Various (Daunt, £9.99)

Food is central to culture and identity, and the traces it leaves in our memories are particularly evocative, relating strongly to childhood, family life and community. Its power is explored in these 13 essays, ranging from Rachel Roddy’s perfect recall of the cookers that have accompanied her through ill health, loss and motherhood to Yemisí Aríbisálà’s account of a doomed romance conducted in the language of food and Rebecca May Johnson’s analysis of what the film Mermaids says about feminism, domesticity and hors d’oeuvres. Taken together, these essays capture the intermingled universality and intimacy of eating in an appetising, sometimes delicious way. “Cooking is a tool for connecting us all to each other,” writes Julie Turshen, a sentiment echoed by Ella Risbridger’s confession that she has never had a kitchen she didn’t fall in love in, but also Daisy Johnson’s admission that writing about her and her partner’s food rituals is like surrendering a secret.


Ethyl Smith (ThunderPoint, £9.99)

Continuing the threads from her previous books, this is the fourth novel from the 78-year-old author set in a period of Scottish history that culminates with William of Orange’s 1688 accession. Broken Times opens in 1683, with the newly-ordained minister James Renwick and his sidekick Jonas Hawthorne braving the journey from Holland to Scotland so that Renwick can lift the people’s spirits and help to oppose the religious oppression in his homeland. They make a great double-act, the more worldly Jonas insisting on speaking on behalf of his humourless (and very young) master, who has a knack for rubbing people up the wrong way. Back in Scotland, meanwhile, the rebellious John Steel is successfully evading the authorities, but for how much longer? Scoring highly for well-handled dialect dialogue and research that conjures up the dangerous flavour of the period as the action moves from Rotterdam to Rye to Lesmahagow, it’s a satisfying, fluently-written adventure.


Rebecca Seal (Souvenir Press, £14.99)

Seal began writing this guide for self-employed workers long before the coronavirus crisis, so with millions now having had their first taste of remote working it’s acquired a relevance she couldn’t have anticipated. Aimed at anyone who works alone, it’s intended to help them survive psychologically and develop healthy attitudes towards being a “soloist”. Tackling the underlying questions of “how we create our own tiny organisations-of-one” and what we intend to achieve with them, Seal looks at emotional resilience, support networks, coping with loneliness, building “internal recovery” periods into the day, finding meaning in work without identifying too strongly with it and not being enslaved by the myth of the work ethic. Almost three-quarters of self-employed people express no desire to return to traditional employment, and it’s likely that many who have worked remotely during the lockdown will feel the same, so the sound advice in this book may prove invaluable in years to come.