Monday, 24 December 2018

Reading Challenge Week 51 (and 52) - Books from there and here.

This is the last post for the 52 Book Reading Challenge from 2018! My, hasn't the year been action packed? There's nothing quite like a reading challenge to remind you that you don't have time to read anything, don't you think?

Well, the last two weeks for the year have been rolled together for expediency, and so we present our books for the last two challenges. There aren't many of us around at the moment, but we've managed to rustle up a few reviews.

51. A book set in a country you’ve never been to

Louise Cottrell read Alanna: The first adventure (Song of the Lioness) by Tamora Pierce.

A country I’ve never been to? Well, I’ve never been to Tortall. Created by Tamora Pierce way back in 1983, the Tortall Universe has been one of my favourite fantasy realms since I was 12. Alanna: The first adventure was recently named one of the 100 best fantasy novels of all time. This book (C810 PIE) is the beginning of the Tortall universe, following the adventures of Alanna who decides she wants to be a knight, not a lady, and sets off disguised as a boy to fulfil her dreams. As another reviewer noted “Alanna is also one of Pierce’s most compelling protagonists: stubborn, Gifted, and unwilling to let the world dictate who she should become.”

Swords, magic, knights, political intrigue, and a bit of a love story. What’s not to enjoy? 

Brenda Carter read Out of Africa by Isak Dinesan

“I had a farm in Africa, at the foot of the Ngong Hills.” 

So begins Out of Africa, the memoir of Danish writer Isak Dinesan (whose real name is Baroness Karen Christenze von Blixen-Finecke or Karen Blixen). I have been to neither Denmark nor Africa but Dinesan’s evocative descriptions of Africa between 1914 and 1931 make me feel as though I have.

Karen Blixen left her homeland to manage a coffee plantation in Kenya and stayed there until it became obvious that growing coffee at that altitude was not economically viable.  Blixen had a deep connection to and affection for Africa. This comes through loud and clear in both the detail and warmth with which she recalls her experiences and her relationships with the indigenous people with whom she lived and worked.

Blixen was fortunate to experience Kenya during a period when many European settlers regarded it as a ‘timeless paradise’. She describes the highlands as “the Happy Hunting Grounds…the pioneers lived in guileless harmony with the children of the land”. Reminiscences of Africa’s beauty are counterpoised with a strong sense of loss – of the farm, close friends and of Kenya as it was when she arrived, replaced by aggressive agricultural development and unsustainable hunting.

Dinesan’s talent as a storyteller makes this a highly enjoyable read, despite the fact that English was not her first language. You can find it on the shelf at 967.62 DIN.

Sharon Bryan read Ojibway Heritage, by Basil Johnston.

Ever since I first read The Song of Hiawatha, by Henry Longfellow, I’ve longed to visit “the land of the Ojibways ... [and] the land of the Dacotahs ... the mountains moors and fenlands where the heron (the Shuh-shuh-gah) feeds among the reeds and rushes".

The “land of the Ojibways” is around the Great Lakes area of North America (Ontario in Canada and Michigan in the USA) and some of the plains areas throughout Ontario and Manitoba, with a bit of Minnesota thrown in for good measure.  Basil Johnston was one of the first people (who wasn’t a white 19th Century poet) to write about the religio-cultural world of the Ojibway, and this book, from 1976, is an absolute gem. I’ve been interested in the Ojibway since Longfellow introduced me to them, but through this book I’ve fallen in love with their view of the universe. 

Johnston’s book (299.7 JOH) chops and changes between explaining the Ojibway religion and telling stories (or parables) from the culture. It’s a bit discombobulating at first, if you’re used to a more linear structure or a book that’s one thing or another, but eventually you fall in with the rhythms of the book. It’s one of my favourite books from this year’s challenge.

52. A book set in the place you live today

Louise Cottrell read Doreen by C.J. Dennis.

Okay, this one was stretching the implied boundaries, but ‘Australia’ is certainly a place I live today, though I must admit if I hadn’t found something I liked I was eyeing off ‘planet Earth’ and ‘the Universe’ as potential ‘places’. Doreen (820A DEN 1B DOR) is a book(let) of poetry containing 4 poems within its 23 pages. The only thing strenuous about it is getting used to the way C.J. Dennis writes the character’s accents.

As it says on the dust jacket, "It 'contains more married love to the square inch than anything I ever read,' wrote E. V. Lucas when Doreen was first published in 1917.” Basically, the Sentimental Bloke and his Doreen have been happily married for 6 years, have a child, and spend their time arguing, making up and looking after each other, in 4 poems that made me snort, giggle, and run around the office telling everyone to “read this!”

Oh, and apparently ‘spotted dog’ is another name for ‘spotted dick’ which is a type of English pudding. Just in case you read the poem and are worried he’s eating an actual dog.

Brenda Carter read Tropical Walking Tracks: Cairns and Kuranda by Kym Dungey and Jane Whytlaw

Now that the Christmas break is in full swing, it’s a good time to get out and enjoy the beautiful surroundings of the Far North. The library can help with Tropical Walking Tracks (919.43604 DUN), a clear and simple guide to the best areas to explore in the Cairns region.

Each walk contains a description, map, difficulty grading and approximate duration. The tracks are varied and include bush tracks, disused forestry roads, paved paths and boardwalks, many passing through rainforest or open eucalypt woodland.

The book includes a handy Day Trip Check List with essential and recommended items to take and precautions to be aware of. It’s a short, light, no-frills guide with all you need for lots of enjoyable excursions.

