My Life with Bob, by Pamela Paul (2017)

Nonfiction
Adult
My Life with Bob, by Pamela PaulThe title is a pun, it’s a book about reading books, and my spouse is nicknamed Bob. How could I resist??! And what a great premise. Our reading choices say so much about us. Imagine how well a stranger would understand you if she could only browse through all the books you’d read. Well, Paul has essentially opened herself up to us in just this way. Currently the editor of The New York Times Book Review, Paul is also the author of three other works of nonfiction, The Starter Marriage and the Future of Matrimony; Pornified: How Pornography Is Damaging Our Lives, Our Relationships, and Our Families ; and Parenting, Inc.: How the Billion-Dollar Baby Business Has Changed the Way We Raise Our Children. By those titles alone I think she’d make a fascinating dinner guest. But wait, there’s more! Read more of this post

Fiery Ferments, by Kirsten Shockey and Christopher Shockey (2017)

Nonfiction
Adult
Fiery Ferments, by Kirsten Shockey and Christopher ShockeyIf you follow food blogs, you’ll know that fermented foods are gaining new interest, beyond sauerkraut. Turns out you can ferment almost any vegetable, though obviously some lend themselves better to the pickle-y flavour than others. Having made my own sauerkraut with surprising success, I am interested in furthering my forays into fermentation (sorry – I simply cannot resist a powerful alliteration). In this follow-up to their first book, Fermented Vegetables, the Oregon couple has put together an excellent recipe and instruction book for creating “hot sauces, spicy chutneys, kimchis with kick, and other blazing fermented condiments,” according to the lengthy sub-title. Read more of this post

150 Years of Stats Canada! A Guide to Canada’s Greatest Country, by Andrew Bondy, et al (2017)

Nonfiction
Adult
150 Years of Stats Canada! A Guide to Canada's Greatest CountryHappiest birthday wishes to the best country on our planet, imho, celebrating just 150 years of giving the world lumberjack shirts, playoff beards, top curlers and hockey for both men AND women, timbits and a hungry market for cheese from all over the world, to name just a few things. I’m so grateful to live here, and wish the rest of the world could adopt a bit more Canadian outlook, including a healthy dose of self-deprecating humour. Which brings me to today’s timely review, from the brilliant satirical team behind the Canadian Twitter sensation @stats_canada, whose hilarious tweets have ill-informed thousands of followers for some five years now. Read more of this post

The Physics of Everyday Things, by James Kakalios (2017)

Nonfiction
Adult
The Physics of Everyday Things, by James KakaliosI seem to be tripping over nonfiction books this season, and this is the second tome on physics in just a few weeks! Given how much I enjoyed Astrophysics for People in a Hurry, I looked forward to delving into this new “pop science” title on the science behind the objects we use every day. Physics prof Kakalios, author of The Physics of Superheroes, takes the reader through a typical North American’s day to examine how physics impacts our modern lives. This hypothetical day includes a visit to the doctor, a flight, and a public presentation, giving Kakalios a chance to explain everything from electric toothbrushes, fitbits and hybrid cars to touchscreens, x-rays and those electronic keys in a hotel room. Read more of this post

How to Brew, 4th ed., by John J. Palmer (2017)

Nonfiction
Adult
How to Brew, 4th ed., by John J. PalmerWowzers! This is a massive resource for anyone interested in brewing their own beer, whether novice or expert. This is the fourth edition, updated and revised to include coverage of the many improvements in brewing technology and techniques in the past decade since the last edition was published. In the preface, author Palmer notes when the book was first published in 2001, people entered the field in hopes of brewing better beer than what could be found on store shelves. Since then, of course, craft brewing has exploded, and you can find tasty beer on shelves and in pubs. So why brew then? For the sheer love of creating a great beer, natch! Read more of this post

Astrophysics for People in a Hurry, by Neil DeGrasse Tyson (2017)

Nonfiction
Adult
Astrophysics for People in a Hurry, by Neil DeGrasse TysonOne of my roles while working at UBC involved sitting on the Science faculty curriculum committee, where we reviewed proposals for new and changes to courses, programs and degree requirements. As many of you know, my degrees are in history and information studies. So it became a half-serious joke between me and my colleagues that to get a BSc you should know more about pretty much every kind of science, from botany and ecology to physics and math, than I do. Not a high bar, I grant ya. I did complete Grade 12 studies of all the sciences (Biology, Chemistry, Math, and Physics) but as it’s been more than 30 years, my recall is weak at best. Thus I consider myself an excellent judge of the accessibility of this little book, Read more of this post

Transphobia: Deal With It, by j. wallace skelton (2017)

Nonfiction
9-15
Transphobia: Deal With It, by J. Wallace SkeltonThis is a new release from James Lorimer Books, the latest in the “Deal With It” series which tackles discrimination issues in colourful, illustrated books aimed primarily at middle school readers. In just 32 pages, readers learn what transphobia is and how they can be “gender transcenders.” The book opens with Transphobia 101, including a quiz to help readers identify situations of transphobia, just plain sexism, or simply lack of understanding. Using age-appropriate and accessible language and cartoon-like drawings, skelton and illustrator Nick Johnson collaborate to help readers learn how to respond to various scenarios in order to create a safe and supportive space for all genders. Read more of this post

The Great Outdoors: A User’s Guide, by Brendan Leonard (2017)

Nonfiction
13-Adult
This is the perfect introduction to all things outdoorsy for that person on your list (or yourself) who wants to “get out more” but has no clue how to go about doing it. Think of this sizable tome (300+ pages) like a benevolent uncle sharing wisdom to make sure you will not only survive in the wild but will have a great time out there. The book is organized into six sections, and each one includes discussion of basic safety, techniques, gear, and some helpful tips on everything from how to drive in the snow to having sex in a tent. Not being a Canadian, of course he doesn’t touch the topic of making love in a canoe. Some things are better left to the experts. Read more of this post

