Why do some people get sick and others not? Why does illness strike at one time and not at another? The authors of "The Pursuit of Health" explore such tantalizing questions, and integral to their answers is the factor they name the Intimate Connector (IC).

This force, which includes "spirit" and "soul," "character" and "personality," is constantly organizing and reorganizing the four dimensions of each person's health: body, mind, relationships with other people and relationships with environments.

According to the authors, each dimension continually interacts with the other three. If we have a problem with our boss (other people), it may show up as a pain in the neck (body) or as a chronic anxiety (mind). On the other hand, the problem may be resolved because we talk about it with a friend (other people) or we please our boss by finding a faster route to work (environment).

How can people control their IC? Suggested answers appear in the continuing case studies of six people in the middle of a crisis. Thought-provoking dialogue takes place between the authors as they explain why they don't advise anyone to try to achieve perfect health ("It's a mistake to take any diet or exercise program too far . . . obsessive dieting can spoil the person's digestion and also the other people's enjoyment at the table . . . obsessive running can injure a person's joints").

The topic of unnecessary surgery is also discussed. "A common belief is that 25 percent of ailments treated by surgery in America could have been handled with equal success by other means," the authors write. The reason for such a high percentage of unnecessary surgery? Money. In the United States, where surgeons are generally paid a fee for the job, far more operations -- hysterectomies, for example -- are performed than in Britain, where surgeons are on salary.

Another way for people to really achieve an "almost perfect state of health" is to communicate with their doctor and take the time to ask questions whenever an ailment strikes. "Whenever the doctor prescribes a new drug to the patient," the authors write, "he or she should ask about its effect on driving, and about how it acts in combination with any other drugs being taken, including alcohol, nicotine, caffeine and large doses of vitamins."

"The Pursuit of Health" is an engrossing book for the reader who wants to know the why of well-being in addition to the how-to.