I could have reviewed this book for Week 46, but I wanted to save it for the grand finale.

Trisha Fielding is a local historian who spends a lot of her time hanging around libraries and archives in Townsville (as well as the "big guns", like the State Library). She has spent so much time hanging around libraries, in fact, that we thought we'd better hire her. She's now one of our Special Collections Officers.

This book (994.36 FIE) is a collection of stories from Townsville's history. These aren't the dry "and in 1889 Frederick Hubertsford officially opened the Blah Blah" kind of stories we often find in local history books. These are all stories that would make fine "pub" conversations. You can be that person who sits next to someone at a bar and says "you know that lighthouse outside the Maritime Museum? It used to be on Bay Rock. Turns out the last lighthouse keeper was lost at sea - they never found his body. Left behind a wife and five kids - and all because the duffers in the coastguard couldn't figure out that fifteen signal fires and a bunch of flags means 'send help'!"

If you ever find yourself sitting next to Trisha in a pub, buy her a drink and ask her to tell you a yarn. She knows a few good stories. Or you could just buy her book, I guess, she'd probably like that, too. It's available in a number of local bookshops.

Friday, 21 December 2018

Literary Gifts

Time Turner - CCO
It may be a little close to order Christmas gifts online but it's handy to know there are lots of places to find the perfect gift for your literary friends or yourself. Whether you're interested in books and stationery, clothing and accessories, homewares, prints, bags or jewellery, these websites will inspire and delight:

Book Geek
Book Geek is an Australian-based company offering an eclectic, hand-picked range of beautiful gifts for all book-lovers from a variety of sources. You can browse by product type, theme, author or title. Best of all, they are based in Queensland.

Paper Parrot
This site was developed by a retired bookseller (Anne Hutton who owned and ran Electric Shadows Bookshop in Canberra for 24 years). Paper Parrot sells beautiful and unusual stationery books and gifts, with an emphasis on Australian art.

The Literary Gift Company
The Literary Gift Company is a British company, founded in 2009 by Dani Hall, a former bookseller and bookshop manager. You may have to wait a little longer for delivery but the range is second to none.

Happy browsing!

Tuesday, 18 December 2018

52 Book Challenge - Week 51 (and 52)

Okay, just for expediency (and because we close for the year at 12pm next Monday) we're going to announce the last two weeks' challenges at the same time.

It has been a fun ride, trying to cram 52 books into our year with the aid of this challenge, and we've enjoyed it (we hope you have too), and we have something "interesting" planned for 2019, just to keep the happy reading times going. We'll announce that at the beginning of January.

But, for now, let's take home the year with a matching set:

51. A book set in a country you’ve never been to
52. A book set in the place you live today

Sorry, gang, no advice for how to search for these two. You know where you are, and you know where you've been. At least, we hope so.

But, you know, "country" and "place" can be open for interpretation, so have fun with this. It is the "silly" season after all...

Have you missed out on hearing about the 52 Book Challenge? Catch up here.

Reading Challenge Week 50 - A book by an author you haven’t read before.

The best part of any Reading Challenge or assignment is when you get to discover something new. New genres, new stories, new authors... It's all good.

So this week's challenge (a challenge we think is so good we're going to do something very special with it in 2019) was to read a book by an author you've never read before. We hope you found something new and exciting and different - even if it was something that has been around for ages.

Scott Dale read Carpentaria by Alexis Wright.

With on-and-off-and-on Owen (the tropical cyclone) out there in the Gulf of Carpentaria this week, it seemed a good time to finally take a look at Carpentaria by Alexis Wright (820A WRI(A) 1C CAR). I’ve been wanting to read this book for a long time and it’s the first of Alexis Wright’s books that I’ve read. This is an epic book and it does have a cyclone feature in the story.

Set in a fictional town of Desperance on the Gulf of Carpentaria, Wright takes us on an amazing journey and introduces us to some remarkable characters. This is not a straight narrative. Histories converge; the book’s present is connected to all times, to stories from the past and those happening now. And it is an exhilarating read.

There are moments of real tension and action as Will Phantom battles the mining corporation, dodging their traps, and fighting power with power. There are so many amazing moments in this book. Normal Phantom’s journey at sea with the storms is mesmerizing, as is Elias Smith’s appearance from the ocean, walking in to town from the sea with no past. There are corrupt police and a murderous mayor, a barman in love with a mermaid trapped in the timber of his bar, and then there’s Mozzie Fishman, and his spiritual wanderings.

This is a novel worth spending some time with. It’s unlike anything I’ve read before. I really recommend it.

I try always to appear positive/happy with anything attached to my real name.

How would you respond to this in a questionnaire?

In The Happiness Effect (ebook), the authors discover that 73% of American college students answered ‘yes’. They termed this phenomenon the “Happiness Effect”.

Because young people feel so pressured to post happy things on social media, most of what everyone sees on social media from their peers are happy things; as a result, they often feel inferior because they aren’t actually happy all the time. The book explores themes that emerge from this larger issue, including discussions of Facebook, Snapchat and Tinder, the importance of being ‘liked’,  bullying, posts about relationships, religion and politics, and the conflict between wanting to be free of social media and the fear of missing out.

The Happiness Effect also has implications for lecturers and career professionals. The message that a student’s public profile should be carefully crafted and curated to maintain a positive, successful  and non-controversial  persona can be exhausting and potentially damaging to implement.

The Happiness Effect is a timely ebook available 24/7. It’s evidence based but also very easy to read.

Sharon Bryan read A Single Man, by Christoper Isherwood.

