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On the Bookshelf

Reviews by Lynn Fenske


1000 Questions About Canada
Places, People, Things and Ideas
A Question-and-Answer Book on Canadian Facts and Culture

By John Robert Columbo
Dundurn Press, 2001, 408 pp.,
ISBN 0-88882-232-4

What was Pierre Elliott Trudeau's favourite snack food? Who named the Loonie? What is the Toronto Blessing? Who is the Canadian animator who created the near-sighted Mr. Magoo? The answers to these questions (and several hundred more) can be found in John Robert Columbo's latest question and answer book about the people, places, things and ideas that are uniquely Canadian. The third of its kind, researched and written by Canada's "Master Gatherer", 1000 Questions About Canada allows for the telling of interesting stories that dwell on curious events in the lives and history of Canadians. Written with an element of surprise, this book is intended for the general reader who reads to learn and particularly enjoys off beat trivia. It's a great edition for any Canadian who wants to be more informed about our great nation and an excellent testimony to one of Columbo's favourite mottos, "Canada needs only to be known to be great".

Media Think
By James Winter
Black Rose Books, 2002, 183 pp.,
ISBN 1-55164-054-6

When reading a newspaper or watching the evening news on television, are you ever annoyed by an obvious bias in the reporting? Ever amazed at what doesn't occur to the reporter? Surprised by the narrow perspectives that gain media prominence? If so, you are catching on to what media critic and Communications Professor James Winter has so aptly called "media think". According to Winter, media think is "the ideology and the means by which the media create our world view". It is Winter's contention that with the news media increasingly owned by a small group of very large corporations, the public falls prey to the "dishonesty of wealthy men on certain topics". Consequently news reporting is bias according to the class, gender, race and corporate allegiances of the media owners. In his book Media Think, Winter brilliantly illustrates his point through careful assessment of coverage of the war in Afghanistan, responses to the September 11 terrorist attacks and in media representations of women and visible minorities. Read this book and you'll think twice about the daily news - first of the content, then more importantly the context in which it is reported.

The Great Canadian Book of Lists
By Mark Kearney & Randy Ray

Dundurn Press, 1999, 324 pp.,
ISBN 0-88882-213-8

For those of you who want written acknowledgement that Canada has come into its own during the 20th century and has exercised increasing influence over the rest of the world, then take a look at this book of lists. It's Canadiana of a different sort - lists of pertinent, entertaining, educational information that document our unique history and cultural trends. Some lists are comparisons that transcend time. Consider the most popular baby names in Canada 1950 to 1998. How about Canada's Top News Stories 1900 - 2000. Or the leading causes of death in 1923, 1954 and 1995. There are twelve categories of lists, from arts & entertainment to politics and sports. There's even the lists of sexiest Canadian men and sexiest Canadian women (Pierre Trudeau and Shania Twain are the number one selections respectively.) The Great Canadian Book of Lists makes for great reading and great trivia questions. You'll be surprised, delighted, educated and intrigued by the entries - just what the authors wanted to accomplish.

Take One's Essential Guide to Canadian Film
Edited by Wyndham Wise

University of Toronto Press, 2001, 272 pp.,
ISBN 0-8020-8398-6

Finally, a who's who of Hollywood North. Put together by the publisher and editor-in-chief of Take One: Film & Television in Canada, this book is the most up-to-date reference guide to the Canadian film industry. A richly detailed accounting of both film and filmmakers, it provides over 700 reviews and biographical listings combined with a comprehensive chronology of major events in Canadian film and television history. Each film title listed includes credits, a mini review and significant awards. Biographical listings of directors, producers, actors, writers, animators, cinematographers, distributors, exhibitors and independent filmmakers include date and place of birth, a brief career overview, filmography and, if applicable, date of death. Inspired by the 1996 celebration of the one hundredth anniversary of film in Canada, this edition is a self-proclaimed work in progress. It's what Wyndham Wise considers only a start to documenting the wealth of achievements on both a national and international scale, featuring both the distinctly Canadian and what Canada has exported to Hollywood South.

Start & Run a Copywriting Business
By Steve Slaunwhite

Self-Counsel Press, 2001, 216 pp.,
ISBN 1-55180-306-2

Someone once remarked that writing without selling is like acting without an audience. For those writers interested in selling their services in a commercial arena then this book is a must-have reference. As part of the Small Business Series of Self-Councel Press, it provides all the instruction needed to set up business in the competitive, high-paying world of copywriting. By definition, copywriting involves writing any sales or marketing document, whether it be direct mail, advertising, online, audio/visual, annual reports or media materials. By its nature, it is writing that is tied directly to business activity, particularly sales and promotion and thereby is forever exciting, challenging and creative. For anyone wanting to embark on a career as a copywriter, this edition gives all the how-to advice from setting up your own business entity, self-promotion, determining fees, writing great copy and managing your resources of work, time and money. Now if you'll excuse me, I've got more reading to do.

The Online Copywriter's Handbook
Everything You Need to Know to Write Electronic Copy That Sells
By Robert W. Bly

McGraw-Hill, 2002, 318 pp.,
ISBN 0-658-02114-1

Here's another valuable how-to reference for writers wanting to expand their careers, capabilities and pocketbooks. Robert Bly is an accomplished direct marketing practitioner who shares his knowledge and experience with newcomers and old pros alike. In this edition, he concentrates on the Internet and provides everything that's needed to write great copy for online applications. What is refreshing about this particular book is the author's guarantee that it will never be outdated. He provides three websites (including his own) at which readers can keep up on the latest information. Bly also publishes his address, telephone, fax and e-mail address for anyone interesting in providing feedback or sharing tricks of their own. Ready, set, network!


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