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November 2020

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Author Picks for Christmas - Caitlin Moran
27th November 2020

Author Picks for Christmas

 

Author Picks for Christmas - Caitlin Moran

 

Caitlin Moran

 

This September Caitlin Moran published More Than a Woman, the follow-up to her landmark work How to Be a Woman, and again she is sharing her insightful, informative and hilarious thoughts and feelings in her guide to growing older; a manifesto for change, and a celebration of all those middle-aged women who keep the world turning​. With huge praise coming from fans such as Nigella Lawson, Marina Hyde, Marian Keyes and Hadley Freeman, More Than a Woman is set to make appearances on many end-of-year best-of lists, and provoke many a conversation over the dinner table. Especially for Foyles Caitlin shares the five books she has most enjoyed this year.

 



Author Picks for Christmas - Caitlin Moran

 

Invisible Women by Caroline Criado-Perez 

A deeply important and useful book, in which Criado-Perez - the feminist legend who successfully campaigned to have a woman on British bank-notes - did an exhaustive, groundbreaking, years-long dive on the gender data gap. What’s that? Just how an endless list of things - cars, public transport systems, medication, iPhones, heart-attack diagnoses - are formulated around male bodies and lives, and just don’t work, or are even fatal, for the 52% of the population that are women. Fast, funny, angry and vital, Invisible Women subsequently inspired a crowdfunder, in order that every British MP be given a copy. If they acted on the findings, LIFE WOULD JUST BE BETTER. A proper game-changer.

 

English Pastoral by James Rebanks 

A follow-up to the much-loved bestseller The Shepherd’s Life, English Pastoral recounts how Lakeland shepherd James Rebanks has, slowly, returned his 300 acre family smallholding to an older way of farming - both rewilding vast tracts and becoming more financially viable, whilst delighting - in beautiful billows of prose - in the return to his land of oyster-catchers, owls, falcons, dung-beetles, orchids and moles. An outrageously hopeful book. Again, LIFE WOULD BE BETTER if this was required reading in Parliament.

 

The Mirror & The Light by Hillary Mantel

How could this not win the Booker? How? What is the point of the Booker if The Mirror & The Light doesn’t win - for, let’s not make any bones, this is the greatest book of 2020, and maybe this decade. For the final part of a trilogy to be the best part of the trilogy is borderline impossible, but Mantell’s genius burns like a feasting-hall of candles. Presumably she’ll now get the Nobel Prize for literature. There’s no reason for the Nobel to exist if she doesn’t. I stan her ferociously. A queen writing about queens.

 

A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf

I don’t know why it took me so long to get into Virginia Woolf, but now I love her with the same passion as my best friends. Everything she wrote is amazing - Orlando is the Sgt Pepper of novels; a sexy psychedelic concept album bursting with unforgettable riffs - but A Room of One’s Own has a particular clean, precise, joyous anger to it that still reads as in advance of it’s time, nearly a hundred years later. I walk around Fitzroy Square and think of her; if I had a third girl, I would call her “Virginia.” Or “Woolf.”

 

Collected Short Stories by Lorrie Moore 

I’ve never cared for short stories - they’re too short - but Lorrie Moore blows the doors off, every time. She’s got a jeweller’s knack of taking the most precious and exquisite of words, and placing them in a setting that makes them genius. All the things you didn’t think need doing again - describing a sunset, or a kiss, or salty soup - she does for what might be the final and best time, on behalf of humanity. The humour is dark, the stories corkscrew, and the characters keep on talking to you, even after the final full stop. It’s endlessly amusing that people sometimes still suggest women writers struggle to match the achievements of men. Hahaha are you on glue?
 


 


More Than a Woman by Caitlin Moran
 

Caitlin Moran is the eldest of eight children, home-educated on a council estate in Wolverhampton, believing that if she were very good and worked very hard, she might one day evolve into Bill Murray.

