Month: March 2008

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Inspired by the Book Tour on A Work in Progress, I decided to share some photos of my own. This bedside shelf holds books waiting to be read and given a status: keep forever or give away (the cat likes to mark every one as his own, even though he doesn\’t know how to read):

This is where my permanent books usually live:

Nonfiction is on the small white shelf (on the right). My husband\’s books are on the little brown shelf atop it. Oversize nature and art books are sandwiched atop the white shelf between husb\’s shelf and the tall shelf. Of the two full-size bookcases, the top two left shelves are fantasy, the rest is all fiction. The two boxes (lower right bookcase and in front of white shelf on the floor) now hold books destined for PaperbackSwap or giveaways, which I\’ll begin doing about once a week (keep your eye on tuesdays!) after we\’re settled from our move.

Which is coming up in a few weeks. So I began preparing and took all the books out to box up. Here\’s what they look like all on the floor! Quite a heap. The last counting total (thanks to LibraryThing) is 489.

The crazy thing? A few friends we haven\’t seen in two years are coming to visit from the opposite coast. And I take so much pleasure in having friends peruse my shelves. Even if they just stand a while with that sideways head-tilt, and don\’t exclaim on or start a conversation over a title. So I took all the books out of boxes and put them back on the shelves to be admired. After the visitors are gone, I\’ll box them up again. My husb is going to make fun of me for it, I know. I think he doesn\’t like seeing my books. He asked if I would throw away the more unstable of my bookcases once its contents are boxed up, with the words \”finally! good riddance!\” and wants to grant a small room in the new house just for my library, so the books aren\’t out cluttering the common living space. Grumble grumble.

So you see why I had to put them up again, in case visitors turn out to be book-admirers. I love looking at my books almost as much as reading them. Someday I\’ll show you a picture of my three-year-old\’s collection (over 100), two-thirds of which she\’s inherited from me.

The Adventures of a Bird Photographer
by Ronald Austing

This short autobiographical book relates some experiences of famous bird photographer, Ron Austing. From a young age Austing was interested in raptors and climbed trees with friends to capture and identify owls and hawks. Then he began taking pictures of them. Before long he was consumed with a desire to capture images of birds in flight. It was a long tedious search for the right cameras and equipment. Eventually he began selling his photos, and made a goal of photographing some 200 local bird species. Much of the book describes Austing\’s methods of catching and releasing birds, and how he set up to get his pictures. Besides the photography aspect, I Went to the Woods describes the behavior of owls, hummingbirds, kingfishers, red-tailed hawks and peregrine falcons. Austing also briefly tells how a variety of injured or orphaned wildlife lived in his home (as he was also a park ranger), and advocates wildlife protection.

I found most interesting the chapter that described how he caught wild falcons. One method involved fitting a pigeon with a harness to which were tied (by hand!) forty or so small slip nooses, then throwing it out the window of a moving car upon driving past a falcon. The pigeon was on a long line, like a leash. When the falcon grabbed the pigeon, its talons would get stuck in the nooses, and it was caught. That\’s what I love about this book: curious facts about falconry, bird behavior, nature photography, that I never would have dreamed of.

This book was really interesting, and of a very straightforward writing style. I missed many of the references involving photography (having never developed my own film) but enjoyed all the aspects of wildlife observation and avian beauty.

Rating: 3/5                 143 pages, 1963

by Fred Gipson

Old Yeller is about a boy\’s coming of age on the Texas frontier in the late 1860\’s. When his father leaves on a trip, Travis has to take up the man\’s work and protect his mother and little brother. At first it\’s routine: plow the field, chop the wood, shoot something for dinner. But then several accidents occur, and Travis starts to feel he can\’t handle it all. Luckily a big ugly stray dog shows up. At first Travis hates him for stealing the family\’s meat, but then he comes to depend on the dog for protection and assistance with the half-wild livestock. Old Yeller becomes his closest companion, and invaluable to the homestead. Unfortunately, the dog isn\’t immune to accidents himself, and when he gets bitten by a rabid wolf, Travis has to face shooting the dog he loves in order to save his family. (Revealed on page one.)

This is a really enjoyable book, in spite of its more serious elements. Told from young Travis\’ perspective, it\’s full of frank, humorous descriptions and funny moments. His little brother\’s antics are pretty hilarious too. And I loved the scene where the bull fell over backwards in a cart and rolled down a hill. My edition happens to be an ex-school-textbook, and includes a short, interesting appendix in the back that describes wildlife from the Texas hill country, and the longhorn cattle. Old Yeller has very similar themes to The Yearling (about a boy in Florida with a pet deer) and Where the Red Fern Grows (a boy in the Ozarks with \’coon dogs). All of these books show families living on small farms in isolated areas, the main character being a teenage boy who learns some harsh life lessons from nature.

