Cooking up a storm – what books do you want read about?

Looking through the top non-fiction books of 2010, I can see that many of them are in areas that I never really get into – cookery, food, gardening, home-making and crafts.

Look, there is a reason for this. My skills don’t lie in these areas, even if I often enjoy their output. I love to eat but my cookery can best be described as spontaneous, where spontaneous is a euphemistic way of saying, “too lazy to follow recipes”. I don’t have all the necessary blenders, creamers and accoutrements that many books assume you have clogging up the kitchen. I live in a small flat, I have limited space, and most of that goes to books.

I also never remember to buy all the ingredients, so end up substituting and feeding my guests improvisations that ranges from the sublimes to the “screw this, let’s order some takeaway from the Thai place up the road”. Seeking to rectify this, a friend has just kindly sent me some Nigella’s as a gift. I’m picking up some new recipes, but also a far larger waistline. Nigella must have a metabolism that runs like a badly-serviced Hummer. Mine, sadly, is more economical, getting several gallons of flab from one cupcake.

Reading about food makes me want to eat it – I’m getting peckish just writing this. I’m going to avoid baking and dessert books on the general principle that prevention is far better than needing to spend an extra five hours a weeks on the treadmill. But the cookbooks that I avert my eyes from are incredibly popular with many of Boomerang readers – cooking, wine and food guides take up 60 places in the top 1,000, with most of those in the top 300.

As for my gardening? I’ve blogged already about my black thumbs (the Venus Fly-Trap ate about 10 flies and then sadly passed away over winter for those of you wondering). I do enjoy growing veggies and the odd flower, but I’m missing the bits of brains that makes a morning spent gardening anything but a chore.  (Also, I am very bad at identifying the difference between weeds and, say, strawberry plants. So I avoid areas where this might be an issue. Especially when they are someone else’s strawberries.)

Can’t cook, can’t garden, been known to injure myself with knitting needles and glue my own fingers together while crafting. It’s safe to say that, while I might be able to provide a reasonable beginner’s guides to home and craft things (especially for those of you who enjoy reading about disasters), I’m not the right person to claim to be an authority on these popular fields.

What do you think? Does Boomerang need a cookery or gardening or crafting blogger, or perhaps one crafty person who could combine all those things into one blog? What would you like to see non-fiction blogs about?

What would you write about?

One of 2010's biggest hits, books from the "4 Ingredients" appeared 4 times in our top 100.

Top 10 books on Food (Boomerang sales in 2010)

  1. Our Family Table
  2. MasterChef Australia: The Cookbook (Volume 2)
  3. 4 Ingredients: Fast, Fresh and Healthy
  4. Fast Fresh Simple
  5. MasterChef Australia: The Cookbook (Volume 1)
  6. Dukan Diet, The
  7. AWW Slow Cooking
  8. Jamie’s 30-minute Meals
  9. Crunch Time Cookbook: 100 Knockout Recipes for Rapid Weight Loss
  10. Margaret Fulton’s Encyclopedia of Food and Cookery

Who will be your Valentine? The Romance Top 10

I don’t normally do the Valentine’s thing, so it was a bit of a surprise when the doorbell rang this morning. Whatever could it be?

On seeing the large lump in the postie’s hands it became obvious it wasn’t a huge bundle of flowers or a carefully gift-wrapped pony (a girl can hope) but my latest delivery of books from Boomerang. Despite the day that’s in it, the contents of my package weren’t very lovey-dovey. If I had fancied something a little more romantic though, I would have had some excellent guidance. According to the list of the Boomerang Top 1,000 books in 2010 that I recently got my paws on, many of you have been dipping your noses into books of love, lust and just perhaps a little period drama. The most sold Romance novels by Boomerang in 2010 were:

  1. Master Player, The
  2. Stormy Greek Marriage
  3. Country Midwife, Christmas Bride
  4. Quarterback Daddy / Valentine Bride
  5. Mavericks Virgin Mistress / Unbridled, The: Mills & Boon Desire
  6. Australian Boss: Diamond Ring
  7. Going Down Hard / Once A Rebel
  8. Charade / Imminent Affair
  9. Wedding At King’s Convenience
  10. From Russia, with Love / Scent of a Woman

I can’t link to most as they are sadly no longer available (romance books have a faster turn-over than Warnie’s dates) but just look at that list.  I’m fascinated by the descriptions – for example the intriguing Quarterback Daddy/Valentine Bride combo.  The second book in the pair, Valentine Bride tells the story of beautiful Irina who enters into a green card marriage so she won’t have to return to her war-torn homeland.

