Sir David Attenborough’s new book… Drawn from Paradise: The Discovery, Art and Natural History of the Birds of Paradise

Drawn from Paradise is David Attenborough’s journey through the cultural history of the birds of paradise, one of the most exquisite and extravagant, colourful and intriguing families of birds.

From the moment they were introduced to the European mind in the early sixteenth century, their unique beauty was recognised and commemorated in the first name that they were given – birds so beautiful must be birds from paradise.

In this unique exploration of a truly awe-inspiring family of birds which to this day is still shrouded in mystery, David Attenborough and Errol Fuller trace the natural history of these enigmatic birds through their depiction in western works of art throughout the centuries, featuring beautiful illustrations by such luminary artists as Jacques Barraband, William Hart, John Gould, Rubens and Breughel, to name but a few.

Experienced ornithologists and general nature and art enthusiasts alike will delight in this journey of discovery of the world’s most beautiful and mysterious birds.

About the Author

David Attenborough is one of the world’s leading naturalists and broadcasters. His distinguished career spans more than fifty years, and his multi-award winning films and series have been broadcast around the world.

Click here to order your copy of
Drawn from Paradise
by David Attenborough from Booktopia,
Australia’s No. 1 Online Book Shop

Barbara Arrowsmith-Young, author of The Woman Who Changed Her Brain, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Barbara Arrowsmith-Young

author of The Woman Who Changed Her Brain: And Other Inspiring Stories of Pioneering Brain Transformation

Ten Terrifying Questions

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1. To begin with why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself – where were you born? Raised? Schooled?

I was born in Toronto, Ontario Canada and when I was five my family moved to Peterborough, a small city two hours East of Toronto, so my father could pursue his career as an electrical engineer with Canadian General Electric. Peterborough is in the heart of the Kawartha Lakes district so I grew up hiking, canoeing, camping and learning to love and appreciate the outdoors. My parents were avid readers and so I grew up surrounded by books and a love of reading.  Many a time I would open a book and escape into another world.

2. What did you want to be when you were twelve, eighteen and thirty? And why?

I have for as long as I can remember been fascinated by learning and why for some people learning is easy and not for others (like myself for the first 26 years of my life) so I always knew my vocation was in the field of learning.

3. What strongly held belief did you have at eighteen that you do not have now?

Nothing comes to mind. I was raised in a family with strong humanitarian values and a belief in the importance of being of service in this world, and that has shaped me and remains unchanged.

4. What were three works of art – book or painting or piece of music, etc – you can now say, had a great effect on you and influenced your own development as a writer?

Starting grade 1 and struggling with learning and overhearing a conversation between my teacher and mother in which I was diagnosed as having a mental block and my mother was told that I would never learn like other children.

Discovering and reading Aleksandr Luria’s book, The Man with a Shattered World: The History of a Brain Wound. I could see the parallel between the problems of Lyova Zazetsky, the soldier who had a very specific brain wound, described in this book and the challenges I had had since birth related to my severe learning disability – for the first time I understood what was not working in my brain. If I could identify where the problem was, I felt I was significantly along the path of addressing the problem which became my life’s work.

Creating the first cognitive exercise for myself and after months of hard and determined work seeing such a shift in how I could understand the world around me, from grasping conversations, to understanding mathematics, to comprehending what I read the first time I read it.  I no longer lived in a fog of confusion. This demonstrated for me that the human brain was neuroplastic and capable of change.

5. Considering the innumerable electronic media avenues open to you – blogs, online newspapers, TV, radio, etc – why have you chosen to write a book? Aren’t they obsolete?

Books for me will never be obsolete. There is a depth and breadth to the material that can be explored and developed in a book which can not be covered in the shorter forms of information dissemination such as blogs, newspapers, etc.

6. Please tell us about your latest book, The Woman Who Changed Her Brain

This book is a very personal story and also a very universal story. The personal was born out of my struggle to understand why I was the way I was – with very real and crippling learning deficits.

