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December Book Review Winner

A big thank you to all of those who entered our Love2Read book review competition each month last year. It was wonderful to find out what all of you were reading, and discover some new writers!

Patricia Allen has won the last Love2Read book review competition for 2012 – congratulations, Pat! She also won back in October with her entry about The Man Who Loved China, by Simon Winchester, and was an interviewee on our podcast, Listeners in the Mist.

You can read her winning entry for December here:

The Surgeon of Crowthorne, by Simon Winchester, is an intriguing tale, including murder and madness, describing the mighty effort involved in the making of the Oxford English Dictionary.

Though there had been attempts before Dr Johnson’s dictionary in 1755, there was no in depth help for the meanings of words. By the 19th Century the need for a comprehensive dictionary was manifest. In 1878, James Murray, a brilliant lexicographer, born in 1837, was asked to produce one. He considered the work might take several years.

Murray needed the help of hundreds of volunteers who would read ancient writings, record words, write meanings and usages for assessment.

It took years to complete the letter A. The letter T took 5 years. It would take another 44 years to complete. Altogether, more than 70 years passed to produce the first edition of the great New English Dictionary in 1928. In 1933 the first supplement was known as the Oxford English or OED.

An American medical doctor , William Chester Minor born 1834, was retired from the American Army having been a surgeon in the American Civil War. Events in 1864 had unhinged this gentle man. He was irreparably damaged psychologically and medically discharged with a pension enabling him to travel to England. Dr Minor was highly intelligent, a cultured and an educated graduate from Yale university, though one with a greedy sexual appetite.

Simon Winchester’s vivid description of mid 19th Century London is a necessary reminder for those who only know present day London. Dr Minor was living in the area of the Lambeth marshes, south of the Thames, with undrained swamps, miserable slums, stinking tanneries and soap boilers. It was an area of many brothels enabling easy access to women. One night in 1872, tormented out of his mind with paranoia, Dr Minor shot a man and was subsequently committed to the Broadmoor Lunatic Asylum for the criminally insane.

At Broadmoor, he became a trusted prisoner housed in comfort, rather like a gentleman’s club, with privileges, books etc. His comforts included tobacco, a penknife, coffee, bookcases of his own books (his consuming passion), clothes, his flute and music, fob watch and gold chain.

When James Murray sought volunteers for his project, Dr Minor answered the call and for decades filled his days, whilst imprisoned in his cell at Crowthorne, reading, writing, and contributing to the compilation of the OED. It became a bizarre friendship for over 30 years, between two highly intelligent gentle men who loved the written word.

James Murray aimed to assess 33 words per day but sometimes one word would take almost a full day. It was a huge undertaking.

Dr Minor would read voraciously, record the words from rare, ancient books, especially 17th C authors, and send the scripts to Oxford for assessment.
Work on the Dictionary was Dr Minor’s medication.

A change of Prison Superintendent caused removal of many privileges from and heartless treatment of Dr Minor. He became unsettled and unhappy. As he aged his mental state deteriorated, delusions increased and his memories of past sexual conquests caused such loathing of his ‘sins’ that one day in December 1902 he amputated his penis with the penknife and threw his member into the fire.

Dr Minor was taken to America by his brother, Alfred, in 1910. By then he was frail, wasted, and in ill health. He died in March 1920.
His resource books are preserved in the Bodleian Library museum in Oxford.

This was a beguiling and thrilling read. The Surgeon of Crowthorne


#NYR12 Twitter Night – December

You made it!  Have you enjoyed your year of reading and sharing?

Not that the other themes have been narrow, but December’s theme in the Love2Read / National Year of Reading monthly themes has been very broad: Love2Read.

Looking back over the year, what have you really enjoyed reading? Did you discover a new genre or subject, a new author or a new format (zine, ebook, blog, Twitter . . . )?

The last live Twitter discussion of 2012 will be held a week earlier than usual on December 18th, starting at 8pm Australian Eastern Standard Time (and lasting until about 10pm Western Standard Time).  

Join in using the tag #NYR12 as you discuss what you have Loved2Read this month/this year.

Listen In at Katoomba Library

Listen In is our National Year of Reading story-time for grown-ups with Fiona Garrood reading short stories by popular authors.

Fiona has been reading stories on community radio 2BluFM 98.1 for a couple of years.  Fiona says “There is no age limit to the magic of stories.  Why should children have all the fun?”

Join us for our last Listen In of 2012 at Katoomba Library on Tuesday 18th December at 2.30 pm.

Winner of the November National Year of Reading Book Review Competition

boy raised as a dogThe November theme was ‘Cry’ and this review by Samantha Mckay won the judges admiration.

The Boy Who Was Raised As A Dog by Bruce Perry and Maia Szalavitz

Found on the Adult Non-fiction shelves at ANF 618.9289 PER

Imagine crying over a book on psychiatry!! I did! I wept buckets over ‘The Boy Who Was Raised As A Dog’. This book is a series of case histories about traumatised children, their pain and loss, and of hope and healing.