She published a children's novel, The Chronicles of Narmo, at the age of 16, and became a columnist at The Times at 18. She has gone on to be named Columnist of the Year six times. At one point, she was also Interviewer and Critic of the Year - which is good going for someone who still regularly mistypes 'the' as 'hte'. Her multi-award-winning bestseller How to Be a Woman has been published in 28 countries, and won the British Book Awards' Book of the Year 2011. Her two volumes of collected journalism, Moranthology and Moranifesto, were Sunday Times bestsellers, and her novel, How to Build a Girl, debuted at Number One, and is currently being adapted as a movie. She co-wrote two series of the Rose d'Or-winning Channel 4 sitcom Raised by Wolves with her sister, Caroline.

Caitlin lives on Twitter with her husband and two children, where she spends her time tweeting either about civil rights issues, or that picture of Bruce Springsteen when he was 23, and has his top off. She would like to be remembered as 'a very sexual humanitarian'.

 

The Penguin Book of Christmas Stories
26th November 2020 - Jessica Harrison

What makes a great Christmas story? Find out with The Penguin Book of Christmas Stories 

 

The Penguin Book of Christmas Stories

 

Whilst there is no denying the classic status and enjoyment to be found within Dickens' A Christmas Carol, there is a much wider breadth of festive fiction that you might not have been aware of...until now. Jessica Harrison, the editorial director for Penguin Classics, has curated The Penguin Book of Christmas Stories, a sparking collection of stories from around the world, celebrating all the joys and experiences of Christmas, from a wide selection of authors, including Truman Capote, Angela Carter, Shirley Jackson and Irène Nemerovsky.

In this exclusive piece written for Foyles, Jessica ponders on what are the necessary ingredients needed to make a Christmas story really chime

 


 

What makes a great Christmas story? It takes more than a December setting or a few sprigs of background holly. To really succeed, the Christmas story has to capture the true essence of the season. It has to re-create Christmas’s most evocative and transporting sights and sounds and aromas: crisp mornings in the snow, dark nights by the fire, the smell of gingerbread, the singing of carols and the weight of a stocking at the end of a bed. But even more importantly, a great Christmas story has to be about Christmas in a meaningful sense. It has to engage with the themes that we associate with the season: love and family and childhood, generosity and greed, companionship and loneliness, wonder and disillusionment.

 

Truman Capote understood this and was a master of the magical, lump-in-the-throat Christmas story. His nostalgic, whiskey-soaked ‘A Christmas Memory’ is about a neglected boy and his equally neglected elderly relative, who together create their perfect Christmas in the American South. They bake fruit cakes to send to President Roosevelt, weave holly wreaths for the windows and make each other kites for presents. In one delightful scene, they trek to the local woods to choose a Christmas tree: 

 

‘Scented acres of holiday trees, prickly-leafed holly. Red berries shiny as Chinese bells: black crows swoop upon them screaming. Having stuffed our burlap sacks with enough greenery and crimson to garland a dozen windows, we set about choosing a tree. “It should be,” muses my friend, “twice as tall as a boy. So a boy can’t steal the star.” The one we pick is twice as tall as me.’

 

What prevents the story from sliding into cosiness is its underlying poignancy. The narrator is an adult, a version of Capote himself, and he knows that the boy and his friend will soon be separated forever: ‘This is our last Christmas together’. As in many stories that look back on childhood Christmases, there is pathos in the memories of snowball fights and star-topped trees – the knowledge that the magic of Christmas past is gone forever.

 

When I was making the selection for The Penguin Book of Christmas Stories, I discovered that almost every major writer from Charles Dickens onwards seems to have tried their hand at a Christmas tale. Various anthologies of Christmas stories have been published over the years, their red and gold covers bedecked with stars and baubles and trees. In general, these collections tend to reflect the traditional Christmases of the British and American imagination only, with scarlet-robed Santa Clauses and roast turkey dinners and a walk to church, ideally in the snow, on Christmas morning. That’s not surprising: after all, it was Dickens in Britain who invented the Christmas story as we know it, and O. Henry in America who gifted the genre with some of its best-loved gems. But for this collection, I wanted to go beyond the familiar and discover Christmas as it has been portrayed by the greatest short story writers around the world.