I didn’t actually set out to read a book by Christopher Isherwood. As with all of my best finds, this was a random selection. While I was looking for something else on the shelf, I noticed the title of this book, A Single Man (820 ISH 1C SIN), and wondered if it was the same book that had been made into a movie starring Colin Firth a few years ago (it was). I haven’t seen the movie, but I read a review that described the book as being “unfilmable”, and I was intrigued.

Having read it, I think it really is unfilmable. I have no idea what was going through Tom Ford’s head when he decided to adapt the book for film. It’s one long ramble through a single day in a man’s life, and spends most of its time peering at what’s going on inside his head. It’s a bit judgy about it, too – you get the feeling Isherwood kind of regards his character, George, as a bit of a tosser.

I can’t work out whether I enjoyed the book or not. I found it mesmerising for the few hours it took me to read it, but in the end it was pointless and a bit annoying. George wakes up, and we follow him closely throughout the day – even joining him in the toilet, at one point. He’s still grieving for his lover, Jim, who died some undisclosed time ago in a car accident. At the beginning of the book you think Jim might have died recently, but by the end of it you get the impression several months might have passed.

The book is set (and written) during the early Sixties, and while George isn’t exactly closeted, there’s that element of the times in which he doesn’t explicitly talk about his sexuality. This colours (in an interesting way, not a negative way) his ramblings throughout the day. As the day progresses, he starts to wake up in another sense – he had been sleepwalking through his morning, working on automatic more often than not, but as he interacts with his students at college and his friend at dinner – and then finds himself getting stonking drunk with one of his students at a dive of a bar, he begins to see the possibility of a brighter, better tomorrow.

Which is a bit of a shame, really, because… well… I don’t want to tell you how it ends, I think you should experience that for yourself, but it is an existential novel from the Sixties. I thought it was a bit of a cop-out, to be honest. But in spite of the fact that I can’t figure out if I enjoyed the book or not, I’m glad I stumbled across it.

Cafe Holiday Hours

The staff at Aroma and D'Lish in Cairns, and Juliette's and Miss Sushi in Townsville are taking a much needed break for the holidays. Their current opening hours are as follows:

Aroma - Closed
Opening hours: 7:30am - 2:30pm
Last day: Friday 14 December
Reopen: 14 January

D'Lish on McGregor
Opening hours: 7:30am - 2:30pm
Last day: Tuesday 18 December
Reopen: 14 January

Opening hours: 8:00am - 5:00pm
Last day: Friday 21 December
Reopen: 2 January

Miss Sushi - Closed
Opening hours: 7:30am - 3:00pm
Last day: 14 December

Monday, 17 December 2018

Graduating? You don't have to leave us completely.

Well, as 2018 draws to a close, another round of graduands are becoming graduates, and will no longer be able to call themselves "students".

While it's always nice to see our fledglings leave the nest and fly free into the big wide world, we realise that sometimes they like to come back and visit the library. After all, you never stop learning (at least, not if you're any good at your job), and it's always important to be able to keep up with the latest research.

But what can you do after you're no longer a student of JCU?

JCU Alumni can apply for library membership, which enables them to borrow our material (except material with short loan periods), and access a small number of databases (although you might not be able to read the full text of the articles unless you are in the library buildings).

To find out more about borrowing as an alumni, check out this page.

To find out more about Alumni access to databases, see here.

And good luck! We hope you had a good time at JCU, and that you leave with fond memories of our library.

Friday, 14 December 2018

Flowers of the Sea - Part 2

In comparison with the women featured in our previous post the compiler of the album included in the Sir C.M. Yonge collection was quite a latecomer on the scene. The album is inscribed with the name Annie Slade, but otherwise gives few clues to her identity. Her home “Simla” was in the south Devon coastal town of Paignton and her inscription indicates that she presented the album as a gift to her friends, Mr and Mrs Edmund Slatter, in 1884.

Given that Paignton also lies on the shores of Torbay, it is interesting to speculate whether her interest was sparked by the pioneering work of Amelia Griffiths and Mary Atkins which, as our earlier post reported, had been carried out for so many years right on her doorstep. Could she have visited Mary’s shop as a child or modelled her album on those Amelia produced? Certainly Annie’s album sounds remarkably similar to a recent description of the “slightly-battered leather-bound” Griffiths volume held in Exeter’s Royal Albert Memorial Museum, in which each sample is “mounted on stiff white paper and annotated with the name and location in … neat handwriting”
An album of pressed sewaweeds, compiled by Annie Slade. Part of the Sir C.M. Yonge Collection.
We may never know how the album was acquired by the late Sir Maurice Yonge but the renowned scientist spent several years as a student and researcher at the Plymouth marine science laboratory, not far from Torbay. Known to have had a passion for book collecting, it is easy to imagine this item catching his eye on a dusty shelf. Whatever its history, we are fortunate to have such a treasure among the many in Special Collections.