And it is universal as everyone has his or her own unique profile of brain strengths and weaknesses.  My life and this book is an exploration of the territory of the brain and how it makes us uniquely who we are, how understanding this territory can give us insight into our functioning and the functioning of others. And what is most promising is that through the application of the principles of neuroplasticity this book illustrates that not only does our brain shape us but that we can shape our brain.

In this book we meet and hear the stories of others with very specific cognitive deficits. We hear what living with these deficits is like and the transformation that occurs as the weakness is turned into a strength. We meet the ‘pile people’ who leave everything in line of sight because for these people out of sight is literally out of mind – they can not construct spatial maps or visualize their way into space so once something is put away, it can no longer be called to mind. We meet people for whom the visual world is flat and grey and uninteresting, who can not create pictures in their heads of what they have seen or where they have been or of the faces of people they know.  We meet the ‘klutzes’ who do not know where their body is in space because the brain is not supplying sensory feedback to tell the person how far or close they are to objects such as door frames. They trip over their own feet, vacuuming can be a dangerous contact sport as they trip over the vacuum or misjudge how close the hose is to their body and end up bruised. Their car is dented since by extension they can not judge where the side of the car is in space. We meet the person who is a transcriber who struggles with discriminating speech sounds so is exhausted at the end of the day after having to pay so much attention to listening over and over again to hear the words to be transcribed. We meet people who struggle with thinking and planning and for whom problems appear as an insurmountable wall since they don’t have the cognitive function in the part of the brain required for mental initiative. We meet people with a poor auditory memory who scribble notes on their hands or are lost without their ‘to do lists’ because they can not hold this information in memory. And the people for whom ‘10’ ‘100’ and ‘1,000’ all mean about the same, who run out of money and can’t schedule time – they are quantity blind.

We all have a brain and how it functions shapes who we are – it is our brain that mediates our understanding of the world, so yes our brain does shape us and what is, for me, so profound, is that we now have the knowledge and tools to shape our brains – to open doors of possibility to allow people to dream and to realize their dreams.

This is a book of compassion, inspiration and hope.

Click here to buy The Woman Who Changed Her Brain
from Booktopia, Australia’s No. 1 Online Book Shop

7. What do you hope people take away with them after reading your work?

To open a world of possibilities for people with learning disabilities by changing their brains through strengthening cognitive capacities so that they never have to take a path that is one they did not chose, but was chosen for them due to their learning challenges; so that these individuals can not only dare to dream but realize their dreams.

8. Whom do you most admire in the realm of writing and why?

Aleksandr Romanovich Luria, who had to reinvent himself many times in his career through the era of Stalin, and who with his brilliant mind and compassionate nature contributed so much to our understanding of the human brain. I dedicated my book to Luria.

9. Many artists set themselves very ambitious goals. What are yours?

I am always looking at how I can take what I have learnt, the cognitive programs I have developed, and make them more widely accessible while maintaining the integrity and effectiveness of delivery so that the widest range of individuals with learning challenges can benefit. I would like to see cognitive programs be part of every child’s educational program in school so that schools are a place that children come not just to learn content but to work their brains, to improve their capacity to learn and to carry this with them throughout life.

10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

Write what you are passionate about.

Barbara, thank you for playing.

Click here to buy The Woman Who Changed Her Brain
from Booktopia, Australia’s No. 1 Online Book Shop

Did you know? Barbara Arrowsmith Young’s journey of discovery and innovation to overcome her own severe learning disabilities,  were described briefly in Chapter 2 of the book, “The Brain That Changes Itself” by Dr. Norman Doidge.

Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman

It is certainly only a rumour at this stage, but Daniel Kahneman is an outside chance for the Sydney Writer’s Festival next year. This man is one serious thinker, so if you have the chance to be in a room with him, you should take it. Meanwhile, while the emails are going backwards and forwards, his latest book is racing off our shelves.

Think Malcolm Gladwell and then some. The reviews are amazing.

FROM THE PUBLISHER:

Israeli American Daniel Kahneman, recipient of the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences for his seminal work in psychology challenging the rational model of judgement and decision-making, is one of the world’s most important thinkers.  His ideas have had a profound impact on many fields – including business, medicine and politics – but until now he has not brought together his many years of research in one book.

