Food for thought – books with food references in their titles

Image: Pixabay

Whether it’s a direct reference or a more subtle metaphor, there is no shortage of book titles that have something to do with food.  It’s always fun to organize collections this way.  These classics, thrillers, children’s books and modern fiction all have this common food trait:


A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway

Ernest Hemingway’s memoir of his days in Paris, where he was part of the expatriate community of writers, artists and creative minds, known now as the “Lost Generation”


Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote

Capote’s character sketch of Holly Golightly, a nineteen-year-old runaway in New York who tries to escape her sad past


Eating Bull by Carrie Rubin

Exciting medical thriller that tackles the subject of obesity and the food industry’s role in this serious health problem


In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan

In his guide to eating right, Pollan simplifies the dizzying task of figuring out what to eat:  Eat Food. Not Too Much. Mostly Plants.


One Hundred Hungry Ants by Elinor J. Pinczes

Entertaining children’s book that uses hungry ants to teach math and a life lesson


Pete’s a Pizza by William Steig

Pete’s mad because it’s raining and he can’t go outside, so his parents turn him into a pizza in this quietly warm children’s story.


Taste by Tracy Ewens

Sophisticated and a little bit spicy romance about young professionals in the restaurant business


The Dinner by Herman Koch

Twisted tale about a seriously messed up and unlikable family with a terrible secret


The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck

One of the greatest American stories of endurance ever told.  When The Grapes of Wrath was published, Steinbeck said, “I’ve done my damndest to rip a reader’s nerves to rags.”


We the Eaters by Ellen Gustafson

An argument for ways “we the eaters” can change the world by fighting against big companies like Monsanto and Cargill and buying more organic and whole foods


What do your books in common?

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The Leftovers by Tom Perrotta

the leftovers picThe Leftovers
by
Tom Perrotta

Rating:

Two percent doesn’t seem like much, unless it describes the number of people who inexplicably disappear from earth one day.  The official name is the Sudden Departure, but what was it?  An apocalypse?  The Rapture?  In The Leftovers, the stunned citizens of Mapleton, New York are left behind to float and struggle as they adjust to a new emptiness.

To restore order, citizen Kevin Garvey becomes Mapleton’s mayor.  As he tries to help the town move on with their lives, others, including his wife Laurie, join a cult, the Guilty Remnant.  Their vow of silence, chain-smoking and passive aggression unnerve the rest of the town. In a small town defined by normalcy, all comforts go out the window and Kevin’s college age son and teenage daughter veer wildly off course.

One of the most interesting characters is Nora Durst, whose entire family vanishes while she is in another room. She suffers to understand and to move forward, just as the others, but I think her pain is the most tangible of all the characters.

Without spoiling the story, some of you may not like the open ending. I like it because it allows me to imagine what the characters will do. I also think it ends in a hopeful and positive way.

This is a very original story, and good for a book club because it is both heavy and light with plenty of discussion points.


If you want more Leftovers, check out the HBO series of the same name created by Damon Lindelof and Tom Perrotta.  Justin Theroux, Amy Brenneman and Liv Tyler star in this creepy dystopian drama.  I’m in the middle of a very satisfying binge watch and can’t wait to see what happens next!  Lindelof and Perrotta develop strong characters in Season 1 who fall into their own in Season 2.  The series is full of strange surprises and anything is possible at the slightest turn.  But be warned, if you watch it right before bed, prepare yourself for some strange dreams!

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The Blackhouse by Peter May


The Blackhouse
by
Peter May

Rating:

Edinburgh detective Fin Macleod tried to escape a troubled life on the Isle of Lewis, but now he’s been pulled back home to investigate a copycat murder.  Set in the small village called Crobost, an isolated point of Scotland’s Outer Hebrides, Fin must confront his painful past, broken friendships and loss.  What follows is an excellent crime story, the first in The Lewis Trilogy, and one which is clouded by Fin’s conflicted character and Scotland’s ever-changing landscape.

