Saturday, 7 May 2016

Five reads for May: My monthly book recommendations

Each month, I pick five reads from fiction, food, homes, interiors and more. Want to know what I'm reading this month? Course you do!

Petal, Leaf, Seed: Cooking with the treasures of the garden

Bristol food and garden writer extraordinaire (and fellow Team Simple Things contributor) Lia Leendertz has come up with a blinder of a book. Petal, Leaf, Seed is the kind of recipe book I always wished for but never found, back in the early days of my love affair with edible flowers that began around fifteen years ago. Previous offerings focused on the quaintly Victorian attitude - that flowers and food can mix but only if you first crystallise or embalm or bury in sugar. Lia's approach is a fresher, more contemporary take on this old fashioned trend, and her recipes are vastly more appealing as a result. There are many recipes that caught my eye but the one that stood out is the iced cake topped with alternating marigold and cornflower petals, oscillating outwards in something of an optical illusion. It's a triumph.

Elly Pear's Fast Days and Feast Days: Eat Well. Feel Great. All Week Long.

Staying with food books, my next recommendation of the month is a diet book of sorts. Elly Pear is another Bristol foodie - she runs the Pear Cafe in St Pauls but I first spotted her on Instagram, where she began photographing the food she ate on the two restricted calorie days of the 5:2 diet. Finally, she's compiled these recipes into a book, along with some of her favourites from the rest of the week plus ways to adapt one from the other. I haven't tried the 5:2 diet (being that it's something of a competitor to The Mount Athos Diet!) but I know people who've had a lot of success with the plan and I wouldn't rule it out. Elly's take is right up my street - the majority of her recipes are vegetarian and all look delicious.

Lionheart 6

Lionheart - the beautiful and whimsical independent magazine - is back again with its sixth issue: Time. Lionheart follows no publishing schedule and issues appear as if by magic, an approach that seems particularly in keeping with the time theme.  There are beautiful features about English country garden flowers, a modern day apothecary, how to use natural dyes, and interviews galore, all peppered with musings on the nature of time (among them, one I wrote about time being both short and long). As ever, it's meticulously designed and carefully edited - a true labour of love and the perfect way to pass the time, curled up in an armchair or swaying slowly in a hammock. Go buy.

Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear

A constant fascination of mine is how the creative process works. Different for everyone, obviously, but there's something about creative people describing how it is for them I find irresistible. My inspiration comes unprompted, often when my mind is clear of other things - in the shower, or driving, for example - and it makes me panic. I know from experience that if I don't pay it attention and start writing immediately then it will be gone for good. It's possible to stall it for a while. Sometimes I just catch the end and I know what it was I'd planned to write but often I can't quite place how I wanted to approach it. Philip Pullman wrote about ideas in The Golden Compass: The idea hovered and shimmered delicately, like a soap bubble, and she dared not even look at it directly in case it burst. But she was familiar with the way of ideas, and she let it shimmer, looking away, thinking about something else. This description is pretty much spot on for me.

Elizabeth Gilbert, she of Eat, Pray, Love fame, gave a TED talk back in 2009 where she gave historical context to the idea of muse, genius and creativity, plus a couple of examples from creatives describing how it is for them. About two thirds of the way into the talk, she describes a poet whose inspiration arrives violently and wilfully. It's a joy to hear. Anyway, Big Magic is her book about exactly this topic. I can't read it fast enough.

Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less

Confession time: I'm a maximalist. I procrastinate. I'm always busy. From this description, I'm exactly the target audience for Greg McKeown's book on the pursuit of ‘the right thing, in the right way, at the right time'.

According to the book, Essentialists have what Ernest Hemingway once characterised as a 'built-in, shock-proof crap detector,' one that is especially reliable when detecting their own. Where do I sign up? For me, this book sounds like the KonMari method but for the brain instead of the home.

What are you reading at the moment? Let me know in the comments!
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