Tis almost the season to eat drink and be merry. Yes, I know it is still the middle of November, but the run-in always goes by in a flash. Two things that we eat a lot of over the festive period are cake and soup, well, depending on where you are. But mostly cake, pudding and a myriad of other desserts…. Have you ever thought about what best accompanies stuffing your face over the festive period, with cake or any time of the year, musically? No? Well this month’s second book review ponders just that. But not just cake, also the afore mentioned topic of soup, allotments, space travel, sports commentators, and Donald Sutherland (actually he comes up in the topic of “Second Chances”)…. The book is – Music To Eat Cake By, written by Lev Parikian and published by Unbound on the 12th November (

So, lets imagine you’ve gone to a dinner party, where after the meal the guests gather in the living room and play a game of Charades. This book is just like that, Lev asked his readers to suggest topics for him to write about and they could be on anything from to the obscure to the sublime. Eventually, he whittled it down to forty topics and set about compiling a series of essays, all with his signature wit and warmth.

What you get from this, is a an amazingly funny and wild romp, through some of the weirdest and wonderful topics a group of readers could suggest. Contained with the covers of this book are some of the most sleep depriving questions on the planet, Things that could keep anyone, and probably has, occupied on a rainy afternoon in a pub (when were allowed in them, of course). As well that, Lev asked his tormentors to suggest numbingly and scrabble winning obscure words to place into the content. A version of “word for the day” you might say. Did they fail? No. The words would probably test the mental agility of Susie Dent, she of Countdown fame. Some of the words included “Weltanschang”, “Gazzer”, “Orcadian” and “Cornucopia”, although there are weirder and more tongue testier ones, all of which are highlighted with regular footnotes, which explain their meaning, if you’re stuck… I’m not the greatest fan on footnotes, in books that are non-academic, but in this case, they added to the overall enjoyment of the read.

Most Sunday mornings I listen to RTE Radio One’s (the Irish national broadcaster) “Sunday Miscellany”, which each week gives you a wonderful collection of short stories and essays on any subject that you might think of. Prior to that, I grew up listening to Alistair Cooke’s “Letters from America” on BBC radio 4. These were the first things came to mind when I started reading this book. Also, I loved that  the essays themselves decrease in length from the first being 4,000 words in length and the last, the topic suggested by his wife, being just 100 words.

This isn’t a cover to cover read, oh no, it’s one of those typical, “big dippers” or “swimming pools” as some people, including me and my wife, refer to them as. You can start in the middle, then dip in and dip out all over the place as you follow Lev on a literary breaststroke through his liking of cricket, music, food and birds.

Lev Parikian

This is English Author, Conductor and Ornithologist, Lev Parikian’s ( fourth book, the others are Waving Not Drowning (2013) with Barrington Orwell, Why Do Birds Suddenly Disappear (2018) and Into The Tangled Bank – How We Are In Nature (July 2020). He also contributed to the Red 67 Anthology, with 134 other writers to raise money for the conservation of the 67 British wild birds on the endangered red list. He’s also reviewed for the Times Literary Supplement (I’m still waiting for Stig to give me a bell) and when not writing or watching birds, he likes to take Twitter by storm, most recently in 2019 with his viral hit Bird Song For Beginners. He lives in London.

So, I can truly say, I may have found my book of the year and with a little over six weeks to go, it may be a safe assumption. If you are fan of Bryson or a regular reader of Jezza Clarkson’s Column, then I think you might have to reconsider your position. Because if like me, you’ve been a Parikian virgin, I think we may have to go in search of his previous works. But before that, while observing the Covid restrictions, click and collect online with your local bookshop, because they need the support. Or if you must, download a copy and prepare to split your sides and fill your lexicographic gills with this hilariously funny collection of essays. With Crimbo just around the corner too, this would be an ideal gift.

Reviewed by Adrian Murphy

This blog is part of a Random Things blog tour, to see what the other reviewers thought, visit their pages listed below. Then if you get a copy and read it come back and tell us what you thought. We’d really appreciate the feedback.



