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Book reviews: January 2021

5 min read

Pick of the month

Speed Kings
John Smailes
Allen & Unwin
Reviewed by Steve Atkinson

This is a well-written offering of the many New Zealand and Australians who have a connection with the Indianapolis 500 motor race, dating back more than 100 years.

What makes the book a good read is that a lot of the content comes from the author carrying out real-life interviews. Sure, there are parts where that is obviously impossible, but where he goes over previously covered topics, there is a feeling of originality and heart in the writing, not to mention quality information provided.

The content gives us an excellent background to the most famous race in the US and provides numerous connections to the people working in the different teams and the history behind many of those.

Kiwis and their Aussie counterparts have certainly punched above their weight in the Indy 500 and the book is a feel-good reminder of something we should be proud of. It is definitely worth buying for any petrol-head in your life.

More good reads

A Del of a Life
David Jason
Penguin Random House
Reviewed by Steve Atkinson

There’s no denying that David Jason is on on-screen legend, through Del Boy, Granville, Pop Larkin, and a host of other characters he has played over numerous decades. The once-popular actor is emblazoned in the minds of anyone aged over 40, however, mention his name to anyone younger than that and you’re more than likely to be met with a blank stare.

His latest offering is a meandering through his past wins and fails, with the conclusion often connected to a life lesson he is willing to impart to anyone who wants to listen. More often than not, I felt the author was grabbing at straws to give his content some relevance to the world we live in today, but he did come up with a few gems now and then.

I can’t quite put my finger on why I didn’t gel with the book and can only reason that it felt like I was listening to grandad recount his stories I had heard many times before. Only for the die-hard David Jason fans is my conclusion.

Shared Kitchen: Real food from Scratch
Julie Biuso and Ilaria Biuso
Bateman Books
Reviewed by Lisa Potter

There’s something particularly special about this recipe book and I’m not sure whether it’s the dazzling array of recipes or the fact that there’s a combination of effervescent personalities from Julie Biuso and her daughter Ilaria. Whatever the special ingredient is, it’s a winner.

Shared Kitchen serves up a true smorgasboard of special recipes: nourishing, wholesome, decadent, and even eye-popping (check out the Rujak, page 32 – a blend of exotic fresh fruit, chillies and citrus).

Mouthwatering photos add another layer of flavour to Shared Kitchen and it’s the sort of cookbook you can curl up in the shade with and lose yourself in another (foodie) world.

Eventually, temptation will consume you though and you’ll be overwhelmed by the need to join the Biuso women on the culinary journey.

Happy flavoursome cooking.

Love America
Jenny Robin Jones
Calico Publishing
Reviewed by Steve Atkinson

Perhaps feeling the local market has been overcooked by Kiwis writing about Kiwis, writer Jenny Robin Jones headed to New Mexico, namely the Taos (rhymes with house, as she says) Inn, which was once a writers and artists colony. Some famous names frequented the property, such as D.H. Lawrence, Georgia O’Keeffe, and Millicent Rogers, all being drawn to the landscape and Taos Pueblo culture, which influenced a lot of their work.

In tow was Jenny’s elderly boyfriend. Her sharing of their personal relationship creeped me out and had little relevance to rest of the book, but to be honest, the story rambled around so much, most of my time was spent Googling explanations. However, once Jenny hit her stride, things became surprisingly readable and gave interesting insights into the ethnic divisions and history of the region. A nice change of pace to what we’re usually offered but only recommended for the adventurous types among us.

The Kingdom
Jo Nesbo
Penguin Random House
Reviewed by Steve Atkinson

Author Jo Nesbo has cleverly cracked the mainstream crime-thriller market once again with this lengthy read about a couple of small-town Norwegian brothers. One has recently returned after spending a number of years overseas and is planning to turn the fortunes of the sleepy village around by building a town co-op financed top-end hotel on their mountainside farm.

If you’re thinking, meh, don’t write this off too soon as I did. It takes about 100 pages before things start to get messy and really out of hand. I’m not quite sure how Jo brings it back from the brink, but for the most part, he does and it’s an interesting ride with all the right ingredients.

The Commonsense Cook
Colin Fassnidge
Pan MacMillan
Reviewed by Lisa Potter

If you’re a fan of reality television cooking shows, then Colin Fassnidge will be a familiar face (and voice, with his distinctive Irish accent).

His deliciously down-to-earth approach to food is obvious from the first page, and this book is exactly the one you’ll dip into several times a week for approachable and enjoyable family recipes.

It is a reminder to slow down and enjoy family meals, along with eating with love and appreciation.
Conveniently separated into salads, vegetables, seafood, chicken and duck, pork, red meat and sweets – it’s super easy to use with plenty of no-fuss (but flavour packed) meals, including of course a version of Colin’s ode to Ireland, his Irish stew (adapted for the Australasian climate).

My top tip: finish off with the rhubarb jam doughnuts.

Instagram Rules
Jodie Cook
Allen & Unwin
Reviewed by Esha Chanda

It’s all about the ’Gram these days. Out on a trip and haven’t shared a photo yet? Well, did you even go on the trip? Whether it’s your biggest catch, the mountain you’ve just scaled, or erm, even your brunch, the rule of thumb seems to be: it needs to go up on Instagram.

But all mundane posts aside, if you spend hours scrolling through your feed, you would have come across at least a few impressive accounts, where the posts just stand out, the stories are engaging, and, of course, they’ve amassed a tribe of superfans. This book is about those accounts; more specifically, it’s about how you can change your game to be one of those accounts.

Whether it’s for personal use or business, you need knowledge and a good plan to create your Instagram account. And that’s where Jodie Cook’s 125 rules come handy. A social media professional, Cook guides readers through every aspect of Instagram success, split by strategy, content, community, and growth.

I admit I am not a big fan of social media platforms and don’t have any plans to be a social media influencer, but I do have an interest in how these platforms work. But if you have a business, this is one social media platform you shouldn’t be ignoring and Cook’s Instagram Rules is one book you should get your hands on.

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