Surprise book of the month

New York Pigeon. Behind the feathers. By Andrew Garn

In our urban landscape, pigeons are scorned as feral, dirty pests. Dedicated pigeon fancier, author and photographer Andrew Garn sets out to destroy this misconception, presenting the noble pigeon as beautiful, intelligent and a friend to the human race. The population of pigeons in New York City exceeds one million. These are their stories…

New York Pigeon 2

This book is something different. Amazing and comprehensive, it is full of superb photographs which highlight the beauty of these birds, the luminosity of their feathers, jewel toned eyes and their majesty in flight.

In the first section of his book Andrew Garn examines the history behind the pigeon and how they have been an integral and valued part of human society – a bird whose remains have been discovered in archaeological digs dating back to the Ancient Egyptian and middle eastern civilisations “It might be surprising that a plump, multi-hued bird that wanders our sidewalks, perches on our buildings, and flutters all about, could have the bloodlines of a dinosaur, and be a gourmet food. Also used in religious sacrifices, this bird has been both a war hero and the focus of Charles Darwin’s experiments on natural selection.” (Page 17, Garn, Andrew, The New York Pigeon. Behind the feathers, 2018).

We have heard stories of homing pigeons carrying coded messages during World War II. But did you know, that using positive reinforcement, pigeons were trained to guide US Navy missiles with an accuracy surpassing human ability? Or that they also have much better sight than us. A pigeon can see five colour spectrums from infrared to ultraviolet.
Garn examines the physiology of the pigeon (Columba livia domestica) to explain how these birds are perfectly efficient flying machines with sustained speeds of around 50mph. They can outperform any other bird in aerial acrobatics and survive in a variety of environments. He also explains how pigeons hatch and grow.


Baby pigeon takes its first steps.  Image by Andrew Garn

Pigeons flying

In flight.  Image by Andrew Garn

The second section of this book features stories about birds who have been rescued and rehabilitated at the Wild Bird Fund in New York. It is easy to tell how much the author values pigeons, from his stunning portraiture that captures their individual expressions perfectly, to the accompanying captions which relate each bird’s name and courageous journey. Garn’s striking work is reminiscent of a photoshoot in a fashion magazine.

Humans are not left out. Garn volunteers at the shelter. He relates his experiences treating birds and the dangers that they face living among us. You will feel empathy for these creatures. “They are struck by cars and bicycles, attacked by our dogs and cats, removed from the nest when the air conditioner is cleaned, entangled in our litter, sickened by toxins, particularly lead, which we put in the environment, and suffer abuse at our hands,” Rita McMahon, executive director of the Wild Bird Fund. (Page 143, Garn, Andrew, The New York Pigeon. Behind the Feathers 2018).

Pigeon 3

Brooklyn. Image by Andrew Garn



Marilyn.  Image by Andrew Garn


Apollo. Image by Andrew Garn


Elmer.  Image by Andrew Garn

We also read about the dedicated staff and other volunteers who care for the sick or injured pigeons and other city birds. And there are also New Yorkers who keep pigeons as pets, with coops in the city neighbourhoods, even raising them in apartments.
Lastly the book features a series of photographs which centres on the daily lives of pigeons set against the backdrop of the buildings and skyline of New York City.


Image by Andrew Garn

You can reserve The New York Pigeon. Behind the Feathers online. Or enquire next time you visit the Library.

Avengers: Infinity War – a staff review

Avengers VS ThanosGreetings library land,

Last week, I had the opportunity to go to an advanced screening of Avengers: Infinity War. The follow up to Avengers and Avengers: Age of Ultron, this movie is directed by the Russo brothers (Captain America: Winter Soldier and Captain America: Civil War) this movie is the culmination of everything Marvel have done with their Cinematic Universe to this point.

Please note, I shall try and avoid spoilers as much as possible.

Based on Thanos Quest, The Infinity Gauntlet and Infinity graphic novels, the movie picks up where the mid credit sequence from Thor: Ragnarok ended and sets you off on an incredible journey, culminating in one of the largest cinematic battles since Lord of The Rings!

All of the cast are great, but the standout has to be Thanos, portrayed by Josh Brolin. One of my big concerns going into this moview was Thanos’ portrayal. In the comics, it often seems that there are two versions of The Mad Titan: highly intelligent, calculating and capable of character growth (as written by his creator Jim Starlin and to a lesser extent Dan Abnett and Keith Giffen) or a meglomaniacle destroyer and conqueror (most other writers and the Avengers Assemble cartoon). Thankfully, Brolin plays Thanos closer to his creators writing than others. You can almost, almost understand where Thanos is coming from and the justifacation of his actions (as horrific as they are). In many ways, this is Thanos’ movie and he owns the screen.