Rating: 3/5                         200 pages, 1956

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I really wasn\’t going to make three posts today; but I didn\’t realize it was thursday until I saw some other blog posts about Booking Through Thursday. I haven\’t been there in a while and really wanted to participate, so maybe I\’ll just take a break tomorrow since I\’ve overdone it today!

Today\’s question comes from Julie:

While acknowledging that we can’t judge books by their covers, how much does the design of a book affect your reading enjoyment? Hardcover vs. softcover? Trade paperback vs. mass market paperback? Font? Illustrations? Etc.?

If I already have plans to read a certain book, designs won\’t make much of a difference to me. But the quality of cover art definitely influences my shelf browsing. I\’m much more likely to pick up a book that has attractive art or jacket designs. Great interior illustrations can sometimes be a plus, as well. Good paper quality and easily readable type makes the reading experience a real pleasure. I\’ve already discussed the issue with choosing hardbound books over paperbacks or trade sizes here.

When it comes to my personal library collection, I\’m much pickier about how the book looks or feels. If I find cover designs absent, uninteresting or distasteful, I\’ll even create my own out of scrap magazine clippings. If I own a book, I like it to have an interesting or beautiful face!

by Norman Garbo

This is one book I discovered because the title caught my eye on a free shelf. When I began reading it, I looked up the names involved and found that this novel appears to be pretty obscure. Is it an awful book? Not at all. Disturbing, certainly. Violence, s-x and racism all move in huge continuous waves through the pages.

It is about an artist called Duvid Karlinsky, of an immigrant family, who grows up in a New York slum. I really enjoyed reading the parts about how he studied painting, worked in the studio, struggled to get his art seen. He refused to paint pretty pictures that people liked- instead depicting the ugliness of the slums around him, raising public awareness of oppression and poverty. Eventually this landed him as a correspondence artist for the newspapers in WWI, where he witnessed more horrors, and participated in his own share of violence. After some thirty years back home, he went overseas again to paint and fight during WWII. There\’s a lot of heavy material in The Artist about hate and intolerance between ethnic and religious groups. These scenes of racial strife alternate with passages of love- describing Duvid\’s relationships with the three women of his life: an actress, a prostitute, and a girl he met on the beach near his studio. I was surprised to find that certain scenes for once did not offend me, but were just a natural part of the story, not overly detailed or exaggerated.

The Artist is a compelling story about one man\’s lifelong striving to turn the ugliness around him into something permanent on canvas. Sadly, it never seems to absolve his inner unrest, but just reflects the inhumanity of life around him. As much as I enjoyed reading about a painter, overall this story did not sit well with me. The passion, violence and hatred all rush together to a terrible final scene that hits like a dead weight. With the rape, murder and destruction it ended up being more of a thriller/horror story at the end, which I ought to have seen coming, but didn\’t. Left me with a bad taste in mind, and I had to quickly turn to lighter reading.

Rating: 3/5                     477 pages, 1978

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Participate in my first giveaway and Win a Free Book: The Artist, by Norman Garbo. Not pristine, but a very decent hardback. If you\’d like to have a copy, I\’ll be happy to send it to you! Just leave a comment on this post and you\’ll be entered. I\’ll use random.org to pick the winner on sunday 3/30/08.

Adventures of a Wild Animal Doctor
by David Taylor

I\’ve read many books featuring veterinarians which were hailed on the jacket blurbs as being comparable to James Herriot (the latest being Creature Comforts) but they were never quite as good as promised. In David Taylor, I finally found a writer who stands up to the comparison. Taylor was the first veterinarian to specialize in exotic species. He worked for a number of zoos and wrote eight books about his experiences as a wildlife veterinarian. I\’ve only read four of them, but want to get my hands on them all; they\’re great! Similar to Herriot, Taylor describes working before anesthetic dart guns and other modern conveniences for veterinary medicine were developed; he often had to think up ingenious ways to work with or treat dangerous animals. The writing is very informative about what goes on behind the scenes in a zoo regarding wildlife heath and treatment. It is thrilling at times with many narrow escapes, very humorous and quite engaging. I read Zoo Vet two years ago so I cannot recall any specific incidents to relate, or which wildlife species are described therein. But I know I enjoyed the book very much, and if I ever find it, will add it to my private library permanently.

Rating: 4/5                      
Published: 1977 pp 255

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I just don\’t feel like writing about a book today. And I liked this meme I saw on Superfast Reader a few weeks ago. So I\’ll answer it now, even though I\’m rather late. (You can trace the meme all the way back to Becky\’s Book Reviews, where it began).