Annie’s album contains 35 seaweed specimens each one identified, in flowing handwriting, by its contemporary botanical name and place of collection. All but two were from Torbay, a popular holiday destination then and now. What is so remarkable about this, and similar albums from the period, is the way the specimens have retained their colour and clarity of detail after so many years
Ulva latissima, a specimen from an album of pressed seaweeds, compiled by Annie Slade (This album is part of the Sir C.M. Yonge Collection)
The process of preserving the specimens was painstaking but not difficult. It was outlined in detail by the American A.B Hervey in his 1881 book Sea Mosses: A Collector’s Guide. The equipment required was simple: pliers, scissors, wash bowls, blotting paper, cotton cloth and mounting cards. A stick with a needle inserted in one end was used to gently move and separate the various parts of the plant to display its finer details. Seaweed pressing had one key advantage over flower pressing: no fixative was needed to secure the specimen to its mounting board as “the gelatinous materials emitted from the plant itself” did the job. Annie’s album, where each specimen seems to be almost a part of the mounting paper, is proof of the enduring properties of this seaweed glue.
Delessaria sinuosa, a specimen from an album of pressed seaweeds, compiled by Annie Slade (This album is part of the Sir C.M. Yonge Collection)
What became of Annie Slade?
Research on established her date of birth (1861) and her marriage to William Ainger within a few years of the album’s date. Four sons were born and having moved to the land-locked county of Surrey, with a family to look after, sea-weeding opportunities would have been rare. But perhaps she had imbued her sons with her love of the seashore: all spent their later years on the coast of south and south-west England.

And, you may ask, did Australian women take up this interest? Men certainly did. One album, compiled by Scottish migrant Charles Morrison, made headlines when purchased by the National Museum in 2013 for $3500. Another, in the Port Macquarie museum which dates from the 1860s, was compiled by British immigrant, Ernest Charles Davies. Evidence of women’s participation is harder to find. Perhaps the wealth of Australia’s new and strange flora provided more than enough beauty and adventure to satisfy the artistic and scientific interests of Australian women of the period and they sensibly decided to keep their feet dry.

Story by Miniata

- Captions to illustrations provide the scientific names current in the 1880s; they may not be those in use today. 
- The contribution of Judy Simon’s research is gratefully acknowledged.

* Read more about the Sir C.M. Yonge Collection
** Browse the titles in the Sir C.M. Yonge Collection


Smith, Bridie Time capsule: 19th century seaweed album preserves history of Port Philip Bay SMH 6/04/2017

Donnelly, Catriona Seaweed album appeal. National Museum Australia 8/04/2017 (Charles Morrison, Ireland, Cape of Good Hope and, from 1854, Port Phillip Bay)

Sommers, Debbie Seaweed album 1869 11/6/2014 ( Ernest Charles Davies, Port Macquarie 1869)

Wednesday, 12 December 2018

Flowers of the Sea - Part 1

Call us not weeds, we are flowers of the sea 
For lovely and bright and gay tinted are we 
And quite independent of sunshine and showers 
Oh call us not weeds, we are ocean’s gay flowers
Maugeria sanguinea, a specimen from an album of pressed seaweeds, compiled by Annie Slade (This album is part of the Sir C.M. Yonge Collection)

In Victorian times an unusual pastime became quite the fashion among women who had time on their hands and who were prevented by the prevailing mores of society from taking part in many other pursuits. The 19th Century saw a growing interest in the natural sciences and the blossoming of many related societies, yet membership was considered inappropriate for women who were expected to develop their skills in music or the decorative arts. But the rise of industrialisation, increasing urban pollution and overcrowding also encouraged an appreciation of the healthy fresh air of the countryside or seaside, with walking and bathing seen as beneficial activities for both sexes.

The above verse, attributed to a Mrs Elizabeth Aveline, gives a clue to an activity which held both scientific and decorative interest and gave opportunities for women to escape the domestic sphere for the great outdoors: seaweed collecting.

While this had many similarities with the more sedate hobby of flower-collecting, it also held opportunities for adventure – clambering over rocks, beating the incoming tides, uncovering lurking crabs and other hazards – and, for those who sought it, scientific discovery. Who were these women?
Haliseris polypodioides, a specimen from an album of pressed seaweeds, compiled by Annie Slade. (This album is part of the Sir C.M. Yonge Collection)

Amelia Griffiths (1768-1858) was a parson’s wife who settled, as a young widow with several children, in the south Devon town of Torquay where she could indulge her fascination with seaweeds. With so many species unknown or undescribed, she often assisted male colleagues with identification, becoming a friend and correspondent of leading British botanist, William Henry Harvey. In her lifetime she collected and preserved nearly 250 different seaweed species and was one of the first women to be recognised for her contribution to science. Her seaweed albums are held in several museums, including at London’s Kew Gardens, and a number of species bear the Griffiths name.

One of Amelia’s former servants, the much younger Mary Wyatt (1789-1871) often accompanied her mistress on collecting trips and eventually set up a small shop in Torquay selling marine specimens, including seashells, fossilised corals and pressed algae. Mary produced and sold books on seaweed identification and thus helped to spread the “seaweed craze”.

Anna Atkins (1799-1871) created exquisite cyanotype photogenic drawings of seaweeds and over a ten-year period published the 3-volume Photographs of British Algae (1843-53), which pioneered photography as a means of botanical illustration. Her scientific leanings were probably inherited from her father, John George Children, after whom the Australian Children’s python was named.

Margaret Gatty (1809-1873), a children’s author, took up seaweed collecting during a period of convalescence on the Sussex coast and illustrated numerous specimens with her own drawings and paintings. Her comprehensive 2-volume British Sea Weeds took 14 years to complete, described 200 species and contained 86 coloured plates. She was still collecting up until her death. The Australian alga, Gattya pinnella, is one of several species named for her.
Polysiphonia brodiei, a specimen from an album of pressed seaweeds, compiled by Annie Slade. (This album is part of the Sir C.M. Yonge Collection)

So, what has all this to do with Special Collections? Our next post will look more closely at a late Victorian album which came to us as part of the Sir C.M. Yonge collection and from which the illustrations in this post are taken. Its young compiler might well have been inspired by at least two of the above collectors.

