Saturday, April 28, 2012

The Flying Vet's Pigeon Health Management by Dr. Colin Walker.

The Flying Vet's Pigeon Health Management by Dr. Colin Walker.  Hardcover book with pictorial boards published by Dr. Colin Walker 2000, 322 pages with colour photographs throughout as well as a few black and white photographs and illustrations (minimal).

This book is certainly something to coo about.  Pigeon books are something that I actively seek out… well maybe not actively, but it is a subject I keep my eyes open for.  Once again it’s about other people’s passion for a subject that not all of us appreciate in the same way as they do.  I personally am not interested in pigeons.  They tend to leave too much poo around the place for my liking.  But I am interested in people who are interested in pigeons, particularly any books that they require/desire and by all appearances, this is one such book.

Written by a vet who from all accounts is a bit of a pigeon expert, who not only treats pigeons but keeps and races them as well.  Obviously for a man such as Dr. Colin Walker, the poo issue, is not an issue.  I’ve just had a bit of flick through the book and some of the pictures are fairly graphic.  I wont subject you to the autopsy specimens, but I will let you see one of the pictures of pigeon poo…

This is from an unhealthy pigeon… which is handy to know as next time a pigeon shits on me, I should be able to diagnose the problem… besides the problem of the pigeon shitting on me.

OK.  Enough about pigeon poo.  I was recently talking to someone about this book and we were discussing who would be interested in buying a book such as this one.  I don’t personally know anyone who keeps pigeons, so it’s a bit difficult to figure out who these pigeon fanciers are or where I can find them.  One suggestion was to find a pigeon and attached a small piece of paper advertising the book to it’s leg homing pigeon style and hope that the pigeon belongs to someone who may read the stray piece of paper attached to their pigeons leg.  … The interwebs is possibly a lot easier than this method of selling a book… although I haven’t tried it, so I don’t know what the rate of sales to pigeon message is… but more importantly, i'm not so sure how to attach a paypal invoice to a pigeon? 

Thursday, April 26, 2012

The New Guinea Offensives by David Dexter.

The New Guinea Offensives by David Dexter.  Hardcover book published by Australian War Memorial 1961, 851 pages with black and white photographs and maps.

This title is part six of an extensive series of books documenting Australia’s involvement in the Second World War.  There are a total of 22 volumes in the “Australia in the War of 1939-1945” series, which is a hefty number of books by any standards.  I have only the one volume for sale at this point in time but I’m always on the look out for other volumes in the series and if my memory is correct, have had only a few single copies of the other volumes over the years. 

The entire series was published by the Australian War Memorial which lends these books a certain amount of credibility here in Australia.  I’m not sure how this is viewed in foreign lands but I can’t imagine anyone having a problem with it as long as they keep in mind that it was written and published in Australia.  In other words there is a chance that the emphasis is a little Australia centric.  But I guess that’s the idea behind a series entitled Australia in the War of 1939-1945.

851 pages is a lot of reading about only one aspect of a global conflict (WWII… in case you need reminding), but the author has embellished the text with excellent maps and photographs*.  The maps appear to be quite detailed unlike some war histories where the authors/map makers scribblings can sometimes be a bit difficult to decipher.  But if you’re the Australian War Memorial you probably have access to some fairly detailed information which can easily be added to the 851 pages of a volume such as this.

So how sellable is a book like this?  Well, I’d like to think a book about Aussies in Papua New Guinea during the Second World War, for sale on and around Anzac day**, has a pretty good chance of selling.  …and if not on ebay, then it’s a book that I’m happy to have listed with Books and Collectibles as it is a quality book that I have certain amount of faith in being able to sell. 

* I haven’t read the book, so I can’t comment on whether the text is excellent.  It looks excellent…
** Anzac Day is a national day of remembrance in Australia and New Zealand.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Fat: An Appreciation of a Misunderstood Ingredient, with Recipes by Jennifer McLagan.

Fat: An Appreciation of a Misunderstood Ingredient, with Recipes by Jennifer McLagan.  Hardcover book published by Ten Speed Press 2008.

I was recently enjoying a meal of roast lamb with some friends, when the discussion turned to the eating of fat.  One of my co-diners had left the fat from his portion of the lamb on his plate.  When it was commented on (as we all did), he explained that since he was a young boy he had always avoided the eating of fat and then proceeded to demonstrate how to hide fat under a knife and fork to avoid getting into trouble for not clearing his plate.  The chef promptly piped up with a similar story, but did explain that she tends to cook with it regardless of her dislike of it, to give the meat extra flavour and juiciness.  I should also add that the chef is rather thin and could probably do with eating more fat.  She will probably live to be 100.  I of course have no problem with the eating of fat and have the belly to prove it.  I probably wont live to be 100.

