Books I have read and recommend:
This is a list of books I have read and my thoughts on them. I have been a bit slack adding to this list of late - bear with me as I add to it sporadically!
My Bread: Jim Lahey (2009)
I have a bit of love hate relationship with bread. I love it in all its crusty chewy nutty tasting glory, lathered with butter and some home made lemon butter - you cant go wrong. But making has always been tricky. Often its great just out of the oven, but hardens within a few hours for me. I have a couple of basic white loaf recipe's that work, but I have always hankered to make those airy, holey loaves with all sort of add ins like cheese and onion or walnut and fetta or - I think you get the idea!
I tried this book as the long rise time appealed to me rather than the no knead part. And you know what? I have been turning out a loaf a day for a couple of week and only one was slightly undercooked (my fault for not following the instructions) and the rest have been resounding success's!! I'm thrilled with the results and highly recommend Jim's method. Once you master the basic loaf, there is so much more to try. This is a book I would definitely buy rather than rely on finding in the library. If you are a bread maker, then you'll be interested in how this works and if you want to try bread making for the first time, then this is a great recipe to start with!
Read April 2015.
One Magic Square: Lolo Houbein (2008)
This is a food gardening for beginners book one small square at a time. Lolo saw her home town in Holland implode under the impact of war until all the animals were hunted, the fish caught and the trees were used for fire wood. The following famine killed 24,000 people in an area a sixteenth the size of Tasmania. Since then food security has been very important to her and this is the book for those who have never grown even a radish before. Basic, easy to read with lots of pictures and diagrams. Good also for those interested in small food gardens that produce certain meals (for example curries, salads, pizza/pasta) as she has planting plans for many lifestyles including anti cancer, anti-oxidants and many more.
I liked it for the good basic advice like - if you see a root vegetable in an Asian shop, eat 1/2 and if you like it, plant the other half. Some may rot, some may die but those that grow you know you will like!
Read May 2012
The Little Vege Patch Company: Fabian Capomolla and Mat Pember. (2011)
A great book about growing food in small spaces written by two Australian Italian guys with a huge passion for growing things and passing on knowledge. Its another good book for beginners with lots of anecdotes, great pictures and good advice. Its got some good kids projects in it as well as a fairly comprehensive section on the individual easy to grow food plants to guide you on what is likely to grow in your area and when to plant it.
I liked it for its passion, pictures and easy to follow instructions for worm farms, compost heaps and seedling trays.
Read May 2012
Between the Leaves - Stories of Australian Women, Writing and Gardens: Katie Holmes. (2011)
This is a documentary type book written by a Professor of History. Katie Holmes tells the stories about Australian women who both gardened and wrote; either letters or diaries. She delves into the lives of these woman bringing them to life through what they wrote (or didn't write) about their gardens. There are nine woman who are researched and presented in this book along with photos and excerpts of their writings. If you are interested in History, gardening and writing - then this is a great book. Rich with detail, each story stands alone if you don't have time to read them all. A fascinating look into Australian woman's love of gardening for food and for pleasure.
Read May 2012
Kitchen Gardens of Australia- Eighteen productive gardens for inspiration and practical advice: Kate Herd. (2011)
Beautiful book with lots a nice big extravagant colour photos of the gardens in it. Focused on food production, this book takes the reader around Australia looking at the ways we grow plants to eat. Each garden has details about size, climate, soil, watering, rainfall and and frost as well as a narrative about each garden and its gardener/s. More of an inspiration and ideas type book than a practical how to (although they do tell you how they overcame various obstacles) its a great read about how and why other people do what they do in their gardens. Some gardeners are well known, but most are amateurs and some are even school children, all creating sustainable kitchen gardens with what they have to hand. Great book for inspiration, discussion and motivation!
Read June 2012
The Life and Death of the Australian Backyard: Tony Hall (2010)
A very interesting look at the backyard shrinkage - not a global phenomenon as you might imagine, but as it turns out, only in Australia...? Aerial Maps of new suburbs show a disturbing trend towards big houses and small or nonexistent backyards. Author Tony Hall takes us through the legislation, economics and cultural changes that have lead to longer working hours and less need to enjoy the great outdoors in your own backyard. Although there is a lot of doom and gloom (with good reason I might add) Tony leaves us with some solutions and ideas for the preservation of the great Australian backyard and the pleasures it brings.
A bit of an academic read - but a real eye opener to the effects that the new way of building and developing housing estates has on the way we all live. If you are thinking of building a big house in the future - READ THIS BOOK FIRST!
Read June 2012
150 Indestructible plants: Jody Rigby
This is a book to help you find a plant for that impossible spot. You know, the one that gets too much sun and no rain, or is constantly wet, or windy or... well who knows why nothing will grow there??? Jody divides her book up into chapters about plants that tolerate frost, will grow well by the sea, in the tropics in the shade, etc. She gives both the Latin and common name of the plant and some decent colour pictures making it easy to identify the plant down at your local nursery. The only real criticism I have of the book is that she doesn't tell you if the plants will become invasive or if they are pests in your state. I would be worried about planting an indestructible plant that turns out to be an environmental pest in my area. However, if you do some basic checks on the plant before you pop it in the garden - you should be fine.
