Between the stacks: You'll be drawn to these books

I must admit, I am a doodler. Not just occasionally. I doodle while on the phone, watching TV and listening to music. If I'm out for lunch, I doodle on the paper place mats or napkins.

One place that I can't help myself from randomly drawing shapes, letters and pictures is during work meetings. I get really embarrassed about it, thinking that others will believe that I'm not paying attention. The thing is — that's how I stay focused. I'm not bored — not at all. I'm engaged.

My guilty pleasure was discussed in a new book I picked up the other day. According to "The Sketchnote Handbook" by Mike Rohde, traditional note taking results in eventually tucking those papers away instead of using them to some benefit. The author believes that by engaging your hands and creative juices in the lecture or meeting, you can better focus on the ideas being presented. Listeners can filter most distractions and keep their interest and energy level high.

Sometimes when keeping my hands still and attempting to stay tuned into the presenter, my thoughts drift into the outfit they're wearing or how my morning went or maybe what I want to remember to say later. By facilitating a more dynamic note-taking technique, not only can you absorb more of what's being said, but you also end up with notes that you'd be more inclined to take a look at later on.

Now before everyone gets up in arms about this, I'm just the messenger here. But I do believe that doodling helps me become a better participant and listener in whatever meeting, conference or phone call that I have going on. "The Sketchnote Handbook" includes a description of the topic, as well as a process to get you started, examples along the way and variations on technique.

Staying on the graphic representation course of thought, I bring you exhibit A: "100 Diagrams That Changed the World" by Scott Christianson. This fascinating book takes a look at classic drawings, charts or shapes that most of us would find familiar. It is organized chronologically, which makes the entries all the more interesting in appreciating the level of sophistication through time.

The book starts with the Chauvet cave drawings found in France that depict drawings of the animals thought to be hunted during Paleolithic times. Each entry includes a picture of the graphic, as well as one or two pages of description of the significance.

Other entries include the Pythagorean theory, sheet music, acupuncture points, the Rosetta stone, Leonardo da Vinci's Vitruvian Man, the pendulum clock, Morse code and the periodic table of the elements. All of these can be displayed in diagram format and are easily recognized.

The most current entries in the book are flowcharts, radioactive fallout maps, mobile phone circuitry and the World Wide Web. My favorites are the color wheel and a nifty little item from around 2000 B.C. called the Marshall Islands stick navigation charts. Apparently, humans traversed the Pacific Ocean from Asia to the islands of Micronesia by canoe. Along the way, they created an intriguing map made up of curved sticks representing ocean currents and small shells noting the islands along the way.

Craving more representational illustrations? Well, I have exhibit B: a beautiful book titled "The Where, The Why and The How: 75 Artists Illustrate Wondrous Mysteries of Science." The idea is that there are still scientific mysteries that may be thought of more deeply by providing artists' ideas on the subject.

The authors asked scientists to state a question, then gave a one-page synopsis of the theories involved in this topic. After that, each artist was assigned one of the subjects and given free rein in creating an illustration.

Examples:

— "How does gravity work?"

— "How are stars born?"

— "What causes depression?"

— "Why do whales beach themselves?"

— "Why do we fall for optical illusions?"

The answers and their illustrative counterparts might surprise you. As proven through history and discovery, the world has long been defined by drawing, visual planning and yes, doodling. So maybe during that staff meeting, I'm just trying to determine one of science's biggest mysteries — you never know.

Kelly Strom is the collection manager at the Champaign Public Library. She orders books, magazines, newspapers, audiobooks and CDs.

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