A week later and I find this book and of course I can’t resist it (... the book... and the fat).  Not so much due to the anecdote above but more to do with the subject overall and the fact that I’ve never seen the book before.  I guess the roast lamb may have had a slight influence, although the conversation was probably more of an influence.  But if I hadn’t of had the lamb, I would still have picked up the book… although I don’t know that I would have written about it here.

The authors mission is to convince us that fat isn’t really as bad as we have been told and that we should be embracing fat in our diets.  Well I’ve been embracing fat for a number of years and have seriously considered (although rather briefly) to not embrace it so wholeheartedly.  This is not really the aim of this book as it contains so many lovely fatty recipes... just sitting their enticing me to cook fat.  Realistically, it’s like anything… moderation is probably best or maybe the occasional camouflaging of fat with a knife and fork is an option… but I doubt that I can embrace either of these options.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Brighter French: For Bright Young People who already know some by H.T.R.

Brighter French: For Bright Young People who already know some by H.T.R. (Dr. Hans Roerig).Hardcover book published by Geoffrey Bles 1927.

Once again the dust jacket rules supreme.  If this book hadn’t of had the dust jacket it has, I don’t think I would have picked it up.  The front image is so good they used it on the back and in the book as well.  There’s a few other pictures, all of great interest and quality.  Your probably wondering as I am what do these images have to do with the text.  My guess is that they were used to sell the book, which they have managed to do… in this instance, once again after 85 years. 

Have you ever wondered what “Il a une facheuse tendance a se pocharder”* means?  Or how do you say “Three hundred trains pass here everday”** both of these are statements that we all want to say in French as often as possible.  Well maybe not so much now in 2012 but obviously the trainspotting youngsters of 1927 who were keen on a drink or two, needed this information.  The front of the dust jacket sort of sums up the content and the intent, very nicely as indeed it does contain “Brighter Colloquil, Idiomatic and (mildly) Technical” French “for Bright Young People (who already know some).”  H.T.R. wrote this book to combat all those boring language books that discuss the gardener and the gardener’s wife and looks at more pressing topics like “She was nervously nibbling her cigarette holder”*** and “He has already been in prison (on remand) six months, awaiting trial.”**** 

All of this makes me think that if only i had this book when I was learning French at school, maybe some of it might have sunk in.  The truth is, J’avoue que je ne suis pas extremement chaud.

* He has an annoying propensity for getting tight.
**Il passe trois cents trains ici par jour.
*** Elle mordillait nerveusement son fume-cigarette.
**** (You don’t really need to know how to say this in French... do you?)

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

This Is Your Country on Drugs by Ryan Grim. Bound and Gagged by Alan Travis.

This Is Your Country on Drugs: The Secret History of Getting High in America by Ryan Grim.  Hardcover book published by John Wiley & Sons 2009.

Bound and Gagged: A Secret History of Obscenity in Britain by Alan Travis.  Hardcover book published by Profile Books 2000.

Do you want to know a secret?... or a few secrets.  Here are two books that contain secrets.  Secrets which I guess are no longer secrets as they have been published and now the whole world knows all about them… although I’d never heard of either of these “secret” books until I found them.  They must be very secret.

“This Is Your Country on Drugs” is a history of drug use in the United States.  The United States doesn’t have a monopoly on drug use but they seem to do a lot of it... or is just that our U.S. dominated media and entertainment injects this stereotype into our Australian lives?  We also have drugs here in Australia and yes people do use them. This book isn’t about Australia though, it’s about the United States which according to the publishers blurb, “use drugs at a far higher rate than any other people in the world”, so I guess that’s a good reason for a book like this to exist… 

I like the cover photo.  Very clever.

Anyone with a passing interest in drug usage whether as an observer or partaker, may find this book of interest.  It’s full of various chapters concerning various drugs and the use thereof including Cocaine, Crack, Marijuana, LSD and others.  Apparently the disappearance of LSD in the U.S. in the early 2000s, is due to one drug bust in Kansas.  After that it was all over… until the next time.  The story of this world changing event (or rather U.S. changing event)… which was possibly secret… is no longer secret, because it’s contained in this book.  So I guess if you need a hit of U.S. drug history, particularly the secret bits, this is the book for you.

A book wrapped in brown paper once meant something of interest was inside.  At the least, it meant that you and I weren’t meant to read it.  The publishers of “Bound and Gagged: A Secret History of Obscenity in Britain” have chosen to replicate this effect, to great effect.  I like it. 

