Book snaps for Christmas Shopping

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A pile of books landed on my desk recently which would fall into the category of good reads and great Christmas presents. I’ve done a quick snapshot of each one to whet your appetite for the Christmas shopping season.

Animal Tales Volume 1
GR von Wielligh
Publisher: Protea Boekhuis
ISBN: 9781415201237
Price: R125.95

First, for children, is this delightful story book. The late GR von Wielligh collated tales from the Khoikhoi storytellers and his greatest wish was that these would entertain children and encourage them to read more. Dale Blankenaar has taken these tales and made them come to life in illustrations which are part Beatrix Potter, part Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland. It is a surprise, however, that the African characters are dressed in rather Anglophile clothes, but in a world where you’re anthropomorphising animals, I suppose it doesn’t matter if a talking lion is wearing a tweed jacket. Whatever his stylistic choices of the drawings, they don’t detract from the pleasure children will get from this book. Even the cover has a bite taken out of it to ensure that children will know there are meaty stories inside.

The stories range from tales about the big battle which took place between walking and flying animals, the reason animals have particular fur or plumage, an event when the insects and birds have a battle, how the insects and birds chose their kings, and many more. In terms of reference, this book is a cross between Aesop’s Fables and Rudyard Kipling’s Just So Stories. Whatever its genre, I know that if I were shopping for young children aged 5 to 11, I’d put this book at the top of my list.

Not the Movie of the Week
Shaun de Waal
Publisher: Tafelberg
ISBN: 9780624051664
Price: R144.95

The Mail & Guardian’s chief film critic has put together his reviews over the past few years in this collection of essays. De Waal’s knowledge of film lends weight to his reviews, some of which are in-depth and others which are shorter. It’s divided into sections to encourage readers to dip into the book to read about their favourite movie.

Love and Freedom/South Africa on Screen - films such as District 9 and Disgrace are featured here among the less salubrious Poena is Koning and Bakgat.

A Family Affair/Dearly Beloved – films like Monsoon Wedding, Requiem for a Dream and Volver.

In the Mood for Love/Sex and the Body – films such as one of my favourites, Y Tu Mama Tambien, Pedro Almodovar’s explicit Bad Education, and the no-holds-barred Shortbus.

  • Heavens Above/God, fantasy and the lash – films like The Passion of the Christ, Bruce Almighty and Lord of the Rings. I’m not too sure why the Coen brothers’ post-Depression masterpiece O Brother where Art Thou? is included here, but I’m not going to argue the point.
  • The Dark Side/Hollywood vs the World – films such as American Psycho, Shutter Island and Quantum of Solace.
  • Period Pieces/War, history, politics and the future – films such as Pearl Harbour, Apocalypto, Tears of the Sun and The Quiet American.

The book provides a list at the end of De Waal’s favourite directors and gives a brief summation of each one’s career. No women feature here, so obviously no women merit his respect in the field. There is also a list of his top “50 Must See Movies” which is interesting.

Although not every movie made over the past two decades is covered, there is a thorough synopsis of each film as well as De Waal’s opinion on the quality of each one. Some of the films are quite old, but deserve to be in this collection as they will become classics. De Waal’s writing is articulate and insightful. His knowledge of the history of film is comprehensive and Not the Movie of the Week makes a good companion to every film buff’s bookshelf. This is one I’m keeping for myself.

The green line: a South African guide to green living
Michelle and Riaan Garforth-Venter
Publisher: LAPA Uitgewers
ISBN: 9780799349559
Price: R258.95

If you’re a committed greenie, or have a committed greenie on your shopping list, this is the book for you. Harnessing the popularity of television personalities Michelle and Riaan Garforth-Venter this book has been co-written with Rob Marsh and Annamarie Steenekamp. This is a lovely coffee-table book with titbits of information and pictures adorning each page. It’s designed to be flipped through or browsed through at a more leisurely pace. It contains much useful greenie information. There is a glossary of most commonly used terms, interesting facts about aluminium foil recycling and landfill sites, as well as astounding statistics. Did you know that more than 42 million cubic metres of general waste is generated every year? Approximately 95 percent of urban waste is disposed of in landfills and the average person generates one kilogram of waste a day.

There are also tips on how to create your own waste removal system (with a branded composting system) as well as a how to create a wormery. Riaan gives you his own tips on these personal methods of waste disposal. There are tips for using organic cleaners which aren’t quite as damaging to the environment as the harsh chemical products stocked by supermarkets. Bicarbonate of soda, for example, can be used to remove stains from tiles, glass, over doors and porcelain. It can also remove grease stains from carpets. Salt is useful for removing tea stains in tea cups. (I’m definitely using that one. Can’t bear the taste of bleach in my tea!) And vodka, if you can manage to part with it and not use it for your sundowners, is very useful for removing a plaster painlessly, cleaning your eye-glasses, prolonging the life of razors and removing red-wine stains, and can even become a tincture to treat aches and pains, among others things. Somehow I think it might be a bit pricey to be used as a household commodity.

There is also a list of South Africa’s most endangered animals. It’s a depressing list, and since publication the critically endangered black rhino has officially been declared extinct. If reading this book helps even one person think twice about protecting especially the animal kingdom, then I’d recommend it highly.

The Write Stuff – The style guide with a difference
DJ Dykman, JDU Geldenhuys and EE Viljoen-Smook
Publisher: Pharos
ISBN: 9781868901210
Price: R142.95

This book is the perfect present for any writer, editor or proofreader in your sphere. It’s a good gift for yourself too, if you’d like to refresh your knowledge of the finer points of English grammar. The Write Stuff is also essential for postgraduate students, as they need to be pitch-perfect when writing their theses. It’s an elegant little book which is divided into neat sections for easy use.

The Write Stuff covers the most commonly made mistakes. The use of the apostrophe is explained and I can only pray that the daily sins against this poor punctuation mark might be lessened if more people read this book. My eyes bleed every time I see a sign like “Potatoe’s for sale”. There are many of them.

You can finally find out when it is the right time to use a hyphen – and there is one! – as well as the correct way to use dashes. This guide finally put to rest my slight confusion about using ellipsis … oh dear. I use ellipsis quite often to create a certain style usually when writing a character’s dialogue. To my horror I’ve discovered I haven’t been using it properly. Instead of leaving a space after the final word before the ellipsis, I’d run it on straight after the word, like this… Not correct! There should be a space after the word, like this … Now you know.

Written in a light, easy to digest style, the tips are simply explained and quick to find. It’s a brilliant guide which I’m sure I’ll keep on my desk to refer to whenever I need a reminder of when to use “who” and when to use “whom”. After all, one can’t be too careful.


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