Saturday, June 19, 2010

Book #12: A Not-So-Cuddly Pet

My twelfth book of 2010 was "Winging It: A Memoir of Caring for a Vengeful Parrot Who's Determined to Kill Me" by Jenny Gardiner. The title of this book is a little misleading, though. Although there are several chapters that focus on Graycie, the African Gray parrot that the Gardiner family lives with, this book is really about Jenny Gardiner's entire family and the ups and downs that come along with three kids and more than a handful of pets.

There are many stories told-some funny, some touching-most of which make me think this woman is a glutton for punishment! She and her family seem to take everything in stride though. She never takes her commitments lightly and she is able to admit her mistakes, sometimes wondering if she has added to the problems unintentionally.

The book was a quick, light read that I found quite enjoyable. I'm not a person who would ever own a bird (they kind of freak me out) but it was interesting to observe this creature from the outside. Even if you're not a "bird person", this is a fun book to read. Big thanks once again to my Twitter friends @BlueberryCat and @KayakGal for sending me this book!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Very Useful Travel Guide

My eleventh book for the year was a travel guide for an upcoming trip. The book is "Boston" from Eyewitness Travel with the main contributors being Tom Bross, Patricia Harris and David Lyon.

This was a very different travel guide than what I am used to reading. I buy a new one before every trip we take to Boston, hoping to find some gem inside that we have yet to discover. This book gave me several new ideas, plus a great layout that was easy to read and understand where everything is located.

First off, this was a very visual book. It is color-coded by area of town, with the city broken down into five sections. Each section has a short blurb about it, then is followed by a street-by-street guide. This section has an illustration of an interesting part of that section, complete with streets, buildings and landmarks. Following that is a listing of sights in that section of town. This includes information about the sights, location, nearby public transportation, hours and web addresses where applicable. Also, the major sights have dedicated pages with detailed illustrations and points of interest within the sights themselves. There is a section titled "Farther Afield" that does the same thing for towns outside of the city of Boston, but within a reasonable distance that you could visit while vacationing in Boston.

There is a section that describes three possible walks you can take in the Boston area. One of these walks is along the Freedom Trail, which is generally covered in Boston travel guides. There are two other walks described that are different from anything I have read about or done while I was in Boston. One is a walk on the MIT Campus and the other is a walk in South Boston. All of the walks are mapped out with important sights pointed out that you can visit along the way.

There are, of course, sections that briefly cover Boston's history and that give basic travel information. The "Travelers' Needs" section was quite helpful for me. It lists hotels, shopping and entertainment activities as you would expect. The list of restaurants was particularly good, I thought. There were several places listed (by section) that I have not been to that I have made note of to try when I am there. The descriptions are very thorough, yet succinct.

At the end of the book is a "Survival Guide" which seems to be directed toward foreign visitors. It covers health care, safety, currency and communications.

I felt that this book and its visual qualities would be more helpful to me than other travel guides. In fact, while reading it I discovered that in one particular part of town my directions have always been turned around. It is also thinner than other guides I have purchased in the past and the pages, instead of being paper, have a laminated feel to them, making the book better to stuff in a bag while I'm on the go.

I will definitely be taking this book with me on my trip and using it throughout my stay.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Something More Scientific

My tenth book of the year was "Animals in Translation: Using the Mysteries of Autism to Decode Animal Behavior" by Temple Grandin and Catherine Johnson. This was a book sent to me by my Twitter friend @BlueberryCat, who knows I am an animal lover.

"Animals in Translation" looks at the similarities between animals and autistic people. Temple Grandin is able to give examples of how her life with autism parallels certain animal behavior. She has many interesting theories based on her observances, however I'm not sure if I can completely believe in everything she says until studies have been conducted backing her up. She has clearly done extensive research in the field of animal behavior and has had much success. She has worked with other scientists and the book has a very thorough bibliography. There are also footnotes throughout the book citing her various sources. I believe her to be very well educated and think that even if some of her theories prove to be wrong, the time she puts into study of them will be quite beneficial.

One thing I must note about the book is that even though there is a co-author, Catherine Johnson, the book seems very much to be written with Temple Grandin's voice. That being said, it can be very "staccato". Also, she can go from using very technical, scientific terms right to using elementary phrases to describe an animal or its behavior. I found this to be a bit jarring as I was reading; it seemed to interrupt the flow of the text when it happened.

The book focuses primarily on livestock rather than house pets, so be aware of that if you are hoping for some insight regarding your kitty cat. That is not where the author's specialty lies and she doesn't try to pretend that it does. I did take exception to her discussion of certain types of dog breeds. I think she focused a bit much on Rottweilers, among others, and their "aggressive nature". I am a big believer that most of the time, with the proper training, these breeds of dogs can be trusted completely. This is where she and I disagree.

It took me quite a long while to finish this book. It was slow reading and could be quite repetitive. I also felt at times she went off on tangents by telling a story that didn't quite pertain at the moment. I had been wanting to read Temple Grandin's books because I find her to be very fascinating. This was the first one I read and will not be the last. However, I will go into the next one understanding that there will be little entertainment value and I may have to struggle through it like I did this one.