 

Christmas is a time of gift-giving, gluttony, comfort and good cheer. But wherever the season is celebrated, the inverse becomes even more crushingly apparent: poverty, hunger, hardship and loneliness. Many Christmas stories depict individuals and families attempting to have a merry Christmas against the odds and the ingenious methods they devise to do so. In Wolfdietrich Schnurre’s pre-war Berlin, a young boy and his unemployed father decide to ‘borrow’ a Christmas tree from the local park, secretly replanting it a few nights later.  In Cyprian Ekwensi’s Lagos, a cash-strapped widow despairs at how she will buy presents for her family – until a dubious case of mistaken identity on the bus offers her a Christmas miracle. And in Ray Bradbury’s spaceship, a father conjures up a Christmas tree for his son despite being millions of miles from home.

 

One of my favourite stories in the collection is by the twentieth-century Portuguese writer Sophia de Mello Breyner Andresen, who is much loved in her home country but relatively unknown in the English-speaking world. Her story ‘Christmas Eve’ is about Joana, a lonely girl from a wealthy family, who befriends a poor boy and decides to go out into the forest on Christmas Eve night to find him and share her presents with him. It could be mawkish, but in Andresen’s hands it becomes a beautifully judged riff on the nativity story.  The piece is set in 1950s Portugal, but as with many of the best Christmas stories, it has the simplicity and directness of a fable. Like Truman Capote in the same era, Andresen uses the partial perspective of a child to explore the great Christmas themes of generosity, wonder and friendship. Through Joana’s eyes, we too experience the sense of enchantment that can only exist at Christmas, and, perhaps, in our memories:

 

‘The candles were lit and their flickering light pierced the glass. The table was full of other extraordinary, marvellous things too: glass baubles, golden pinecones and a plant with prickly leaves and red berries. It was a party. It was Christmas.’

 


 

Jessica Harrison is the editorial director for Penguin Classics. She has curated several book series, including Penguin Clothbound Classics and Penguin Modern, and has compiled short story collections by authors from Jane Austen to Shirley Jackson.

 

 

Author Picks for Christmas - Natasha Farrant
25th November 2020

Author Picks for Christmas

 

Author Picks for Christmas - Natasha Farrant

 

Author Picks for Christmas - Natasha Farrant
 

When it was published in 2018 The Children of Castle quickly became a firm favourite with the children's booksellers across Foyles stores, as a glorious story of friendship, family relationships and adventure, perfect for middle-grade readers. In September, and to much anticipation, Natasha published her second standalone novel Voyage of the Sparrowhawk, an uplifting tale of two children's search for the family they've lost. Filled with adventure, bravery, love, friendship, and hope, this is the perfect read for the current unsettled times, and especially for Foyles, Natasha has recommended five other books for younger readers.

 



Author Picks for Christmas - Natasha Farrant

 

It’s so very hard to whittle down all the wonderful books I have read this year to just five, but here are some favourites I will definitely be buying for young friends and family this Christmas:

 

The Worst Class in the Wolrd by Jo Nadin, illustrated by Rikin Parekh

School is not about footling or fiddle-faddling or FUN, it is about LEARNING – but try telling that to the argumentative, logical, trouble-prone and endlessly endearing 4B. This little book had me snorting and guffawing all the way through. Properly funny, with illustrations to match, younger readers should love this.

 

October October by Katya Balen

What does it mean to be wild? October has always lived off-grid in the woods with her father, but when he has an accident, she has to move to London to live with her estranged mother, where she discovers that wildness has many guises. One of the most beautiful book I have ever read, it has stolen a little bit of my heart forever.

