Tolstoy is so tasty



‘Making a meal out of books’

Having just polished off my umpteenth Harlan Coben mystery (‘Tell No One’, ‘Stay Close’, ‘Gone for Good’, etc., etc., etc.), I decided to take a break and share my Food Theory of Books.

Which is that books are a lot like food. There are Dinner Books (‘Wolf Hall’, ‘Canada’, to name just two). These satisfy, but don’t leave you feeling bloated or disgusted with yourself (for me that would be ‘The DaVinci Code’). There are Snack Books, which are lighter but still quite tasty (Muriel Spark). And Junk Food Books (by Lee Child, or the afore-mentioned Harlan Coben), that are filling, cheap, and leave you craving more.

Dessert Books are the ones you set aside special, as a treat. For me, that’s whatever is the latest murder mystery by Sue Grafton I put in my Amazon ‘save for later’ folder (‘later’ being when it comes out in paperback).

Then there is the category I call the Mallomar Book. This is a book that makes you feel, after reading it, like you just polished off a whole box of Mallomars or bag of Fig Newtons.  By yourself. And then you buried the package in the trash. I’m thinking ‘Jonathan Livingston Seagull’, people. ‘The Bridges of Madison County’. Or, egads, ‘Love Story’.

There are Health-Food Books, too. These are the ones, like ‘One Hundred Years of Solitude’ or ‘Ulysses’, that you know you should read because they’re good for you. For me, ‘War and Peace’ was like that, until I actually tried it and found it unexpectedly delicious. Sort of like beets.

There’s a special category I call Thanksgiving Dinner Books. Lots to feast upon. But, like turkey, can you really work up an appetite for Dickens more than once a year?

‘The Hunger Games’ series falls under what I call Sneak-Eating. Books you love, but wouldn’t want your friends to catch you consuming. So you nibble them (as I did) in sneaky little bites on your iPhone on the subway. I could imagine that the ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ books would be like that too, though I haven’t sampled them. But then again, I don’t sneak-eat chocolates, either.

There are Comfort Food Books; the ones you turn to again and again. For me these are ‘In Cold Blood’ and ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’. There are Quinoa Books; they’re by trendy authors like that girl who wrote ‘Swamplandia’ last summer. See? I’ve already forgotten her name. And there are the books that you try to enjoy again, but realize you’ve outgrown. I’m sorry, Jay McInerney, but you’re kind of like Spaghetti-O’s.

I could go on and on. But I will end with mention of a very special book. One I put in a category all its own. That’s this year’s literary sensation, ‘The Goldfinch’. I call this my Crack Cocaine Book. Tremendous high, incredibly bummer-inducing crash at the end.

So, how have you been satisfying your literary hunger this summer?

Amagansett, New York. August 2014

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14 thoughts on “Tolstoy is so tasty

  1. Debra Fried

    Alice, I commented on this once before but it deserves a second bravo. I think of your theory whenever I decide what book to read. For some reason, I haven’t been reading lately but you’ve made me want to start immediately. I will begin Goldfinch, which my husband loved as much as you did, tonight.

    • Thanks ever so, Debra. For both comments! So glad you’re digging into The Goldfinch (urgh, that sounds sort of gross, theory-wise!) You won’t be sorry you read it (unlike a Mallomar Book), but it may end up exasperating you. Rather like eating a pomegranate! Another amazingly satisfying entry (or entree?) is All the Light We Cannot See, which I have been gorging on since last night. xo

  2. This is the best literary theory I’ve read in a long time. Thanks for it, Alice. **feeling full after a few bites of Danish Beer Bread (Knausgaard)**

  3. Ah, Child. But remember, you actually don’t have to finish Philip Roth (or a box of oatmeal, for that matter) if you don’t want to. Cleaning the Literary Plate is completely unnecessary.

  4. "Child"

    Yes! I think this Philip Roth book is like that giant box of oatmeal in the refrigerator because I just can’t seem to finish it

  5. Debra fried

    I’m reading a Dessert book – The Interestings – I’ve been reading it all summer – purposely taking forever with it – something I don’t have the control to do with real desserts – bc i find it so delicious, I don’t want it to end. i love your food theory, Alice.

    • So glad you liked this, Jayne! Funny, I almost titled this post ’50 Shades of Chocolate’, that’s how much it was on my mind (!) And I had put it in the Sneak Eating category. But perhaps ’50 Shades’ belongs elsewhere. Appetizers?

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