“I can’t believe I read the whole thing.”


‘Literary taste: The Food Theory of Books’

I’ve actually written about this before — how books are like food. Check out my fifth-ever post from (gasp) 2014. I called it “Tolstoy is So Tasty,” because, like beets, I didn’t know how delicious War and Peace would be until I actually tried it.

It’s no War and Peace, but this book was also waaaay more delicious than you’d think (!)

But tonight I am going to an event featuring Andre Soltner, he of the late lamented Lutece fame, and I got to thinking about this whole topic — how reading is a lot like eating — and decided to give it another go. (Also, it’s the Christmas season, and though I do very little decorating — see “Deck the Halls with Bough of Holly” — and send absolutely no cards, I have been holiday-busy, mainly going to a lot of holiday-themed events. Which involves little work other than dressing up, but does make me blog-lazy, to say the least.)

Holiday Decorating, Ken & Barbie House style

So. In “Tolstoy is So Tasty”, I explain how some books are like a good dinner: satisfying, filling, memorable. As a bonus, they inspire conversation.

My last delicious literary meal. Which I’m still digesting

A good book of short stories is like having a stash of tasty snacks to nibble between book “meals.” Just lately I’ve been dipping into Anthony Veasna So’s Afterparties while waiting for A Town Like Alice to clear my system.

Perfect example of a Health Food Book. Which is a book you feel you have to read because it’ll be good for you. Like a wheat-grass smoothie, I didn’t finish it

I go on some more about Junk Food books and and Thanksgiving Dinner Books and Health Food Books in that old post. Also Mallomar Books. Those are the books that, after you polish them off, you are thoroughly disgusted with yourself and feel the urge to purge. (Jonathan Livingston Seagull, I’m talking about you.)

Comfort Food Books are the ones you find yourself revisiting when in need of, well, comfort. For me, To Kill A Mockingbird is like meatloaf. In a good way, I mean

But I’ve read a heck of lot of books since posting that story and I’ve come to discover even more analogies. Like Airplane Food Books. Those are the ones you read because you’re trapped, otherwise bookless, and really have no other choice. I was once on a boat on the Amazon and had nothing to read but a tattered old copy of The Neotropical Companion. Which turned out to be pretty good. Kind of like airplane lasagna.

And how about Sheet-Cake Books? The ones that look really tempting but turn out to be dry and tasteless, or, even worse, teeth-on-edge sweet. I’m inviting a huge backlash here, but Little Women — eewwwww — is like this for me. Too sweet by far. And what’s with Jo not getting to marry Laurie because they are friends? Puh-leeze.

Books are like food also in that you can share them — either the food itself, or the recipe. Though it is hard to do this with e-books. And audiobooks? Heck, I tried one once but I felt like it was kind of like having someone else cut your meat for you.

Anyway. I hope you agree that my Food Theory of Books was, like In Cold Blood, worth another look.

I may even write about this again. In the meantime, enjoy your holidays and ponder this. Even though it isn’t a food analogy, it’s pretty cool. Though hey, I take it back. I did just this after first tasting Andre Soltner’s cooking.

New York City, December 2022

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6 thoughts on ““I can’t believe I read the whole thing.”

  1. I love this idea of books as food. You’re not as corny as I am, because I’m thinking food for the soul. Certainly we need all the kinds of food–from junk to deeply nourishing–and what’s life without some variety? I just listened to an audiobook in the car (on all my drives to and from school) that was 22 CDs-long: Chimes of a Lost Cathedral by Janet Fitch. It was a sequel–so I guess I ate dessert without eating the meal first. And that’s fine with me on all levels!

    • “Food for the Soul” — not corny at all! I’ll have to look into Janet Fitch. And I absolutely adore your idea that reading a sequel is like eating dessert first. Clever you.

    • Her elementary school insisted that we parents read Little Women aloud to The Child. I did so, but with muttered asides: “This part is soooo dumb; please don’t act like this!” etc. etc. etc. Laurie marrying Amy was bad enough, but then pairing Jo with that old man was the Last Straw.

  2. Debra Fried

    I’m ashamed to say I’ve been on a book fast lately. No idea why – I just haven’t been reading. Your great writing about books made me hungry. Today, I’ll dive back into the book I started a month ago. Thank you, Alice!

    • Hey there, Debra — You should def NOT be ashamed of your “book fast.” Your self denial has enabled you to blossom as a blogger (!) And what a treat your writing is!

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