Eat Up
by Ruby Tandoh
Serpent’s Tail

3.5/4 stars

Eat Up falls between two stools – it’s not a straight cookbook, neither is it a regular book about food. That means its success will rely on the voice of its author, Ruby Tandoh, the Great British Bake Off runner-up who whipped her way to fame.

In her latest volume, Tandoh adds spice to views on how, when, why and where we eat, stirring gender and money politics into the mixture. She also niggles at food writers, herself included, who construct “a fantasy food world that sits outside of real life”. She writes that when we follow the diet gurus who pick at calories and carbs, and foodies who eat to show off their class, it’s no surprise we’re all too conflicted to take a bite.

Championing self-care and self-love, Eat Up urges readers to consume everything from sugary drinks to kick-start the day, to a curry to get you through the flu. The point is “just feeling better is enough to get better”. To that end, Tandoh provides recipes to make the spirit soar (including a salmon meal to end the blues). This book is like eating itself – a messy act. Most important,
it is enjoyable.

12 Rules for Life
by Jordan Peterson
Random House Canada

2.5/5 stars

You may have heard clinical psychologist Jordan Peterson speak. You may even be a fan, in which case avoid this book. Peterson is charismatic and possesses the gift of the gab, but his charm slips in 12 Rules for Life, which relies on generalisation and is irritatingly self-assured.

Dropping in meta-stories from the Bible, personal anecdotes, intellectual history and evolutionary biology, the book begins by telling readers to “stand up straight” (looking formidable being a predictor of success). Peterson uses the example of lobsters to show that hierarchical structures are not a sociological construct of the capitalist patriarchy.

Rule 5 (“Do not let your children do anything that makes you dislike them”) will have some readers bristling at his description of modern parents as being terrified of two juxtaposed words: discipline and punish. Corporal punishment is justified, he argues. Peterson also believes that parents should come in pairs (“I’m not saying we should be mean to single mothers”); and that there are “whole disciplines in universities forthrightly hostile towards men”. The targets of this self-help volume are postmodernists and the politically correct, but others will also feel under fire for their beliefs.