The Crobost victim is schoolmate Angel Macritchie, the playground bully who preyed on the weak.  No different now, most in town were not sorry to see him gone, but his brutal murder leaves many questions.  Fin’s investigation is intertwined with the people he knew on the island, and he can’t avoid facing his boyhood friend, Artair Maccines and the girl they rivaled over, Marsaili Macdonald.

Clues point to several suspects, whose stories help depict what life is like in this treeless and remote land, where young and restless teenagers face bleak futures as crofters or mariners.  One of these stories is the ritual of the guga harvest, an annual trip to the rock island called An Sgeir, where a selected group of men spend two weeks killing young gannets to bring back to their people.  The trip through rough seas is dangerous, the time on the rock is treacherous and is a rite of passage for those who are chosen.  Reference to an unspoken tragedy leads the reader through an additional investigation of what happened the year Fin was selected to go.

May tells the story, bit by bit, alternating between the present and Fin’s first-person telling of the events that drove him off the island years earlier.  As Fin uncovers motives and truths, they lead to an incomprehensible finish, explained only in the book’s final pages and suggesting future relationships between its characters.

Mystery and crime readers will enjoy this interesting plot and setting.  I recommend The Blackhouse to these readers and anyone who likes conflicted characters and complicated relationships.  Enjoyed and highly rated by everyone in my library Whodunits Book Club, we are looking forward to completing the series!

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A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler


A Spool of Blue Thread
by
Anne Tyler

Rating:

Can a house be a character in a book?  I’ve been thinking about this ever since I finished Anne Tyler’s twentieth novel, A Spool of Blue Thread.  Tyler incorporates her favorite themes of family and relationships into the story and her characters are tightly connected to the Baltimore family’s house on Bouton Road, where three generations have lived.  And in that house the big question remains.  If the anchor is pulled, where will they go?

This is only one of the themes in the book, the question of what ties a family together and how this changes as its members move on, grow older or die.  The Whitshank family is both typical and unique in this regard, with its own set of problems and complex dynamics.  When Abby Whitshank becomes forgetful and Red’s hearing worsens, their adult children come together, messily, to help them.  Contributing to this drama is Denny Whitshank, the third child, and the family’s rebel.  He’s perpetually misunderstood, causing all the problems that come with being a wayward son.  But his siblings privately wonder, has he been their mother’s favorite all this time?

Class distinction and getting ahead drove the family’s patriarch, Junior Whitshank, who came from nothing and built a construction business, including the house on Bouton.  That drive only carries to some of the family and is often in conflict with his wife’s down-home ways and his daughter-in-law, Abby’s social consciousness.  Here’s a good example of a common difference in thinking which can pit family members against each other.

The plot jumps back and forth between the lives of Red, Abby and their children and Junior and Linnie Mae’s marriage a generation before.  Learning the backstory after knowing the characters is one of my favorite story structures because I think it resembles the way we get to know people and understand their actions.

I enjoyed this story very much, in which Tyler creates a complicated family, full of undercurrent secrets and an unacknowledged division between its members.  And despite this division and simmering aggression, they manage to maintain their dedication to each other when they pull together, without question, for emergencies, holidays and group vacations.  I felt invested in these characters, developed my own favorites and hoped for the best when relationships took their hits.

I read this book greedily, thinking I knew how it would end, but I was a little disappointed with its uneventful finish, which will no doubt lead to a lot of book club discussion.  Perhaps such an ending is Tyler’s point, that sometimes the buildup to a big decision makes the day it happens kind of ordinary.

I recommend A Spool of Blue Thread to readers who like stories about families.  If you’re an Anne Tyler fan, you will enjoy this one as much as the others and look forward to the next one!

Check out The Beginner’s Goodbye by Anne Tyler here.

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The Light Between Oceans by M. L. Stedman – great movie too!

The Light Between Oceans – a great story on the pages and on the screen!

the-light-between-oceans-movie

It’s a win-win when a movie adaptation is just as good as the book and I found this out when I watched The Light Between Oceans starring Michael Fassbender and Alicia Vikander.

Set on an island off Western Australia just after World War I, it’s the story of a lighthouse keeper and his wife, who live alone on Janus Rock. One day, they discover a boat that has washed ashore, carrying a dead man and a crying baby.  Heartbroken over their own losses, they are faced with a decision that will shape the rest of their lives.

