14 November 2010

Elephantoms: Tracking the Elephant (Lyall Watson)

Available at all good bookstores, courtesy of Penguin Books South Africa.

Lyall Watson is a well-known naturalist who lives in Ireland, but his youth was spent in South Africa, and this is where his lifelong fascination with elephants began. Elephantoms wanders across diverse terrain, drawing on history, anthropology, evolutionary theory and the author's experiences to illuminate the elephant world. Colourful anecdotes from animal trackers and wildlife researchers alternate with tidbits on elephant biology (the trunk can lift more than 450 kilograms) and behaviour (elephants mourn their dead: burying and revisiting the bones of family members). And above all, you close this book with a strong sense of having evolved as a human being. I absolutely loved it. And it's in my top 10. For life.


Theodore Boone: Kid Lawyer (John Grisham)

Available at all good bookstores.

I don't usually review tween fiction, but this is John Grisham...

After years and years and books and books, John Grisham is paying attention to the younger set with his new legal thriller, Theodore Boone: Kid Lawyer, targeted at readers aged 9 to 12. The only child of two busy lawyers — one a divorce attorney, the other specialising in real estate — Boone has a dog named Judge and spends his free time at the local courthouse. His interest in the law is so well-known that classmates seek him out for legal advice and judges deign to speak to him. Boone even scores prime seats at the local murder trial. But then he is approached with evidence that could affect the trial's outcome. And this dilemma results in some ethical wrestling for Boone, who must decide between betraying a confidence and letting a guilty man walk. Absolutely superb for tweens!


Skinny Bitch (Rory Freedman & Kim Barnouin)

Available at all good bookstores.

Show me a woman who hasn't been on a diet. (And I'll beat her to death with a box of Pick 'n Pay assorted glazed doughnuts.) As a woman who's been on every diet there is, from Atkins to Zone, over 20 years or so, there was no way I wasn't going to read a book positioned as 'A no-nonsense, tough-love guide for savvy girls who want to stop eating crap and start looking fabulous!'

Especially when the blurb reads, 'If you can't take one more day of self-loathing, you're ready to hear the truth: You cannot keep shoveling the same crap into your mouth every day and expect to lose weight.'

How divine? Skinny Bitch. A book that tells it like it is. A book containing the real truth about carbs, sugar, aspartame, meat, dairy and a whole lot of other things... A book that cuts to the chase, doesn't encourage completely unfeasible bullshit like on-again/off-again fasting, 350 supplements a day or cutting out major food groups... Woah, hang on. I'm getting ahead of myself here...

Because just after Chapter 3, Skinny Bitch reveals itself as a skinny piece of thinly veiled propaganda for the vegan movement. Complete with extensive reference to dead, rotting, decomposing flesh.

It also promotes not eating breakfast, lunch or dinner until you're absolutely starving, eating a lot of boring green things that taste like earth, fasting once a month and removing all meat, chicken, fish and dairy from your diet, because they make you fat, constipated, bloated and really, really ill.

So, so much for Skinny Bitch. There's a lot of what looks like good research in there, and some of it even sounds perfectly logical, but I'm skeptical. Deeply so. And unless you've been wanting to go vegan for ages, are teetering on the edge of the cliff and would like that last convincing shove, avoid this book at all costs. (You can also probably avoid sugar, aspartame and fatty meat without doing yourself too much damage. But I guess you knew that.)