The Sherlock Holmes Companion

The Sherlock Holmes CompanionThe Sherlock Holmes Companion
by Michael Hardwick, Mollie Hardwick
Rating: ★★★★
isbn: 0517219166
Publication Date: January 1, 1962
Pages: 262
Genre: Books and Reading, Reference
Publisher: Bramhall House

One of my acquisitions from my visit to the Berkelouw Book Barn, this isn’t really a sit-down-and-read book, so much as it’s a handy reference of characters, story plots and a selection of quotes (which I found to be a mediocre selection, at best).  But there are two ‘chapters’ at the back that offer small biographies of Sherlock and Holmes, and one of Conan Doyle himself.

The Sherlock/Watson biographies about what you’d expect, although I’m constantly amazed, whenever I read these types of things, how much presumption is done on the part of the fans who write them, no matter how learned those fans are.  I can never get through one without periodic outbursts along the lines of give me a break!.  While this one was no different, I was, at least relieved to see that the authors dismissed the nonsense that Holmes, pre-Watson, had had a great love that died, leaving him unable to ever love again.

The chapter of Conan Doyle’s mini-biography was concise but packed with his life, including quite a few facts I’d yet to read about (I have Hesketh’s biography waiting for me on my TBR, and one of these days I’m going to get ahold of Dickson Carr’s ACD bio too).   ACD was not only an author of mythical skill, he was a truely good man who fought for pretty much any cause that needed fighting for, and a prescient man, correctly forseeing what a war with submarines and advanced weaponry would mean for the crumbling empire soon the enter WWI.  That question that makes the rounds every once in awhile: who would you go back in time to speak with, if you could?  Without question, it would be Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, every time.

Schott’s Original Miscellany

Schott's Original MiscellanySchott's Original Miscellany
by Ben Schott
Rating: ★★★★★
isbn: 9780747563204
Publication Date: November 4, 2002
Pages: 159
Genre: Non-fiction, Reference
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing


I love these types of books.  I picked it up on a whim at a neighborhood tag sale, and when I got home, and opened it, I was giddy with the eccentric variety of useful facts contained within.

A page of English Public School plan, the solution to the Hampton Court Maze, English/Continental glove size conversions … all on two facing pages.  Then there’s seriously useful stuff, like the molecular structure of caffeine, the Glasgow coma scale, and how to read Hazmat warning plates.  And the generally useful stuff, like an egg sizes scales (both traditional and modern), clothing care symbols, and clothing/shoe size conversions between British, American and European standards.

MT and I laughed at some of the silly things it includes too, like Scottish clan war cries, WWII Postal Acronyms and the degrees of Freemasonry.

I delight in collections of useful and less-than-useful information; as this book has a bit of both, it’s a gem of a find for me and my personal library.  And of course, I’m curious about whether or not there’s an updated edition.

What Cats Want

What Cats Want: An Illustrated Guide for Truly Understanding Your CatWhat Cats Want: An Illustrated Guide for Truly Understanding Your Cat
by Yuki Hattori
Rating: ★★★★
isbn: 9781526623065
Publication Date: November 3, 2020
Pages: 160
Genre: Non-fiction, Reference
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing


MT found this last year and bought it for our nieces who were adopting a couple of kittens.  He liked it so much he bought a copy for our library too.  It’s a very easy read, with small bits of information about every facet of raising happy cats.

I’d say the book is far more suited to those like my nieces, for whom having cats in the family is a wholly new experience.  Veteran cat-slaves will find a lot of what they already know here, although I really appreciated the charts showing the different meanings of cat expressions and tail positions.  The chart of differing meows was harder to interpret.  I’d also have liked the book to address more pragmatically the issue of different foods for different stages of life (we have two “senior” cats and one kitten, all of whom think they should be eating out of all the bowls – how to seperate diets?).

But for anyone I knew who was getting their first cat companion, or even their second or third, this is the book I’d give them as an excellent introduction.  Lots of information easily and attractively presented.

Finding Australian Birds

Finding Australian Birds: A Field Guide to Birding LocationsFinding Australian Birds: A Field Guide to Birding Locations
by Rohan Clarke, Tim Dolby
Rating: ★★★★★
Publication Date: May 15, 2014
Pages: 602
Genre: Natural Science, Reference
Publisher: CSIRO Publishing


In the category of “books likely to only appeal to the .01%”, I give you this solid gold publication.  As I live in Australia for now, and I enjoy stalking its amazing birds with my camera (purely amateur hour and likely even more entertaining for the birds than it is for me), and I’m rapidly running out of ‘new-to-me’ birds in my area, I grabbed this on a whim when I saw it at my local bookstore.

It exceeded my expectations, to say the least.  Broken down by state, then by region, complete with common birds, not-so-common birds, descriptions, maps and suggested road trips to bird hotspots!  I fell in love with this feature, as it includes day trips, weekend trips and dedicated bird-stalking 10 day trips.  It then capped itself with a cherry on top by highlighting areas that also included interesting non-birding things to do, for those unfortunate spouses such as mine, who like birds well enough, but don’t find the need to stalk them, yet still find themselves dragged along for the ride.

I wish I could say this was part of a larger, international publication series, so I could urge my other bird loving friends to find their locals edition, but it’s published by CSIRO, which stands for The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation; it’s an Australian Government agency responsible for scientific research, so unlikely to part of a greater publishing series.  But if anyone reading this is ever in Australia and intends to add some birds to their lists, you can’t go wrong picking this book up beforehand.