Monday, 8 December 2014

Five reads for December


Nancy Mitford, photographed by Cecil Beaton


1. Christmas Pudding

For years, I have adored the Mitfords for their eccentric aristocratic lifestyle, their beauty, and their wit. But, far from being a superficial affection, the things I love most about them are their intelligence and talent. Nancy Mitford's Love in a Cold Climateand The Pursuit of Loveare old favourites, so much so that I packed them in my hospital bag when going in to have my second child - picture me serenely reading as the contractions came and went, without so much as a glimmer of pain showing across my bespectacled face. (That did not happen, by the way. What on earth was I thinking?)

But I have yet to read Christmas Pudding. Recommended by a friend, this is - surely - the perfect festive read.

2. The Collected Stories of Lydia Davis

This book was a birthday present last week. The kind giver told me that a flick through the pages in the bookshop reminded him of my writing. What a lovely thing to say! Fascinating to see your work through someone else's eyes.

3. The Flavour Thesaurus

What if flavours were like words? What if you could unpick them, use the theory of each component part to make an edible sentence no one has ever come up with before? This book is the perfect gift for anyone wanting to broaden their culinary horizons or those who like to invent. I used it loads when developing the recipes for my book.

4. They F*** You Up: How to Survive Family Life

I have always loved that Larkin poem. And I'm a big fan of Oliver James's column in the Guardian, too. This book is such an illuminator; not designed to make family strife worse, instead James gives fascinating examples of various scenarios illustrated by stories of people in the public eye. Particularly interesting is the case study of Woody Allen. The implications of this book are a little frightening, though, and I have been thinking hard about my own kids and their upbringing. Painful but necessary.

5. The Alice B. Toklas Cookbook

Oh em gee! A cookbook by the lover of Gertrude Stein, describing meals in Paris in the 1920s with Ernest Hemingway and Pablo Picasso? It's like Midnight in Paris brought to life. How did I not know about this?

What are you reading at the mo?


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