In Thinking, Fast and Slow, Kahneman takes us on a groundbreaking tour of the mind and explains the two systems that drive the way we think and make choices.  One system is fast, intuitive, and emotional; the other is slower, more deliberative, and more logical.  Kahneman exposes the extraordinary capabilities – and also the faults and biases – of fast thinking, and reveals the pervasive influence of intuitive impressions on our thoughts and behaviour.  The importance of properly framing risks, the effects of cognitive biases on how we view others, the dangers of prediction, the right ways to develop skills, the pros and cons of fear and optimism, the difference between our experience and memory of events, the real components of happiness – each of these can be understood only by knowing how the two systems work together to shape our judgments and decisions.

Drawing on a lifetime’s experimental experience, Kahneman reveals where we can and cannot trust our intuitions and how we can tap into the benefits of slow thinking.  He offers practical and enlightening insights into how choices are made in both our professional and our personal lives – and how we can use different techniques to guard against the mental glitches that often get us into trouble.  Thinking, Fast and Slow will transform the way you take decisions and experience the world.

FROM THE REVIEWERS:

‘There have been many good books on human rationality and irrationality, but only one masterpiece. That masterpiece is Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking, Fast and Slow.’ Financial Times

Thinking, Fast and Slow is a masterpiece – a brilliant and engaging intellectual saga by one of the greatest psychologists and deepest thinkers of our time. Kahneman should be parking a Pulitzer next to his Nobel Prize.’ Daniel Gilbert, author of Stumbling on Happiness

‘Daniel Kahneman is one of the most original and interesting thinkers of our time. There may be no other person on the planet who better understands how and why we make the choices we make. In this absolutely amazing book, he shares a lifetime’s worth of wisdom presented in a manner that is simple and engaging, but nonetheless stunningly profound. This book is a must read for anyone with a curious mind.’ Steven D. Levitt, co-author of Freakonomics

‘Daniel Kahneman is among the most influential psychologists in history and certainly the most important psychologist alive today. He has a gift for uncovering remarkable features of the human mind, many of which have become textbook classics and part of the conventional wisdom. His work has reshaped social psychology, cognitive science, the study of reason and of happiness, and behavioral economics, a field that he and his collaborator Amos Tversky invented. The appearance of Thinking, Fast and Slow is a major event.’ Steven Pinker, author of The Better Angels of our Nature

‘This is a landmark book in social thought, in the same league as The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith and The Interpretation of Dreams by Sigmund Freud.’ Nassim Nicholas Taleb, author of The Black Swan

Towards the Light: The Story of the Struggles for Liberty and Rights that Made the Modern West by A. C. Grayling

I have been reading Towards the Light for a while now. My father said it was right up my alley. I am chuffed to think that my father knows I have an alley and has understood my mad ravings at family get-togethers enough to appreciate I may like to read Towards the Light.

A.C. Grayling, of course, writes far better than I rave.

Towards the Light is very much the kind of book which makes me want to scream… Yes! Yes! Yes! That’s what I’ve been saying all along!

The only way to ensure we retain the freedoms we enjoy today is to appreciate and understand the struggle to attain them.

Now, to get every single human in the world to read and to understand the book.

The trouble is, I can’t really justify any attempt to force people to read a book about liberty.

So here’s what I’ll do. I shall make a request to you, dear reader. If you love and respect the freedoms you enjoy right now, buy multiple copies of Towards the Light and leave them lying about in places where people may need a book to read. Or, if you really, really love liberty, buy box loads and donate them to schools. Okay? Great.

I bet this is going to work so well!

Buy Towards the Light here.

About A.C. Grayling’s inspirational history of ideas in action, Towards the Light.

The often-violent conflicts of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries were sparked by the pursuit of freedom of thought. In time, this drive led to bitter fighting, including the English Civil War. Then came revolutions in America and France that swept away monarchies for more representative forms of government and making possible the abolition of slavery, the enfranchisement of women, and the idea of universal human rights and freedoms.