 

The Ghost of Gosswater by Lucy Strange

Gothic mystery set in the Lake District at the turn of the twentieth century. Twelve-year-old Lady Agatha, disinherited after the death of the man she has always thought of as her father, must piece together the mystery of her past and the identity of the ghost which is haunting her. Creepy, funny, moving, empowering, infused with the beauty of the Lakes and with a star performance from Susan the goose, like all Strange’s books this stayed with me with long after I had finished it

 

The Marvellous Land of the Snergs by Veronica Cosantelli, illustrated by Melissa Castrillon

A retelling of the classic magical adventure said to have inspired THE HOBBIT, about two children who must rescue each other after being kidnapped from the Home for Superfluous Children, and end up having to save the land of nature loving, magical creatures called Snergs. Warm and witty and so much FUN, it lifts the spirits. It’s beautiful to look at too, making it feel a proper gift.

 

Nature Month by Month; A Children's Almanac by Anna Wilson, illustrated by Elly Jahnz

What kind of birds can you spot at the seaside? How do you make the perfect pancakes? When is the best time to spot butterflies? A perfect present for children who like to get out and be busy, this fully illustrated guide to 2021 includes nature spotter guides, craft and activity ideas, recipes, celebrations of festivals and special events, all brilliantly enhanced by Jahnz’s fresh illustrations. Essential for all parents looking for new things to do with their darlings, in or out of lockdown!
 


 

The Voyage of the Sparrowhawk by Natasha Farrant

 

Natasha Farrant is the author of the bestselling middle-grade novel, The Children of Castle Rock, the acclaimed teen Bluebell Gadsby series and Carnegie-longlisted and Branford Boase-shortlisted YA historical novel The Things We Did For Love. She was shortlisted for the Queen of Teen Award 2014. She lives in London with her family.

 

Author Picks for Christmas - Tim Harford
24th November 2020

Author Picks for Christmas

 

Author Picks for Christmas - Tim Harford

 

Author Picks for Christmas - Tim Harford

 

If you've ever felt overwhelmed by the figures and statistics used so widely in the news these days, then Tim Harford is the man to provide some much needed clarity and context. In his new book How to Make the World Add Up he draws on his experience as both an economist and presenter of the BBC's radio show 'More or Less', and takes us deep into the world of disinformation and obfuscation, bad research and misplaced motivation, to find those priceless jewels of data and analysis that make communicating with numbers worthwhile. Especially for Foyles Tim shares five books that he would recommend as Christmas gifts, or just as a storming great read for yourself.

 


 

Author Picks for Christmas - Tim Harford

 

The Biggest Bluff by Maria Konnikova

I’ve been a fan of Maria Konnikova’s writing for a while. She’s a Harvard-educated academic psychologist who switched to writing and turned out to be even better at that than psychology. Her earlier books are a terrific mix of psychological research and storytelling. And her latest, The Biggest Bluff, is destined to be a modern classic. Konnikova takes on the world of professional poker in the hope of learning something about psychology – and perhaps in the hope that her psychological training might give her an edge. It’s pure immersive journalism woven together with nerdy insights.

Konnikova has a compelling story to tell about her rollercoaster ride through the world of high-stakes poker, and she tells it well, effortlessly weaving in the academic insights in between her lessons from her mentor, Erik Seidel, and the dizzying highs and lows of the table. I loved it.

 

Humankind: A Hopeful History by Rutger Bregman

Rutger Bregman’s new book makes a simple argument: most people, most of the time, are decent. Whether this strikes you as absurd, or obvious, may depend on what side of bed you got out of. Bregman makes a strong case that we’ve been groomed to think the worst of each other by books such as The Lord of The Flies and The Selfish Gene, and a diet of grim stories in the daily news. The book is wide-ranging, and while it is most definitely a polemic – Bregman writes to persuade – it is also full of the most fabulous storytelling. I loved reading it.