Good book to check out if you have a difficult climate, location or patch for growing things in.
Read June 2012
The Home Grown Paleo Cookbook. Diane Rogers (2015)
This is a beautifully rendered book. The images are beautifully shot and put together. It starts with information about the American Diet, what's wrong with it and then moves through the various ways you can start to fix it. The Paleo diet includes meat and as Diane lives on a farm, she goes through the various animals that can be raised for meat and how to do it sustainably. There is a section on growing your own food in the garden as well as lifestyle chapter that includes things like hosting a clambake, roasting a whole pig and playing chicken sh*t bingo! Then follow the chapters on cooking seasonally from the garden as per the title!
At over 400 pages there is a lot of information in this book; all of it interesting but maybe not pertinent - depending on where you live. Along with information about raising animals and growing plants is a lot if information about sustainability, our lifestyle choices and the environment.
A good book for an overall view of sustainable diets with a focus on the Paleo lifestyle.
Read April 2015
Eat Real Food - David Gillespie (2015)
If you've ever wondered what to eat in this world of so much choice, then this is the book for you. David Gillespie explore why diets don't work and why we are getting fatter and sicker every year. He was an over weight laywer who had a kid on the way and couldn't lose weight. He knew how to research though and came across a whole bunch of research that pointed out sugar as the culprit for our ever increasing girths. His books "Sweet Poison" and "The Sweet Poison Quit plan" made a lot of sense and are following in the footsteps of people like Gary Taubes, Michael Pollan, Nancy Appleton and authors of other "anti-sugar" books. This one goes a step further. Once you are convinced that sugar is doing you harm, David takes you through the supermarket and shows you what your best choices are and why. There are some recipes in the back to get you through sugar laden moments (Birthdays, breakfasts and bad days) without resorting to your usual sugar laden go to foods.
An interesting read with lots of practical tips. A must read for those wanting to give up sugar but aren't sure what to replace it with and what they can actually eat!
Read November 2015.
Human society evolution:
Guns, Germs and Steel: Jared Diamond (1997)
It turns out that this 480+ page book can be more or less summarised in one sentence... "History followed different courses for different peoples because of differences amongst peoples environments, not because of biological differences among peoples themselves". Jarred Diamond explores, in some depth, why the Eurasian culture is now the dominant one and not some other one. He explains how some environments gave some peoples a head start and that some local conditions can explain much in the course of human history.
A long, but fascinating, read that opens up new ideas, explores the history of food, farming, technology and who invented what, where, and importantly - why. Its a book about who got to invent the gun first, had the strongest immunity against germs and who worked out the many uses of steel and what they did with that knowledge.
If you are interested in Human evolution, food, societies and what make them tick - this is the book for you!
Read March 2015
The distraction Trap: Frances Booth
Affluenza: Clive Hamilton with Richard Deniss. (2005)
Wow?! Ever wondered where all your money went? Why you work so many hours? Why your bills are so big? Why you never have any time left at the end of the day for you? Well, this book may have all the answers! This book is about over consumption. Its an Australian book and has a look at how our houses have got bigger, our families smaller, our pay packets larger and our debt even bigger - and we are still not happy... It tracks the mountains of stuff we throw out, the 'drugs' we take to self medicate and the 'choices' the corporations allow us to make. Along with the doom and gloom there is a cure proposed by the authors - to ignore the advertisers, reduce your consumer spending and go back to doing the things that really matter.
I liked this book because it pulls no punches, is not American and leads me through a logical progression, explaining things to me as it went along. Highly recommended reading for everyone!
Read June 2012
365 ways to change the world - How to make a difference one day at a time: Michael Norton (2005)
This is one of those thought provoking, mind expanding books that get you thinking about things you may not have thought of before. If you wanted to, you could do one of those ideas each day and make a hell of an impact or like I do, think, ponder and discuss it with others. Many things I am doing already (composting, changing light bulbs, donating blood) Many things I probably wont ever do, (Harass the USA gun lobby, go to a Microsoft shareholders meeting and protest in a gorilla suit, live on the streets for a week) but there is a hue amount of food for thought about world poverty, fresh water supply, HIV, living on less than a dollar a day, making amends, tithing and supporting worthwhile causes.
This would make a good Christmas or Birthday present for friends and family beginning a green, ethical or simpler life. I enjoy the variety and the way I can dip into it for a minute or two and walk away knowing more about my world than I did yesterday!