Story by Miniata

Note: Captions to illustrations provide the scientific names current in the 1880s; they may not be those in use today.


Strange, Philip. The Queen of Seaweeds: the story of Amelia Griffiths

Cara Giaimo. The forgotten Victorian craze for seaweed collecting, Atlas Obscura 2014

Cyanotypes of British Algae by Anna Atkins (1843). Public Domain Review

Popova, Maria. Stunning drawings of seaweed from a book by self-taught Victorian marine biologist, Margaret Gatty

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights turns 70

Where, after all, do universal human rights begin? In small places, close to home -- so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any maps of the world. [...] Unless these rights have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere. Without concerted citizen action to uphold them close to home, we shall look in vain for progress in the larger world. - Eleanor Roosevelt

10 December 2018 marked the 70th anniversary of the UN's Declaration of Human Rights, which is celebrated annually on Human Rights Day. It is the most translated document in the world, available in more than 500 languages. The principles embodied in the Declaration are as relevant today as they were in 1948. We need to stand up for our own rights and those of others, and promote equality, justice and the dignity of all human beings.

You can explore the many resources on human rights within the library collection or see what our researchers have been producing on this topic via Research Online.

Tuesday, 11 December 2018

52 Book Challenge - Week 50

Oh, good lord, it's week 50 already! How did that happen? After this week's Reading Challenge we only have two left - and one of them will be during a week we won't even be open (except for Monday morning), so that's just plain awkward.

I suppose we should stop panicking over the inevitable passage of time and get on with issuing the latest challenge, which is:

50. A book by an author you haven’t read before.

Well that sounds easy.

We often try to give you some advice for how to find a book for these weekly challenges, but to be perfectly frank we have no idea which authors you have and haven't read, so um... Pick up a book, look at who wrote it, and ask yourself, "have I read anything by this author before?" and if the answer is "no", then you're good to go.

Oh, and in case you're thinking, "Soon the Reading Challenge will be over, and then what will I read?" we're planning something new and exciting for 2019. Stay tuned.

Have you missed out on hearing about the 52 Book Challenge? Catch up here.

Reading Challenge Week 49 - A book of non-fiction essays.

Did you take on the challenge of reading a book of non-fiction essays? (Actually, it's very hard to even find a book of fictional essays, so as challenges go this wasn't as challenging as it could have been).

Essays get a bad wrap - probably because generations of people are forced to write them from high school right through university, and after a good decade or so of writing essays without really knowing what they're good for, nobody thinks they can possibly be any good.

But essays aren't just horrible things you're forced to write for an assignment. The essay is to a non-fiction book what a short story is to a novel. It gives you an explanation and exploration of a topic without going on and on about it for chapters on end. The best essays are punchy, witty, well written and very interesting. A collection of essays can take you around the world and cover a wide spread of topics while it's doing it.

If you decided that this week's challenge wasn't for you, we sincerely hope you consider changing your mind.

George Orwell  wrote Animal Farm in 1945 and Nineteen Eighty-Four in 1949. As a fan of both novels, I was interested to read some of The Collected Essays, Journalism and Letters of George Orwell (820 ORW 1B COL T2), which were written during the same time period and the last five years of his life. Even while grieving for his first wife, caring for his adopted toddler son and bedridden by the lung ailments that ended his life early in 1950, Orwell was at the height of his writing and was still regularly producing four pieces every week.

The essays in this collection include "Such, Such Were the Joys," a long, harrowing memoir of Orwell's days at a British prep school; "Politics and the English Language," which examines the connection between what it is possible to say in words and what it is possible to think; "How the Poor Die," a chilling piece of social reporting; and "Good Bad Books," in which he argues, "The fact that one can be amused or excited or even moved by a book that one's intellect simply refuses to take seriously is a reminder that art is not the same thing as cerebration."

The essays are short and the letters are a delightful way to eavesdrop on Orwell’s passions, concerns and relationships. If you enjoy reading biographies, this collection takes you one step closer to understanding the man behind the literature, as well as offering an insight into the hot socio-political topics of the 1940s and ‘50s.

As Vonnegut explains in the introduction, the title of this book is composed of three words he made up from another of his books, Cat’s Cradle (the word opinions was already in use in the 1960s, when he began writing these essays). In this collection of essays, there are all manner of topics covered, all of which have some kind of relation to the author. They are assembled in a chronological order but we are warned in the introduction that the essays do not get progressively better (with time).

In Wampeters, Foma and Granfalloons: Opinions (810 VON 1B WAM), Vonnegut does not follow the rules of academic writing as we might expect to see from a student or academic. He includes himself in the story, he let’s us know how he feels about things, and generally has a lot of fun (don’t take that the wrong way). His humour and humanity are there to see in the works presented in this collection.

Vonnegut begins with an essay on the science fiction genre of writing and how he has been placed within it. He points out that any writer who includes technology in their story, tends to be labelled a science fiction writer, regardless of their style of writing. It is interesting that the only piece of fiction in this book, a short play called “Fortitude”, is essentially a science fiction story (it is a great thought piece about our lust for life – although not in an Iggy Pop kind of way).

I am a fan of Vonnegut’s writing. He makes me laugh, has something to say, and has a unique voice. These essays are not as free and fictionalised as his fiction (go figure!) but they are an enjoyable read for fans and newcomers alike. 

Sharon Bryan read Bully for Brontosaurus: Reflections in Natural History, by Stephen Jay Gould.

