E-books and audiobooks

Reviews: e-book and audiobook non-fiction: food blogging, Mecca

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 28 March, 2015, 10:51pm
UPDATED : Friday, 17 April, 2015, 3:32pm

Life from Scratch
by Sasha Martin
National Geographic

This book would have worked without the recipes, often inserted in an arbitrary fashion. The memoir of food blogger Sasha Martin, it was not the volume she had planned to write but, in the end, a tell-all flavoured with not only sweetness, but also bitterness, sourness and whatever sadness and happiness taste like. Her drive to cook a meal from each of 195 countries, she writes, cannot be explained solely by her passion for cooking. It came from a desire for peace as a result of a troubled childhood: Martin was shunted around foster homes with her brother, who killed himself when they were with guardians. Their mother might have been a lousy parent, but she fought for her children and taught Martin how to make food fun and delicious. Part Five feels like what the project was intended to be: Martin is now a mum and sharing her recipe adaptations on her Global Table Adventure blog. This is a moving book, but readers in these parts will find it strange that someone with Culinary Institute of America training doesn't know what a wok is.


Mecca: The Sacred City
by Ziauddin Sardar
(read by Amerjit Deu)
Audible Studios for Bloomsbury

You'll enjoy Amerjit Deu's narration of Ziauddin Sardar's Mecca, which transports listeners to exotic climes. His urgent pace relays well Sardar's urge to visit the city, even though he grew up in London. A visit to Mecca, the birthplace of Islam and the Prophet Mohammed, he writes, is an obligation for almost all Muslims. Still, Muslims too will learn much from this book, which details 14 centuries of the city's often violent history, showing how it has evolved to become a "playground for the rich" where pilgrims pray and shop all year round. The poor visit only during the Hajj in package tours that ship them in and out, although they too are impelled to shop. Mecca, Sardar says, was always a trading place and loved its wealth. In this closed city, equality is absent (ironic since the Kaaba, the cubed focus for millions of Muslims, is considered a symbol of equality). The Saudi state's role in institutionalising discrimination and its alliance with the puritanical Wahhabi sect comes under scrutiny in this book, which, despite being at times heavy going, is worth the time.


Pink Chair No Underwear
by Tara Myers with Mike Myers
Amazon Digital Services

The idea behind this book is novel, but that’s not to say it is good. While the title may mislead readers, Pink Chair No Underwear is actually a wholesome self-help volume aimed at encouraging people to take stock of their lives, be more loving and shed all excess (possessions- and healthwise) by following the example of authors Tara and Mike Myers, both runners. Their mantra is “live big, kiss often”, which they take on a “kissing tour” of the world, from San Francisco to Sweden. There’s an accompanying blog, which includes photographs of the loved-up couple puckering up in various countries. They’re trying to question why, in the West at least, PDAs are not cool and that it’s only on Valentine’s Day or an anniversary that older couples are allowed to display their love. The Myerses, both on their second marriage, want to show others how to focus on what’s important, and that involves minimising belongings to 100 items each, as they did in Ireland. The trouble is, some readers will dismiss it as a patronising project of smug marrieds.