenberg
March 11, 2009 AT 04:00 AM EDT

Mr. America

type
Book
Current Status
In Season
author
Mark Adams
publisher
HarperCollins
genre
Biography, Nonfiction

We gave it an A-

The name Bernarr Macfadden may not ring bells, but during the first half of the 20th century he was one of the most famous men in America — and his influence is still felt everywhere. Fueled by an obsession with physical and mental health that bordered on the insane — his motto was ”weakness is a crime” — Macfadden built a $30 million media empire around his then-revolutionary ideas about diet, fitness, and sexuality. As recounted by Mark Adams (who self-tested some of Macfadden?s occasionally extreme advice about fasting and exercise in Mr. America), the improbable saga of this eccentric self-made guru shows that our mania for fad diets and get-fit-quick schemes has deep, and deeply weird, roots. A?

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