But I didn’t cry only out of sorrow, but for sheer joy and wonder that such a man as neuroscientist and child psychiatrist Professor Bruce D.Perry, M.D., PhD. exists. If ever there was a tender, insightful and compassionate man, it is he! His book is a mind opener and should be compulsory reading for any one who desires to be a parent. So many children are blamed, or medicated, for unwelcome behaviour when a lot of it can be due to a terrible ignorance of early brain development and lack of respect for that.

After birth the brain develops ‘explosively’ says Perry which means by age four the brain has developed to 90 percent of an adult brain. Correct, sequential development depends on the stimuli received. Lack of love and neglect can produce monsters, as Perry found. There was Leon who, at 18, murdered two teen age girls and raped their dead bodies. In court he asked why were the girl’s parents crying. “They aren’t going to jail,” he said.

He wasn’t insane, nor was he stupid; but as a child he met the criteria for attention deficit disorder and various other acronyms. What became chillingly clear Leon was totally without feeling. Why? He had a good, solid working class family and an elder brother Frank who was law abiding and loving. But due to circumstances, described in the book, four week old Leon was left alone all day in a dark room, with basic attention, for many months. For a time he cried bitterly, then he stopped. His mother heaved a sigh of relief. But from then on Leon stayed emotionless. Perry described him as being a classic sociopath, a person who was almost entirely a product of his early environment, not his genes.

Professor Perry, despite his qualifications and international recognition, doesn’t hesitate to say he owes a lot to a foster Mum called Mamma P. This person, says Perry, ‘ intuitively discovered’ what would become the foundation of the neurosequential approach to treating traumatised children. A child’s brain develops sequentially from the brain stem up and at what stage of development the trauma, or stress occurs, that’s where the appropriate treatment must be aimed. Chronological age doesn’t matter. “The key to healthy development, “says Perry,”Is getting the right experience in the right amounts at the right time.”

Mamma P. knew that. She could calm a child, regarded as uncontrollable at school, diagnosed as ADHD, ODD, whatever, by gently holding and rocking, or back rubbing. “She intuitively knew you don’t interact with traumatised children according to their age, but based on what they need, what they may have missed during sensitive periods of development,” said Perry.

So too was it with the boy raised as a dog. At five years Justin was regarded as ‘hopeless’, he couldn’t walk or talk, his brain scan showed shrinkage of the cerebral cortex (the thinking part of the brain). He had been cared for; kept clean, fed and watered but received no handling and no loving. Doctors concluded he was beyond help – until Professor Perry and his team found him, and started the long haul of awakening the boy’s brain.

Three years later Perry got a message and a photo of. Justin standing outside a school bus. At age eight he was starting kindergarten. The message written by Justin simply read, ‘Thank you Dr Perry’.

“I cried,” said Perry.



You have one last chance to enter the National Year of Reading Book Review Competition.  There is a nice National Year of Reading prize pack to be won. Read the rules here and put your entry in for December.

The winner has, with their permission, their entry published here on this blog and if they are happy to, we also interview them for our Listeners in the Mist podcast.

December’s theme: Love2Read

Oh what a night!

Kate Shayler at Springwood Library

On Wednesday we had the pleasure of playing host at Springwood Library to Kate Shayler. 

Now living locally, Kate is the author of three books.  As Kate told us, she wrote the first book, The Long Way Home after friends, hearing some of her stories, urged Kate to write a book about her experience of life in Burnside Homes for Children during the 1950s and 60s. Then after many requests from readers, Kate followed up with A Tuesday Thing which tells what happended to Kate after she left Burnside.

Kate’s latest book, Burnished: Burnside Life Stories is a collection of stories from other ‘Burnside children’. It was these ‘children’ that Kate spoke of so movingly on Wednesday. Kate had spent several years driving up and down and across Australia to meet and interview these people and to listen to their stories. It was clear from her presentation they had all left a deep impression on her.

Kate’s talk, an effortless hour, was followed by morning tea and the opportunity to buy Kate’s books at a special price and have her sign them. Afterwards Kate and her publicist, Fiona Turner, were interviewed for the Library’s podcast channel, Listeners in the Mist. Watch out for that becoming available soon.

Look out for more author talks. Here are a few dates to put in your diaries:

  • Next Saturday, 8th December Blaxland Library is playing host to the authors of Seven Bones, Waiting at the Gate and Fighting Blind, Jason Foster, Robyn Caughlan and Peter Seymour. Be there for the start at 2pm.
  • Shamala Ratnesar will talk on The Total Life Diet at 2pm on 6th February 2013 at Springwood Library.
  • Patti Miller will talk on The Mind of a Thief on 28th February 2013 at Katoomba Library – time to be confirmed.
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