30-Day Challenge, Books, Cookbooks, Fiction, Nonfiction, The Book Life


Tsundoku/ Bookended

Tsundoku is a Japanese word that describes the act of buying a lot of books, accumulating them, but not reading them. So, there you are, surrounded by piles of books you haven’t read and yet you can’t seem to stop buying them. This is me. I usually don’t buy new books but if I’m at a library sale or a used book sale, there is no stopping me. That means my home is filled with books that I plan on reading as soon as I have a little time but until then, they take up space everywhere.

Tsundoku/ Bookended

The prompt for Day 9 of the 30 day photography challenge is to photograph a book or books that you’ve always meant to read but haven’t gotten round to doing so. I’m a huge fan of Anthony Trollope and have read the first 4 novels of his series Chronicles Of Barsetshire. The Small House At Allington (pictured above) is the 5th in the series and one of these days, I’m going to read it. I’d planned to start it a few months ago but somehow I forgot all the details of the first 4 novels and decided I would re-read all four before reading Book 5 and that kinda got away from me. I also plan to read Hemingway’s For Whom The Bell Tolls. I haven’t yet but it’s reassuring to know that the book is right here when I’m ready. Aspirational reading also falls under this category: the classics that everyone recommends, poetry especially Penguin Classics’ The Metaphysical Poets, the complete Shakespeare plays. The list goes on and on.

Tsundoku/ Bookended

Ask any book lover and they will tell you tsundoku isn’t a problem because being surrounded by books is as close to heaven as we can get on earth.

“I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library.”

– Jorge Luis Borges

Of course, it’s one thing if one person in the household practices tsundoku (unclear if this is the right way to use it in a sentence) but imagine if your partner or spouse was similarly inclined!

If you’d like to follow along with the 30 day photography challenge, details are here. Thanks for reading!

30-Day Challenge, Books, Cookbooks, Judge A Book By Its Cover, Nonfiction, The Book Life

Coffee Table Books

Coffee table books/ Bookended
Reading list/
Above picture taken in happier times:2018

Coffee table books are apparently named because they are books that are kept on the living room coffee table and can help to inspire and promote conversation with/among guests. The theme for today’s (Day 8) book photography challenge is guilty pleasures. While these books may not necessarily qualify for the exact meaning of that phrase, nevertheless coffee table books are my guilty pleasure: I can never pass them by without wanting to bring them home with me. Of course, that’s true for many books that I see at a bookstore or a library book sale but I have a special weakness for coffee table books that focus on art, interiors, and textiles. One could argue that they are picture books for adults and serve as inspiration for colors, prints, and patterns, visual learning at its best, and not just as books to promote small talk with others! Cookbook/food-related books are another category that I love browsing, even though I’m not likely to try out any recipe (more on that here). Guilty (aspirational) pleasures indeed! In fact, one of the simple things I miss doing in 2020 is the ability to go into my local library (still closed except for curbside pick up), wander the aisles, and pick out a stash of coffee table books that I can browse on Saturday mornings with my tea and toast or any afternoon with tea and cake.

Coffee table books/ Bookended
Coffee table books/ Bookended
Coffee table books/ Bookended

Here’s my list of 5 much-loved interior design books:

1. Lisa Fine’s Near and Far, Interiors I love with photography by Miguel Flores Vianna

2. Haute Bohemians by Miguel Flores Vianna

3. and 4. Kathryn Ireland’s Timeless Interiors and Creating A Home

5. The Maverick Soul by Miv Watts and Hugh Stewart

Coffee table books/ Bookended

For more interior design books, you may want to read this post.

My plan is to keep updating this post with my favorite picks for books in the cooking/baking/food genre (here’s a link to one that’s interesting), art, textiles and more. Thanks for reading!


Coffee table books/ Bookended
Books, Cookbooks, Nonfiction

Cookbooks, Ed. 1: Simple Cake by Odette Williams

Cookbooks to browse during quarantine/

Being asked to stay home because of the coronavirus pandemic has resulted in a number of changes to our lives but one of the most prevalent ones is we are eating more home-cooked meals. Our relationship with food is complex: eating, cooking and sharing food whether it’s on regular, ordinary everydays or at life-changing occasions like weddings or funerals creates potent sensory memories and ties the food to a particular time of our life and the people that we were with. (More on food nostalgia and gustatory memories can be found in this HuffPost article.) For example, I have cooked many bean (kidney, garbanzo, black bean etc.) dishes in the last three months and my relationship with these dishes will always be tied to the memory of staying home with family while sheltering in place and being grateful that we were safe.


