1) The Sharper Your Knife, The Less You Cry, by Kathleen Flinn

I can’t remember how many books I’ve read about studying at Le Cordon Bleu, but so far all of them have been pretty engaging. This one too.

“In 2003, Kathleen Flinn, a 36 year-old American living in London, returned from holiday to find that her corporate job had been terminated. Flinn cleared out her savings and moved to Paris to pursue a dream–a diploma from the famed Le Cordon Bleu cooking school.”

This is “the touching and remarkably funny account of Flinn’s transformation as she moves through the school’s intense programme and falls deeply in love along the way. More than two dozen recipes are interwoven within this unique look inside Le Cordon Bleu, amid battles with demanding chefs, competitive classmates and her wretchedly inadequate French.”

One of my favourite paragraphs from the book:

“As in cooking, living requires that you taste, taste, taste as you go along–you can’t wait until the dish of life is done……In reality, there is no station, no place to arrive at once and for all. The joy of life is the trip, and the station is a dream that constantly outdistances us.

How many tears did I cry because I didn’t know what I wanted? ‘The sharper your knife,’ as Chef Savard had said, ‘the less you cry.’ For me, it also means to cut those things that get in the way of your passion and of living your life the way it’s meant to be lived.”

2) The Importance of Being Trivial–In Search of the Perfect Fact, by Mark Mason

I LOVE THIS BOOK. I love trivia (which, of course, is not at all trivial)!

As the author put it, “It seems the world is divided into two camps: the camp which loves the fact that a jiffy is the name given in computing to a hundredth of a second, and the camp which doesn’t.” Obviously, I belong to the first!

I practically devoured the analysis of trivia, and the numerous nuggets of information sprinkled generously along the way. (An HB pencil will draw a line 35 miles long! Countries at the United Nations are seated alphabetically. Dolphins have more teeth than any other mammals? Sting wrote ‘Every Breath You Take’ at the same desk where Ian Fleming sat to write the Bond novels! Heinz ketchup flows at 0.7 miles a day. Carlsberg Special Brew was invented for Winston Churchill, as a thank you from Denmark for Britain’s help in the war! I could go on and on and on.. but you see what I mean. 😛 )

Too excited to think, let me just copy what’s on the back of the book:

“Convinced that our love of trivia must reveal something truly important about us, Mark Mason sets out to discover what that something is. In the process, he asks the fundamental questions that keeps all trivialists awake at night. Why is it so difficult to forget that Keith Richards was a choirboy at the Queen’s Coronation when it’s so hard to remember what we did last Thursday? Are men more obsessed with trivia than women? Can it be proved that flies hum in the key of F? Can anything ever really be proved? And the biggest question of all: is there a perfect fact, and if so what is it?”

I happily followed the author on his quest for “the perfect fact”, relishing every single bit of trivia along the way. I LOVE THIS BOOK. XD (Yamamoto san, I think you will like it too!) Fact can truly be stranger than fiction (pardon the cliche).

Now let me go read it again!

3) The Widow’ Season, by Laura Brodie

Still excited by the thought of reading the trivia book all over again, I’ll settle for copying the introduction from Publishers’ Weekly:

“When Sarah McConnell’s husband of 17 years dies in a kayaking incident, she is left widowed and childless at the age of 39. But David’s body is never recovered, and after three months of seeing glimpses of her husband at the grocery store and her home, Sarah wonders whether she really is a widow. On Halloween night, David shows up at her front door and offers a plausible explanation for his absence, and Sarah is, understandably, relieved yet also distraught—since she’s the only person who has seen him, is he real? Or is she going crazy? Brodie expertly walks the line between reality and fantasy, life and death, heartache and love, leaving readers hoping for the best and prepared for the worst—without ever really knowing the truth—until the final five pages.”

A faintly disturbing story… interesting read, but not something I’ll like to read a second time.

4)  Made from Scratch–Discovering the Pleasures of a Handmade Life, by Jenna Woginrich

From Amazon.com:

“Starting off as a young, single woman with a desk job and a city apartment, Jenna Woginrich set out to build a more self-sufficient lifestyle by learning homesteading skills. She didn’t own land or have much practical experience beyond a few forays into knitting and soap making, but she did have a strong desire to opt out of what she saw as a consumer-driven culture. After moving across the country to a rented farmhouse in northern Idaho, she learned to raise chickens, keep bees, and grow her own food.”

“It’s almost two books in one: each chapter (for example, the one in which she tells us about her early misadventures in chicken raising) is accompanied by a brief guide to its subject (in this case, she talks about the importance of selecting a breed, choosing the right food, and providing a proper, poultry-friendly environment). The book, therefore, is simultaneously a lighthearted fish-out-of-water, city-girl-turns-homesteader memoir and a more serious primer on making a lifestyle change. Perfect for environmentally conscious, do-it-yourself readers. –David Pitt”

I’m not likely to be a homesteader anytime soon, but I really enjoyed this book, especially the chapters on growing vegetables, rearing chickens (and rabbits! no, not for meat, Tanaka-san!) and keeping bees. Apparently, vegetables, bees and chickens form a simple farm ecosystem that works wonderfully. Honeybees (pollinators) and hens (pest-removers) help the garden to thrive and chicken waste can be used for the garden. Along the way, you get honey and eggs and fruits and veges. 😀

Read more about the author’s homesteading life at her blog.

5) Little Pink Slips, by Sally Koslow

I’m strangely drawn to chick lit featuring media people. (Why do so many chick lit stories feature media people?) This one is about Magnolia, an editor whose beloved magazine turns into “the playtoy of an overblown celebrity talkshow host… a loudmouthed, opinionated woman (sound familiar?) with no magazine experience, and now Magnolia must kowtow to her so she can keep her job. On the heels of The Devil Wears Prada (2003), Koslow presents another dishy and delightful insider’s view of the elite in magazine publishing.”

Pleasant read… Great for plane rides.