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Reader Writer Runner (Victoria, BC)
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The Secret Language Of Doctors
The Secret Language Of Doctors
by Brian Goldman
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 18.80
7 used & new from CDN$ 12.30

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars More Bookish Thoughts..., Aug. 15 2014
Virtually every specialized field features its own language, an argot that enables workers to communicate quickly and exclusively. Medicine may just boast the most extensive list of foreign terms so, in his new book, CBC Radio's "White Coat, Black Art" host, Dr. Brian Goldman, attempts to translate some of these terms into everyday speech. But "The Secret Language of Doctors" offers more than an insider's guide to medical slang; it provides a candid and intriguing look at the attitudes and issues that shape our healthcare system.

At times, Dr. Goldman comes across as jaded and bitter, describing "a quiet seething...a simmering frustration felt by doctors about their work, their patients and each other." Some of the terms and attitudes he describes when referring to certain types of patients feel offensive and disturbing to read. However, Goldman writes with a respectable, brutal honesty that opens the reader's eyes to an unfortunate truth: our system does not show kindness to the old, the mentally ill, the obese.

Today, Goldman argues, we have an acute care-focused system that primarily treats those with multiple chronic, conditions. Health policies and institutions including health education cannot adjust fast enough; Goldman essentially shows that traditional medical education does not prepare doctors for the realities of today's healthcare. Sadly, doctors and other healthcare workers receive little to no training or support in handling the emotional, human side of medicine; they end up facing patient anxiety, and even extreme distress with little preparation.

Eminently worth reading, this book may help readers better understand personal medical situations and options by decoding some of the overwhelming jargon. Furthermore, for those who desire a more patient-centred model of medicine, it provides an opportunity to conceptualize some of the challenges faced by our doctors.

Landing Gear
Landing Gear
by Kate Pullinger
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 18.77
14 used & new from CDN$ 12.26

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars More Bookish Thoughts..., Aug. 14 2014
This review is from: Landing Gear (Hardcover)
3.5 stars...

Aside from publishing a largely-ignored collection of short stories, Kate Pullinger has remained silent since she won the Governor General's Award for her brilliant historical novel, "The Mistress of Nothing" (2009). In her newly released "Landing Gear," Pullinger tries her hand at writing about contemporary life: the banalities of Facebook, YouTube, video games and reality TV. Barring some awkward pacing, chronological annoyances and implausible events, the book successfully and thought-provokingly conveys the extent to which modern technology permeates our identities.

The novel began as an online "networked narrative" entitled "Flight Paths," on which Pullinger collaborated with Chris Joseph. It opens with the dramatic image of Yacub, a Pakistani man, falling from the sky straight into British wife and mother Harriet's parked car. We learn that Yacub has disembarked mid-flight from a plane's landing gear, where he stowed himself away in hopes of making it to the U.S. after escaping a labour camp in Dubai. Miraculously, perhaps overly so, he survives.

After piquing the reader's interest about Yacub and his fate, Pullinger frustratingly abandons the present for 150 pages of backstory. Yes, this backstory engages and entertains; it spans from Pakistan to Britain to Toronto and tells the interconnected stories of Yacub, Harriet, her husband Michael (who finds himself trapped in North America when an erupting volcano shuts down air traffic over Europe), their teenage son, Jack, and filmmaker, Emily, whose father has died of a heart attack. Yes, it addresses teen drug culture, middle-age ennui, the challenges of globalization, and the changing role of the media. But it seems difficult not to rush through the story of the past after Pullinger has set up such an exciting present. When the novel finally does return to Yacub and Harriet in the parking lot, the reader can breathe a sigh of relief and enjoy the rest of the profound story.

As she did in her first novel, Pullinger shows her talent for penning sharp and precise prose, the kind that lends a lightness to the narration. She constructs the book in short chapters that build momentum and tension while telling a tale of finding peace and meaning in a busy, plugged-in world.