How do you plan on celebrating Library Lovers month?

Well, I missed it. I didn\’t even know there was a library lover\’s month until I read about it on the blogs! Although I read every day; isn\’t that a celebration of sorts? And I\’m a very faithful patron of my local library.

How often do you accidentally spell library as ‘libary’ when you’re in a hurry?

I don\’t know, but I\’m sure it has happened. My toddler\’s pronunciation of the word is pretty close to that.

What is the most amount of books you’ve ever had checked out at one time?

Recently within memory? Thirty-eight; but it wasn\’t all for my reading pleasure. A dozen of the stack were for my toddler, another twenty for my husband\’s project fixing up the house. Books checked out just for me? I\’d say the largest pile was around fifteen. When I was a kid I used to bring home more at once, I probably hit the twenties or thirties then regularly. Once I visited a public library and asked what the checkout limit was; the woman at the desk said fifty! I said how could anyone carry fifty books out of the library? She said with a shopping cart. I wondered if that every really happened.

What is the longest you’ve ever gone without visiting the library?

A month or two. When I was in college I visited the library very seldom; being busy with schoolwork and most of my reading was for classes. And after my daughter was born I didn\’t go for a month, but my husband brought home reading material for me. There have also been times when my piles of second-hand books at home have stacked up so I didn\’t have a need to go to the library for a while. But I don\’t think it\’s ever been more than three months, max. Usually I go once a week, or at least twice a month.

What is the biggest fine you’ve ever had?

Five dollars. For a book I thought was lost but found before I had to pay for the copy.

When you go to the library, do you plan ahead and make a list? Or do you browse?

It depends. I used to browse a lot, but with a three-year-old who just wants to dig in the puzzle bin it\’s hard to meander through the stacks quietly. My TBR has grown too big to ignore, too. Now I usually look stuff up at home and bring a list. But I still manage to pick a few strangers off the shelves that catch my eye while collecting what I\’ve come for!

Have you ever been shushed by a librarian?

Never. Not even when my kid gets too noisy, though I\’ve received my share of stern looks (on her behalf). They are quite effective.

What’s the worst thing you’ve ever done to a library book?

Lost it. I left one in a rental car once. And my husband\’s accidentally left one on the commuter train. (Luckily, someone found and returned it!) My daughter has torn a few pages. (We had to quit reading pop-up books for a while). I am guilty of occasionally dog-earing a page, though I always unfold them before returning! I\’m somewhat concerned about dropping one in the bath, but so far that hasn\’t happened (though I did drop a cordless phone, once. It dried out okay). A board across the tub to rest your hand on is helpful, and also not reading thick hardbound books there (like the latest Harry Potter).

Have you ever had a “favorite” librarian?

Yes. The children\’s librarian at the Burien Public Library where I grew up. My mother took us to so many library activities. We participated in reading challenges, summer reading programs, all kinds of things. She used to have a desk in the children\’s section, always decorated and with cool stuff on it (like a huge jar full of gumballs. Guess how many gumballs, and you win the jar. I think my sister won it once. That sort of thing). She has the most wonderful, expressive voice and was always helpful, talked to the kids very friendly. We got lots of book recommendations from her.

If you could change one thing about your library it would be…

No charges for loans! My public library charges fees for requesting a book from another branch in the system, or for checking out videos. I don\’t like it at all.

by Temple Grandin and Margaret M. Scariano

I first read about Temple Grandin in her book Thinking in Pictures. Years later I stumbled across this one, and was eager to read more. Here Grandin describes parts of her childhood and how she made her way through school. Emergence is not as detailed or involved as Thinking in Pictures, being more of a summary of her youth. She describes memories of being teased by other children, confused by their actions, and the reasons and feelings behind her own unusual behavior. She talks about teachers who mentored her, and how her own internal symbolism enabled her to make goals and finish high school and college (a rare achievement for an autistic person). Included in this short book are letters by Grandin\’s psychiatrists and teachers (written to her mother), which give a different point of view; facts and data about autism, and the original checklist Grandin\’s mother filled out about her behavior when she was diagnosed. As it stands alone, this book can feel rather incomplete and brief. But read in conjunction with Thinking in Pictures, it completes the story, adding many new insights and details of this extraordinary woman\’s life.

Rating: 3/5                 Published:1986, pp 180

DISCLAIMER:

All books reviewed on this site are owned by me, or borrowed from the public library. Exceptions are a very occasional review copy sent to me by a publisher or author, as noted. Receiving a book does not influence my opinion or evaluation of it

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