Some of the material I knew – for example, the ever-growing question marks over Zimbardo’s prison simulation have become infamous, re-interprerations of Milgram’s shock machine were popularised on RadioLab, and if I recall correctly the urban myth that nobody came to help Kitty Genovese was debunked in Freakonomics. It’s all woven together rather wonderfully here, though.

Other tales, in particular the story of the real-life Lord of the Flies, were completely new to me. The book is spellbindingly well written and you should read it. You’ll learn a lot (I did) and you’ll have good reason to feel better about the human race.

 

The Earthsea Trilogy by Ursula K. Le Guin

I was prompted to pick up this old favourite by a lockdown movie: the Studio Ghibli Tales of Earthsea. The movie itself is so-so: it has its moments but is not up to the usual stratospheric Ghibli standards. (Le Guin agreed.)

It did, however, prompt me to turn to the trilogy once again. I read it as a teenager, and again on a long holiday in China in 2003, alongside the fourth book, Tehanu. I picked it up with hazy memories about certain plot points and was not disappointed by any part of it.

The writing is superbly poetic, the plots are fast-paced and unusual, and the world-building is deft and convincing. A Wizard of Earthsea was originally commissioned as a ‘young adult’ novel, and each of the three novels is told from the point of view of a teenage protagonist, but the themes are mature: ambition and envy, evil done in the name of religion, fear of aging and death, restraint in the use of power.

So many ideas here have been copied – a young boy going to a school for wizards; a wise and powerful order striving to keep the balance against the dark side – but the books still feel fresh and original fifty years on. Yes, there are wizards and dragons, princes destined to be kings and even a damsel needing to be rescued, but Le Guin transcends or subtly subverts each cliché.

Le Guin revisited Earthsea decades later. Tehanu is the fourth book and there are others I’ve not yet read. I found it unsettling to read Tehanu immediately after the original trilogy; not only is it extremely dark, Le Guin so sharply questions some of the implicit perspectives of the previous books that she implicitly criticises herself for having written them, and the reader for having enjoyed them.

Nothing wrong with that – but perhaps leave a breathing space between finishing book three, The Farthest Shore, and picking up the fourth book, Tehanu.

 

Humble Pi by Matt Parker

I’ve known Matt for years and he’s always been deft at walking the line between mathematical insight and nerdy entertainment. Humble Pi takes things to the next level. Matt tells tales of mathematical mistakes – which range from trivial stuff, like nonsensical corporate advertising, to grave errors that cause planes to crash, bridges to collapse, or test-and-trace systems to lose nearly 16,000 cases. (Humble Pi was written and published before that particular spreadshambles but there are plenty of other computer-related errors in the book.)

The stories are gripping and the technical details are both easy to understand and, at times, fascinatingly convoluted. Strongly recommended.

 

Rebel Ideas by Matthew Syed

I hesitated to read Matthew Syed’s Rebel Ideas, not because I disapproved, but because I wondered whether it would feel too familiar to me. Syed argues that cognitive diversity leads to better decisions. Like attracts like, meaning that we fill our organisational toolkits with hammers and neglect to recruit the screwdrivers, hacksaws and wrenches. That’s a bad idea, no matter how good the hammers are.

Many of these ideas were discussed in my book Messy and in the books I read while researching it. Would I learn anything new? My hesitancy was a big mistake. Rebel Ideas is a wonderful book. I’ve learned plenty that is new – but I’ve also gained a deeper appreciation of what I thought I already knew. Syed’s synthesis is impressive. His storytelling is breathtaking – he opens with a discussion of the CIA’s failure to spot the 9/11 attacks, and flits across plane crashes, the invention of the wheeled suitcase, and the rise of Silicon Valley. His discussion of a disastrous Everest expedition is particularly hard to put down. This approach – story plus science – is of course standard in the genre, but I can assure you that it’s very hard to do well, and Syed does it very well indeed.

