Bookworm: From the bizarre to the empowering

Terri Schlichenmeyer

“Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Beyond the Bizarre!”

  • c. 2019. Ripley Publishing
  • $28.95, $34.95 Canada; 256 pages

You hate to admit it. The truth is, though, you got bored a few times this past summer. Not a lot, and not on purpose, but there were times when you found yourself with nothing to do. The good news is that there are two good newses: one, school is back in session now. And two, you can find the new book “Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Beyond the Bizarre!”

More:Bookworm: History in the making

So, you spent a little time this summer on your bike and that was cool, but you can’t do that all the time, right? So why not grab this “Ripley’s” book and read about the bike graveyard in China, or the first bike you could ride on land or water? Or learn about what it would take to ride a 5-ton tank bike, or a 135-year-old tricycle.

The 2019 “Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Beyond the Bizarre!”

You might have worked on your video game skills in the past few weeks, so the time is now to read about the woman who “married” a Tetris game, and the collector who owns some 2,000 items associated with Zelda. Or maybe you’d like to read about the 13-year-old who’s a professional gamer, or the Sea of Thieves human cannonball.

Doing crafts is always a great way to spend a summer, and “Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Beyond the Bizarre!” is a good way to read about them. Find out about the “tree” made of tractors, or the 28-foot-tall robot that shoots sponge balls. Learn about digital portraits, colorful temples, butter sculptures, and elaborate crochet costumes.

If you spent time with pets and wildlife while you were off, good for you!  You’ll love reading about the eel-and-seal friendship and the monster mosquito found in China. Find out about crocodile teeth, shark teeth, beaver teeth, and a lion with a bad toothache.

And then there are the things you saw this summer that were unique, unusual, or plain old weird. Read about more: bog bodies, paper made of “poo,” a squirrel that paints pictures, dances that scare ghosts, money made from rocks, strange jewelry, cold cities, hot games, and an island for women only. How totally bizarre is that?

Remember how delicious it was when you knew something nobody else knew? You’re never too old to enjoy when that happens; with “Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Beyond the Bizarre,” your child will know that glee.

Starting this book with the basics, young readers will learn about Robert Ripley and the artwork that launched a 100-year fascination. From there, kids are treated to some old classics – things you may’ve read when you were their age – sprinkled between new jaw-droppers and OMGs that are written without sensationalism. That real-life aspect makes this book fun for your child, like taking an around-the-globe trip filled with photographs; fascinating, funny, scary stories; and locales that will open their eyes to the world.

More:Bookworm: Wandering pets and wayward readers

Middle-school kids will enjoy this book, as will high-schoolers who like reading about oddities, strangeness, and the ghoulish. You’ll love “Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Beyond the Bizarre,” too. It’s okay, admit it.

“Nobody’s Victim: Fighting Psychos, Stalkers, Pervs, and Trolls”

  • By Carrie Goldberg, with Jeannine Amber
  • c. 2019, Plume
  • $27, $36 Canada; 295 pages

You’ve already said “no” multiple times. No, you won’t go out again. No, you’re not interested in spending the night. No, you won’t meet him at a coffee shop. No, and now he’s threatening you, filing false reports, spreading lies, and harassing your family. It happened to Carrie Goldberg, too, and in “Nobody’s Victim” (with Jeannine Amber), she explains what she did about it.

More:Bookworm: More ‘Sex in the City,’ the struggle and the fight

“The internet can be a nasty place.”

Between social media, 4chan, and the spread of fake news, it’s hard to recall a time when the internet was meant to be a safe, beneficial thing. But it was, says Goldberg, before the passing of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996, legislation meant to preserve what was good about the internet. Instead, the act colossally backfired, opening the door for porn, hate speech, misogyny, and online threats.

“Nobody’s Victim: Fighting Psychos, Stalkers, Pervs, and Trolls” by Carrie Goldberg, with Jeannine Amber.

These are things Goldberg knows in her work as a victims’ rights lawyer.

It was a job she didn’t initially set out to do.

Before law school, she worked as a caseworker for elderly Holocaust survivors, a job that taught her to multitask but not how to set boundaries. She was single then, dating, and meeting men that didn’t click with her, until she met one who drugged her and violated her in a terrifying way.

She didn’t bother to call the police.

No, she went to Ireland, thinking suicide as a possibility but there, she had an epiphany that sent her down her current path. And yet, unimaginably, she was later stalked a second time by another ex-boyfriend.

Her own experiences in mind, Goldberg writes about stalkers who mean to ruin the lives of women they supposedly love. She tells of suing schools and cities on behalf of teen girls who are “victimized” by sexting and “revenge porn.” She explains how “troll armies” are made, and why “there is almost no telling what might set them off.” And she writes compassionately about her clients: almost all women because, statistically, most stalkers are men.

To them, she says, “We are an army of warriors and we won’t back down.”

Looking for a scary-thriller kind of book this fall?  Forget about a novel; what’s inside “Nobody’s Victim” is about as frightening and horrifying as it gets.

Indeed, this book will make you want to shun your computer and all that’s on it, until you realize the truth: the internet is only part of the picture, pinpointing a harasser is difficult, prosecuting him is even harder, and legalities exist that are filled with loopholes to help corporations instead of customers. Still, author Carrie Goldberg tells of women who’ve persevered and triumphed against “psychos and stalkers,” giving you reason to hoo-rah with a caveat: Goldberg offers those stories as between-the-lines advice here, rather than a solid how-to, leaving a sense of anguish lingering over the end of this book.

And yet, if you are one of the people Goldberg says is most vulnerable to harassment or threats, this book’s empowering and comforting.

Should you miss “Nobody’s Victim?”

Absolutely: no.

More:Bookworm: Family secrets and lies, heartbreak and horror

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.