The Language Hoax: Why the World Looks the Same in Any Language
The Language Hoax: Why the World Looks the Same in Any Language
by John H. McWhorter
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 21.95
32 used & new from CDN$ 13.62

4.0 out of 5 stars More Bookish Thoughts..., Aug. 12 2014
In the late 1930s, linguist Benjamin Lee Whorf theorized that the language we speak affects the way we both think and view the world. "The Language Hoax" presents John McWhorter's "manifesto" against this position; the author aims not only to itemize the empirical flaws of the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis but also to unveil its political dangers. McWhorter's slim but finely wrought volume argues that the exotification of speakers of non-Western languages perpetuates inequality.

McWhorter does not dispute that language and culture intersect; language obviously contains words and expressions for aspects of culture. Speakers of English, for example, use a single pronoun when addressing others yet, when speaking a language with politeness distinctions, such as German, one must use the right pronoun in conversation as dictated by cultural norms. This difference can tempt linguists to infer that speakers of different languages necessarily think differently about social organisation and relationships. However, McWhorter remains steadfast in his conclusion “that language’s effect on thought is distinctly subtle and, overall, minor”.

He illustrates his point with the frequently cited 2007 experiment on colour discrimination by cognitive scientist Jonathan Winawer and colleagues. The “Russian blues” study investigated whether the fact that two colours belong to two different linguistic categories (as with light and dark blue in Russian) can affect the speed with which subjects judge the colour difference. Though Russian speakers did have faster reaction times when discriminating two shades of blue, McWhorter points out that the 124-millisecond difference in reaction time hardly proves a difference in “the way Russians experience life”.

The problem, then, in the debate on linguistic relativity lies with the definition of thought. If understood solely as a cognitive process then yes, language can influence thought. But if thought denotes mental activity and its conceptual products, the linguistic relativity hypothesis cannot be validated empirically. Regardless, "The Language Hoax" provides a welcome antidote to Whorfian claims and carries the message that language does not dictate world views.

Rock Breaks Scissors: A Practical Guide to Outguessing and Outwitting Almost Everybody
Rock Breaks Scissors: A Practical Guide to Outguessing and Outwitting Almost Everybody
by William Poundstone
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 18.18
28 used & new from CDN$ 14.49

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars More Bookish Thoughts..., Aug. 10 2014
Pop psychology books like Malcolm Gladwell's "Outliers" (2008) fascinate readers with evidence that reality regularly contradicts common sense. Business and science writer William Poundstone's newest edition to the genre, "Rock Breaks Scissors," delivers somewhat useful advice for taking advantage of this axiom and provides a delightful and engaging read in the process.

At its heart, Poundstone's book demonstrates how to predict others' seemingly unpredictable choices. The author asserts that, "when people make arbitrary, random, or strategic choices, they fall into unconscious patterns that you can predict.” In the famous Rock Paper Scissors game, for example, most men throw rock first (the aggressive choice) whereas most women throw scissors. You can prime your opponent to throw rock at the start of a game by initiating play; most cornered competitors will throw rock. And reverse psychology can work wonders: announce what you’re going to throw and then surprise your competitor by.

In the area of multiple-choice tests, Poundstone asserts that success arises from thinking like a tester. True/false questions are more often true (56% of the time) as it takes more effort to invent a false statement. The second answer (b) in 4-option questions wins as most favoured (28% of the time) but in 5-option questions, (e) prevails 23% of the time. Though answers containing the words never, always, all or none are rarely correct, “none of the above” or “all of the above” are correct a shocking 52% of the time. Finally, you can narrow down options by picking the longest answers because true answers demand the most “qualifying language.”

Poundstone can't help improve your odds of winning the lottery but he does offer tips on getting the biggest payout possible. The key lies in picking unpopular numbers i.e. avoiding anything with 7 as well as the number 13. Unpopular numbers include those ending with 0, 8 or 9 and anything over 31 since many people use significant dates when selecting numbers. The more unpopular numbers you use, the less of a chance that you’ll have to share your pot if you win.