Syed covers collective blindness, constructive dissent, innovation, echo chambers and the evolution of culture itself. My usual book-reading habit of creasing the bottom corner of a page I want to come back to has somewhat backfired – there are dozens of creases because the book is packed with good stuff.
 


 

Tim Harford

Tim Harford is a senior columnist for the Financial Times and the presenter of Radio 4's More or Less. He was the winner of the Bastiat Prize for economic journalism in 2006, and More or Less was commended for excellence in journalism by the Royal Statistical Society in 2010, 2011 and 2012. Harford lives in Oxford with his wife and three children, and is a visiting fellow at Nuffield College, Oxford. His other books include The Undercover Economist, The Logic of Life and Adapt.

 

Author Picks for Christmas - Morag Hood
22nd November 2020

Author Picks for Christmas

 

Author Picks for Christmas - Morag Hood

 

Author Picks for Christmas - Morag Hood

 

Ever since the publication of her 2016 debut picturebook Colin and Lee, Carrot and Pea, Morag Hood quickly became a firm favourite with Foyles. Her bright illustrations and printed spreads, coupled with stories covering thoughtful and necessary topics, make for delightful storytimes with younger children. Spaghetti Hunters is her newest title, and is a brilliantly funny and wonderfully silly picture book, featuring a duck, a tiny horse and quest for spaghetti! Especially for Foyles, Morag shares her favourite five books for children, which will make great gifts this Christmas!

 


Author Picks for Christmas - Morag Hood

I’m Sticking with You by Smriti Halls and Steve Small

I really enjoyed the way the text and illustrations work together in this funny and heart-warming picture book. The Illustrations are full of character and really utilise the physical difference between the two protagonists – a large bear and a small squirrel-sized squirrel. Some of the pictures of the two friends made me laugh out loud. It is a brilliant exploration of the ups and downs of a relationship and what it means to be a friend.

 

My Headteacher is an Evil Genius by Jack Noel

I am in awe of Jack Noel’s clever design and storytelling. The illustrations both move the narrative along and add lots of fun little details. The book is hilarious and speeds along as Tom Ginger tries to defeat her evil genius headteacher before it is too late. I really enjoyed the strong internal logic inside the funny and absurd plotline. This would be great for anyone 8+ who wants a highly illustrated comedy adventure!

(Also keep an eye out for Jack Noel’s excellent Comic Classics: Great Expectations)

 

Tiger, Tiger, Burning Bright! An animal poem for every day of the year, selected by Fiona Waters, Illustrated by Britta Teckentrup

This is such a beautiful book with luscious full-page colour illustrations. It is both a book to have proudly on display and one to keep just for yourself to be savoured quietly. I really like the way it offers the opportunity for a ritual moment of pause with a poem each day. This really is a book for all ages - the poems and illustrations are accessible, but not trivial and the book has been beautifully produced.  

 

Monster Clothes by Daisy Hirst

Monster Clothes is that special kind of board book – brightly coloured and engaging for babies while being genuinely fun for their grown-ups to read. As a new parent I’ve gained a whole new appreciation for the art of a good board book and this has plenty of brilliantly eccentric details to keep you entertained through multiple readings. Perfect for any little monsters in your life! Monster Food, another in the series, is also a real treat.

 

Emma Watson: The Fantastically Feminist (and totally true) story of the Astounding Actor and Activist by Anna Doherty

It is great to see the development of highly illustrated non-fiction in the last few years, creating sophisticated yet engaging books for young people. This has a limited colour palette and a lot of information but remains a great deal of fun! Ostensibly it is about Emma Watson, but it also serves as the perfect introduction to ideas of feminism and social responsibility. A book filled with lively illustrations to help build a fantastically feminist next generation.

