BEA JOHNSON LIVED the consumerist dream: huge house, lavish holidays, Botox – yet she wasn’t happy. She and her family downsized, disposed of everything they didn’t “use, need or love” and rethought their lives. Deeply concerned about the environment, they became committed to reducing waste: buying in bulk, rejecting packaging, and making their own bread, mustard and cheese. They worked out a “Zero Waste” philosophy to aim for, applying the mantra “Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Rot”.
In this inspiring, thorough book, Johnson explains how you too can do just that too. Sensible rather than preachy, this is an honest, entertaining and campaigning guide to living a more environmentally friendly life.
THE COOL LINES of Japanese fashion are explained in this first English translation of celebrated designer Yoshiko Tsukiori’s new book of sewing projects. The photographs of her designs are as tempting as a still cool pool on a hot day, with drawstring tops, loose smocks, peasant dresses and sharp shirts, styled in a palette of soft blues and greys. Basic design patterns are also included, and while the small diagrams may alarm some novices, Tsukiori’s designs are so gorgeous, any fan of DIY fashion will want to get their head down and have a go.
ARDENT ORNITHOLOGIST Matt Sewell captured bird lovers’ hearts last year with Our Garden Birds and charms again with a collection of warblers for every week of the year. Illustrated with Sewell’s signature watercolours (he has painted murals for the RSPB and a bird hide for Port Eliot festival), this lovely giftbook also includes his idiosyncratic descriptions of the birds, where a Turtle Dove is a “glamorous granny resplendent in lace, doilies and pastel knickerbockers”. The Charlatans’ lead singer Tim Burgess provides a foreword.
“NO-HOLDS-BARRED, all-action cooking” is promised in Manly Food, an unashamedly blokey cookbook with the motto “Flavour First”. And tasty-looking it is too, with recipes such as Crab with Chilli and Black Bean Sauce and Pea and Ham Hock Soup. Manly Food is ambitiously meaty, with recipes for suckling pig, hare and boar, yet despite the macho tone (salted caramel fudge is perfect for “an extended hiking trip in the wilderness”) Cave is clearly serious about his ingredients, methods and tools. Makes cooking exciting.
APPREHENSION TREADS THROUGH the pages of Evie Wyld’s second novel, which is the follow-up to her much-lauded debut offering, After the Fire, a Still Small Voice. Jake (no, she’s a woman) Whyte lives in a farmhouse deep in an unspecified part of the wind-lashed British countryside. Solitary apart from a semi-feral dog, Whyte tries to concentrate on raising her flock of sheep – but someone, or something, is leaving them “mangled”. Jake’s hardscrabble past in Australia is revealed in alternate chapters as we slowly learn what it is that she’s so afraid of. Tough, capable, vulnerable, Whyte is a compelling character, and Wyld’s writing – particularly her descriptions of the Australian bush, oven-hot and roving with spiders – is exquisite. An unusual novel that should win its author even more prizes.
SELF-HARMING TEENAGER Lorca wants to win her neglectful mother’s attention with a perfect dish of Middle-Eastern speciality masgouf – and chooses as her teacher Victoria, an Iraqi widow who still mourns the daughter she gave away. The healing power of making and eating food is almost a literary cliché, but 25-year-old New Yorker Jessica Soffer’s debut novel combines a fresh twist with a warmly told narrative.
AFTER A FAMILY TRAGEDY, eight-year-old Mouse lost the ability to speak, communicating only via emails and notes, and sending forlorn texts to made-up numbers in the hope of a reply. Mouse and her mother move into a farmhouse in the Pennines once occupied by a lonely old man, William Caxton, whose mysterious unsent letters still clutter the rooms. As Mouse investigates Caxton’s past, she begins to find a way through her own sadness.
SKID BEAUMONT IS GROWING UP on the outskirts of New Orleans in an alligator-patrolled swamp where “nothin’ moved except for maybe a dragonfly testin’ the water with its toes”. His father has had a drunken premonition that the swamps will make them rich, and Skid believes that his brother Frico, the “sketcher” of the title, can influence events by drawing. A beautiful and funny coming-of-age story.