We have a friend who has regularly suggested, that as we get older, she, my wife and I, retire to the Med or Devon and Cornwall and buy an old farm or a couple of connected villas and live in a sort of Commune…. If you were born in the fifties or sixties, then Commune’s were not so much a fad, as an accepted part and parcel of the era of free love. They were the equivalent of our Spa retreat, although you didn’t nip off down to an exclusive hotel in the country to have a deep tissue massage and a Bellini. You smoked weed, drank, tried to live a more simpler life, maybe even walked around naked. I don’t think our friend has aspirations of us doing that (not the naked part anyway), just to live a quieter life away from the rat race in a place where the cost of living and climate is easier on the pocket and aching bones. This month’s first book review involves a commune and the after effect of what went on there back in the sixties. Its Coyote Fork by James Wilson and was published by Slant Books ( in September.

Seasoned British travel writer Robert Lovelace is sent to California to write a piece on social media giant Global Village and its founder Evan Bone, who has just bought up the newspaper Robert works for. Lovelace is disturbed when he sees a colleague who should be in the UK, in a parking lot, shortly after arriving in the states. But when he goes after her she disappears, only to discover later,that at the same time her saw her, she has taken her life in the UK, after being trolled by Global Villages members. Following a trail of old friends of Evan Bone, and finding out about the disappearance of a local native American, Robert finds himself dragged into a mystery surrounding the Tech Moguls past and the mysterious Coyote Fork commune. As his travels take him from San Francisco to the Midwest and eventually to the site of the commune in Northern California, can he elude the reach of social media which seem to follow his every move and get to the truth behind what happened at Coyote Fork?

With all that’s been going on in the US this week. I, as well as quite a few others could’ve done with heading off to a commune or at least needed some sort of distraction to take us away from the 24-7 furore engulfing every news channel around the world. I felt sorry for James Wilson’s thriller, having to compete with the madness which is transfixing the planet not just now but in 2020 in general. But Coyote Fork does go some-way to competing.  In less chaotic times, it would have held me gripped from page one, but in these fraught days, I was loosely engaged, from the first half of the book until Wilson threw in a few well placed grenades in the second half to ramp up the pace and pressure on his hero.

James Wilson

The plot is credible, and the setting and writing lovely. Having not been to California for ten years, and had my planned trip to the states this year postponed due to the Pandemic, any thoughts of long distant travel especially to a Covid hotbed like the States are gone for at least another 12 months. This was a decent panacea, with a likeable main character in the form of Robert Lovelace and a believable support cast, plus the smouldering threat of Big Brother, in the form of social media, looking over your shoulder, which helps build the both hero’s and reader’s paranoia .

This is English author James Wilson’s seventh book ( he’s written six other novels The Dark Clue (2001), The Bastard Boy (2004), The Woman In The Picture (2006), Consolation (2008), The Summer Of Broken Stories (2015) and a book of narrative non-fiction The Earth Shall Weep : A History Of Native America (1998). Which won The Myers “Outstanding Book” award. Wilson has also written for TV and radio and now lives in South London.

Like the smell of burning wood which hangs over northern California from nearby forest fires in the latter stages of book. We may still have to contend with the lingering diatribe and odious tweets of a recalcitrant Bigot in the White House for another couple of months. But as we head toward Christmas and see what type of weird , Covid restricted, festive season we have, this book would be an ideal escape, maybe paired with a nice glass of Californian wine.

So, head down to your local bookshop, in these economically restricted times and keep it local (or click and collect from them). Then join Robert Lovelace in a race across the Midwest to unearth the dark secrets of Coyote Fork.

Reviewed by Adrian Murphy

This Blog is part of a Random Things Blog Tour, to see what the other reviewers thought visit their sites listed below. Then if you get a copy and read it, comeback and tell us what you thought, we’d really appreciate the feedback.