REVIEW: The Complete Idiot’s Guide To Critical Reading

Authors: Amy Wall and Regina Wall

ISBN: 1592573401

How often have we heard the statement that someone is a prolific reader or that he or she is well-read? At first this may impress us, however, when you think about it, you have to ask how much these individuals retain and what are they getting out of their reading? As Amy Wall and Regina Wall point out in The Complete Idiot’s Guide To Critical Reading, there is a difference between being well read and knowing how to read well. What counts is not quantity but rather the quality of your reading.

As mentioned, one of the principal ingredients of critical reading is the ability to effectively analyze what you are reading, which entails questioning and thinking about the material in front of you. It is taking an active role rather than merely passively accepting words on a page-something that unfortunately many of us were not taught while we were students.

Amy Wall is a writer and poet by night, and a TV news producers and newsroom manager by day. She has authored many instruction books and has published her poetry in an online literary journal. Regina Wall is currently a psychoanalytic psychotherapist. She began her career as a writing teacher at Michigan State University and eventually became a professor of Literature, Humanities and Women’s Studies at Vanier College in Montreal, Canada. Together, they have teamed up to produce a manual that grabs you from page one, holding you captive until the very last page.

The Complete Idiot’s Guide To Critical Reading strikes just the right tone: direct, upbeat and accessible. The authors have taken pains not to sound preachy, while at the same time providing readers with dozens of pointers that provide tools and maps in helping us understand fiction and non-fiction. We are shown how to become relentlessly inquisitive about any book we have chosen to read from the moment we commence its reading until the last chapter.

Divided into twenty-one chapters, the Walls impart readers with informative and interesting detailed chapters on developing a critical eye towards reading different types of fiction and non-fiction literature. Each section takes on an A to Z approach with its uniform distribution of information wherein readers receive tutorial guidance as to how to become skilled at reading poetry, history, historical fiction, science, philosophy, essays and memoirs, newspapers, magazines, short stories, plays, understanding why an author tells a story in a particular way, literary techniques, and how to connect the dots in making sense of what you are reading.

For example, if you refer to the chapter “Developing Your Critical Eye,” we are given in depth instruction as to how to understand the facts an author presents in a work of non-fiction. Is the author expressing an opinion or is he or she interpreting the facts. Is there some kind of bias in the writing and how does the author’s perspective compare against what we already know or believe.

Ending each chapter, the authors provide a summation of the basic principles expounded upon and what is the least you should know. Moreover, the text is enlivened with user-friendly side-bars and concrete examples taken from well-known fiction and nonfiction books as Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn and several others.

Finishing up in perhaps true academic fashion, the manual provides chapters testing our knowledge of fiction and nonfiction. It is here where you are taught to connect the various pieces of writing to each other. Also included is a comprehensive recommended reading list pointing the way for readers to track down must read novels and non-fiction and a helpful glossary. This is a “keeper” book and one that you will constantly refer to when assessing the quality of a book you have read.

Peterson Warblers Guide – Review Of A Field Guide to Warblers of North America By Dunn and Garrett

This is a book review of the book A Field Guide to Warblers of North America, published as part of the Peterson Field Guide series, and authored by Jon L. Dunn and Kimball L. Garrett, and illustrated by Thomas R. Schultz and Cindy House, and with maps by Sue A. Tackett and Larry O. Rosche. This book is often referred to simply as the Peterson Warblers Guide, as the book’s cover simply says “Warblers” in bold print across the top.


The Peterson Field Guide series is best known for the original Peterson Field Guide to Birds of North America, and related books, although the guide series has since expanded into a myriad of different guides, covering plants, animals, geology, astronomy, and a wide variety of natural subjects. The Warblers guide is one of the most important guides in this series, and I would argue, it is one of the best. However, it is also rather unlike the other guides, and it is not necessarily the best or most accessible book for beginner birdwatchers.

Warblers, in this case, referring to the New World Warblers, family Parulidae, are a specific family of birds, a family rich in biodiversity. Warblers tend to be very small, highly migratory, highly active birds with bright coloration. Because of their small size, migratory nature, and the tendency of many species to forage high in treetops or in hidden locations in dense shrubbery, they offer some of the most tough identification challenges to advanced birders.

