Dr. Johnson’s London – Liza Picard

Almost ‘too much information’ about London in the mid-18th Century

Bite size chunks of history, social and economic, about London as it was 250 years ago, and the Londoners of that time. Some things remain surprisingly familiar:

“Hackney coaches had been plying for hire in the streets of London for 200 years. By 1711 there were 800 licences issued in the City alone…”;

whilst others amuse:

“another traditional ploy took place on Twelfth Night. People used to stop and stare into the windows of pastrycooks, at the gorgeous Twelfth Night cakes on sale. As they stood, boys sneaked up and nailed their clothes to the wooden shopfront.”;

and others enlighten:

” The expression ‘old hat’ should be avoided, as it was one of the countless synonyms for ‘a woman’s privities’.”

An accessible yet fascinating book. Perfect for both the early morning commute and the bedtime read. And there are pictures too!

Oh yeah….and “Readers who liked this book also liked books by Peter Ackroyd and Christopher Hibbert”

Northern Lights – Philip Pullman

I took Cait at her word and bought this to tide me over the festive season ‘en famille’ …

Any complaints? Well, yes. I didn’t by the complete trilogy, and this first volume only lasted me from Christmas Eve through to the end of the Queen’s Speech.

The similarities between the world we live in and that of Lyra and the Gyptians are many, but it’s the differences which lure you in, keep you hooked, then leave you thinking “what if…?” about a million and one facets of 20th/21st century life; from society and politics to evolution and morality.

I’m off to buy vols 2 and 3 tomorrow – Hereford Waterstone’s permitting.

Fresh-Air Fiend – Paul Theroux

Pot Luck Paul Theroux

Louis’ dad isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but this collection gives you a taster of Paul Theroux’s travel writings from the years running up to Y2K.

Snapshots of the lives and lifestyles of people from all around the world, not only of the individuals Theroux encounters but also of the writer, his family and friends, including Bruce Chatwin.

With stories of sailing off Cape Cod, luxury cruising down the Yangtze a mere 4 years after the end of the Cultural Revolution, and surf-kayaking off Hawai’i’s North Shore, there’s a definite bias towards water-borne exploration.

Whether you are seeking inspiration for holiday destinations or, like me, feel the occasional need to relive travels of your own (or to undertake fresh ones, albeit on a vicarious basis), ‘Fresh-Air Fiend’ fits the bill.

Fattypuffs & Thinifers (Patapoufs et Filifers) – Andre Maurois

Readers who liked this, also liked Molesworth

I first encountered this book as a kid, lurking on the bookshelves at The Davids – family friends who also introduced Tom and me to Richard Scarry and Josephine Tey (and Jacob’s Sheep and Laphroaig).

Short enough for an under-10 to read over a weekend, and deceptively categorised as a ‘children’s novel’, this slim (5mm) gem of a story (with great illustrations by Fritz Wegner) is a gentle lesson in tolerance and co-existance, between individuals and families, nations and races.

One to read, read and read again – to yourself and to nephews and neices – in fact any ‘kid’ of any age you know.

I’ve still got my (battered) copy, 45p RRP and still going strong if you want to borrow it……

Ben & Jerry’s Homemade Ice Cream & Dessert Book – Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield

DIY Ben & Jerry’s – Your very own taste of Heaven in an ice cream cone

Ice cream fans, this is a must.

Simply take:
Double Cream
Vanilla Essence
‘Stuff’ (chopped up twix, fruit, lurid green food colourant)
One Ice cream maker (A Capital Investment for any kitchen)
An ability to convert from US ‘Cups’ into pints/millilitres/whatever
This Book

….and you will have the wherewithall to create endless tubs of your very own Ben & Jerry’s icecream and sorbets. All in under an hour.

Tasting is believing.