Suggestions for January – when we will be discussing classics

Death Comes For the ArchbishopWilla Cather – Death Comes for the Archbishop sprang from Willa Cather’s love for the land and cultures of the American Southwest. Published in 1927 to both praise and perplexity, it has since claimed for itself a major place in twentieth-century literature. The narrative follows Bishop Jean Latour and Father Joseph Vaillant, friends since their childhood in France, as they organize the new Roman Catholic diocese of Santa Fe subsequent to the Mexican War. While seeking to revive the church and build a cathedral in the desert, the clerics, like their historical prototypes, Bishop Jean Laury and Father Joseph Machebeuf, face religious corruption, natural adversity, and the loneliness of living in a strange and unforgiving land. The historical essay traces the artistic and spiritual development that led to its writing. The broad-ranging explanatory notes illuminate the elements of French, Mexican, Hispanic, and Native American cultures that meet in the course of the narrative, they also explain the part played by the land and its people – their history, religion, art, and languages.


 The Hitchhikers Guide to the GalaxyDouglas Adams – The story of a British earthling plucked from his planet, and his subsequent adventures elsewhere in the universe.


The Call of the Wild Jack London – Part St. Bernard, part Scotch shepherd, Buck is a sturdy crossbreed canine accustomed to a comfortable life as a family dog — until he’s seized from his pampered surroundings and shipped to Alaska to be a sled dog. There, the forbidding landscape is as harsh as life itself during the gold rush of the 1890s. Forced to function in a climate where every day is a savage struggle for survival, Buck adapts quickly. Traces of his earlier existence are obliterated and he reverts to his dormant primeval instincts, encountering danger and adventure as he becomes the leader of a wolf pack and undertakes a journey of nearly mythical proportions. Superb details, taken from Jack London’s firsthand knowledge of Alaskan frontier life, make this classic tale of endurance as gripping today as it was over a century ago.


Catch 22Joseph Heller – Catch-22 is like no other novel we have ever read. It has its own style, its own rationale, its own extraordinary character. It moves back and forth from hilarity to horror. It is outrageously funny and strangely affecting. It is totally original.

It is set in the closing months of World War II, in an American bomber squadron on a small island off Italy. Its hero is a bombardier named Yossarian, who is frantic and furious because thousands of people he hasn’t even met keep trying to kill him. (He has decided to live forever even if he has to die in the attempt.) His problem is Colonel Cathcart, who keeps raising the number of missions the men have to fly.

Cry, the Beloved CountryAlan Paton – The most famous and important novel in South Africa’s history, and an immediate worldwide bestseller when it was published in 1948, Alan Paton’s impassioned novel about a black man’s country under white man’s law is a work of searing beauty. The eminent literary critic Lewis Gannett wrote, “We have had many novels from statesmen and reformers, almost all bad; many novels from poets, almost all thin. In Alan Paton’s Cry, the Beloved Country the statesman, the poet and the novelist meet in a unique harmony.”


The Grapes of Wrath – B – The Grapes of Wrath is a landmark of American literature. A portrait of the conflict between the powerful and the powerless, of one man’s fierce reaction to injustice, and of one woman’s stoical strength, the novel captures the horrors of the Great Depression and probes into the very nature of equality and justice in America. Although it follows the movement of thousands of men and women and the transformation of an entire nation, The Grapes of Wrath is also the story of one Oklahoma family, the Joads, who are driven off their homestead and forced to travel west to the promised land of California. Out of their trials and their repeated collisions against the hard realities of an America divided into Haves and Have-Nots evolves a drama that is intensely human yet majestic in its scale and moral vision, elemental yet plainspoken, tragic but ultimately stirring in its human dignity.



To Kill a Mockingbird Harper Lee – Lawyer Atticus Finch defends the real mockingbird of Harper Lee’s classic, Puliter Prize-winning novel—a black man charged with the rape of a white woman. Through the eyes of Atticus’s children, Scout and Jem Finch, Harper Lee explores with rich humor and unanswering honesty the irrationality of adult attitudes toward race and class in the Deep South of the 1930’s.