 


 

Spaghetti Hunters by Morag Hood

 

Morag Hood has a unique voice. Her idiosyncratic, wry humour permeates everything she does, creating books of style and irresistible charm. Colin and Lee, Carrot and Pea was a runner-up in The Macmillan Prize for Illustration, marking a glorious picture book debut. Morag spent her childhood writing stories, painting, and dreaming of having a pet duck. Following a degree in Costume Design from Wimbledon College of Art, and an MA in Children's Book Illustration from the Cambridge School of Art, Morag returned to live in her native Edinburgh with her husband. She still likes making stories, printing, cutting and sticking, and freshly sharpened pencils. Her self-authored books include Colin and Lee, Carrot and Pea, When Grandad was a Penguin, I Am Bat, The Steves , Aalfred and Aalbert and Brenda is a Sheep, and she is also the author of Sophie Johnson: Unicorn Expert, illustrated by Ella Okstad. www.moraghood.co.uk

 

 

Author Picks for Christmas - Sabrina Ghayour
21st November 2020

Author Picks for Christmas

Author Picks for Christmas - Sabrina Ghayour

Author Picks for Christmas - Sabrina Ghayour


This year Sabrina Ghayour published her fifth glorious cookbook, Simply, and it's safe to say this will be on many Christmas lists this year. Not only are the recipes vibrant, fragrant and generously easy to follow, the design and photography of the book is a colourful feast for the eyes. With over 100 easy, everyday dishes, all infused with Sabrina's enthusiasm and flair for flavour, Simply is destined to become a kitchen-bookshelf classic. Especially for Foyles, Sabrina has selected five books she would recommend, perfect for either the foodie in your life, or to expand your own recipe repertoire!

 


 

Author Picks for Christmas - Sabrina Ghayour

 

Summer Kitchens by Olia Hercules

I do love Olia’s books, perhaps because some of the recipes she writes carry a familiarity to me because of the proximity of Russia and Iran and the regions in between. Whilst Olia is from the Ukraine, much like myself, her recipes cover a wide region spanning across Russia, the Ukraine to Georgia and the Steppe region and, rather fortuitously, even into my birthland of Iran, too.  Iranian culinary culture does have quite a bit of Russian influence and whilst the dishes may no longer be identical to the original, the names and bases of the recipes have not changed. I grew up eating Borscht, Pirozkhi, Stroganoff and Olivieh Salad and so Olia’s recipes don’t feel alien to me. This particular book pays homage to the outdoor Summer kitchens and recipes from her native Ukraine. Cabbage rolls, fried tomatoes, sweet and savoury bakes of every kind, there are so many deliciously inviting dishes you’ll want to make and every recipe intro tells a story and gives you a little taste of the author’s heritage and culture. The soup chapter alone makes this money well spent and there is a rather useful section on fermenting, pickling and preserving which is something we share a love for in Persian culture but the techniques and expertise of which has always evaded me, so this chapter is especially interesting for me.  

 

Carpathia by Irina Georgescu

I generally tend to gravitate to cookery books that perhaps offer some sort of education or window into the food and traditions of a culture that I know little about. When I first heard of this book, I ordered it immediately because I know it would tick all the boxes for me and give me a rare and precious insight into the wonderfully colourful culture and history or Romania and its food and traditions. What I particularly love about their culture is that for some reason it feels terrily familiar… hints of Italian language, Turkish words from Ottoman rule and a whole host of influences from Greece, Austria, Hungary and more, makes for a very fascinating tapestry of history and recipes. I know what you’re thinking, “Won’t it be full of ingredients I won’t be able to find?” The truth is, I was worried about the same thing but pleasantly surprised to find that all the recipes were accessible and I don’t think there is a single recipe in the book that I wouldn’t want to eat or cook.  I’m especially taken with the Romanian yogurt and cheese flatbreads, affectionately known as ‘Romanian Popcorn’ because of the authors childhood memories of eating a stack of them whilst watching movies with her family. I consider myself a serious collector of cookery books but only ones that I would genuinely cook from and hand on heart, I cannot recommend this beautiful book enough to those wanting to try new recipes, which yet somehow feel strangely familiar, too.

