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review 2018-07-20 06:23
The Inner Life of Cats: The Science and Secrets of Our Mysterious Feline Companions
The Inner Life of Cats: The Science and Secrets of Our Mysterious Feline Companions - Thomas McNamee

I'm going almost the full five stars on this because it's the best cat book I've read to date.  I've not read a ton, to be honest, but McNamee manages to capture both the science and the essence of the relationship between a cat and its owner.  He is undoubtedly a man coming at the subject with heartfelt appreciation and love for our feline overlords and his advice is rational, sound and passionate.

 

I learned a lot from this book.  I never knew that the sticking out of the tongue was a sign of friendship and acceptance; I always thought Easter-cat just left her tongue sticking out sometimes.  The front leg stretch isn't really a stretch, so much as it's a gesture of acceptance and friendship.  McNamee has me a little stressed out about Easter-cat's insistence on only eating dry food.  Small things like that, as well as much bigger issues like separation anxiety have given me much to think about. 

 

McNamee also talks about a lot of very sticky issues, especially regarding breeding, the cat's need to hunt, and the feral population problem that plagues communities around the world.  His overview of how Italy - specifically Rome - is tackling the issue is an inspiration, if not a complete solution.  I think he does a phenomenal job bringing home the basic idea that cats (and any pet for that matter) are not merely personal possessions or accessories; they are living creatures with as much right to quality of life and dignity as we might and arrogant humans so.

 

This book is a weaving of science and personal anecdotes about the author's cat, Augusta.  Those personal parts are brilliant, and sometimes nail-biting.  Full disclosure:  I flat-out skipped chapter 7 on sickness and death.  I'm a sissy, and the first 6 chapters convinced me that McNamee was going to write chapter 7 with at least as much passion and heartfelt sincerity and there aren't enough tissues in the world to get me through that chapter.

 

I knocked off half a star because some figures at the start seemed to fantastical to be true, and though there is a notes section at the back, those figures weren't cited, leaving me and others feeling distrustful of the data.  Otherwise, I thought this was a brilliantly written, fantastic resource for anybody who wants to be a better cat slave.

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review 2018-06-28 01:07
The Weather Detective: Rediscovering Nature's Secret Signs
The Weather Detective: Rediscovering Nature's Secret Signs - Peter Wohlleben

NOT what it says on the tin.  Not really.  I read this title and its blurb and expected, not unreasonably, that it would be a collection of practically accurate ways to predict the weather by reading the nature of what's around you.  There's maybe 30% of the book that falls under that category.

 

I did learn a few things: a couple of flowers that act as barometers; which ones you can use to tell time.  But most of the information was general, basic getting-back-to-nature stuff.  Importance of rain.  A general overview of the skies; background on the importance of soil.  Definitely worthy subjects, and written on a practical level; he doesn't expect the reader to chuck it all and live amongst the forest creatures, but just points out what's in most of our gardens.  Sadly, there wasn't much here that I didn't already know, and I didn't learn half of what I'd hoped to.

 

The Weather Detective is an English translation of the original book titled Kranichflug und Blumenuhr, which roughly translates to "Crane Flight and Flower Clock"; probably not a title that's going to infer any immediate meaning to English readers, but probably more accurate in its vagueness than The Weather Detective.  This leads me to another issue I had with the book:  it's either poorly translated, or it's meant for a much younger audience.  Wohlleben is a well-known and well-respected writer, so I'm inclined to believe it's the translation.  I don't question its accuracy, but the tone of the original, I have to believe, has been lost, leaving a text that is overly simplistic and sometimes skates near condescending (something I'm positive was not intended by the author himself).  I feel like I could give this to my 8 year old niece, and with a few exceptions, she'd be able to read it and understand it without any problems.

 

It's not an unworthy book; given a stronger, more intuitive translation and a much more accurate title, the book would be perfect for any urbanite more interested in what's going on outside their doors.  I like Wohlleben's honest, but pragmatic and sympathetic view on human interaction with nature - his views are moderate, reasonable, and rational.  And I truly did gain a few nuggets of information here and there.  It's just not all it could be, and what I suspect it might be, in the original German.

 

Some additional notes for anyone considering reading it:

It's pretty German-centric, of course.  He tries to look further afield, but even that's confined to Europe and the UK.  All the measurements have been converted to US Customary Units/UK Imperial, so Canadians, Aussies, and any other English speaking readers not inclined to be flexible about USC/UK:Metric conversions are going to be irritated.  In the same vein, forget about it if you're in the Southern Hemisphere, unless you really like to flex your brain.  Wind direction and sun orientations will all need to be reversed.  Most of the wildlife mentioned will also be non-applicable, though the science, at least, is sound no matter what part of the globe you live on. 

