Friday, February 28, 2014

"The Dirty Chef" by Matthew Evans

This book "The Dirty Chef" is an autobiographical account by Matthew Evans (From the "Gourmet Farmer" TV series on SBS) of his journey from being a food and restaurant critic in Sydney to setting up a small farm in Tasmania. He is really into eating locally produced, seasonal, organic, free-range, sustainable food, and also loves preparing, cooking and eating good quality and delicious food. His book is full of anecdotes of lovely, interesting and quirky characters, adventures and misadventures of essentially setting up a hobby farm from scratch with no real prior knowledge of what that might involve, and interspersed with delicious-sounding recipes. I read this book in kindle format, but I really wish I had bought it as a hard copy, as I'm sure I would keep referring back to it and looking up recipes etc which is a lot harder to do with an e-book I find. I found this book to be entertaining (humourous in parts), interesting and inspiring...over the last year I have personally been attempting to eat more local and seasonal food, shop at places like the Adelaide Central Markets for organic local delicious food, grow my own herbs in pots in the garden, and just enjoy cooking and eating clean healthy gluten-free food that tastes good and isn't pumped full of chemicals or shipped halfway around the globe and sold by big companies. It's not always possible on a tight budget, but I am enjoying trying to follow these ideas as much as I can. Additionally, I have been dreaming of a gourmet food holiday in Tasmania, taking a road trip down the east coast eating lots of local cheeses, berries, seafood and drinking wine... Given that I am already starting to get interested in this sort of lifestyle, I really loved this book and the insight it gave me into various aspects of organic, free range and local farming compared to what we are offered through big chain supermarkets. However if your a vegetarian you might not be as enthusiastic about many of the themes in the book.

I have only seen a handful of episodes of "The Gourmet Farmer" on SBS over the years, but now I have read this book I am quite keen to try to get a hold of the shows on DVD, and to look out for a copy of the author's other book "The Real Food Companion". 

Started reading on my kindle: 28th February 2014
Finished: 8th March 2014
My score: 9/10

Aussie Author Challenge criteria: Male author, New to me, Non-Fiction, Autobiography genre, foodie, first published in 2013.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

"The Lieutenant" by Kate Grenville

I went into the Rundle Mall Dymocks bookshop last weekend, and asked a staff member there if they had a section for Australian fiction books. The helpful woman said that although they didn't have a section dedicated to Australian fiction, she could suggest a few authors that she thought were great Aussie authors. She recommended a few that I have already read and loved (such as Hannah Kent's "Burial Rites" and ML Stedman's "Light between oceans"), but she also suggested a few that were new to me (perfect for the Aussie Author Challenge), including Kate Grenville's "The Lieutenant" and Gail Jones' "Sorry".

I decided to try her suggestion of "The Lieutenant" by Kate Grenville first. The book is an historical novel (one of my favourite genres) set mainly in Sydney during the late 1700s. The main character, Lieutenant Daniel Rooke, is an astronomer with the First Fleet. He establishes a make-shift observatory just outside the convict settlement in order to look out for and record Halley's comet. The main focus of the book becomes the relationship that forms between David and a small group of native Aboriginals he befriends - in particular a child called Tagaran. While initially he is most interested in learning their language, a strong bond develops between them which has quite powerful effects on the path his life takes, contrasting starkly with the attitudes of the military/convict settlement of the time.

I really enjoyed this book. It was really beautifully written, the words seem to capture the essence of the wild landscape, the slice of history and the nature of humans. Kate Grenville has written several other books (both fiction and non-fiction) and I definitely will be reading more of her books in the future! Thank you to the helpful woman at the Dymocks bookstore for recommending this author to me! :-)

Started reading: 22nd February 2014.
Finished: 28th February 2014
My score: 8.5/10

Aussie Author Challange 2014: The author is Female, New to me, Genre: Historical novel.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

"The Brain That Changes Itself" by Norman Doidge

Last night when I felt like reading I discovered my Kindle needed recharging *horror* so I decided to pick up a 'real' book and read that while it was charging, and now I can't put it down! What is more unusual is that this is a non fiction book, and although I do read non fiction books I usually read them slowly, chapter by chapter alongside devouring various novels.

"The brain that changes itself"  is by Norman Doidge, who is a psychiatrist, psychoanalyst and researcher in the USA. This book was originally recommended to me by my friend Georgie. This is a Non-Fiction book about the human brain and neuroplasticity. I heard an interesting scientific presentation by Simon Koblar on a similar topic recently and  his discussion of the potential for using patients stem cells from their teeth to help stroke patients brains recover. This seminar combined with my friend's recommendation inspired me to read this book. 

Started reading: 4th Feb 2014
Finished reading: 22nd February 2014
My score: 9.5/10

Really awesome book - very fascinating. I really recommend it, even for non-scientists, most of it is explained clearly, and it is just mind-blowing what the human brain can do. If your interested in stroke therapy, preventing dementia or old-age related memory loss, managing addiction, understanding autism - anything to do with how the brain functions and what it can be taught to do, how even adult brains have some level of 'plasticity' enabling them to recover lost function or develop new functions with the correct exercises - this is a must-read. There were 2 chapters that I thought were a bit too 'Freudian' for me, dealing more with psychoanalysis of sexual relationships and loss of a mother in infancy, which is why I gave the book 9.5 instead of 10/10, but apart from those two chapters the rest of the book is an amazing, insightful and well explained journey into neuroplasticity.