Reading Recap: The Books I Read In January

27 Jan 2021

January book recap

I half-heartedly started this year by claiming I was going on a book-buying ban until I’d made a significant dent in the to-read pile currently overflowing on my bedside table. What with the current dismal state of affairs, I can’t promise I’ll stick to this but, equally, it’s not like I don’t have the time to read right now. I’m actually kinda sick of all this bloody empty time we currently have but that’s a moan for another day. Here’s some lovely books for you. 

Tiny Moons: A Year of Eating in Shanghai - Nina Mingya Powles 

A gorgeous little memoir that is guaranteed to leave you feeling very hungry. I’d advise reading with snacks. The author documents the year she studied at a university in Shanghai through the food she ate. Living far away from her family in New Zealand, she finds solace from her loneliness in food. She explores how our lives are shaped by what we eat and how the rituals of food and the people we eat with are intrinsically linked with our memories and history. Every moment and story in this little book were so vivid, and I completely devoured it. 5/5

‘To enjoy food as a young woman, to opt out every day from the guilt expected of me, is a radical act of love.’

In The Kitchen: Essays On Food And Life 

In the mood for more food-related reading, I delved into this collection of essays from thirteen different writers who consider the subjects of cooking and eating and how they shape our lives, and the possibilities and limitations of the kitchen. It felt poignant to read this at a time when food and cooking is the most varied part of the day. Some essays were more memorable than others; Joel Goldby’s essay on the UK tradition of buffets made me laugh out loud. On the whole, it was a lovely little gem of a book and one I shall re-read for sure. 4/5

‘That’s where I saw a man put four hash browns and a single crumpet into a bowl and eat it. My theory with breakfast buffets, more than any other buffet at any other time, is that they reveal the deepest and darkest crevices of you, your true and real nature.’

Heartburn - Nora Ephron 

Are you starting to sense a theme here? Originally published in 1983, Heartburn is a semi-autobiographical novel about a food writer who discovers her husband is having an affair when she is seven months pregnant with their second child. It is a fictionalised account of Nora Ephron’s own divorce from her second husband Carl Bernstein. It is a funny and painfully well-observed monologue about an awful situation, intertwined with little recipes and notes on the healing power of food. I personally don’t think it’s one to desperately push into people’s hands and insist they read but it’s funny and entertaining, and I imagine will particular speak to those who have experienced a similarly messy divorce. 3/5 

‘In the end, I always wanted mashed potatoes. Mashed potatoes. Nothing like mashed potatoes when you’re feeling blue.’

January book recap

Supper Club - Lara Williams 

This book was an absolute joy to read, and I would particularly encourage any 20/30 something woman to pick it up. It explores the passage of time between post-education and early thirties, and loneliness, toxic relationships and learning to take up the space you deserve. A group of young women seek to reclaim their appetites and bodies by starting a supper club. As they eat without restriction, they rebel against the notion that women should minimise and compromise themselves to make space for others. The story was painfully moving but it’s the gorgeous and vivid writing that really makes this book. Another one to read with snacks, the descriptions of food are just mouth watering. 5/5

‘Delia Smith calls it ‘tart’s pasta’. Italian American restaurants call it ‘whore’s pasta’. But Nigella Lawson calls it ‘slut’s spaghetti’, and that’s the one I prefer. Because there is nothing more terrifying that a woman who eats and fucks with abandon.’

Life In Pieces - Dawn O’Portor 

This is just the right book to read in yet another lockdown if you’re in need of cheering up. Based on her diaries/blog from Lockdown 1.0., this is full of funny and relatable observations about life in lockdown, and trying not to lose one’s sanity as the world seemingly falls apart around us. 3/5 

‘Well there goes another day of total bollocks.’

Skin - E.M. Reapy 

An interesting exploration of the relationship we have with our bodies, this follows the travels of Natalie who is extremely uncomfortable in her own skin and disillusioned with her life. She travels to Bali, New Zealand, Dublin, rural Ireland, Peru and Amsterdam to try and find her place. At first, I found her quite a frustrating protagonist but as the story unfolds, we watch her development beginning to take place and you see her gradually becoming more confident and comfortable against the beautiful different backdrops of her journey. The novel was almost divided into short stories - split by country - and it did sometimes feel like things were left unfinished or weren’t properly explored. I also occasionally felt like the characters and dialogue could have had more depth. It lacked in places but overall, I enjoyed the story. 3/5

‘Travel forced me to be my own friend because it was too fucking lonely not to be.’ 

Happy reading folks x