Brideshead Revisited Evelyn Waugh – In this classic tale of British life between the World Wars, Waugh parts company with the satire of his earlier works to examine affairs of the heart. Charles Ryder finds himself stationed at Brideshead, the family seat of Lord and Lady Marchmain. Exhausted by the war, he takes refuge in recalling his time spent with the heirs to the estate before the war–years spent enthralled by the beautiful but dissolute Sebastian and later in a more conventional relationship with Sebastian’s sister Julia. Ryder portrays a family divided by an uncertain investment in Roman Catholicism and by their confusion over where the elite fit in the modern world.


The Sun Also Rises Ernest Hemingway – The quintessential novel of the Lost Generation, The Sun Also Rises is one of Ernest Hemingway’s masterpieces and a classic example of his spare but powerful writing style. A poignant look at the disillusionment and angst of the post-World War I generation, the novel introduces two of Hemingway’s most unforgettable characters: Jake Barnes and Lady Brett Ashley. The story follows the flamboyant Brett and the hapless Jake as they journey from the wild nightlife of 1920s Paris to the brutal bullfighting rings of Spain with a motley group of expatriates. It is an age of moral bankruptcy, spiritual dissolution, unrealized love, and vanishing illusions. First published in 1926, The Sun Also Rises helped to establish Hemingway as one of the greatest writers of the twentieth century.


A Passage to India E. M. Forster – A Passage to India (1924) is a novel by English author E. M. Forster set against the backdrop of the British Raj and the Indian independence movement in the 1920s. It was selected as one of the 100 great works of English literature by the Modern Library and won the 1924 James Tait Black Memorial Prize for fiction. Time magazine included the novel in its “100 Best English-language Novels from 1923 to 2005”.[1] The novel is based on Forster’s experiences in India. E.M.Forster borrowed the book’s title from Walt Whitman‘s poem Leaves of Grass.


Bleak HouseCharles Dickens – The story concerns a long-running legal dispute which has far-reaching consequences for all involved, and serves as Dickens’ assault on the flaws of the British judiciary system (based in part on his own experiences as a law clerk). The author’s harsh characterization of the slow, arcane Chancery law process gave voice to widespread frustration with the system, helping to set the stage for its eventual reform in the 1870s.


The Boys of SummerRoger Kahn – A baseball book the same way Moby Dick is a fishing book, this account of the early-’50s Brooklyn Dodgers is, by turns, a novelistic tale of conflict and change, a tribute, a civic history, a piece of nostalgia and, finally, a tragedy, as the franchise’s 1958 move to Los Angeles takes the soul of Brooklyn with it. Kahn writes eloquently about the memorable games and the Dodgers’ penchant for choking — “Wait Till Next Year” is their motto — but the most poignant passages revisit the Boys in autumn. An auto accident has rendered catcher Roy Campanella a quadriplegic. Dignified trailblazer Jackie Robinson is mourning the death of his son. Sure-handed third baseman Billy Cox is tending bar. No book is better at showing how sports is not just games. 


RebeccaDaphne du Maurier – “Last Night I Dreamt I Went To Manderley Again.”

So the second Mrs. Maxim de Winter remembered the chilling events that led her down the turning drive past ther beeches, white and naked, to the isolated gray stone manse on the windswept Cornish coast. With a husband she barely knew, the young bride arrived at this immense estate, only to be inexorably drawn into the life of the first Mrs. de Winter, the beautiful Rebecca, dead but never forgotten…her suite of rooms never touched, her clothes ready to be worn, her servant — the sinister Mrs. Danvers — still loyal. And as an eerie presentiment of evil tightened around her heart, the second Mrs. de Winter began her search for the real fate of Rebecca…for the secrets of Manderley.

Feedback from our December discussion of books about food….and more

Will post the suggestions from this month’s meeting – will include a line or two about the books because a list is just kind of daunting.  will also post the list of suggestions for January when we will be talking about classics – in our very loose description of what a classic might be.  The list isn’t intended to act as what you should read – it should just give you an idea of how broadly we are defining the term – mostly as books that have stood the test of time long enough to head into a second generation of readers.


Shark’s Fin and Sichuan Pepper: A Sweet-sour memoir of eating in China

Fuchsia Dunlop

In this memoir, Fuchsia recalls her evolving relationship with China and its food, from her first rapturous encounter with the delicious cuisine of Sichuan Province to brushes with corruption, environmental degradation, and greed.

