“Experimenting with Babies”
By Shaun Gallagher
c. 2013, Penguin
“10 Things You Might Not Know about Nearly Everything”
By Mark Jacob and Stephan Benzkofer
c. 2013, Midway Agate
“1,227 Quite Interesting Facts to Blow Your Socks Off”
By John Lloyd, John Mitchinson, and James Harkin
c. 2013, Norton
So whaddaya know? Probably quite a bit, when it comes right down to it. You know where you are, what’s in front of you, and how to read these words, for starters. You know what it’s like outside, what you had for breakfast, and what you did last night. But do you know about Jimmy Carter’s gaffe, or Desi Arnaz’s huge near-mistake, or how a baby will react to a spinning toy? These are things you’ll learn when you’ve got three new trivia books in front of you.
First of all, if there’s a wee one in your family this year or if someone with an infant is visiting, you’ll want to read “Experimenting with Babies” by Shaun Gallagher.
Though the title may seem tongue-in-cheek, this book offers up 50 (very safe) activities you can do with a very young child, all of which will teach you a little bit of science, a little bit of physiology, and a lot about how babies develop. You’ll see how motor skills begin, how preferences emerge, what babies know, what researchers are just starting to understand, and how it all relates to the health of a baby.
Best of all, you’ll have a lot of interesting fun with a small child. Babysitting, anyone?
Next, you’ll never again feel like a dummy at any classroom or party once you’ve read “10 Things You Might Not Know About Nearly Everything” by Mark Jacob and Stephan Benzkofer.
Through dozens of 10-Lists, you’ll learn about oddball things like hair and elephants. You’ll see how a Wyoming desperado walked around after he died. You’ll find out what lies beneath Detroit. You’ll discover which city’s resident diners are the best tippers. You’ll be glad you weren’t a royal newlywed in the 18th century. You’ll learn about running, football, and stadiums. And you’ll find out a lot of cool trivia about Chicago because, after all, the authors work at a newspaper there.
And finally, if you’re a bounce-around-and-browse kind of reader, then “1,227 Quite Interesting Facts to Blow Your Socks Off” by John Lloyd, John Mitchinson, and James Harkin was practically written for you.
With this book in your mitts, you’ll find out what simple thing Elizabeth Taylor didn’t know how to do. You’ll read about Richard Nixon’s college insecurity. You’ll learn Fidel Castro’s time-saving secret. You’ll see what other book L. Frank Baum published 113 years ago (hint: it’s about as far from Oz as you can get). You’ll discover the interesting meanings of “smellsmock,” “gymnophoria,” “engastration,” “gongoozler,” “chork,” and “gynotikilobomassophile.” You’ll find out what cocaine does to your heart. And you’ll be very thankful that you’re not a tiger shark embryo or the wife of Zeus.
I love books like this because they’re great fun and easy to enjoy. With these three books, you will asolare for hours. Time with them will be autotelic, and you’ll dazzle everyone with your brilliance. Yes, there are other trivia books out there, but these are three of the best and you can’t live without them you know?
“Flying Blind: One Man’s Adventures Battling Buckthorn, Making Peace with Authority, and Creating a Home for Endangered Bats”
By Don Mitchell
c. 2013, Chelsea Green
Last spring, the gauntlet was thrown down. It was an us-or-them situation, a full-out battle of endurance, a fight to the death with only one winner. On one side, a challenger with rugged persistence.
On the other side: You. Plus shears, gardening gloves, a strong back, and willingness to eradicate each weed with ruthlessness which is something author Don Mitchell knows all too well. In his new book “Flying Blind,” he explains.
Following a few years of cross-country travel and a colorful hippie lifestyle, 24-year-old Don Mitchell bought a farm. It was 1972, he and his wife had spent time in Vermont , and they liked it there. When they found a 130 (“more or less”) acre farm, they put money down, bought some sheep, and became farmers.
The farm was ringed by woods and cliffs. It was in a bucolic rolling valley with wildlife and birds, and the Mitchells kept their footprint small. They didn’t do much with the thickly wooded area, but they grew crops and they constructed a large pond with the help of government money, even though Mitchell wasn’t happy with government rules. He says he’s always chafed under authority, but the pond was a welcome addition to their property. Life in the valley was good.
And then came “The Great Vermont Ice Storm” of 1998. For three straight days, freezing rain coated everything, breaking limbs from trees and powerlines from poles. In the aftermath, Mitchell toured his land and was sick at heart from the “carnage.” For nearly a decade, he couldn’t bear to enter his woods.
That’s why, he says, he “didn’t make a fuss” when a Vermont Fish and Wildlife bat expert asked to set nets to see what kind of bats were attracted by Mitchell’s pond. The fuss, in fact, didn’t come until well after the bat man found endangered critters.
By that time, an intrigued Mitchell had a chance to retire. Retirement would allow time to clean out his woods. That would give him impetus to eradicate two invasive plant species from his land, on hands and knees, to offer the bats better habitat for breeding. And that would give him time to reflect on his childhood, and memories best left undisturbed
“Flying Blind” is quite a surprise of a book.
With a droll sense of humor and willingness to admit his peccadilloes, author Don Mitchell delights his readers with a wandering tale that he likens to the flight patterns of bats: straight and linear, then turning fast in another direction. That’s enjoyable, like spending a few hours chatting with a new friend.
But every now and then, Mitchell’s story runs dark, and therein lies the surprise. It’s a cock-your-head kind of thing; a did-you-see-that, fleeting squirm that disappears as quickly as it flew in.
Much, I’m sure, like a bat.
In the end, I came to like this book a great deal, and I think you will, too particularly if you’re an environmentalist down to your toes. For you, “Flying Blind” is a book to pick up.