Read July 2012
The Big Issue Magazine: Helping people help themselves
The Big Issue is a magazine that is only sold on the streets of major cities by vendors. It costs $5 and if you see it for sale I reckon you should grab a copy for two reasons. Firstly, its a good read, lots of interesting articles written by some interesting people. This is not your run of the mill glossy magazine. In fact, its not even glossy! It is sold by people who are a bit down on their luck - often with a mental illness or other major issues that prevents them from participating in mainstream activities such as employment, owning or renting a house and lots of things that you and I take for granted. They are paid on a commission basis - they get 1/2 of the cover price of the magazine. Its a hard slog for many of them so if you see a big issue vendor (they usually have a Big Issue Jacket on and are waving a copy around) please stop for a chat (that's as important as buying the magazine) buy a copy (there is a new one every fortnight) and if you have the change - give the vendor a few bucks for a coffee as well!
We have been buying this magazine for about 10 years now and find it good value for money - we donate the magazines to Doctors surgeries when we have finished with them to help spread the word!
Girls on the Edge - The four factors driving the new crisis for girls: Leonard Sax (2010)
This is a book I read for a uni assignment on what factors affect the way teenage girls see themselves and respond to the messages that both the media and their family send out. Since Leonard has visited a number of schools in Australia (he has an actual list in the back of the book) I think it is relevant to Australian families as he is drawing on our cultural experience too. Primarily the book is about teenage girls and how the internalise messages about their sexuality and what happens when they get too much social media and don't have enough face to face contact with real people. It also covers obsessions with their body, their peers and with the cyberbubble. The book also touches on spirituality and environmental toxins including the rubbish teenagers put into and onto their bodies. If you have a teenage girl - I think its worth a look at. There is a fair bit of 'American Hype' in it, but I think the overall message is worth considering. Written by a dad, but easily readable by any parent who is interested in raising a well balanced child. I liked it for its easy to read style and its many easily understood examples. Recommended for parents (or students studying gender!)
Read June 2012.
Bicarbonate of Soda - Hundreds of everyday uses: Diane Sutherland, Jon Sutherland, Liz Keevill and Kevin Eyers. (2009)
A very interesting book packed with nearly 200 pages of hints , tips and advice on what you can do with bi-carbonate of soda! It covers the cleaning of kitchens, bathrooms (and even pets) and the laundry applications that we are all familiar with but then moves onto personal care, baby care, outside garden maintenance, throws in a few kids projects and finishes with some culinary tips and recipes!
Easy to read and very dip-able (meaning you can just open it it at random and enjoy) this book opened my eyes to further uses of this cheap green product that I had never considered! I liked it for its depth and variety, use of nice bright pictures but mainly for its explanations of how bi-carb works. Recommended for those who love their bi-carb already and want to take it to the next level and for the beginner exploring the possibilities!
Read June 2012
The Last Chinese Chef: Nicole Mones (2007)
I was given this book to read my a friend who is a chef who really enjoyed it. It's a nice book to read and the paper back edition that I read, had an "olde
The link sums up the plot perfectly!
If you are after a light romantic story with an emphasis on traditional Chinese cooking - then this is definitely your book!
Read July 2012
Peach Blossom Pavillion : Mingmei Yip (2008)
I was given this book along with "The Last Chinese Chef" above by the same person and read them back to back on a recent trip away. Again - not too hard to predict the ending as she starts the book with the main character being 98 years old and living in America... Its a book about a 13 year old girl who is sold into a high class Chinese brothel and her trials and tribulations whilst living in the Pavilion and then her life beyond while searching for her Mother and revenging her fathers death. Although the review I have linked to on the authors website is far more extravagant than I would be, its still a good book to read if you want to be entertained without having to think too much or be challenged. A good book for a journey or a winters afternoon. Wont change your life but a fun read never the less.
Read July 2012.
Fat, Fourty and Fired: Nigel Marsh (2005)
This is one of those reverse sexist type books. Part memoir, part anecdote, the book is based on Nigel's real life experience where he got made redundant and decided to be a stay at home dad! Its funny for those who can run a household with four kids in it with ease, which is where 90% of the humour is in this story. It takes us on the journey of his first year of being jobless where he sets some goals (like swimming in the Beach to Beach race), gets to know his kids (the over night trip to Canberra is hilarious) and winds up appreciating his wife a whole lot more! Light, funny and easy to read. Recommended for those who know their partners couldn't do what we do every day!
Read May 2012.
Confessions of a Very Short Man: Nigel Marsh
This is the followup book to Fat, Forty and Fired about how Nigel decided to try for a better work/life balance and this time quits his high paying job to write and be with his family. Its hilarious, just like his other book but touches on far more heartfelt topics than just being funny. He examines things like how much money he spends on his hair (and ends up no 'poo, which endears him to me) finds religion at the local swimming pool and tries to spend more time with his family doing quality things. A light funny read and maybe a good Christmas present to those contemplating a more simple life rather than those who are already living it!
Read July 2012
These are the books I have seen or heard of and want to read - as soon as I have the time!
On Walden Pond
Big Fat Lies
Cooked - Michael Pollan