Here’s just a few of the books I’ve recently devoured! I read a lot, so this isn’t a complete list – I do however intend to get a library list up soon.
Notting Hell – Rachel Johnson
This book is a wonderful romp around the not so quiet streets of London’s most affluent neighbourhood; and behind every stucco frontage if they’re not talking to, or about each other they’re probably having sex or worrying about the property prices, private schools or the ever growing number of Americans cramming themselves into every nook and cranny of the borough.
Rachel Johnson’s eye for intimate detail is superb, and anyone remotely familiar with W11 will snort with giggles as we take to the streets of Notting Hill in a story of families, sex, adultery, garden games and the absolute all consuming demands of keeping up with the Billionaire next door.
The Kitchen Diaries – Nigel Slater
You know, I fancy that if most people kept kitchen diaries they wouldn’t be half as exciting as Nigel Slater’s, this is a beautiful book in every way from text, to typography, photography and even the binding. It’s overflowing with mouth-wateringly delicious recipes all of which are presented in a bold day to day fashion, so not only do you get recipes and ideas about food that are satisfyingly wholesome but you also get insights into the gardening and shopping habits of the man himself, which I think gives the book real soul, which combines with the recipes to give a reassuringly homely read that does inspire you to get yourself into your local shops and cupboard corners to seek out ingredients that’ll make your own food diary that little bit more exciting.
It’s not easy being green – Dick Strawbridge
If like me you sat glued to recordings of It’s not easy being green on your TiVo you’ll love this book by author, inventor and all round classic eccentric Dick Strawbridge, this book isn’t so much a how to, rather more a ‘we did’, which I know disappointed some, but I find the stories of their work at New House Farm inspiring enough for me to do my own further research.
The book does have a reasonably comprehensive list of people and companies they’ve dealt with in their quest to make their home and lives more green and is gloriously illustrated throughout with Heath Robinson style sketches and photographs of their projects.
The Silver Spoon – Various Authors
Considered the Bible of Italian cooking, and apparently a must-have wedding gift for any new couple, the Silver Spoon is an exciting read which truly does spill over with recipes, thousands of them. By all accounts this is the first time this has been published in English, and I for one am grateful that they did as it’s become an instant reference to all things Italian and is rarely in my bookcase for long.
It’s nice and straightforward, with every recipe laid out in basic formats ordered by food type covering everything imaginable from vegetarian to meat, fish, offal and shellfish with obligatory coverage of pasta dishes and a real gem in the Italian deserts section, I think even the most apprehensive cook would find this a pleasant and inspiring read; and if I had my way every kitchen would have one!
Blair’s Wars – John Kampfner
Now I’m the first to admit that I’ve never been a great fan of Blair or ‘new’ labour, but coming from a military background I’ve always been pragmatic enough to understand that when diplomacy fails, or cannot be entered into in good faith the military option can prove to be a viable one, even so, this book makes for very scary reading indeed, five wars in six years was the tally that this book had reached when it was published, and it’s a truly sorry tale of our over-stretched, under-funded armed forces being thrown into conflicts worldwide, many seemingly on a whim, and a frightening amount of which remain unresolved.
This book follows Blair from his rise to Prime Minister through to his battle with Iraq, the British public and the BBC. It does leave you feeling a little numb at the sheer arrogance of a man who is convinced he’s doing the right thing, but so blinkered by his cabal of yes men and ‘allies’ that he fails to see the mass of opposition to almost everything he now does. Well worth a read.
Boo Hoo – Ernst Malmsten
If you’re in the mood for the new media equivalent of rubber-necking a road accident, this book is ideal as it truly is a car crash in extreme slow-mo, but it makes for an excellent read, bringing back the heady days of internet excess when VC’s threw money at any idea that moved and every new media agency in the world was based in the centre of Soho snorting coke (apparently).
Narrated throughout by Boo partner Ernst Malmsten, it’s a story of an idea ahead of it’s time, based on technology well ahead of the bandwidth available to most users all funded by people that couldn’t separate the spin from the business plan, and although this may arguably have been the most spectacular of the dot com failures for anyone with any experience of the dot com boom this will ring some chilling bells, and most concerning to some will be the interesting parallels with a few of the current cluster of Web2.0 start-up’s.
Feast – Nigella Lawson
Nigella’s back with another masterpiece this time it’s a weighty tome dedicated to feasting, from Christmas to Eid, and From Funerals to Thanksgiving, Nigella covers them all in her own inimitable style, but don’t let the idea that this book is event orientated put you off, as many of the recipes will work year round, and frankly – as with all Nigella books’ it’s worth buying just for the cake section, which will leave all but the most hard-hearted food cynic drooling.
Well illustrated with beautifully straight forward photos throughout this one is just as much fun to cook from as it is to take to bed and read, inspiring you to spend days on end just pottering quietly in your kitchen, immersed in a thick fug of homely goodness.
Saving the Planet Without Costing the Earth: 500 Simple Steps to a Greener Lifestyle – Donnachadh McCarthy
Now I’m the first to admit that many of the reviews of this book point out, perhaps in an overly world-weary way, that some of the hints and tips in this book are lunacy, well intentioned lunacy, but lunacy never the less, but the examples that seem to be rolled out for every review I’ve read of this book make up maybe 5% of the book, the remaining 95% of the suggestions for making your life greener are intensely practical.
The books laid out in a practical way covering different aspects of daily life, from water usage and supermarket packaging through to personal and household hygiene, each section is categorised into suggestions that’ll cost nothing through to those that will require significant change or investment of hard earned cash. Give this book a whirl, read it with a pinch of salt and you’ll actually end up with some valuable lessons on not only things that make you green, but things that make you slightly richer too; and let’s face it – both those things can’t be bad!