Stephen Jay Gould (a palaeontologist and evolutionary biologist by trade) was once one of the founding fathers of popular science writing as a genre, which is why I think it's very interesting that his preface at the beginning of this book (published in 1991) begins by saying what a shame it is that popular science has such a bad wrap in America. Considering it's now one of the most successful genres (from a publishing point of view) it's strange to see this echo from the past and remember there was once a certain amount of snobbery regarding the "dumbing down" of science for a popular audience.

It's also interesting to note through reading his essays, how much of a snob Gould was himself. To wit, this quote from "The Dinosaur Rip-off" (an essay written in the late 80s, in which he explores the question, "what's with all the dinosaur crap all of a sudden?"):
We live in a profoundly nonintellectual culture, made all the worse by a passive hedonism abetted by ... countless electronic devices that impart the latest in entertainment and supposed information - all in short (and loud) doses of "easy listening". The kiddie culture, or playground, version of this nonintellectualism can be even more strident and more one-dimensional. (Gould, 1991, p. 100)
And this was to illustrate an argument that dinosaur toys are okay as long as they can be followed up with encouraging kids to take an interest in "real" science. Quite a number of Gould's essays veer into a "what is this world coming to?" moment. It's probably just as well he died in 2002, because he would have really hated the post FaceBook world.

Essays in this collection cover topics related to evolutionary biology, looking at a wide range of concepts within this field. Among several things I learned: Apatosaurus is merely an earlier name for Brontosaurus (and has nothing to do with the head being wrong - although the head was genuinely wrong), kiwis can lay more than one egg (given the size of those eggs, I wouldn't have thought it), and male mammals have nipples not because they ever used them, but because females need them (within our species, we start out identically - with all the same kit - as embryos, and then make customisations that may put things to different uses).

You can find it at 508 GOU.

Thursday, 6 December 2018

Farewell, Bonita Mabo.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are advised that the following post contains images of deceased persons.

Today, in a state funeral held in Townsville, we bid farewell to a beloved member of the community (not only our local community, but the wider community throughout Queensland): Dr Ernestine ‘Bonita’ Mabo AO.

Dr Mabo was only recently awarded an Honorary Doctor of Letters, in recognition of the decades of service she has given the Aboriginal Australian, Torres Strait Islander and Pacific Islander communities in and around the Townsville and North Queensland regions.

Dr Mabo co-founded the Black Community School, Australia's first Indigenous community school, in Townsville - alongside her husband, Eddie Koiki Mabo. She also worked with Eddie Mabo on the Indigenous Land Rights court case, helping to shape the current political landscape of Australia.

For more than 45 years, Dr Mabo has been a vocal advocate for the Indigenous Australian and Pacific Islander communities, and she has rightfully earned a position of great respect in the region.

Regarding her recent acceptance of the Honorary Doctorate of Letters, JCU Chancellor Bill Tweddell said,  “her acceptance of this award is an honour to the university.”

We here in the JCU Library have been greatly honoured to be associated with the Mabo family since the naming of the Eddie Koiki Mabo Library in May 2008, where Bonita placed the first hand print on the work that is still regularly displayed in the Eddie Koiki Mabo Library.

Dr Mabo was a greatly loved and highly respected member of our community, and we will miss her. Our thoughts go to her family and friends.

Discovering the Yonge Collection - Pontoppidan's 'Natural History of Norway'

Pontoppidan, Erich (1755), The natural history of Norway: containing a particular and accurate account of the temperature of the air, the different soils, waters, vegetables, metals, minerals, stones, beasts, birds, and fishes: together with the dispositions, customs, and manner of living of the inhabitants: interspersed with physiological notes from eminent writers, and transactions of academies : in two parts, A. Linde, London. 

The Natural history of Norway was distinctly modern in its concept, and Pontoppidan was called Norway’s Pliny, often citing Pliny the Elder, the Roman naturalist and scholar. Once published, the book was hugely popular and quickly translated into English and German. Chapters included: geography, climate, weather, geology, fresh and sea water, trees, plants crops, wild and domestic animals, land and sea birds, fish and fisheries, all sorts of creeping and wiggly animals. He also gave over a chapter dedicated to marine monsters, such as the sea serpent, the kraken, and mermen and mermaids.
Illustrated plate from The Natural History of Norway.
Pontoppidan’s book is one of the first texts to make Norwegian nature into a coherent and manageable entity. The subtitle indicates how nature has been divided into many categories. The subtitle also implies that the book takes part in a collective “scientific” endeavour, presenting academically proven facts from reputable scholars. However, as a work of natural history from the 18th century, this book’s credibility has been somewhat damaged, due to Pontoppidan’s presentation of certain spiritual arguments, such as claiming that he could prove scientifically and empirically that God’s deed are full of love and kindness.