A Thousand Days in Venice: An unexpected romance

Marlena de Blasi

Highly recommended – As this transplanted American learns the hard way about the peculiarities of Venetian culture, we are treated to an honest, often comic view of how two middle-aged people, both set in their ways but also set on being together, build a life. 

The Sharper Your Knife, the less you cry: love, laughter and tears in Paris at the world’s most famous cooking school

Kathleen Flinn

OK – not fabulous – This is the funny and inspiring account of Kathleen Flinn’s struggle in a stew of hot-tempered chefs, competitive classmates, her own “wretchedly inadequate” French, and the basics of French cuisine.

Blood, Bones & Butter: the inadvertent education of a reluctant chef

Gabrielle Hamilton

Owner and chef of New York’s Prune restaurant, Hamilton also happens to be a trained writer (M.F.A., University of Michigan) and fashions an addictive memoir of her unorthodox trajectory to becoming a chef. 

Goat Song: A seasonal Life, A Short history of herding and the art of making cheese

Brad Kessler

Goat Song is the story of a year in the life of a couple who abandoned their one-bedroom apartment in New York City to live on seventy-five acres in Vermont and raise Nubian goats.

Untangling my chopsticks: a culinary sojourn in Kyoto

Victoria Abbott Riccardi

In 1986, two years out of college and restless at her job with an ad agency, Riccardi left New York to spend a year in Kyoto, where she lived with a Japanese couple and attended an elite school devoted to the study of kaiseki, a highly ritualized form of cooking that accompanies the formal tea ceremony.

The Matchmaker of Perigord: a novel

Julia Stuart

very light – For every reader who adored Chocolat, Julia Stuart’s The Matchmaker of Périgord is a delectable, utterly enchanting, and sinfully satisfying delight.

A homemade life: stories and recipes from my kitchen table

Molly Wizenberg

In a Homemade Life: Stories and Recipes from my kitchen table, Molly Wizenberg, The Founder of the acclaimed blog orangette, Recounts a life with the kitchen at its center.

The Peculiar Sadness of Lemon Cake

Aimee Bender

On the eve of her ninth birthday, unassuming Rose Edelstein bites into her mother’s homemade lemon-chocolate cake and discovers she has a magical gift: she can taste her mother’s emotions in the slice.  – Several people in the group had read this and felt it did not live up to its potential.

Tender at the Bone; comfort me with Apples; Garlic and Sapphires

Ruth Reichl

Memoirs from the woman who was a chef, a food critic and the editor of Gourmet.  Liked the first two much better than Garlic and Sapphires which is less about her growing up and more about her experience as a food critic.

The Fortune Cookie Chronicles: Adventures in the World of Chinese Food

Jennifer 8 Lee

In her search, Jennifer 8 Lee traces the history of Chinese-American experience through the lens of the food. – Recommended

Wheat Belly

William Davis

A renowned cardiologist explains how eliminating wheat from our diets can prevent fat storage, shrink unsightly bulges, and reverse myriad health problems.   His premise appears to be that wheat has been significantly changed for agricultural purposes and the current varieties of wheat are not healthy for humans.

A Cup of Christmas Tea

Tom Hegg

lovely book – a straightforward, sentimental poem that brought tears to his audience’s eyes. First published in 1982, it’s been a seasonal best-seller ever since.

Under the Tuscan Sun

Frances Mayes

story of woman who moves to Tuscany – filled with food and the beauty of life in Italy

Paris, My Sweet: A Year in the City of Light (and Dark Chocolate)

Amy Thomas

Recommended:  Forever a girl obsessed with all things French, sweet freak Amy Thomas landed a gig as rich as the purest dark chocolate: leave Manhattan for Paris to write ad copy for Louis Vuitton. – also has a recommended BLOG –

The Making of a Chef; The Reach of a Chef

Michael Ruhlman

Books about chefs and the role of the chef in the kitchen

United States of Pie

Adrienne Kane

Woman travels the US looking for heritage pie recipes – which are included in the book – good recipes

The Ethics of What We Eat

Peter Singer

Looks at the food experiences of three families – a traditional American diet, a vegetarian/organic meat diet; and a vegan diet to explore the impact our food choices have on us and on the planet.

Eating Animals

Jonathan Safran Foer

Eating Animals explores the many fictions we use to justify our eating habits-from folklore to pop culture to family traditions and national myth-and how such tales can lull us into a brutal forgetting. 

