Welcome to our weekly Books Digest where we round-up the new books you should, and shouldn’t, be reading. This week features Stanley Tucci’s Taste, The Joy of Small Things and Eight Improbable Possibilities.
For more books take a look through our Books Digest Archive.
Taste: My Life Through Food by Stanley Tucci (Penguin), £20.
Make a meat ragù with garofalo stelline (star pasta) and face the almighty wrath of Stanley Tucci. “It’s an act of heresy”, proclaims Tucci when discussing the politics of pasta in his delectable book Taste: My Life Through Food. “As far as I am concerned they may as well have cut out my tongue with a broadsword and danced on the graves of my ancestors.” A tad melodramatic? Not for Tucci who treats food like a religion in which he has unwavering faith. Taste is full to brim with humorous anecdotes like this, collected from the summer of his early years up to what he now deems to be his autumn.
From growing up in Katonah, New York on a diet of pasta con aglio e olio (pasta with garlic and olive oil), to falling in love with his wife Felicity Blunt whilst plucking the feathers out of a pheasant and reviewing film set food everywhere from Germany to Iceland (spoiler: if you have a curious appetite, head for Reykjavík and try the all-hailed kjötsúpa), Tucci serves up an intimate reflection on the intersection between food and life – the bitter and the sweet. He speaks sentimentally about his first wife Kathryn Spath, who died tragically from cancer in 2009, and in the latter part of the book, he speaks of his own cancer diagnosis and the hellish treatments which meant he was denied tasting all that he relished most.
Tucci never thought anything would eclipse his passion for acting, directing and cinema, but post-diagnosis, he discovered that eating, drinking, the kitchen and the table were the only theatrics and props deserving of greater attention. “Food not only feeds me, it enriches me,” he writes. “All of me. Mind, body and soul. It is nothing more than everything.” Tucci is undoubtedly Epicurean, and Taste is his personal philosophy of how to eat, drink and be merry. It is unputdownable (unless you are making the Tucci beef ragù which in that case, put the book down, gather the ingredients and for the love of God, use the right pasta).
The Joy Of Small Things by Hannah Jane Parkinson (Guardian Faber Publishing), £10.
In a world where we are encouraged to constantly live faster, fuller, and more efficiently, it is all too easy to forget to slow down and appreciate the small things. That is, unless you are the journalist Hannah Jane Parkison who seems to live her life with a microscope out.
The Joy of Small Things began as a Guardian column, inspired by J. B. Priestly’s book Delight: a collection of the “things, people, places and feelings” that delighted him most. Trapped in the negative news cycle, Parkinson borrowed this idea to bring a glimmer of positivity to the pages of The Guardian. Now, the column has evolved into a book. This is not the type of book you read in one go, or even chronologically, but one that can be picked up and flicked open at random, guaranteed to make you smile on any given page.
What are the small things you might wonder? They are things not necessarily small in size but small in seeming significance; the things we take for granted but that make our lives much more joyous. Parkinson’s book is made up of over a hundred small things, alongside wonderful illustrations by Chiyun Yeh, here are but a few; clean bedding, tipsiness, regional accents, a Sunday roast, trainers, browsing property websites, being right, dogs in parks. The Joy of Small Things is, in Parkinson’s own words, a dose of inspiration to “get us through the day, without the need to text a friend a gif of a burning dumpster or do empathise with Edvard Munch’s The Scream,”. After the last year and a half, who could argue we don’t all need a little bit of that.
Eight Improbable Possibilities: The Mystery of the Moon, and Other Implausible Scientific Truths by John Gribbin (Icon), £11.99.
Curious about the world we find ourselves living in? How we came to be and where we might find ourselves in the future? A sequel to Six Impossible Things and Seven Pillars of Science, John Gribbin’s Eight Improbable Possibilities is a fascinating journey into the world of scientific oddities and improbabilities.
Not for the scientifically faint-hearted, Gribbin goes heavy on the evidence – presenting eight densely packed chapters that span the corners of scientific ambiguity.
From the mysteries of our moon and its role in the origins of life on Earth to the beginning of our own universe and its future fate, Gribbin shows us that science is not simply a field of knowledge but “deals with the unknown”.
Eight Improbable Possibilities lets us marvel at the unlikelihood of our own existence and appreciate just how incredible it is that planet Earth exists today.