The Bookworm: Excitement, adventure and boredom highlight this week’s titles

Terri Schlichenmeyer

“Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Shatter Your Senses”

By the Ripley’s folks

c. 2017, Ripley’s Publishing

$28.95, $34.95 Canada; 256 pages

You feel as though you might need a good book to read. It’s got to be something that sounds right, with lots of pictures and imagination-sparkers, too. A book that doesn’t stink. So here’s something to get your hands on. Maybe you’ve heard of it: “Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Shatter Your Senses.”

“Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Shatter Your Senses”

Sight, sound, smell, taste, touch. Though some say there are more, those are your five main senses and the writers at Ripley’s really do what they promise here: they’ll shatter all of them in this book.

First of all, you know that Ripley’s books are all in good taste, so why not take a bite out of what’s in this one? Find out why people eat the witchetty grub (yum?). Read about the Canadian man who’s traveled to more than 50 countries just to dine at McDonald’s. Or shiver at the article about blood-eating bats.

Get a whiff of this: in Guangdong Province, China, the villagers sell bags of air to tourists. Would you wear urine-powered socks? Or, imagine standing next to this: on July 5 of last year, it got so hot in New York that a pile of horse manure spontaneously caught on fire.

Stick your fingers inside this book and see double-sided cowboy boots and a repurposed statue. Take a look at a touching photo of a chicken and his monkey-friend. Think about more than a dozen scorpions sitting on your arms. And if you had “an extremely rare skin disorder” like the Bangladeshi man in this book, you’d be happy to be able to touch anything.

Feast your eyes on flowers that appear to be animals. See spiders at war – if you dare! Peep amazing undersea patterns that male pufferfish make to lure the ladies. Get a load of the pink hippo, and read about the giant hamster you can actually ride.

Can emoji’s become songs? If Sir Paul McCartney gets ahold of them – yes! (read about it here). Find out what deadly coincidence befell rock group Jefferson Airplane. Then check out The Isolator, a sensory-deprivation device invented in the 1920s.

Mind … shattered!

Five minutes. That’s all the time your teen has between school, homework, friends, sports, band practice, and the thousand other things going on in his life. And yet – she still has time to read, especially if she’s got “Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Shatter Your Senses!”

The Ripley’s you loved in your childhood has been reimagined and updated for an all-new audience: there are more pictures in today’s Ripley’s books, and fewer cartoons. The feats and weirdness are more modern and less historic. Without a lot of “interactive” clutter, this book feels easier to use, too, because it doesn’t require anything but intrigue, curiosity and, sometimes, a strong stomach.

What more could a young reader want? Um, maybe something to share, because you can enjoy this book right along with your 12-to-18-year-old.  You’ll both eat up. Its trippy cover is one you’ll want to touch. Yeah, “Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Shatter Your Senses!” looks good.

“Bored and Brilliant: Rediscovering the Lost Art of Spacing Out”

By Manoush Zomorodi

c. 2017, St. Martin’s Press

$26.99, $37.99 Canada; 208 pages

Pay attention! Bet you heard that plenty when you were younger. Look up here, listen to me, watch this, eyes forward. Eventually, it sunk in: you kept your eyes open, your mouth closed, and you are the better person for it, aren’t you? Peep this, pay attention – or, as in the new book “Bored and Brilliant” by Manoush Zomorodi, never mind.

“Bored and Brilliant: Rediscovering the Lost Art of Spacing Out” by Manoush Zomorodi.

A decade ago, as a new mother with a colicky baby, Manoush Zomorodi spent countless zombified hours pushing a stroller around her New York neighborhood, to calm her son. At first, it was one of the most boring tasks she could imagine – but after a while, she began to notice things: birds, architecture, people, and ideas.

Weeks after returning to work, she was fuzzy-headed. That was when she understood that time off solved problems and cleared her mind; taking “a moment to reflect,” she realized that “my main accomplice was my phone.” That led to a bold experiment: Zomorodi, a radio show host, asked her listeners to join a “Bored and Brilliant Project,” in which they would agree to give up (or at least cut back on) mobile device usage.

Thousands of listeners signed on. Boredom, she says, is the “second most commonly suppressed emotion after anger … ” even though humans need to be bored. Our brains require a certain amount of wandering to stay at peak efficiency. When we are “daydreaming” – something teens and children are more prone to doing – it activates a “default mode,” which enhances problem-solving and creativity. Says Zomorodi, “ …  without distraction, your mind goes into some interesting and unexpected places.”

Though it may sound funny, there are things you can do to combat a lack of boredom. Keep track of your digital habits; you’ll be surprised how much you’re on your phone. Put your device away while you’re walking, so you’re not tempted to use it on the fly. Stop taking photos for one day. “Delete That App” you can’t live without (because, guess what? You can!). Be unconnected now and then, people-watch, look around, visit a park without your device. And finally, remember that if electronic devices are doing this to you, think about what they’re doing to your kids.

How many times in your life did you bug your mother with whines of boredom?  You’ll take them all back, once you’ve read “Bored and Brilliant.”

If you’ve ever had a love-hate relationship with your overly-connected world, this is the book for you. Author Manoush Zomorodi knows your pain - it was a process for her and her Note to Self listeners to disconnect - and because she went through the same kind of withdrawal, she doesn’t promise that it’ll be easy for you, either. The stats are good here, and the tiny-step encouragement is better but it’s the honesty that’s best inside this book. The “Seven-Step Program” is also a big help. 

Beware that there’s plenty of irony in reading this book on a device, but read it you should. In our heavily-connected society, “Bored and Brilliant” needs your attention.

The Bookworm is Terri Schlichenmeyer. She has been reading since she was 3 years old and never goes anywhere without a book. Terri lives on a hill in Wisconsin with two dogs and 11,000 books.