Though some sections of "Rock Breaks Scissors" seem more applicable to real life than others, the book ultimately fits nicely into the everything-you-thought-you-knew-is-wrong category.

The Contemporary Buttercream Bible: The Complete Practical Guide to Cake Decorating with Buttercream Icing
The Contemporary Buttercream Bible: The Complete Practical Guide to Cake Decorating with Buttercream Icing
by Valeri Valeriano
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 17.55
26 used & new from CDN$ 15.79

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars More Bookish Thoughts..., Aug. 7 2014
The women behind London's Queen of Hearts Couture Cakes, Valeri Valeriano and Christina Ong, have aptly named their new book, "The Contemporary Buttercream Bible." Indeed, this comprehensive "bible" showcases the impressiveness and versatility of buttercream and provides the home baker with tips, tricks and techniques to make truly beautiful cakes.

The book gives clear instruction and also features handy step-by-step photos to illustrate described methods, making said instructions even easier to follow. Valeriano and Ong teach a plethora of techniques, from piping and using a palette knife to stamping and stencilling. They guide readers through creating textures, patterns and even clever textile effects. Additionally, they share loads of ideas for embellishing your creations with sweets and candies.

With over 40 stunning projects, from simple cupcakes to three-tiered masterpieces, the book contains projects for every taste. Just make the basic buttercream recipe, flavour as desired and start piping spots, stripes, swirls and flowers. The possibilities are endless!

Where Do Diggers Sleep at Night?
Where Do Diggers Sleep at Night?
by Brianna Caplan Sayres
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 13.71
36 used & new from CDN$ 6.10

4.0 out of 5 stars Story Time Again..., Aug. 4 2014
“Where do garbage trucks sleep when they’re done collecting trash? / Do their dads sniff their load and say, ‘Pee-yew—time to take a bath’?” With just the right blend of low comedy, sweet notes and inclusive generosity, Brianna Caplan Sayres sings a variety of trucks off to dreamland in her debut book, "Where Do Diggers Sleep at Night?"

Using comforting couplets, Sayres eschews the notion of trucks as big, noisy, scary beasts and helps children identify with dump trucks, fire trucks, car transporters, garbage trucks and even monster trucks. Christian Slade’s accompanying artwork features vehicles with charming albeit goofy smiles and droopy eyes, and backdrops of both cities and towns under dusky blue skies. Despite its emphasis on heavy machinery, the book succeeds as a lullaby as the text and illustrations ultimately shift neatly, if predictably, into a little boy's room.

Proof for the 3-6 yr set that even the strongest trucks need rest after busy days of digging, loading and lifting.

Plain Simple Useful: The Essence of Conran Style
Plain Simple Useful: The Essence of Conran Style
by Terence Conran
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 24.44
36 used & new from CDN$ 21.07

5.0 out of 5 stars More Bookish Thoughts..., Aug. 2 2014
With more than fifty years' experience in the home interiors industry, Sir Terence Conran provides an invaluable guide to sophisticated style in his newest book, "Plain Simple Useful." As usual, he promotes his ethos that living spaces should look practical, pared-down and free from superficial decoration in order to feel modern and relaxing.

Examining the home one room at a time, Conran offers golden advice on everything from kitchen planning to choosing the perfect bed linen and shares tips on lighting, storage and display. Illustrations enhance this advice; the book's pictures show rooms that embody the "simple" life and contain modern design classics such as the Anglepoise lamp and Wishbone chair.

To top it off, the book also features woodworking projects for home handymen, supporting Conran’s claim that good organization lies at the heart of every well-designed home.

The Grapes of Math: How Life Reflects Numbers and Numbers Reflect Life
The Grapes of Math: How Life Reflects Numbers and Numbers Reflect Life
by Alex Bellos
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 20.65
6 used & new from CDN$ 14.15

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars More Bookish Thoughts..., Aug. 2 2014
Warning: the perfection of a circle can cause chills of excitement. Exponents have the power (pun intended) to blow your mind. Understanding calculus beats laughing at a great joke. Not convinced? Then ignore its groan-inducing title and pick up "The Grapes of Math," a fascinating, first-rate survey of the world of mathematics.

