Young, Sick, and Invisible by Ania Bula

Read: 15 August, 2016

Full disclosure, Ania is a close friend and I read an early draft of the book back in 2014 (I’m even named in the acknowledgements, albeit with a slight misspelling!), so this is my second read through.

In Young, Sick, and Invisible, Ania tells the story of her illness – from the first aches and pains, though the diagnosis, and on to coping. She talks about dealing with doctors (the good and the bad), navigating school and employment, relationships and sex, family, and even the occasional excursion into “alternative medicine.” She offers helpful tips for other sufferers of chronic illness, and tips for those of us who want to help but don’t quite know where to start.

The writing style sometimes lapses into a laundry list with too little narrative scaffolding. It would have been nice if the book could have focused more on Ania’s experience, rather than her experiences, because that’s where the book is at its most interesting.

Even so, Young, Sick, and Invisible is a good primer on disability issues (including accessibility, ways in which the Canadian medical system needs improving, and how Canada handles long term unemployment for medical reasons), all wrapped around an interesting personal account.

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Flim-Flam by James Randi

Read: 20 October, 2011

I don’t consider myself to be a Skeptic. I run with a lot of people in the skeptic community, and I do think of myself and generally skeptical, but I’m not a big-S Skeptic. I knew of James Randi, of course, but I was never terribly familiar with him or his work. So when the Centre for Inquiry managed to book him for a pan-Canada tour, I figured that I ought to read up on him a little bit before he hit Ottawa.

Because I was reading Flim-Flam around the same time that I saw Randi speak live, the parallels between the two were made quite evident. In both cases, there’s an ostensible thesis, although the experience is much more of a series of vignettes from Randi’s professional life.

The tone throughout the book is light and conversational, like Randi’s telling an acquaintance about the work he does. He covers a number of psychics and supernatural phenomena, explaining the tricks. He personally exposed most of them, although some, such as the Cottingley fairies, are merely explained.

I found Flim-Flam to be an interesting read – enough so to inspire me to want to learn more about conjuring and mentalism. And while it was written in the early ’80s, it really isn’t at all dated. Recommended for anyone with an interest in the paranormal, or with skepticism in general.

Your humble narrator meets the aptly-named Amazing Randi.

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