Whether you are new to cooking or an expert (or someone who loves browsing cookbooks without any intention of replicating the foods: I’m usually guilty of this!), here is a series of posts on cookbooks to browse during (and after) quarantine. The only regret, unless you buy a physical copy, is with libraries still closed, the book are only accessible digitally. I can’t wait to borrow and bring home physical copies!

Let’s start with cake

Simple cake/Cookbooks /

Simple Cake by Odette Williams is a book that should be on every baker’s bookshelf. First, a little background: I love cake. A cup of tea and a small slice of (any) cake is how I retreat, relax, and recharge. It’s not a meal so much as a place, a sanctuary. That said, I am not much of a baker. I can whip up a cake if required to do so but I have never taken time to get better at it or to increase my repertoire. There is the chocolate cake I bake for my boys’ birthdays and as a treat through summer vacations, a tea cake, a buttery pound cake indulgence that I bake for myself, and a fruit cake that brings back fond memories of holiday get-togethers. Enter Simple Cake by Odette Williams and my interest in baking has skyrocketed. I borrowed a digital copy from the library a few weeks ago and the word Simple before Cake had everything to do with it. Baking has always seemed aspirational, requiring knowledge, time, magic, and some talent that I didn’t have. Enter Simple Cake again. If you’ve always felt overwhelmed by information and instruction overload, the book breaks it down and makes baking accessible by first sharing general tips for overall successful baking (e.g. strictly following measurements or don’t keep opening the oven while you are baking to check on the cake etc.) The author shares 10 basic cake recipes and then shows you how to build on them for more elaborate cakes. In addition, browsing through the book is like looking through an album of the author/baker’s memories and that as much as the cake recipes appealed to the storyteller in me. After all, food, especially cake, is never just something you eat. It’s a snow globe capture of a day in your life: an afternoon when you and the kids are baking together in the kitchen or it’s a birthday or a wedding or the day you baked a cake for a friend to say Hope you feel better.

This book is a keeper and I can’t recommend it enough because it has inspired me to bake more, and with more skill.

Looking for more cookbook recommendations? Click here for some that may interest you! Have any cookbooks that you’d like to recommend? Leave a note in the Comments section.

Books, Cookbooks, Judge A Book By Its Cover, Nonfiction, The Book Life

Book: Chai, Chaat & Chutney by Chetna Makan

Chai, Chaat & Chutney by Chetna Makan/ Bookended

Chetna Makan explores the diversity of Indian street food in her book Chai, Chaat & Chutney: A Street Food Journey Through India. She visits four cities in India (Chennai, Mumbai, Delhi, and Kolkata), representative of the four corners of the country, and captures via vibrant photography, the popularity and the elaborate culture of street food in India. The book describes regional specialities from the four urban areas that you can try replicating in your kitchen. Makan also shares recipes of common chutneys and garam masalas (literally, hot spices), essential components of all Indian food. If you reminisce about dosas from Chennai, vada pav and misal and pav bhaji from Mumbai and Delhi’s gol gappas, this book is for you.

Chai, Chaat & Chutney by Chetna Makan/ Bookended

India has an enormous diversity of food choices and cooking styles on offer and while no single cookbook could do justice to the entirety, this book really appealed to me because Makan uses clear and concise recipes to makes street food accessible, and (dare I say) easily replicable, even for a desultory cook like myself. There were many old favorites that I recognized but also, foods that were quite new to me.

Notes and thoughts:

1. I came across this cookbook at my local library in the summer of 2019 and I borrowed it because the title evoked instant nostalgia (a classic example of judging a book by the title on its cover!). Chaat (a genre of savory street food) was the staple of my teenage years, and all through college. Even now, thirty years later, when I think of comfort food, I think longingly of different types of chaat eaten at roadside stalls in the teeming streets of Mumbai and washed down with a glass of hot chai or with a cold falooda, a rose-syrup based, milky dessert drink. Take, for instance, the falooda. I’d never thought of making it at home until I saw the recipe in the book and realized it was fairly straightforward. I introduced my boys to the falooda and we made it many times over last summer because suddenly, it was easy to make, as long as I kept the ingredients on hand.

Chai, Chaat & Chutney by Chetna Makan/ Bookended

2. Given the current, indefinite, coronavirus shelter in place orders, most of our meals are homemade and I just bought an e-copy of this book, so that I can share some more of my old favorites to my boys.

3. Many people buy cookbooks because they want to try the recipes but some of us also buy them because they are a permanent visual and gustatory link to a different, much-loved time of life. It’s like this book: I may never try any or all the recipes, but just browsing the pages will allow me to revisit treasured memories.

4. You can find the author at her Youtube channel here and at her website here.

Chai, Chaat & Chutney by Chetna Makan/ Bookended

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