E-books/audiobooks review: non-fiction

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 07 April, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 07 April, 2013, 4:18pm

Fresh Off the Boat

by Eddie Huang

Random House Audio


Fresh Off the Boat was almost ignored because of the title and cover, showing a typical Chinese family. Eddie Huang, I thought, would be a displaced person telling a sentimental tale in bad English. The book is all that - yet also refreshingly funny. Huang, a son of Taiwanese immigrants to the US, tells of growing up in Florida with a "gangster" father and a "manic" mother who remained so because "Chinese people don't believe in psychologists". Huang remembers how desperately he wanted to be white, but how Western food and later an affinity for hip hop (music and related language) changed all that. There will be phrases that don't compute as you listen to Huang reading his memoir, but that doesn't stop the flow of stories, many about being at the end of Ching Chong Chinaman taunts. Striving not to be a Chinese cliché (whatever that is), Huang rebels during childhood and as an adult when he defies his parents and walks away from a legal career to open BaoHaus, a Taiwanese bun hangout in New York. Success is his two-finger salute.


by Mayumi Itoh

Kindle Direct Publishing


Hachiko's story is heartwarming: the dog continued to turn up at Shibuya station in Tokyo every day for 10 years after his master had died, speaking volumes about loyalty, love and the eternal optimism of some dogs. The Japanese made Hachi a star, celebrating his faithfulness with a bronze statue at one of the station exits. This book, subtitled The Truth of the Life and Legend of the Most Famous Dog in Japan, might correct some fallacies about Hachi. But it does so in such anorak fashion that the charm is lost from the wonderful tale. What actually killed him - cancer or heartworm, possibly both - was eventually determined by scientists who performed a second necropsy on the dog more than 75 years after his death in 1935. The fact the Japanese - however much Hachi had captivated their hearts - had bothered to determine the dog's real cause of death is perhaps important because it underscores a curious kind of obsessiveness. Dog lovers should try to enjoy the various soppy movies made about Hachiko instead of trawling through this overly fact-laden account of his life.

The Devil in the Kitchen

by Marco Pierre White



As with so many autobiographies of famous chefs, it is the middle sections of The Devil in the Kitchen that are the most interesting. It takes readers from the apprentice days of Marco Pierre White to the lofty heights of his restaurant-empire building, by which time stories lose their charm. Family business begins the book, with White telling about life in a tough, male-dominated household after the death of his mother when he was six. His steely, irascible character forged, White then embarks on a career that would win him three Michelin stars by the age of 33, the first British chef and the youngest in the world to be thus awarded. White gives credit generously, to people such as Raymond Blanc, the most likable chef in the book. He also writes about his mentors, chefs he trained, and people he no longer speaks to because of feuds, Gordon Ramsay being one of them. Foodies will enjoy White's loving descriptions of his dishes and his sepia-toned portrayal of restaurants in the days when they weren't "governed by percentages and portion control".


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