Each of these struggles was a memorable human drama, and Grayling interweaves the stories of these heroes, including Martin Luther, Mary Wollstonecraft and Rosa Parks, whose sacrifices make us value these precious rights, especially in an age when governments under pressure find it necessary to restrict rights in the name of freedom.

About the Author

A.C. Grayling is Professor of Philosophy at Birkbeck College, University of London, and a multi-talented author. He believes that philosophy should take an active, useful role in society. He has been a regular contributor to The Times, Financial Times, Observer, Independent on Sunday, Economist, Literary Review, New Statesman and Prospect, and is a frequent and popular contributor to radio and television programmes, including Newsnight, Today, In Our Time, Start the Week and CNN news. He is a Fellow of the World Economic Forum at Davos, and advises on many committees ranging from Drug Testing at Work to human rights groups.

AC Grayling recently answered my Ten Terrifying Questions

John Elder Robison, author of Be Different, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

John Elder Robison

author of Be Different and Look Me In The Eyes

Ten Terrifying Questions

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1. To begin with why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself – where were you born? Raised? Schooled?

I was born in Athens Georgia, while my parents attended the University of Georgia. I was raised on both coasts of the United States as my dad attended graduate school before settling as a Professor of Philosophy in Amherst, Massachusetts

I attended various schools before ending up in Amherst High School, from which I was ejected in the tenth grade. I remained a proud and defiant high school dropout until 2008, when the Monarch School of Houston, Texas, gave me an honorary diploma.

Beyond that, I pretty much schooled myself. I was lucky my father was a college professor, and I had the Continue reading

The Hidden Reality: Parallel Universes and the Deep Laws of the Cosmos by Brian Greene

The Hidden Reality: Parallel Universes and the Deep Laws of the Cosmos

In this exhilarating new book, Brian Greene explores our most current understanding of the universe, its deepest laws of nature, and our continuing quest to know more.

The Hidden Reality reveals how major developments in different branches of fundamental theoretical physics—relativistic, quantum, cosmological, unified, computational — have all led us to consider one or another variety of parallel universe. In some, they are separated from us by enormous stretches of space or time, in others they’re hovering millimetres away, in others still the very notion of their location proves to be a concept beyond our reach. Most extraordinarily, Greene shows how all of these parallel universe proposals emerge unbidden from the mathematics of theories developed to explain conventional data and observations of the cosmos.

This is a life-changing book that gives us a true sense of the astounding possibilities of modern scientific investigation.

Brian Greene received his undergraduate degree from Harvard University and his doctorate Continue reading

HUMAN PLANET by Dale Templar and Brian Leith

Make sure you watch the BBC YouTube video below… OMG!

Human Planet is the first natural history documentary series to turn the camera on ourselves, the human species. Taking the same approach as Planet Earth, it will explain how human beings have learnt to live on every habitat, from our origins in the Jungle to our domination of Grasslands to the Desert, Ocean, Rivers, the creation of our own environment, Urban, and the challenges of the Arctic mountains. But this is also a story about how we have learnt to adapt to the most inhospitable landscapes and work in partnership with other animal species.

From the Bajau sea gypsies to the Korowai tribe of West Papau who live in treehouses, the honey birds in Kenya that lead the Masai people to honey, the men who fish with dolphins in Brazil and the Papuan tribesmen who mimic the courtship dances of the birds of paradise, this is the remarkable story of our relationship with nature.

Brian Leith is an executive producer in the BBC. He has worked in wildlife and environment film-making for more than 20 years, in the BBC Natural History Unit, as a director of Scorer Associates and as Head of Granada Wild. BBC series he has had responsibility for include Ganges, Wild China and Nature’s Great Events. Brian’s award-winning films include Congo, The Cultured Ape and The Wolf That Changed America, and he has also presented many programmes for Radio 4.

Dale Templar was the series producer of Human Planet. Now in the BBC Natural History Unit, she has worked over the past 20 years in the News and Current Affairs, Science and Documentary departments, on series such as the The Money Programme, Vet Safari and Pacific Abyss. She specialized in filming in remote locations with humans and wildlife and has travelled to more than 50 countries in the process.

Order your copy of the book Human Planet here

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