The interplay between the vast cast is really good, particulary Tony Stark, Doctor Strange and Star Lord of the Guardians of the Galaxy. There are many touching moments, particularly in the final act.Infinity Wars Insta pic

If I have a complaint, it is that Adam Warlock, a character who (in the comics) is intimatly linked to the Infinity Stones was not introduced in time to play a roll in this film. In the original Infinity Gauntlet story, Warlock was an essential part of the plot, rallying not only Earth’s heroes, but the various cosmic abstracts (such as Eternity, Chaos, Order and Galactus) against Thanos.

A solid 9/10 and don’t forget to stay until the very end of the credits!

Surprise book of the month

Beautiful Goats cover.docxBeautiful Goats: Portraits of Classic Breeds

Written by Felicity Stockwell  and photographed by Andrew Perris

I have noticed that Library staff love putting Beautiful Goats: Portraits of Classic Breeds on display and it always gets borrowed. So what is so appealing about this unusual title?

I asked myself “Why do we love goats?” They eat almost everything and can butt you in the backside, then appear to laugh about it.  However, goats are also sweet natured and have pretty faces. They have personality. Maybe they are endeared to us from childhood, when we listen to the story of the brave Billy Goats Gruff outwitting the vile troll on the bridge. One of my colleagues also told me that goats have become nearly as popular as cats on the Internet.

In the first few pages of Beautiful Goats: Portraits of Classic Breeds, Felicity Stockwell looks at the history and cultural significance of goats. She writes about the agricultural products derived from goats, goats as pets, wild goats and show competitions. However, the greatest part of this book is devoted to showcasing 40 breeds of goats. Photographs are accompanied by specific information about each breed that is featured.

These goats are simply photogenic and definitely beautiful. Each goat is photographed against a simple grey background, which reflects the colour of the book’s covers.  They do not require any other artifices. Andrew Perris skilfully manages to capture so much expression on each of these animal’s faces.  The goats look proud and happy to be photographed on set. They raise their heads in regal poses as if to say “This is my good side”.

The final section of the book ‘Reportage’ takes a fun look inside a goat show, where black and white snapshots are posted billboard style, accompanied by cute captions.

It is worth browsing through this lovely book, whether you have an interest in agriculture, you would like a cheeky pet or even if you just enjoy clever photography. You can reserve Beautiful Goats: Portraits of Classic Breeds. Or enquire next time you visit the Library.



Spotlight on: Vivienne Westwood

Fashion doyenne and political activist Dame Vivienne Westwood released her long-awaited autobiography in late 2014.

Co-written with fashion journalist Ian Kelly, it is an epic read that covers Westwood’s evolution from shy primary school teacher to original founder of the London punk scene, her influence on world fashion and the rise of Vivienne Westwood the designer label.

Vivienne Westwood

Vivienne Westwood, today

At 400 pages, it’s no short read, but there’s lots of photos and hand-drawn illustrations to break it up. Westwood doesn’t directly author the book, instead she is frequently quoted to provide her version of events on her life’s course.

The origins of British punk fashion are covered in detail, including the moment Westwood met partner Malcolm McLaren and the story behind their infamous SEX clothing shop on King’s Road. While it was a turbulent period for their relationship, it was an intensely creative period for fashion. During these years of raising small children, running a business and making all clothes by herself, Westwood refined her fashion skills and slowly her aggressive punk designs morphed into high-end fashion. It is said her cutting skills reinvented the concept of traditional British tailoring and gave a lifeline to the British tweed industry from the 1980s onwards.

Vivienne Westwood

Vivienne Westwood being made a Dame at Buckingham Palace

Westwood is still heavily involved in her activism work for Greenpeace and her human rights organisation Liberty.The book criss-crosses the wide range of topics she has provided public comment on over the years – social upheavals, change of governments, the progression of the human rights movement. Those seeking gossip and scandal can lap it up from the chapters on the 1970s, the glam 1980s, the grungy 1990s and beyond. It also features contributions from many of Westwood’s friends, including the likes of Pamela Anderson, Naomi Campbell,  Prince Charles and Julian Assange.

Her marriage to Andreas Kronthaler, 25 years her junior, is also explored. A relationship that developed from a mutual admiration of one another’s fashion designs and a little bit of a ‘crush’ on one another, their 23-year marriage has gone from strength to strength and defines the Vivienne Westwood fashion label as it stands today.

If you persevere with this long book you will be left feeling inspired and totally in awe of this dynamic style maven, who at 74 continues to pump out a new collection for Paris Fashion Week each year.

Vivienne Westwood and Margaret Thatcher

Another famous friend….or foe? Westwood with former British PM Margaret Thatcher.

You can borrow this book from our library here

Everyone ought to live like a Parisian. Apparently.

