Two Skinny Books for the New Year

For a fun read….and maybe some valuable information as well, (click on the image for ordering at

If a gift card is burning a hole in your pocket AND you know an outdoorsman with a sense of humor OR a dog lover, then I have two books for you.

First Up: “How to Send Smoke Signals, Pluck a Chicken & Build an Igloo: Plus 75 Additional Skills You Never Knew You Needed” by Michael Powell. This 144-page book is tongue in cheek with instruction on a range of activities, some of which an outdoors person may use and need and others that are strictly for fun After all, how often do you need to know how to catch an eel?

Because I am not a camper or a survivalist and have never climbed a mountain, I looked at “How to Send Smoke Signals” as a well-designed book that is fun to read even though it holds no useful information for me. But wait! One of the chapters was entitled “Learn Finger Whistling”. I have never been able to whistle and regret the fact, so this was my chapter. I read furiously and followed directions.

I wet and tucked back my top and bottom lips to cover my teeth. Two handed, I positioned my index and middle fingers halfway between the corner of my mouth and the center of my lips and inserted my fingers up to the first knuckle. Then I touched the fingertips together and angeled them in toward the center of my tongue to create a horizontal “A” shape. I drew back my tongue so the the tip was almost touching the floor of my mouth a little way behind my lower teeth. I took a deep breath and blew.

Lots of moist fingers, but no whistle. That doesn’t mean other non-whistlers will not find success or that other advice in the book isn’t fun and valuable such as “Surviving a Bear Attack”, but a finger whistler I’m not.

The many canine family members past and present star in this book, (click on the image for ordering at

However, I am a dog lover and was intrigued with a book called “Woof!” by Robert Freeman.

The author is a retired music school dean with a Ph.D. who, with his wife Carol, over the years provided a home for some 17 dogs, many of them Golden Retrievers.

When I began the book, I wondered if the respected dean was going to talk so much about his career that the dogs would get lost in the process. But I needn’t have worried. This book and its descriptions of the family’s many dogs and how they came to the family grew on me. I recognized the different personality traits of the dogs and even was grateful to know that some of the Freeman dogs also occasionally misbehaved. The author also points out something I had never thought about, that “dog” is “God” spelled backwards.

Freeman is in his 80s now and says he can’t imagine a life without dogs, but admits he worries about his companions should he not be around to care for them. Freeman voices a universal worry, but elderly people seem particularly in need of the love that dogs give, so thank goodness for friends and rescue groups that can find new homes animals when the owner passes away.

“Woof!” took me about an hour and a half to read. The writing is clear, though I wish I knew more about classical music. The pictures accompanying the text could certainly be of better quality, but the book led me to think back about the many dogs in my life and that was reason enough to enjoy 90 minutes with “Woof!”


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