 

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review 2018-06-25 11:45
Rain: A Natural and Cultural History
Rain: A Natural and Cultural History - Cynthia Barnett

Pretty much exactly what it says on the tin.  This is a history, not a science, text.  But as a history of rain, it's 100% more interesting than a book on rain would generally sound.  Filled with anecdotes that bring the history to life, and raise it a notch above a dry (ha!) academic narrative, once I got past the parts of history I always find slow (ie, any part we have to speculate about) I found it hard to put the book down.

 

The author tries tackle the subject globally, but generally, it's US-centric (which, if I remember right, she disclaims at the start).  There's a certain amount of doom and gloom when she gets to present day human vs. rain (spoiler: rain always wins), but I was incredibly please and very inspired by the stories she told about how certain cities are learning from their mistakes.  In a global culture that is so, I'm sorry, collectively stupid about climate change, it often feels like we're being beat about the head with it; we haven't yet figured out that, just as this tactic doesn't work on children, it doesn't work on humanity in general.  But a story about people learning from the past and taking steps to remediate the problems - that's what, in my opinion - is going to inspire the long-term change we so desperately need.

 

She ends the book with the most telling irony - her trip the the rainiest place on the planet, Mawsynram, where she experiences 5 cloud free, sunny days, while back home in Florida her family lives through the rainiest weather in the state's recorded history.

 

A pleasant, informative and well-written read.

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review 2018-06-16 08:25
The Science of Everyday Life
The Science of Everyday Life - Marty Jopson

Upfront, this book suffers from my bias a bit:  I're previously read Storm in a Teacup: The Physics of Everyday Life by Helen Czerski.  Both books have the same goals, and both are effective and interesting, but Czerski's writes a more cohesive narrative and her writing is somehow more seductive: she makes physics seem magical.  Fortunately, there's very little overlap in what both books cover, so this was by no means a wasted effort.

 

BUT, if I'd read this first, I'd have rated it higher; it's a very good book and Jopson actually includes a lot more 'things' and the science behind them.  The chapters are divided by category:  Food and Drink, Home and Kitchen, Science Around the House, Science in the World and Science in the Wild.  I had favorites from each section, as I've mentioned in previous reading updates, but right now the one that sticks the most is why leaves turn colours in the autumn.  Turns out this is a very deliberate process and he explains it so clearly - I have a whole new outlook on all those yellow and orange leaves I raked up this morning.

 

I wouldn't hesitate to recommend this book - especially for readers who are interested in science but might find a running narrative challenging to their attention span - Jopson's explanations are all separated within each chapter, making it very easy to pick up and put down, or refer to for specific reasons (solid index at the back too) as a reference.

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text 2018-06-15 02:50
Reading progress update: I've read 166 out of 219 pages.
The Science of Everyday Life - Marty Jopson

BrokenTune is much more organised with her reading and updates of this book; I read until I can't keep my eyes open anymore, then go back the next morning and re-read the parts I can't remember.  No discipline on this side of the buddy read, nosiree.

 

When last I left off I had just a few more sections of The Marvels of Science Around the House; last night I finished that, The Peculiar Human and the Science of Us, and I'm mid-way through Science in the World Around Us.  Some of my favorites from these chapters include:

 

The non-shrinking sheep - I knew lanolin was a big player here, but I never understood the mechanics.

 

Cracking knuckles - I also knew this was a myth, but as an unapologetic knuckle cracker from childhood, I always love reading additional confirmations.

 

Super-strength teeth with Fluoride - Well.  Where has this been all my life?  I've always rinsed my mouth out after brushing my teeth because my grandmother told me (when I was a very impressionable little girl) that if I swallowed toothpaste I would DIE.  She wasn't generally a melodramatic woman - quite the opposite really - and she was my grandma, so why wouldn't I believe her?  Now, 40-odd years later I find out I've been doing it wrong.  Sigh.

 

Prune time in the bath interested me only because I've only just read about the newest theory regarding why we prune up in water and wanted to see how current Jopson's research is.  Turns out, pretty current.

 

How cold are your toes? - A lot of people who think they have Raynaud's syndrome, probably don't and if they actually knew what it was, they'd be thankful.

 

To dream, perchance to remember - All I'm going to say about this is that people should be careful for what they wish for.  Remembering your dreams isn't all its cracked up to be.

 

Platinum Paved roads - this might have been my favorite section of the bunch.  I've always wondered how a catalytic converter worked, and now I know and it's fascinating.

 

I'm enjoying the  book, but it's not Storm in a Teacup.  As I've said before there's just something about Czerski's narrative style that more than makes up for the smaller number of topics she covers.  Jopson is good, but there's nothing seductive about his writing.

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