Animal Vegetable Miracle

Barbara Kingsolver

Her year of confining her family’s food choices to what they could grow or what was grown within 100 miles of them.

Sweet Life in Paris

David Levovitz

From learning the ironclad rules of social conduct to the mysteries of men’s footwear, from shopkeepers who work so hard not to sell you anything to the etiquette of working the right way around the cheese plate, here is David’s story of how he came to fall in love with—and even understand—this glorious, yet sometimes maddening, city.

Yes Chef: a memoir

Marcus Samuelsson

It begins with a simple ritual: Every Saturday afternoon, a boy who loves to cook walks to his grandmother’s house and helps her prepare a roast chicken for dinner. The grandmother is Swedish, a retired domestic. The boy is Ethiopian and adopted, and he will grow up to become the world-renowned chef Marcus Samuelsson. This book is his love letter to food and family in all its manifestations.  

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society

Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

Lovely lovely book – The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society begins in January 1946, when popular author Juliet Ashton, much like her fellow British citizens, is emerging from the dark days of World War II. As Juliet exchanges a series of letters with her publisher and her best friend, readers immediately warm to this author in search of a new subject in the aftermath of war. By the time Juliet receives an unexpected query from Dawsey Adams, we are caught in a delightful web of letters and vivid personalities and eager for Juliet to find the inspiration she seeks.

Dying for Chocolate – and about 18 more titles

Diane Mott Davidson

Mysteries that feature a caterer and include recipes

Key Lime Pie Murder – and about 30 more titles

Joanne Fluke

Her character is baker Hannah Swensen (Minnesota)

The Body in the ….. (over 20 titles all that begin with this phrase)  latest is The Body in the Boudoir – which is a prequel

Katherine Hall Page

her character is Faith Fairchild, caterer married to a minister in a small New England town (Katherine lives in Lincoln)  recipes included

Shades of Earl Grey and several other titles

Laura Childs

This author has a series set in a tea shop, one around scrapbooking and one called the Cackleberry Club Series which is set in a cafe (recipes included)

Cutting for Stone

Abraham Verghese

Marion and Shiva Stone are twin brothers born of a secret union between a beautiful Indian nun and a brash British surgeon. Orphaned by their mother’s death and their father’s disappearance, bound together by a preternatural connection and a shared fascination with medicine, the twins come of age as Ethiopia hovers on the brink of revolution.   Has lots of descriptions of Ethopian meals.

Major Pettigrew’s last Stand

Helen Simonson

this book really doesn’t come to mind when you talk about food but it’s a lovely story that will appeal to people who enjoyed The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society.

The Lotus Easter

Tatjiana Soli

A unique and sweeping debut novel of an American female combat photographer in the Vietnam War, as she captures the wrenching chaos and finds herself torn between the love of two men.  (we had finished talking about food and were just talking about books at this point.

Love is a Many Splendored Thing

Suyin Han

a book about that post-war Asia shaken from end to end by stupendous, revolutionary changes.

Titles next month

Edith Wharton

Carolyn has been reading lots of her less well known books and highly recommends them.

The Gift of Rain

Tan Twan Eng

This remarkable debut saga of intrigue and akido flashes back to a darkly opulent WWII-era Malaya.

Gone Girl

Gillian Flynn

thriller – shows up on lots of “best of 2012” lists


Cheryl Strayed

memoir of an 1100 mile solo hike that broke down a young woman reeling from catastrophe and built her back up again. (also on best of lists)

Marmee  Louisa: The Untold Story of Louisa May Alcott and her Mother

Eve LaPlante

Biographers have consistently attributed Louisa’s uncommon success to her father, Bronson Alcott, assuming that this outspoken idealist was the source of his daughter’s progressive thinking and remarkable independence. But in this riveting dual biography, award-winning biographer Eve LaPlante explodes these myths, drawing from a trove of surprising new documents to show that it was Louisa’s actual “Marmee,” Abigail May Alcott, who formed the intellectual and emotional center of her world. 

Food Wishes BLOG

Chef John

offers video instructions for his recipes



What I am reading that isn’t on topic at all

I think we need a section to just mention books that we are enjoying that may be outside the topic. For all those people who have read the dark Swedish mysteries and have decided that Scandinavians have no sense of humor – The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson. Sort of a mix up of a French farce and Forrest Gump but pretty funny.