The Person Warblers Guide is a highly specialized field guide, delving into considerable depth on each species. It serves two primary purposes: to help aid identification for advanced birders, looking to truly master the art of warbler identification, and to survey the scientific literature surrounding each of these species. It is outstanding on both counts.

The Peterson Warbler Guide for bird identification:

This book features full-color plates of each species, showing not only the distinct plumage of both male and female, but showing distinctions between males and females in different seasons (spring vs. fall) and, in cases where relevant, the distinction between juvenile or first-year birds, and older, more mature birds as well. In addition to the normal plates showing the birds’ full plumage, there is a separate series of drawings illustrating the under-tail patterns of the various species, an essential part of warbler identification.

The illustrations are paired with brief written summaries of which aspects of plumage to look for to aid in identification, but the book does not end there. Each chapter has extensive, paragraphs- or pages-long discussions on identification, including discussion of possible similar species that can be confused, as well as extensive commentary on shape, habitat, behavior, and other often-neglected cues that can be just as important, or sometimes more important, at identifying birds.

Ecology and conservation issues:

The other amazing strength of this guide, and in my opinion, one which is very rare among field guides, is the level of depth into which it delves on the subject of the ecology of each species. This book exhaustively surveys the scientific literature, and includes very modern work as well as a thorough history of older work, on each species. There are extensive sections on the habitat requirements and ecological relationships of each warbler species, and there is also extensive discussion of population health and conservation issues related to each of the warblers.

In summary:

The book A Field Guide to Warblers of North America, commonly referred to as the Peterson Warblers Guide, is a highly specialized field guide, on the topic of warblers. It is not suitable for beginning birders, but it is an outstanding resource for advanced birders looking to master the topic of warbler identification. It is also an outstanding reference on the topic of ecological and conservation issues relating to the warblers, and would make an invaluable reference book for ornithologists and scientists doing any work related to warblers, or for the curious amateur birdwatcher looking to develop a deeper understanding of these species.

WoTLK Guide Review – Zygor WoTLK Guide

There’s a new wave in the WoW 1-80 leveling guide collections. There are two recently released guides from Zygor. One is especially crafted for Horde and the other is for Alliance players. The two separate guides are written to add more specialization to the instructions included, which is very important in the WoW game.

There seems to be a new guide being released for the World of Warcraft each week. This time around, there were two of them even. Some guides are not worth anybody’s time simply because they tend to ignore some important information. However, there are others that contain too much information that it overwhelms users. Too much data is almost impossible to pack together in a comprehensive guide. Zygor’s guides are very different through. This one is truly worth your time and your money.

The idea of having two different guides for the same quest is more than appealing. Indeed, the Horde and the Alliance require different sets of strategies. However, these guides were created in full detail, with both of them exceeding 300 information-filled pages. But more than just the guide that you have to read from cover to cover, Zygor has also created a map as an add-on to your game. This can make your questing twice as simple. Included in the map are gold guides. By using the guide and the special map together, you can actually build up on your wealth while you try to reach the power levels.

The details included in the two guides are fantastic. It covers all the important quests that gamers have to follow while playing the game. Compared to other guides of similar scope, Zygor’s guide would fair twice as much better. The author takes pain in removing all the quests that you don’t have to pursue as they would only take up most of your time and slow you down. There are also quests that provide very little reward in the end and as such, they are not worth your time either. The guide is especially created to take you to level 70 in less than eight days. That is, if you choose to follow every bit of instructions and recommendations in the book.

The guides also include the map-mod Cartographer. This program makes possible various map modifications to make it apt to your needs. Uploading the map-mod also allows you to follow all the things as indicated in Zygor’s leveling guides in a highly methodical manner. Each spot that you need to reach in the WoW game map can be set as waypoints. By doing so, you don’t have to open the map all the time just so you’ll know where you should be headed. By making a particular spot a waypoint even though it isn’t, the arrows would point to it directly, thereby showing you the right road to take.

Zygor’s guide provides gamers a complete walkthrough on the relevant parts of the game. This includes the starting area of the race. Whether you’re taking on alliance or horde, the guide covers both of these areas.