Cool Things to Read if You’re Paying Absolutely No Attention at All to the Olympics

August 2, 2012 | Tita

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So maybe I’m the only one, but this whole Olympic hoopla has started to wear a bit thin for me. I did watch bits of the opening ceremony (and was aghast to find that I had tears in my eyes -– tears!! –- at one point) but now that they’re jumping and running and swimming and wrestling, my attention has wandered to other random pursuits. Here’s what I’m reading instead.

On top of my full-time job, my family and my animals, I’ve been trying to learn Spanish to assist with my lifelong obsession with travel in Latin America. The Everything Learning Spanish Book: Speak, Write and Understand Basic Spanish in No Time by Frank Zambrano (2002) isn’t the best system I’ve ever seen (think of the wide range Oxford learning CDs or the Library’s Mango language app here) but this book does tidily pull all the basics together in one place, so it gets points for that (watch this space for a more comprehensive review of the Library’s language learning products down the road).

You don’t have to volunteer for High Park to know what a gem Toronto has in its black oak savannah (and you don’t have to know what black oak savannah is to appreciate this book). Rare Plants of the Endangered High Park Black Oak Savannah: A Volunteer Stewardship Program Handbook (High Park Initiatives, 2000) is a short field guide of the main endangered plant species in High Park. The booklet also offers charming line drawings and historical information about what makes these plants unique. You’ll never look at a weed the same way again. 100countries

Travel junkie alert –- be careful not to drool on the lovely colour photographs in this awe-inspiring book of ideas from the people who first showed us that there was a whole world out there that wasn’t  Florida or Europe. 100 Countries, 5000 Ideas: Where to Go, When to Go, What to See, What to Do
(National Geographic Society, 2011)  offers you themed destinations (cruising, spas, culture); alphabetical country overviews; and tables organized by lifestyle, interests, cost etc. making this title totally drool-worthy for planning your next vacay or just fantasizing about it.

Sometimes I want to travel to far-away places to escape Canadian winters and other times I want to experience dramatically different cultures and spaces. But on most long summer weekends, all I want to do is grab my man, my dog and my tent, and head north until we reach a canoe and a deserted lake. It is for this third type of adventure that Another Fork in the Trail: Vegetarian and Vegan Recipes for the Backcountry by Laurie Ann March (2011) was created, after the original Fork in the Road, but this one features only animal-friendly foods. Just because one is backcountry camping (and is sans cooler, electricity and other urban foolishness) does not mean one has to live on dry crackers and granola. Make sure you pack this book along with your vegetarian marshmallows.
So let’s see if I’ve addressed all my fav Olympic diversions – words and language (check); plants (check); travel (check); food (check); next up has gotta be cats (obvi). Homer’s Odyssey: A Fearless Feline Tale or How I Learned about Love and Life with a Blind Wonder Cat by Gwen Cooper (2009) has to be the Book That Made Me Cry More than Any Other. I loved this book. I foster kittens for Toronto Cat Rescue and I know how hard it is to find good homes for black cats... but a blind, black cat?? Bring your own Kleenex and be prepared to head to your local animal shelter to add to your family immediately following completion of this book. 

I hear the Olympic closing ceremonies might also be worth a tear or two (depending, of course, on how Canada does throughout) but until then, I’ll be reading, hiking, canoeing, practising my Spanish and playing with kittens natch.