There was a time when everything of interest, was considered Obscene… or so it would seem.  Chapter two of this book looks at James Joyce’s Ulysses.  Now I’ve read Ulysses, but it was a long time ago and for some reason I am unable to remember any offensive bits from within the maelstrom.  Maybe this says something about me or maybe it goes to show that there are more important things in the book than a few bits that could possibly shock my mum… that is, if she were ever to read it… which I doubt she will.  Apparently there are references to nipple sucking and female orgasm… lets face it, Great Britain in the early twentieth century wouldn’t want anyone to read about these sort of things… and neither would my mum.  There were also a few expletives in the text and the powers that were, decided that the language of the people, along with the Nipple thing and the Orgasm as well as some other juicy bits, means that this book should not be in print.  These details and many more are contained within this book… it’s good to have these bits and pieces pointed out particularly if you missed them the first time around as I did. 

Do you think the book would have a chapter on D.H. Lawrence? Of course it does.  Obscenity wouldn’t be obscenity with Lady Chatterley (which I haven’t read).  I think I do need to mention though that both Ulysses and Lady Chatterley’s problems with the censors, weren’t really that secret.  The finer details of these cases, I guess were a little bit secret… particularly for me who didn’t notice the bits in Ulysses that I should have noticed.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Struwwelpeter or Pretty Stories and Funny Pictures by Dr. Heinrich Hoffmann.

Struwwelpeter or Pretty Stories and Funny Pictures by Dr. Heinrich Hoffmann.  Hardcover book with pictorial boards published by Chrysalis 2004.

Well known childrens author and former lead singer for various Melbourne punk bands, Andy Griffiths, lists Struwwelpeter as one of his all time favourite books.  I recently read an article somewhere where he mentioned this book in the context of visiting his grandmother.  Apparently the book was at her house and he loved reading it whilst visiting there.  I think this is wonderful and a great example of someone who’s connection to a book has continued well into their adult life.  Maurice Sendak also gives the book a big thumbs up… unlike Little Suck-A-Thumb…

…who will no longer be giving anyone a thumbs up.

Struwwelpeter was originally written in German by Dr. Heinrich Hoffmann in 1844 as a response to a lack of good quality picture books for 3 years olds, his son being 3 at the time.  The idea was that the book was a caricature of the “stupid” “moralizing” and “long” stories of the time.  An English translation was quick to follow and here we are nearly 170 years later and the book is still setting the world on fire… unlike Harriet…

…who is now just a pile of ashes.

I remember Struwwelpeter from my childhood, which was not quite 170 years ago… Unfortunately my memory isn’t as good as Andy Griffiths and I have a little bit of trouble with the details.  I know it would have definitely been read to me in German and that’s about it.  So I guess it’s about time I refreshed my memory… this time in English.  

(...that reminds me... I need a haircut.)

Thursday, April 12, 2012

A Teacup in a Storm: An explorer's guide to life by Mick Conefrey.

A Teacup in a Storm: An explorer's guide to life by Mick Conefrey.  Hardcover book published by Collins 2005.

“A witty, entertaining and utterly unique look at the great explorers and the life-lessons we can draw from them.  Exploration and explorers hold a constant fascination, with tales of heroism and the overcoming of great odds in the most inhospitable environments. With inspirational stories we can apply to our everyday life, as well as more bizarre and quirky lessons, such as how to escape an anaconda or find water in a desert, this is a uniquely entertaining and inspirational book.”

I’ve always wanted to know how to escape an anaconda.  More importantly though, how do I escape a bear?  This information is not listed in the index of this book, but it is something that has concerned me at a few points in my life.  We don’t have bears in Australia (…tempted to write something like “other than Koala Bears” but I know this will only anger a certain young lady, as the Koala isn’t a bear… or so I’ve been told), so for most people here in Australia this isn’t of any concern.  We don’t have anacondas either, but still, this is a handy skill to have… as are a lot of the other skills listed in the book. 

What the book is actually about is the history of exploration, but written as a DIY manual with examples from history to illustrate various points.  The author has decided to write about it all in a “witty, entertaining and utterly unique” way.  And why not?  We’ve read about all those explorers before, at least some of us have, and this book by being witty and entertaining is aiming at a more general audience… or possibly a younger audience, who are less interested in 600 pages of Shackleton or Burton and more interested in a few paragraphs of juicy bits in a more general manner.  It’s set out in chapters relating to various parts of an expedition beginning with “Getting started” and finishing with “Getting back”… which is a good place to start and a good place to finish. 

For some reason as I’ve been writing all of this, I’m reminded of those “Horrible Histories” books written for kids.  If you don’t know “Horrible Histories” and you’re a book seller, you should.  In this instance these not so horrible histories with positive and horrible bits, are aimed at an adult audience and not just kids.  Maybe this is the point of the book.  Most kids grow up and any young adult who has experienced the “Horrible Histories” phenomena, could possibly be interested in continuing their interest in history via a book like this one.  Personally, I’m more interested in 600 pages of Burton, Hedin, Cherry-Garrard etc etc… and also in how to escape from bears.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The Myth of Solid Ground: Earthquakes, Prediction, and the Fault Line Between Reason and Faith by David L. Ulin.