 

Oats in the North, Wheat from the South by Regula Ysewijn

This is such a special and well-researched book and I have long been looking for something just like it. It is a very comprehensive history and celebration of wonderful known and, more importantly, lesser known regional bakes from around Britain. I read this book from cover to cover over a period of a few weeks, taking each recipe and digesting the words as if I was trying every single bake as I turned each page. So many of the bakes I remember from my childhood and school days can be found in here and I’m thrilled to have found that rock cake also features alongside other wonderful recipes from every corner of the land. It really is an education, a glimpse into regional histories and traditions that are now mostly forgotten in other parts of the country. The importance of keeping these recipes alive is terribly crucial as once lost, there will be little left of our British food heritage so I do think Regula is a bit of a national treasure for so brilliantly researching these recipes and sharing them with us in her book and I’m so happy to have this book on my shelves as its helped me learn so much about the bakes of so many destinations across the country.

 

A Pastry Chef’s Guide by Ravneet Gill

This is technically an unusual choice for a girl like me who is not the world’s most skilled baker and therefore tends to swerve baking books as a rule BUT if I had to count the number of times I have made the cookie recipe alone from this book during 2020, the figure would be close to 3 digits by now. I have also made the lemon drizzle cake, twice baked chocolate cake, the worlds best chocolate cake and also the double chocolate cookies…. which makes this the one baking book I’ve used more than any before in my life. If that’s not a natural endorsement, I don’t know what is! Whilst not every recipe has a picture, which if you’re a nervous baker as I am can instill panic, have faith and trust in Ravneet and persevere until the recipe is complete as you will be rewarded with an excellent bake the like of which will have everyone cooing with happiness.  I must reiterate my love for the chocolate chip cookie recipe in this book… It has comfortably ensured I gain a rather generous amount of weight this year but the kind of calories that aren’t worth counting because there was so much pleasure had in the pursuit of said weight gain. I’d comfortably say that I’d buy this book for the cookie recipe alone but obviously, her bakes are very good and more of her recipes will appear on my table, especially come Christmas.

 

Nigella Christmas by Nigella Lawson

I’ve found myself digging this book out earlier than usual this year… perhaps the events of 2020 mean I need the familiar feel of Christmas a little earlier than usual. This is my go-to book for the festive season and in my humble opinion, no other Christmas book has ever come close to delivering the feel-good and reliable comfort that Nigella does for me and my family, time and again. The things I love about this book are really more about Nigella and the confidence her writing and recipes have always instilled in me. I know, without a shadow of a doubt, that no matter which of her recipes I choose to recreate, it will work and turn out perfectly no matter what. That is a kind of confidence that I myself as a writer try my utmost to deliver to my readers because, as the end of the day, its not your flair for flavour or technique that keeps you cooking, it really boils down to the confidence you feel when recreating a recipe. This book is packed with so many wonderfully indulgent dishes perfect for the festive season, without an ounce of holding back… which is just what we all want at that special time. Ham, turkey, sprouts, desserts, ribs, cocktails, finger food as well as some less traditional, slightly more exotic delights such as lamb and date tagine to break up the monotony of turkey overload once you’re done with serving every roast known to man. As ever, Nigella retains her rightful crown at the Queen of the cookery scene.

 


 

Simply: Easy everyday dishes by Sabrina Ghayour

 

Sabrina Ghayour is an Iranian-born, self-taught home cook turned chef, cookery teacher and food writer. She made her name hosting the hugely popular 'Sabrina's Kitchen' supper club in London, specializing in Persian and Middle Eastern flavours, and went on to be named the Observer's Rising Star in Food. Her award-winning debut, Persiana, is a worldwide bestseller, and her follow-ups Sirocco, Feasts and Bazaar were Sunday Times bestsellers.

 

 

© W&G Foyle Ltd
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