A suite of lifestyle guides based on the lives of Parisians have been published over the years. On bookshop and library shelves you may have seen titles such as French Women Don’t Get Fat, French Women Don’t Get Facelifts, French Women for All Seasons,  French Children Don’t Throw Food and the recently published, How To Be Parisian Wherever You are.

French women don't get fat

The book that started the ‘French women do it better’ genre….Mireille Guiliano’s French Women Don’t Get Fat

All the books aim to sell a certain idea of the Frenchwoman to we the less sophisticated foreigners. From start to finish, pages are filled with illustrations, photographs, lists, recipes, how-to’s and plenty of no-nonsense advice for improving your life by adopting Parisian ways and customs.

The latest offering, How to be Parisian Wherever You Are, is written by four accomplished French women, who have set out to explain “the art of beauty —the Parisian way.”

Their advice includes:

‘Smoke like a chimney on the way to the countryside to get some fresh air.’

‘Don’t feel guilty about infidelity.’

‘Cheat on your lover with your boyfriend.’

How to be Parisian wherever you are

Take some notes when you read How to be Parisian Wherever You Are…or don’t.

Still, you have to wonder – how many actual Parisians resemble these stereotypes in real life? UK Guardian journalist Hadley Freeman once lived in Paris and believes there is no such thing.

She recently wrote on this very topic: ‘…the funny thing is, in all my life of being related to Parisians, visiting Parisians and eating baguettes with Parisians on their scooters, I have never once come across a single woman who fits the stereotype peddled by these books. These idiotic guides present an image that is about as representative of Parisians as Four Weddings and a Funeral is of the average Brit.’

Whether or not real Parisian women truly fit the stereotypes by always looking chic, having lovers, eating baguettes and staying thin, the books are beautifully laid out, compact (most will fit in your handbag) and present stunning images of French life. They will certainly provide inspiration and give you a chuckle or two.

You can borrow any of the above mentioned books from our library catalogue. ‘How to be Parisian Wherever You Are’ was released in late 2014 and is available to borrow here

Hungry for more?

Staff member Hayley recently enjoyed listening to The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins on an audiobook from the library while driving to work. Initially a bit sceptical, she came to find the audiobook version more exciting than expected. Here’s her take on it:


“I waited a long time to get into The Hunger Games as I thought that anything that was so popular couldn’t possibly be any good.  I picked up the audio book of The Hunger Games, which is the first book in Suzanne Collins trilogy, when I finally just couldn’t stand not knowing what all the fuss was about and I’m glad I did.

The title, The Hunger Games, refers to the book’s premise about an annual contest where a boy and girl from each of 12 districts are selected to fight to the death. These districts are controlled by the privileged city of Panam whose bloodthirsty citizens have turned the gruesome spectacle into the biggest entertainment event of the year.

Our window into this dystopian world is protagonist Katniss Everdeen from District 12. Katniss is the archetypal strong female protagonist: She is smart, she has a special skill (bow hunting), and she is emotionally withdrawn. Luckily for us, Suzanne Collins has written the book as if we are inside Katniss’ head, so we get to hear all the things she would never say out loud and warm to her quickly.

The choice of a first person style lends itself well to being read out loud and narrator Carolyn McCormick gives a wonderful performance, managing to inject a sense of the personality of each character into her reading, without going over the top.

However, that all said, I became very annoyed when I saw the changes made in the film version of Hunger Games. Obviously this is an indication of how emotionally invested I was in the book! Don’t let the hype put you off – pick this up if you like dystopian worlds, action or if you enjoy a well spoken audiobook.”

The final Hunger Games movie Mockingjay: Part 2 is due to be in cinemas in autumn 2015.

Whether you are new to Suzanne Collin’s epic adventure or would like to revisit it, you can reserve the audiobook The Hunger Games via the online catalogue.  You can also make an enquiry next time you visit the Library.

Anstey recommends – The Book with no Pictures by B.J. Novak


The Book with no Pictures will have you in stitches.

The book with no pictures.  Written by B.J. Novak

Illustrated by nobody.

This book has no plot.  It is just silly!  Simple but clever, The book with no pictures inspires a child’s imagination and makes reading fun.  In his book, actor/comedian/screenwriter B.J. Novak asks the reader to play with words by saying silly things in funny voices.  Kids also learn that they can make up their own stories filled with crazy words and sounds.  So you just don’t need pictures to be entertained!  Simple, large type may help younger kids read or identify some words.

The narrator speaks directly to the reader but The book with no pictures is best read aloud with a child and their caregiver or in a group situation, in order to get the full effect of the text.  Local History Officer David Brooks thrilled kids with his reading of The book with no pictures during the recent Dad’s Read and Make a toolbox event at the Library (part of the Library’s summer holiday program).  Their hilarious laughter filled the Library.

If you would like to borrow this book, or place a hold on a copy, you can find it in our online catalogue here