Welcome to the Farm: How-to Wisdom from the Elliott Homestead, by Shaye Elliott (2017)

Nonfiction
Adult
Welcome to the Farm: How-to Wisdom from the Elliott Homestead by Shaye ElliottThis isn’t the first book on homesteading I’ve reviewed, but it’s certainly one of the best. Shaye Elliott began sharing her farmgirl dream in 2010 via a blog, and has created a compilation that is beautifully illustrated with full-colour photos and hand-drawn art. It’s also comprehensive and well organised, complete with a well done table of contents and an absolutely excellent index. Elliott opens with an introduction that explains how she, the granddaughter of an orchardist, managed to convince her non-farmer husband to move across the country and take up farming. She then gets down to business, starting with gardening, focusing primarily on how to build a potager or kitchen garden that will fully meet your family’s needs. Read more of this post

Strange Fruit: Billie Holliday and the Power of a Protest Song, by Gary Golio (2017)

Nonfiction
6-12
Strange Fruit: Billie Holliday and the Power of a Protest Song, by Gary GolioMy undergraduate degree is in history. That’s big, so my focus was on the modernist “movement” which swept across Europe and then North America, roughly 1880-1939, impacting everything from politics to literature and art. Protest songs were key to our studies of American civil rights history, of course, and one of the pieces of music we used was Strange Fruit, recorded by the incredible jazz singer Billie Holliday. I didn’t know the song, and so it was a shock to me to learn that the strange “fruit” are in fact the dead bodies of lynching victims. It is a powerful song, a lament and a call to action in its time. It became known as Billie’s signature song, and this picture book for older children introduces readers to the song and its origins, in a way that is age appropriate. Read more of this post

The Lost City of the Monkey God, by Douglas Preston (2017)

Nonfiction
Adult
The Lost City of the Monkey God by Douglas PrestonSet in a jungle teeming with deadly snakes, dengue fever, and drug traffickers, this is the story of an expedition to find a mythological and cursed “lost” city known as Ciudad Blanca (White City) or City of the Monkey God. Jungles, legends, snakes and curses – it’s exactly up Preston’s alley! In his always readable and riveting writing style, Preston describes the history of the legend and how it caught the attention of an American filmmaker, despite many failed efforts to find the fabled city. This time, technology boosts the odds. Using “lidar” (light detection and ranging), a team of scientists, with Preston aboard the rickety plane, conducts a series of flyovers of a portion of the Mosquitia region of Honduras, generating lidar images of the landscape hidden below the thick jungle canopy. Read more of this post

Best. State. Ever. by Dave Barry (2016)

Nonfiction
Adult
Best. State. Ever. by Dave BarryIt’s getting harder to find humour in what’s happening across the line, so I turned to an old stand-by who delivers exactly what I needed in his latest offering, subtitled A Florida Man Defends his Homeland. Humourist Barry, formerly known for his Pulitzer Prize-winning newspaper columns, now publishes a series of children’s novels, as well as continuing to write books for adults like this one. In Best. State. Ever., Barry rejects the idea that Floridians are dumb, but accepts that it’s definitely the state of weird, starting with, natch, the 2000 election and its hanging chads. Read more of this post

100 Plants to Feed the Bees, by the Xerces Society (2016)

Nonfiction
Adult
100 Plants to Feed the Bees, by the Xerces SocietyAs I live in an area known for its bountiful harvests, and I am building a vegetable garden, it’s a no-brainer that my flower garden needs to include lots of pollinator attractants. For this reason, my annual garden book selection for your New Year is about attracting bees. This new title from the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation is aimed at gardeners and farmers in the US and most of Canada, excluding the far north. The subtitle, “Provide a Healthy Habitat to Help Pollinators Thrive,” is a bit misleading, since the focus of the book is a list of bee-friendly plants, rather than considering all aspects of a habitat. Still, the premise is simple – plant lots of flowers and don’t damage or kill the native plants. Read more of this post

The Art of Raising a Puppy, by the Monks of New Skete (1991, 2011)

Nonfiction
Adult
The Art of Raising a Puppy, by the Monks of New SketeIf a family puppy finds its way under your tree this year (either joining your household now, or as in our case, in spring) sprint to the store for a copy of this highly recommended classic puppy training book, recently updated and reissued for its 20th anniversary. The book was first written in 1991 by the monks of a New York state monastery with a breeding kennel. The monks’ approach is simple. Your dog is your companion, and it’s your responsibility to train your puppy.A well-behaved pooch doesn’t bark uncontrollably or jump on small children, responds to your command to leave that dead thing in the grass alone, and lies quietly even when you are eating at the table. So how do we get there? Read more of this post

Quilting Is My Therapy, by Angela Walters (2016)

Nonfiction
Adult
Quilting Is My Therapy, by Angela WaltersAs I embark on a new phase of my life, the prospect of quilting is both appealing and incredibly daunting. I love the idea of quilting – the time, patience, and frankly love that it takes to piece leftover scraps of fabric into a creation that is both beautiful and useful. The daunting part is that I’m worried I’ll never finish, or that it will look quite amateurish. So now you’ll understand why I picked up Walters’ book; in her introduction, she expresses a hope that the pictures will inspire rather than intimidate, and more to my point, she advises “don’t strive for perfection; strive for completion, remembering that a finished quilt is always better than a perfectly quilted [unfinished] one” (p.9, addition mine). Read more of this post