British mathematician and philosopher Alex Bellos argues not only that doing math results in aesthetic delight but also that math explains the workings of our entire world. He opens with chapters that explain our deep-seated feelings about numbers: why everyone chooses seven as a favourite, why one represents the masculine "yang" and two the feminine "yin." He then intriguingly discusses Benford's law: the abundance of numbers beginning with one or two and the paucity of higher initial digits in newspaper stories, populations, stock prices etc.

Moving on to geometry, algebra, calculus, the laws of logic and the nature of proofs, Bellos always shows how an esoteric discovery has practical applications. For example, the S segment of a curve, called the clothoid, serves as the transition path used by trains when moving from a straight to a circular path in order to avoid jolting passengers. Certainly, the mathematical principles can grow too complex for the non-expert; in these cases, Bellos advises skipping to the beginning of the next chapter, where he always starts with a clean slate and elementary concepts. In this way, the author guides readers through such marvels as pi and the exponential constant e, noting how often mathematicians deplored new concepts like imaginary numbers and infinity.

Aside from providing a great read for the intellectually curious, the book provides charming sketches of notables like the genius Leonhard Euler, the dysfunctional Bernoullis and the bitter rivals Leibniz and Newton who feuded over who invented calculus. Overall a fantastic book to stretch the brain and have fun doing so.

My Big Truck Book
My Big Truck Book
by Ticktock
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 9.92
26 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars Story Time Again..., July 29 2014
This review is from: My Big Truck Book (Hardcover)
The always-impressive TickTock non-fiction books cover a diverse range of subjects from fast cars to fleet of foot animals. Here, "My Big Truck Book" features whopping, diesel-chugging trucks, construction cranes and roaring emergency vehicles.

This nicely presented, well-made book will please boys and girls who like their vehicles on the large side. The glossy photo spreads include facts about each vehicle class; both children and adults will discover, for example that construction workers use dynamite to free up all the dried-on concrete inside the mixing bay of a cement mixer.

If you and your kids find it exciting that monster trucks go through four or more engine changes a year, check this book out.

Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think
Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think
by Brian Wansink Ph.D.
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: CDN$ 8.99
11 used & new from CDN$ 3.22

4.0 out of 5 stars More Bookish Thoughts..., July 29 2014
Stanford-educated director of the Cornell Food and Brand Lab Dr. Brian Wansink knows food. Moreover, he knows the psychology of food: why we eat what we eat and why what we eat sometimes seems out of our control. In his amazing, entertaining and often scary book, Wansink navigates through some of the 200 food choices we make each day and illuminates the ease with which we mindlessly consume extra calories.

"Mindless Eating" shares the results of many fascinating modern food experiments: people will eat more popcorn, even if it’s stale and tasteless, when they receive it in larger buckets; people think wine tastes better when it boasts a fancier label or comes ostensibly from California as opposed to North Dakota; that, in pitch darkness, people eating chocolate-flavoured yogurt can be tricked into thinking it tastes like strawberry, and that people will eat fewer candies when they have to walk to the dish compared to when the dish sits within easy reach.

Taking these results outside the laboratory, Wansink can help a person "mindlessly" lose about 20 lbs per year. The key lies in eliminating the 100-200 calories a day that he calls the "mindless margin." How? Use smaller plates and tall, skinny glasses. Put all food on a plate instead of eating out of a box or bowl. Put junk foods somewhere inconvenient. Eat slowly and don’t multitask while you’re eating.

Even those convinced they know better can fall victim to mindless eating. Wansink finishes his book with a simple plan anyone can use to lose weight mindlessly as well as a description of the most common mindless eating patterns. This wise and interesting book proves that "the best diet is the one you don't know you're on."

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