Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and Your Life by Martin
E. P. Seligman, Ph. D.. Martin Seligman is one of the pioneers of
Positive Psychology, the study of the psychology of normal life and happiness,
as opposed to psychological pathologies. This book is about
optimism, which Seligman claims hinges on how you explain
the bad things which happen to you. When something nasty happens
to you and you believe the cause was personal—it was
your fault, pervasive—it will affect your whole life,
and persistent—it will never go away, then you are
cooking up a big batch of pessimism, which in big enough doses
leads to depression.
This book is touted as a self-help book, but as such it went
far too much into the history and theory of learned helplessness,
and cognitive behavioural therapy. I enjoyed the backgrounder, but if
you just want the advice part you could skip to Part Two or even
If you're prone to mild depression, or if you just want to be
happier, this is a useful introduction to the new(ish) theory
of changing your mood by changing how you think about your
The Flu Pandemic and You: A Canadian Guide by
Vincent Lam, M.D. and Colin Lee, M.D.
(2006) is a guide to the pandemic. It was written with the
avian flu pandemic (H5N1) in mind, but since 2006 H1N1 has come
to the fore. Fortunately the issues are all but identical.
(Thrillingly enough, H5N1 is still out there and could strike at
any moment!) The book includes, among other things, the history
of flu epidemics and pandemics, an explanation of the WHO
pandemic stages, how to prepare for a pandemic, how to limit
the spread of flu, and how to care for others with the flu.
The most interesting thing was the degree of preparedness the
authors recommend. A while ago I read that Cody Lundin book,
When All Hell Breaks Loose, and he advocated some pretty
extreme levels of preparedness, including planning alternative places
to poo if the water system goes down, and figuring out how to
keep your house warm if the power (or natural gas) system
fails. Lam and Lee don't go that far, but they do recommend
keeping plenty of food, water, and medical supplies on hand,
and even a camp stove to cook on.
The Flu Pandemic and You is written clearly and informs without
alarming. The chapters on preparedness and caring for sick people
make it worth buying to have on the shelf for reference.
Elijah of Buxton by Christopher Paul Curtis is a novel
for children, about Elijah, the first free black child born in his
Buxton, Ontario hometown. Elijah is a fragile boy, sensitive and
scared of snakes. This story takes him through an adventure
which tests his courage and gives him painful insight into his
parents lives before they escaped slavery.
The characters in Elijah are complicated and believable,
and the story is rich in plot and historical detail. I enjoyed
every page of Elijah and can't wait until the girls are old
enough to read it too.
The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid by Bill
Bryson is Bryson's memoir of his childhood in 1950's and 60's
Des Moines. Bryson is always gold, and this book is no different.
By the time I finished this book, I almost wished I had grown up
in 1950's Des Moines. The freedom that the children of the 1950s
had, and the lack of external stimulation, are things I wish
my children could have (even just for a few months so they
appreciate all the bells and whistles of 2009 life more).
I bought a bird feeder a while ago, and I'm trying to find
a book which will tell me what I should put in it to
attract various specific birds, how to ward off squirrels
and deter sparrows and pigeons, and maybe (bonus) provide a
reference guide to the birds I'm likely to see in
Backyard Birdfeeding by Mathew Tekulsky is not that
book. It is about (perhaps unsurprisingly) backyard birdfeeding,
but it's a personal account of the author's experience with
his birds in his backyard, and his backyard is in California.
It was still pretty interesting and gave me some ideas
for how and what to feed, but didn't have the specific
information I want.
Birds at Your Feeder: A Guide to Feeding Habits, Behavior,
Distribution and Abundance by Erica H. Dunn and Diane L.
Tessaglia-Hymes isn't that book either, but it's cool.
It's an analysis of the data collected through Project
FeederWatch, a survey of bird feeder birds across North
America begun in 1987. It's organized by species, which
each bird getting a clear drawing, description, and a
map showing geographical distribution and abundance.
Even more helpful is a list of what each bird likes to eat
Prize for weirdest bird feeder story goes to the woman
who dragged two horse carcasses home from the vet and
counted the vultures who came to clean up.
This book is much closer to what I want, and is probably
worth buying, but I still want some kind of beginner's
guide to feeding Toronto birds (and not Toronto squirrels).
The search continues.
Writers Digest Guide to Query Letters by Wendy Burt-Thomas
is a guide to writing all kinds of query letters: queries for
magazines, books, agents, columns. There are lots of examples,
both good and bad, and several lists of "don'ts" to ensure that
your query at least doesn't suck. Which seems good
enough to get onto a few editors' short lists.
Starting Your Career as a Freelance Writer by Moira
Anderson Allen is a catch-all guide to working as a
magazine writer. It includes information on finding markets,
developing ideas, writing queries, formatting manuscripts, and
There's also a compelling chapter on business writing, guest-written by
Peter Bowerman. He makes it sound easy
to earn money by writing, and I'll definitely check out
his book, The Well-Fed Writer: Financial Self-Sufficiency
As A Freelance Writer in Six Months or Less. (Seems like
we're veering into snake oil territory again.)