Pontoppidan’s scientific credibility also took a hit when he provided full chapter coverage to marine serpents, mermaids, and sea monsters such as the kraken. The kraken is a legendary cephalopod-like sea monster of giant size which, according to ancient tales, lives in the waters off Norway and Iceland. Myths and stories of the kraken have been traced back in Nordic folklore as far back as the 12th century Icelandic sagas. The author used numerous sighting reports from credible observers to build his case for the existence of these creatures:
“The existence of European mer-men being called into question, it must proceed entirely from the fabulous stories usually mix’d with the truth. Here in the diocese of Bergen, as well as in the manor of Nordland, are several hundred person of credit and reputation, who affirm, with the strongest assurances, that they have seen these creatures sometimes at a distance, and at other times quite close to the boat, standing upright and formed like a human creature down the middle.” 
Illustrated plate from The Natural History of Norway.
Putting aside arguments for the existence of mermaids, there was a grain of truth in his description of the kraken, with it possibly having its origins in the authentic giant squid, which was only first photographed alive in 2004, and in 2012 when a giant squid was filmed in the wild for the first time. Measuring an impressive 46 feet, these squid truly are reminiscent of tales of the legendary Kraken. Pontoppidan tread very carefully with his coverage in this chapter, as he knew that his reputation as a natural historian might easily be destroyed if he insisted on the existence of these animals. However, Pontoppidan did attempt to be even handed with the discussion of these creatures, noting the danger of ignoring the truth by refusing to believe something unusual or unexpected, saying:
“We are apt to believe sometimes too much, and sometimes too little. I shall therefore quit the subject here, and leave it to future writers on this plan, to complete what I have imperfectly sketched out, by further experience, which is always the best instructor.” 
Since the 1700s, the myth of the kraken has indeed continued to capture the minds of many scholars and writers, such as Alfred Lord Tennyson in 1830 when he wrote the eerie poem The Kraken, and Herman Melville in 1850 when he referred to the Kraken in Moby Dick, calling it “the great live squid, which they say few whale-ships ever beheld, and returned to their ports to tell of it”. Pontoppidan’s description even influenced Jules Verne’s depictions of the famous giant squid in Twenty thousand leagues under the sea from 1870. In 1953 John Wyndham used the fear of the kraken in his apocalyptic science fiction novel The kraken wakes, showing how humankind responds to its own extinction. Although we now know it is not just a legend, the giant squid remains one of the most elusive large animals in the world, thus continuing to add to its aura of mystery that Pontoppidan somewhat bravely highlighted all those centuries ago.

The work is vast in its subject coverage, and size and quality of illustrations. The book itself is large, with dimensions being 36cm H x 23cm W. Many of the 28 beautiful copper engraved illustrations are equally large, and include great detail. The illustrations cover a wide subject matter, as per the book’s long and detailed subtitle. Illustrations include rocks, minerals, gems and crystals, intricately drawn shells, fish and marine animals, seaweeds, stunning landscapes and seascapes of Norway, detailed charts including a large fold out map of Norway and survey drawings of Norway’s coastline. The chapter in Part 2 entitled “Chapter VIII Concerning certain sea-monsters, or strange and uncommon sea-animals” also includes illustrations of weird mythical animals, such as the sea serpent. Land-based animals and plants were also illustrated with fine illustrations of birds, plants. The author also recorded information about the culture and customs of Norway at the time, providing detailed illustrations of current dress styles in Norway.
Illustrated plate depicting a mythical sea serpent, from The Natural History of Norway.
About the author 
Erich (Erik) Pontoppidan (24 August 1698 – 20 December 1764) was a Danish-Norwegian author, a Lutheran bishop of the Church of Norway, a historian and naturalist, and a cryptozoologist. He was a very eminent man in his day, training as a theologian in 1738, and going on to become Professor of Theology at the University of Copenhagen. He was Bishop of Bergen from 1747 until 1755, when he was named Vice-Chancellor of the University, a post he retained till his death. In 1737 he published a major theological work called Truth unto Godliness, which was an explanation of Martin Luther’s Small Catechism. This work extensively influenced Danish and Norwegian religious life for the next 200 years.

Pontoppidan wrote several other ecclesiastic works as well as a novel Menoza, which was a critique of the religious conditions of Denmark and other countries. In 1747 he was appointed Bishop of Bergen, and introduced many educational reforms. However, some of his work caused antagonism in Bergen, and in 1754 he was obliged to go to Copenhagen where he became the Vice Chancellor of Copenhagen University the following year.
Illustrated plate from The Natural History of Norway.
Apart from theological works, Pontoppidan wrote a number of other significant works of natural history. One of his earlier writing accomplishments was the multi-volume Atlas of Denmark from 1763 to 1767. As part of his job as Bishop of Bergen, Pontoppidan was required to travel and visit much of the western coast of Norway, where he collected observations and specimens. After three summers of travelling, he had collected enough material to write a natural history of the entire country. After 4 years of writing, he produced the 2 volume work Geschichte Norwegens (The Natural History of Norway). Its coverage was vast with the subtitle being “a particular and accurate account of the temperature of the air, the different soils, waters, vegetables, metals, minerals, stones, beasts, birds, and fishes : together with the dispositions, customs, and manner of living of the inhabitants : interspersed with physiological notes from eminent writers, and transactions of academies”. The book was massive in its scope and coverage of Norwegian natural history and was very popular, being immediately translated into German in 1753 and 1754, and English in 1755.

Suzie Davies, Special Collections Volunteer
James Cook University Library

* Read more about the Sir C.M. Yonge Collection
** Browse the titles in the Sir C.M. Yonge Collection


Brenna, B. (2012). Natures, contexts, and natural history. Science, Technology & Human Values, 37(4), 355-378. Retrieved from

Damkaer, David M. (2002). The copepodologist's cabinet: a biographical and bibliographical history. Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society.

Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica (2008). Church of Norway. In Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 22 August 2018, from

Hann, Michael (2006). A monster from the depths of our imagination, The Guardian Australia, 2 March 2006. Retrieved from:

Salvador, R.B. (2015). The real-life origins of the legendary Kraken. The Conversation: Academic Rigour, Journalistic Flair. Retrieved 30 December 2015 from

Thomas, K. (2018). The kraken. Interactive Oceans, University of Washington. Retrieved 31 August 2018 from

Wikipedia contributors. (2018). Erik Pontoppidan. In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 1 October, 2018, from

Wikipedia contributors. (2018). Kraken. In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 28 September, 2018, from

Tuesday, 4 December 2018

52 Book Challenge - Week 49

Now, we realise that, for university students and lecturers, the word "essay" has some unpleasant connotations.