I’ve been known to enjoy a romantic interlude occasionally but sadly Irina’s story will no longer ring true for me, as will no book that uses the “marriage as a quick and easy way to get a visa” plot. As someone who has actually gone this route, I can tell you that partner visas are neither quick nor easy. My green card resulted from beating the Department of Immigration around the head with approximately 3 kilos of legal statements and affadavits until they cried Uncle.

How do I love thee? Here is the 300 pages of forms, certified documents, statutory declarations and accompanying appendices. Oh, and a huge processing fee.

It must be love. I have the paperwork to prove it, if not the gift-wrapped pony.

My package included Naomi Wolf’s Beauty Myth, a dissection of modern stereotypes of female beauty and the societal and personal obsession with that beauty, and Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer, which explores meat-eating and the ethics of it. Nothing says romance like examining theories of consuming and shaping human and animal flesh. Mmm hmm.

On a slightly lighter, or at least more comedic note, there is Last Chance to See; Douglas Adams’s journey across the world in search of its most endangered creatures (hence the title), and On Writing by Stephen King, which I have finally decided to upgrade from my e-version to a real book as it is just that brilliant.

So, not exactly a package spilling forth with romance and all things torrid and bodice-ripping. But, as I got it on Valentine’s Day, I’ve decided that makes it official. Boomerang Books, I will be your Valentine!

Now, where is that gift-wrapped pony?

Simply the best – our top 25 non-fiction books

Ever wondered what other Boomerang fans are reading? Wonder no more. I recently got my hands on the data of the Boomerang books top sales for 2011, an impressively massive spreadsheet of what people have been buying with their hard-earned cash. It’s an excellent snap-shot of what Australians, and specifically Boomerang readers (Boomers? Boomies?), were browsing in 2010.

The big winner is, of course, Eat Pray Love. I’ve heard it described as Eat, Pray, Vom, or Barf, Barf, Barf (with an amazingly funny movie review here) but with three of the places in the top 100 held by various editions of her book, Elizabeth Gilbert probably isn’t losing any sleep over what her various detractors have to say.

In fact, self-absorption seems to be the order of the year. Looking through the first four books, it’s all biographies or memoirs. If you want the Australian audience hanging on your every word, you should play hard, party hard, get into politics or be a bit of a comedian. (Doing all the above but completely forgetting what you got up to due to the truly vast level of drugs taken at the time only works if you are Keith Richards.)

Talented but troubled AFL star, Ben Cousins:, released the most read Australian biography of the year. Coming after him was John Howard’s Lazarus Rising. Love him, hate him or just want to find out what goes on in that shiny bald head of his, his biography was the third best selling of the year, followed by Anh Do’s excellent The Happiest Refugee.

Just after that came an awful lot of cookbooks and Keith (who, going on his cadaverous appearance, could probably do with buying a few). Want to see the list?

Boomerang Books Non-Fiction Top 25

  1. Eat, Pray, Love Gilbert, Elizabeth
  2. Ben Cousins: My Life Story Cousins, Ben
  3. Lazarus Rising Howard, John
  4. Happiest Refugee, The: A Memoir    Do, Anh
  5. MasterChef Australia: The Cookbook Volume 2
  6. Life: Keith Richards Richards, Keith
  7. 4 Ingredients: Fast, Fresh and Healthy
  8. Fast Fresh Simple    Hay, Donna
  9. MasterChef Australia: The Cookbook Volume 1
  10. Committed: A Sceptic Makes Peace with Marriage     Gilbert, Elizabeth
  11. True Spirit: The Aussie Girl Who Took on the World     Watson, Jessica
  12. Dukan Diet, The     Dukan, Pierre
  13. Brain That Changes Itself, The     Doidge, Norman
  14. Underbelly: The Golden Mile    Silvester, John & Rule, Andrew
  15. Food of India, The: A Journey for Food Lovers
  16. Ripley’s Believe it or Not! Enter If You Dare!: Bk. 7
  17. AWW Slow Cooking Australian,     Women’s Weekly
  18. Fry Chronicles, The: A Memoir        Fry, Stephen
  19. Standing My Ground      Hayden, Matthew
  20. Simpler Time, A: A Memoir of Love, Laughter, Loss and Billycarts     FitzSimons, Peter
  21. How to Make Gravy     Kelly, Paul
  22. Jamie’s 30-minute Meals     Oliver, Jamie
  23. Crunch Time Cookbook: 100 Knockout Recipes for Rapid Weight Loss     Bridges, Michelle
  24. Margaret Fulton’s Encyclopedia of Food and Cookery     Fulton, Margaret
  25. Slow Cooker:Easy and Delicious Recipes for All Seasons  Sally Wise

So that’s the top non-fiction top reads of last year, but here’s a few other fun facts on Boomerang books sold in 2010.

