Favourite books of December

December is all about gift giving, so with this in mind I have selected three books to recommend this month which I believe are the perfect Christmas gift.

The Art of Frugal Hedonism by Adam Grubb and Annie Raser-Rowland

I made my way through this lovely, slim little book while I lay on a picnic blanket in a park in Launceston, Tasmania, with my best friend Case. Given the book’s subject; enjoying the small, simple pleasures which come with living slowly and sustainably; I think this setting (a sun-filled park) is really quite fitting.

I think many who read The Art of Frugal Hedonism would agree it provides that lovely “Aha!” moment, the one which causes you to remark to bemused onlookers, “But this is what I have always thought! Aren’t I always saying this?”. It also serves as a gentle introduction to simple living for those new to the concept, while giving ardent minimalists an opportunity to reassess priorities and reshape values to better reflect their existing philosophies and beliefs.

Broken down into simple and achievable steps/solutions/ideas, this little book is the perfect gift for those who say they don’t want anything for Christmas. In addition to providing a thoroughly enjoyable and simple read, The Art of Frugal Hedonism encourages its reader to love and value the people around them, and embrace a life focused on experience rather than consumption.

Anyone and everyone should therefore appreciate a copy of this book. And if they aren’t as thrilled as you think they should be, you can always tell them to re-gift it when finished; books are best if shared anyway.

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The Oldest Books on Earth: A History of Australian Native Foods with Recipes by John Newton

“In more than 200 years of occupation of this continent, European Australians have turned their backs on the vast majority of the foods which the Indigenous people have been eating for more than 50,000 years; ignored their sage and intricate management of the environment and its abundant foods; overlaid an alien system of agriculture which began the process of ecological imbalance the continent now finds itself in; and began exporting back to Europe the foodstuffs they planted and raised. […] In short, we [have been living] on, and not in this continent”, (excerpt from the Introduction, p. ix).

The above claim aptly summarises the impetus behind The Oldest Foods on Earth; a book which challenges the (presumably) non-Indigenous reader to reconsider their role as a ‘European Australian’ in the current culinary climate. After all, Australia is supposedly known for its cultural and culinary diversity, so why aren’t our native flora and fauna part of our ‘national’ cuisine?

Providing a simple yet life-changing introduction to Australian Indigenous foods, The Oldest Foods on Earth initiates a much-needed dialogue; one which unflinchingly highlights the link between our broader cultural and historical amnesia, and widespread ignorance of native ingredients and how to use them. This depressing reality is balanced, however, by stories of innovative and forward-thinking chefs and restaurants working to integrate Indigenous ingredients into their menus. They are doing so in the hope that, through increased familiarity, these foods will then work their way onto Australian dinner tables.

This is a book crafted in the style of my favourite food writers; an engaging narrative into which useful recipes and nutritional information are seamlessly integrated. It would be impossible, I think, to read The Oldest Foods on Earth and not be moved to make some changes to your own diet. Since reading this book a couple of years ago, I have been working hard to incorporate as many Indigenous foods into my own diet as possible; wattleseed, lilli pilli, lemon myrtle, quandong, Kakadu plum and gulbarn (tea); and to increase my consumption of foods I hadn’t been aware were actually indigenous to Australia, such as macadamia nuts. For those who eat meat, don’t despair, there are plenty of recipes for kangaroo, wallaby, magpie goose, turtle, oyster and sea scallops, to name but a few.

This book is the perfect Christmas gift for anyone who loves food and cooking, or claims to eat ‘locally’, or ‘sustainably’. In fact, I think The Oldest Foods on Earth should be a mandatory read for all Australians.

Just make sure, if you are buying someone else a copy, you get yourself one too; this isn’t the sort of book they will be wanting to share any time soon.

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Slow Fashion by Safia Minney

As a huge advocate of the Slow Movement in all its forms, I approached Slow Fashion with much anticipation, and it certainly did not disappoint.

I won’t pretend this is an entirely feel-good read; in order to illustrate solutions it is
necessary to first identify problems, and the descriptions of environmental, social and economic destruction scattered throughout the pages made me want to weep. The overall message, however, is one of hope; Slow Fashion manages to successfully balance the harsh realities of fast fashion with equally uplifting stories of ethical enterprise. This is a balance I have often found missing in books focused on issues of sustainability, and for this reason alone Slow Fashion stands out from the crowd.

This book is as much about showcasing international makers, collaboratives, designers and entrepreneurs as it is about providing audiences with an educational read, and for this reason I found it a useful platform from which to conduct further research, as it connects readers with makers in the global fashion landscape who are providing sustainable fashion alternatives.

This is the perfect Christmas gift for anyone who is passionate about fashion and design as a vehicle for social change. Slow Fashion is a book which will leave you feeling empowered, as it demonstrates the way we all have the capacity, through our choices and patterns of consumption, to make a positive difference in the world. What better message to send at Christmas time?

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