But, believe it or not, "essays" can be very interesting things to read (as long as they weren't written for an assignment, reading those essays usually makes you want to gouge out your eye with a spoon).

An essay is, after all, a short piece of writing in which someone gives some deep thought to a subject. They can be witty, interesting, informative, inspiring and moving - sometimes all at the same time. Once upon a time, people used to buy books of collected essays for their edification and amusement.

And while essays aren't as popular as they used to be (like short stories and poems), they are still being written by some very fine authors who have some very interesting things to say.

So, for your edification and amusement, we present this week's Reading Challenge:

49. A book of non-fiction essays.

Need a handy list of collected essays? Perhaps a nice "top 100" type of thing? There may be a list or two floating around the Internet.

And you may find we have, like, a gazillion books in our collection called "Collected Essays" (or with "Collected Essays" as a subtitle).

Who knows, after this challenge, you might be inspired to make all of your essays brilliant, shining gems of writing.

Have you missed out on hearing about the 52 Book Challenge? Catch up here.

Monday, 3 December 2018

Reading Challenge Week 48 - A book from another country

Ah, other countries. There are a lot of them, aren't there? So, when someone challenges you to read "a book from another country", it's not really very limiting. I mean, we didn't even limit you to fiction or non-fiction.

Did you find a book from "another country" to read this week? We did.

France’s cities, villages and picturesque countryside, her medieval cathedrals, castles and art museums, her restaurants, high-fashion and luxury goods are well known throughout the world. But who are the French?

The French Way (944 STE) is a handy guide to understanding how people from every region of France think, do business, and act in their daily lives. 85 key traits are organised alphabetically, so it’s easy to dip into the topics you’re most interested in, from bread and pastries, drinking, greetings and farewells, and men and women, to Zut (you’ll need to read the book to find out what this means)!

It’s easy to misunderstand the words and actions of people from another culture when we interpret them according to our own cultural norms. This book seeks to clear up such misunderstandings by explaining traditions and placing French behaviour and attitudes in their own context.

Whether you’re planning a trip to Paris or are simply intrigued or confounded by aspects of French behaviour, attitudes and customs, The French Way could be just the ticket.

Scott Dale read Japanese for Busy People by the Association for Japanese-Language Teaching.

Booking a holiday to Japan is reason enough to study some of the language. If you are silly enough to agree to take your parents and parents-in-law along for the trip, well, that’s some extra motivation.

Turns out the JCU Library has a lot of resources to help me out with my Japanese studies. This week I’ve been reading Japanese for Busy People (495.683421 JAP C.A) in the hope of getting my language skills good enough to ensure the parents eat well in Japan.

I consider myself a busy person so the title to this had some appeal. Language books work for me because they make me pick up pen and paper and that’s how I learn best. I do have some language learning apps but I like using books as well. For me it’s good to get as much exposure to the language as possible: apps, books, film – the works.

This language book begins each chapter with a dialogue. That dialogue introduces the new verb conjugations, grammar, and vocabulary that the chapter is based upon. I like how these dialogues are written in script (hiragana, katakana and kanji) and then most of the chapter uses romanised Japanese. It helps me figure out what’s what and is a good way to learn a hiragana and katakana (two of the written phonetic lettering systems – see the hiragana chart attached).

Hiragana chart with
romaji (English letter)
transcription (from iClipart)
So what starts as おはようございま becomes ohayou gozaimasu (good morning).

I find learning a language is fun and challenging. We’ll see how well I have done next year when I’m guiding the in-laws through Japan.

Sharon Bryan read Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren.

All together now: "Pippi Longsticking is coming into your town. The one no one can keep down, no no no no. The one who's fun to be around, wooaahh woah. Pippi Longstocking is coming into your world. A freckle-faced red-haired girl, you oughta know. She'll throw your life into a whirl..."


I was going to use this week's challenge to revisit The Never Ending Story (which we have in both English and German) or The Story of the Little Mole Who Knew it Was None of His Business (which we also have in English and German) or maybe (since I accidentally read a book we don't hold in our library for last week's YA challenge), The Wave Runners (which, you guessed it, we have in both English and German)... but then I realised that I've already reviewed at least one German book in this challenge (The Reader, which we have in both English and German), so I thought I'd shake it up a bit.

Pippi Longstocking (c839.7 LIN) comes from Sweden. That's... well... okay, technically Sweden is closer to Germany than Tasmania is to mainland Australia. It's still a completely different country.

And Pippi Longstocking is awesome. She's a wild child, who neither has nor needs parental supervision. Her mother is an angel (as in, deceased) and her father is a sailor who may or may not have found a tribe of cannibals and become their king (as in, missing and presumed dead), but she has a ramshackle old house, a horse (that she can lift up and carry around whenever she feels like it) and a monkey called Mr Nelson.

Her wildness causes the grown-ups in town some consternation (but grown-ups are always being consternated), and brings great joy to the kids next door. Oh, and she has super strength, and incredible sense of balance, and strangely prehensile feet. If there is a normal way to do something, Pippi will do it upside down whilst juggling - just because she can. She's a like a strange, magical being - but unlike most magical beings in books, she doesn't leave at the end. She's still there, in Villekulla Cottage, ready for more adventures.