  • The only astrology book to appear in the top thousand is Dadhichi Toth’s Pisces 2011. So, even if beleaguered astrologists are being lambasted as charlatans by scientists everywhere, at least they can point at one bit of verifiable data – that people born under the sign of Pisces are more likely to buy astrology books.
  • Most popular places to travel, going on the volume of guide books sold, are Europe, Vietnam, the USA and Bali.
  • The most popular phrasebook is French.
  • The most popular places to read travelogues about, on the other hand, are Tuscany, Australia, with three of the top 4 (From Here to There: A Father and Son Roadtrip from Melbourne to London, Is That Thing Diesel?: One Man, One Bike and the First Lap Around Australia and Bill Bryson’s Down Under) taking the honours for the lucky country.
  • Richard Dawkins and Dr Karl dominate the popular science field, making skeptics the order of the day. Superfreakonomics in all it’s various forms, is vastly more popular than every other type of economics and lots of people are willing to pay quite a lot of cash to find out what Rhonda Byrne’s Secret and Power are. (They should ask Dr Karl and Richard Dawkins. The answers would be amusing.)

Anything else you would like to know?

Hacking, biting and just a touch of throbbing – The Boomerang Top 10

As someone who always has to contain my urge to snoop through other people’s bookshelves when I’m left unattended, one of the things that always fascinates me while on the Boomerang site is the “what’s happening?” bar on the right of the screen. This little column tells you what other browsers are looking up and it’s frequently a diverting read. I find myself wandering away from the books I planned to look at to check out complete stranger’s selections. I’ve ended up browsing – and buying – everything from cookery books to financial planning to heady period romances.

It’s the internet equivalent of going out to get milk and coming back with three pounds of seafood, a lampshade, four bath bombs and a Terry’s Chocolate Orange.

The thing is, while it’s a lot of fun, this is just a snap-shot of what a few other browsers are looking at. Some of you may remember my delight when Nielsen Bookscan, the world’s largest book tracking service, released data on their book-sales over the last ten years allowing spreadsheet-loving bibliophiles the chance to compare their reading with the rest of the worlds.

I got more than a little excited about this (you can find my delighted frothing here) but this information related to book sales in the UK only and I found myself lamenting the lack of Australian data. Would we be similar or vastly different? Would we read more or less non-fiction? Could anyone explain the enduring popularity of Gillian McKeith? What were other Boomerang readers are reading overall?

Well, wonder no more, because I have in my overexcited little hands (well, my hard drive) the Boomerang data for 2010. It’s going to take more than one blog – so much spreadsheet! so much graph! – but here’s a quick and dirty look at what the average Boomerang reader was browsing through in 2010.

It was the year of the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo with Steig Larsson’s trilogy taking up spaces 1, 2 and 4. The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner pipped in at number 3, preventing Lisbeth Salander from making off with the gold, silver and bronze.

And, unlike the UK where the first non-fiction showed up at number 20, Aussies had non-fiction come in strong in the top 10. Eat, Pray, Love took fifth place and Julie Goodwin’s Our Family Table came in just after it (this was also the most sold Australian book of the year – you can read our interview with Julie on the process of writing it here).

Wimpy kids proved popular, as did Jodi Picoult. Proving that there is no end to the surprises that peaking on other people’s reading can bring you, in eight place was a book I have never heard of; Master Player by Emma Darcy, where handsome tycoon and television baron Maximilian Hart whisks innocent beauty Chloe away from the paparazzi with the aim of getting her into his (probably emperor sized, possibly throbbing) bed.

This is sadly no longer in print – romance novels turn over faster than celeb perfumes – but you can get a copy of her latest book, the intriguingly titled Ruthless Billionaire, Forbidden Baby. Please, please do send me a review if you have read them, I’m now fascinated and Boomerang doesn’t provide a blurb – perhaps it couldn’t take all those handsome billionaires throbbing and pulsating all over the place.

Anyway, without further ado, or further musings on how exactly one would throb a billionaire, here’s the list.

Boomerang Books Top 10 in 2010

  1. Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,The: Millennium Trilogy – Larsson, Stieg
  2. Girl Who Played with Fire,The: Millennium Trilogy – Larsson, Stieg
  3. Short Second Life of Bree Tanner,The: An Eclipse Novella – Meyer, Stephenie
  4. Girl Who Kicked the Hornets’ Nest,The: Millennium Trilogy – Larsson, Stieg
  5. Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman’s Search for Everything – Gilbert, Elizabeth
  6. Our Family Table – Goodwin, Julie
  7. House Rules – Picoult, Jodi
  8. Master Player,The: Sexy S. – Darcy, Emma
  9. Ugly Truth,The: Diary of a Wimpy Kid – Kinney, Jeff
  10. Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Diary of a Wimpy Kid – Kinney, Jeff.