Category Archives: Book Reviews

Two Books That Will Change Your Life – For Reals!

I know, we’ve heard this so many times….”this cake recipe will change your life”, “this job will change your life”, “yoga will change your life”.  Well, the cake recipe only changed my thighs.  The job became the bane of my life.  And the yoga…actually, the yoga did change my life, but that’s for a different post.  That’s why I only have two books on this list, because they actually did rock my world.

1.  The Food Revolution: How Your Diet Can Help Save Your Life and Our World :  John Robbins

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I read this book on a boring Sunday.  I really could not have cared less about diet or food, having always eaten whatever I wanted.  I thought vegetables were something rabbits ate and used to tease my vegetarian friends (yes, I was one of those people who I complained about in a previous post). Suffice to say, this was not 50 Shades of Grey – there were no titillating tales, there was no tabloid journalism.

But this book completely changed my relationship to animals and to food.  His book was indeed ‘revolutionary’ at the time it was published.  Since then, there have been countless other books about factory farming.   But in this book, the author gently introduces you to these practices without inundating you with horror stories. He writes at a pace that allows you to digest the information he’s presenting and he gives clear guidelines as to what you can do if you are affected by the book.

John Robbins is actually the son of the man who opened Baskin Robbins, the huge ice-cream chain.  He was set up to be the heir to this fortune, until he understood what actually goes on in the dairy industry.  His book is therefore very personal, and written from the heart, whilst being meticulously researched. I turned vegan that Sunday, despite being a card-carrying meat-eater and ice-cream-lover the day before.  I hate people who preach about their lifestyle choices, so I won’t do that here.  But if this book simply inspires you to have another look at what you’re eating, that’s good enough.

2.  The Other End of the Leash : Patricia B. McConnell

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Patricia McConnell has an incredible writing ‘voice’.  Her humanity, kindness and humour shines in every page of this book.    This is not some fluffy ‘dog whisperer’ type of book.  She really knows her stuff.

I came to this book after spending hundreds of dollars on ‘dog psychologists’, ‘behaviourists’, etc.  I felt that I was getting all these rules and advice about how to train my dogs (some of which was good advice), but my relationship with my dogs was suffering as I wanted to force them to ‘heel’ or whatever.  I had a particularly distasteful experience when I went to a famed dog training school.  The teachers forced us to use ‘choker chains’ to teach our dogs to walk, even though they were perfectly capable of walking on normal collars.  The military-style teacher barked at my husband “Pull the chain harder, you’re too soft on your dogs!” whilst the dogs looked terrified.  We walked out of that class halfway in.

 Don’t get me wrong, there are some fantastic trainers around, but we often ignore our gut feeling about some of the dodgy ones because they are the ‘experts’.    This book is all about how to maintain and enhance your relationship with your dog, even if your dog can’t do a perfect ‘heel’.  Again, it’s a very personal book, written with a great deal of passion.

What books have changed your life?  

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Book Review: The Lost Dogs – Jim Gorant

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I mentioned breed-ism yesterday.   The book that really made me think about it was The Lost Dogs.  This was a gut-wrenching read. I cried through most of it, and images from that book still haunt me. In a movie you can avert your gaze, but with the book I had to keep reading.

The Lost Dogs follows the case of Michael Vick’s dog-fighting ring, Bad Newz Kennels, and the passionate fight to bring him to justice. The many beautiful dogs in the book are described with such clarity and warmth that you feel you know them.  The journalists have thoroughly researched this book and I think they provided a balanced account.  I love that it’s not too ‘schmaltzy’; the horrors described within are emotive enough that there is no need for purple prose.  The impact is immediate.

This is the book that made me research ‘pit bulls’, puppy mills and ‘backyard breeders’.  ‘Pit bull’ actually refers to a collection of dogs, including American Pit Bull Terriers, American Staffordshire Terriers, and mixes of the two. I was surprised to learn that ‘pit bulls’ actually rated higher in temperament testing than golden retrievers (American Temperament Test Society 2010).  The ‘vicious’ pitbulls we read about in the media are often the result of mistreatment rather than their innate temperament.  Every time one of these stories comes up, it is sensationalised in the media; many people react to this type of fear-mongering by wanting stricter laws. But the evidence is that breed-specific legislation does not work. There are umpteen factors that can contribute to an aggressive dog – for instance, lack of early socialisation and training.  It seems more prudent to start with educating people on good socialisation of their dogs and providing excellent dog training facilities.

Puppy mills and backyard breeders deserve an article of their own, but are just another example of rampant consumerism in modern-day society.  Greed is what fuels these ‘organisations’; but I believe that most people are inherently kind and an educated public will wake up to the horrors of these practices.

There is a lot of information on the internet, but some websites I have personally found useful in learning about the above have been:

http://www.oscarslaw.org

http://www.badrap.org

http://www.nopuppymillscanada.ca (covers backyard breeders, puppy mills and breed-specific legislation)

Have a read and make up your own mind about these issues.

Have you read this book? What did you think? Is there something else that has inspired you  to learn about the plight of animals?

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