Shelf Reflection is a monthly series where we delve into the reading habits of interesting Australians. This month’s reflection comes from food writer, educator and TV presenter Alice Zaslavsky.

Alice’s bookshelf. Image: Supplied

What are you currently reading?

I’m reading Bob Brown’s Optimism, which has been on my bedside table for longer than I care to admit, but it’s like my little burst of positivity before bed. I heard him speak about his work, particularly in helping save the Tarkine wilderness, at the ‘Happiness and Its Causes’ conference a few years back, and I found it positively inspiring. His story gives me hope about what individuals can achieve, against all odds. (Spoiler alert: Bob saves it, and we all live happily ever after.)

What kind of reader are you?

I am most definitely a polyamorous bibliophile. I’ve got a book in every room (including the bathroom!), so that I may nip in and read a page every now and then. Mind you, that’s just how I feel about non-fiction – I’ll rarely commit. But when it comes to fiction, I really have to clear my schedule because otherwise everything takes a back seat to book-reading. I could’ve written my manuscript in half the time if it wasn’t for Game of Thrones. If I’m especially enamoured, I can take the book walking and keep half an eye out for hazards… It’s a finely-tuned skill from the long and arduous journeys to and from the school bus. I’m yet to meet a book I haven’t liked, but some are definitely more of a slog to chop through than others. There are way too many new books to explore for me to rehash old material. Having said that, though, sometimes I’ll forget where I’m up to in those strategically placed reference books and end up re-reading half a chapter before realising I’m 50 pages thataway.

What are people surprised to find you enjoy?

YA Fiction. I used to be an English teacher after all, and I still love finding a great YA that I can’t put down, then imagining what themes I might teach or projects I might set. Yep – you can take the teacher out of the classroom and all that.

What does your book collection look like?

Most of the books in our flat are cookbooks, so they’re organised based on theme or cuisine or author. As for the other books, it’s a bit of a free-for-all – Wherever they’ll fit on the shelf, really.

My cookbook collection is expanding exponentially, because despite being on a book-buying ban, I’m lucky enough to get parcels of them mysteriously appearing in the post box. I went through a phase of collecting antique books at one point, so there’s a little leather cluster of those that I love picking up and fondling.

My dad brought over two container-loads of books when we moved here from Georgia, and I’ll still find books in there that I’ll repatriate into my flat. I love his collection of historical fiction best.

If you had to pick one book to live in for the rest of your life, which would it be?

To be honest, it feels like every book I’ve read lately is either set in a dystopian or oppressive past, so I’d rather just live in this world and make it as great as possible for myself and those around me.

Alice’s Food A-Z is available now at Readings.