Editor's Lit: December
‘Tis the season for giving and Su Aziz has picked three books that have year-long durability and very possibly change the way you view Santa Claus, food and life in general.
This is Christmas in a book. ‘The Christmas Chronicles’ (Tarcher/Penguin Books, RM56.80) as told to Jeff Guinn by Santa Claus himself, houses 735 pages of enchanting historical facts on the man including his legend within a compilation of three previous books – ‘The Autobiography of Santa Claus, ‘How Mrs. Claus Saved Christmas’ and ‘The Great Santa Search’.
This elegant paperback volume makes for a delightful holiday gift for just about anyone on your Christmas shopping list. Whether it’s reading through 17 centuries of Santa’s autobiography peppered with Christmas magic, discovering how Mrs. Claus and a group of people saved Christmas from being extinct or hopping onto a sleigh ride ‘through the history of Christmas in America’, reading the book will bring Santa’s infectious good cheer into your Yuletide festivities.
As Santa says in the first line in the book, ‘You’re right to believe in me’, the three novels compiled here will make a believer out of anyone who doubted his presence and a fan out of any cynic. To punctuate the reading experience further, pairing the book with a lovely cup of eggnog or mulled wine will certainly do the trick!
‘The Kitchen Counter Cooking School’ by Kathlees Finn (Penguin, RM49.95) is not a recipe book, although it does contain a few recipes. This is not a how-to-cook book either, although there are a few helpful instructions on how to wield a knife and debone a whole chicken. And this is not a self-help book that will instantly turn you into a confident cook. This is, however, a book which will make you think twice about what you put into your body and instructions on how to manoeuvre around a kitchen without condescension.
This book is the result of the corner surrounded by blank walls in which Finn finds herself after graduating from the most prestigious cooking school in Paris and after watching a young mother piles her supermarket cart with a myriad ultra-processed foods. During the latter incident, Finn trails the woman around the supermarket before coaxing her to give fresh foods a try while offering her simple recipes for easy and healthier meals. With that, Finn shapes a project in which she helps nine others who are hopeless in the kitchen to find their inner cook.
Finn’s writing style is inclusive and conversational – the very formula that makes a non-fiction fun and encouraging rather than patronising or intimidating. The stories of the nine no-hopers will seem familiar, there will be glimpses of yourself in them and they will rouse your curiosity, also encourage those who have never attempt to cook to begin doing so. Perhaps, even fearlessly.
What’s most beneficial about investing the hours to read this book through is the tip on how to use up leftovers to minimise food wastage. Do you know that you can throw them into an omelette, fashion them into a pasta dish ingredient or turn them into tasty, comforting soups? I bet you didn’t!
However, if this doesn’t happen after reading the books’ 272 pages, then at the very least it will entertain and while away an afternoon in a most delightful manner. I promise you, at least that.
After that turning a new leaf experience, it’s an idea to complete it with Jonas Jonasson’s ‘The 100-Year Old Man Who Climbed Out The Window and Disappeared’ (Hyperion, RM35). Admittedly, the title itself doesn’t roll off the tongue as easily but the story will stick in your mind and get under your skin. The story’s ‘Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels’ and ‘Forrest Gump’ collide.
There’s blood, millions of cash, a red-haired woman, guns, explosives, an elephant, bad guys, good guys and a reluctant 100-year old guy as the book’s reluctant protagonist. Then there’s Harry Truman, Mao Tze Tung, Jiang Qing, Albert Einsten’s younger brother and every other Communist and world leaders from the 1950s. Each of them plays a part in making Jonasson’s tale dark, humorous, crime-filled but yet sure- that-could-have-happened believable.
It all began when the healthy centenarian climbs out his window on his 100th birthday, escaping a big celebration. He then hops onto a bus with a large suitcase of money. Now, how did he acquire the suitcase of money? Through a young hoodlum who needs to relieve himself in the small toilet where the large suitcase of money can’t fit in, of course. Throughout his unplanned road trip, the centenarian makes unlikely friendships, commits accidental murders and recalls his long, eventful life that fortuitously involved misguided world leaders squabbling over the war and Communism.
The clincher here is, he didn’t just witness some history-making events in the 20th century, but he was actually knee-deep involved in each of them – unknowing of how cardinal his role was in each event, of course. He was then and still is an accidental hero with a humongous amount of luck living an accidental adventure with accidental accomplices where he accidentally cheats death several times and towards the end, accidentally acquires a ticket out of jail.
The only thing that isn’t accidental in this fiction, as far as I can tell is, Jonasson’s brilliance in penning it all down within the book’s 384 pages and ending his splendid, laugh-out-loud tale with the message of how it’s never too late to start over. Obviously, a large population of the world agrees with me on this one since the book has sold over 3 million copies worldwide since it was translated from Swedish into English middle of this year. The film version of the book will be out next year. And that’s no accident too, of course.
These books are available at any Borders book stores. For more info, see website.