The Myth of Solid Ground: Earthquakes, Prediction, and the Fault Line Between Reason and Faith by David L. Ulin.  Paperback book published by Penguin Books 2005.

In 2011 a group of Italian scientists went on trial accused of manslaughter.  Their crime was that they hadn’t warned the good citizens of L'Aquila to get out of their town and subsequently in the ensuing earthquake, 308 people died (more details here).

According to this book earthquakes are a very tricky thing to predict and sometimes a psychic or even whales can be just as accurate as a group of Italian scientists.  In this instance the author, a Californian, is more concerned with California which as well we all know is on the verge of breaking off from the rest of America and floating out into the Pacific ocean.  So the Italian trial which happened after the publication of this book isn’t mentioned as… ummmm… California and Italy are a long away from each other... although by the sounds of it they are possibly getting a little closer to each other after each earthquake.  I’ve mentioned it though, as it was something that I noticed and was deeply concerned about at the time (it just seemed a little crazy and very unfair).  I can’t seem to find any information about what happened at the trial, but I’m hoping the scientists didn’t end up being punished… unlike the whales, which the Japanese are still punishing…

Overall it’s a bit frightening that earthquakes can happen so randomly, which I guess is why so many people die.  If no one tells you to run, you tend not to.  Science is always looking for answers to this sort of stuff and from what I can gather that is sort of what this book is about.  Finally, I’d just like to say, be careful where you stand and when someone says run...

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Traditional Palestinian Embroidery and Jewelry by Abed Al-Samih Abu Omar.

Traditional Palestinian Embroidery and Jewelry by Abed Al-Samih Abu Omar.  Hardcover book (no dust jacket) with pictorial boards and slipcase published by Al Shark 1987.

Wow.  What an amazing find… even if I do say so myself.  I’m a bit of sucker for folky embroideries.  Not so much the DIY or craft aspect, but in the finished objects themselves.  When I found this book I had never encountered the wonderful world of Palestinian embroidery and after glancing through it, I’m still no expert, but I do now have an appreciation for the art and I’d like to think my life is that little bit richer after perusing through this book.

There is of course the whole Palestinian question/issue which is something that this book is not about.  In a way though, by showing how rich a culture these people have, the book does promote the Palestinians and I’m sure I’m not the only person who has looked through this book and thought about the issues that surround the people themselves.  If that wasn’t the intention of the book, I’d be surprised.  If it was the intention, they have succeeded… at least here at Huc & Gabet they have succeeded.

The book has a slipcase which doesn’t exactly fit the book and it does have some wear, which is good as it means that it has successfully done it’s job in protecting the book.  But unfortunately there is still some slight wear to the top and bottom of the spine and to the corners.  Also some of the printing is definitely of a third world 1980s nature.  Still, even minor wear and some dodgy printing can’t conceal the stunning world of Palestinian Embroidery and Jewelry.  A truly lovely book.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Racing With Death: Douglas Mawson - Antarctic Explorer by Beau Riffenburgh.

Racing With Death: Douglas Mawson - Antarctic Explorer by Beau Riffenburgh.  Hardcover book published by Bloomsbury 2008.

One hundred years ago this bloke Douglas Mawson (possibly known as Doug to his friends) was a “key expedition leader during the Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration”* and most importantly for us here in Australia, he was an Australian.  Australia is a country that is still a relatively new entrant on the world stage (excluding our geology, natural history and our indigenous population) and Douglas was and still is considered an important person in our history and as part of Australia’s positioning within world history.  Doug and his fellow expeditioners were expeditioning in the Antarctic long before GPS, daily updated blogs or really warm underwear.  If you look at the picture on the dust jacket, you’ll see what I mean.  That is a woolen balaclava and scarf, which are very stylish and very suitable for Australia… and probably less suitable for Antarctica.  Still, they do look nice and his mum probably made a big effort in knitting them.

On a slightly more serious note, the title refers to the death of two fellow expedition members who died whilst exploring with Mawson (1912).  Death in these harsh conditions was not uncommon at the time.  What is uncommon is that after losing his companions, Mawson somehow managed to travel the couple of hundred miles back to his base camp alone.  Incredible by any standards and pretty much a guaranteed hero status back here in Australia… so much so that he appeared on our older $100 notes… not that I’ve ever seen one, but according to Wikipedia he was the guy** (by the way our current $100 bills have a picture of John Monash on it… of whom I also have a biography of for sale).  Which all goes to show you how important the guy is.  It’s not everyone who gets to be on the money… except for the Queen (of whom I don’t have any biographies of). 

So this book, which is always of interest due to it’s subject matter, is of special interest now due to the centenary of Mawson’s epic expedition and tragic journey.  Fortunately for any buyer out there, it won’t cost a Mawson (or Monash) to purchase it. 

*   Thanks Wikipedia
** Thanks Wikipedia