Despite being isolated from the world, it’s no surprise that Tom and Isabel Sherbourne’s choice ultimately affects a great many people and a complicated story emerges. It is a story of love, marriage, family and sacrifice.

Terrific filming and a great moral dilemma make this movie a satisfying tear-jerker and I felt the heartstrings being pulled from many directions.  Read the book first and watch the movie second?  I think it can be done in either order!

the light between oceans pic

Click here for a more detailed review of The Light Between Oceans by M. L. Stedman.

What are your favorite film adaptations?

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Little House on the Prairie book series by Laura Ingalls Wilder

little-house-on-the-prairie-set

Little House on the Prairie Book Series
by
Laura Ingalls Wilder

(and other titles by Roger Lea MacBride,
Melissa Wiley, 
Maria D. Wilkes and Celia Wilkins)

Rating:
bookmarks-5a

It all started when our youngest son was in second grade. “My teacher is reading us a great book,” he told me one day. “Little House in the Big Woods. Do you know that book, Mom?” I knew the book, written by Laura Ingalls Wilder and, of course, the hit TV show that came after Little House on the Prairie.

So when we were looking for something to read together, he asked if we could read Little House in the Big Woods again. “You’ll like it Mom,” he told me.

little house in the big woods piclittle-house-on-the-prairie

I had the vague memory that these Little House books were more for girls than boys, but when we finished Little House in the Big Woods and then Little House on the Prairie, I remembered that there is plenty in these pages to keep a young boy interested. There are stories in every chapter about hunting and the dangers of living a frontier life. The conflicts between settlers and Native Americans are presented matter-of-factly and that makes them real. Illness and hardship, loss and set-backs occur regularly. Drought and bad weather ruin crops and threaten the family’s livelihood. Wilder also includes long descriptions of how things were made and the hard work that went into building log houses, doors, windows, sleighs and furniture.

But the stories are more than that. There is warmth and kindness in these books. As a mother, I like the family dynamic and the message it sends. The children in these books are far from spoiled and are happy with what they have. Laura Wilder’s writing style is both gentle and straightforward as she tells us what it was like for her to grow up during this time. She doesn’t sugarcoat and I like that.

When we finished the first two books, we moved on to Farmer Boy, one of my favorites. The months passed. We read a chapter each night. We watched Laura grow up. We watched her family move into town, watched Laura meet and marry Almanzo and start her own life. And then came Rose, Laura’s daughter.

farmer-boy-jpg
Ms. Wilder stopped writing at the end of The Laura Years, but Roger Lea MacBride, a long-time family friend, picked up with The Rose Years and continued writing in the same style as Ms. Wilder. We read about Rose and her family traveling in a covered wagon and settling in the Ozarks. We watched her grow into an independent spirit, move to New Orleans to finish high school and start a career.

Not ready to stop, we went backwards in time and read about Laura’s great-grandmother, Martha as a young girl in Scotland, written by Melissa Wiley. Wiley has also written a series about Laura’s grandmother, Charlotte and Laura’s mother, Caroline and she writes with the same pleasing style as Wilder and MacBride.

I recommend this classic series to anyone who is looking for realistic children’s books with the important themes of family, adventure, hardship and perseverance.

Check out all the Little House books!

The LAURA Years, by Laura Ingalls Wilder
Little House in the Big Woods
Little House on the Prairie
Farmer Boy
On the Banks of Plum Creek
By the Shores of Silver Lake
The Long Winter
Little Town on the Prairie
These Happy Golden Years
The First Four Years

The ROSE Years, by Roger Lea MacBride
Little House on Rocky Ridge
Little Farm in the Ozarks
In the Land of the Big Red Apple
On the Other Side of the Hill
Little Town in the Ozarks
New Dawn on Rocky Ridge
On the Banks of the Bayou
Bachelor Girl

The MARTHA Years, by Melissa Wiley
Little House in the Highlands
The Far Side of the Loch
Down to the Bonny Glen
Beyond the Heather Hills

The CHARLOTTE Years, by Melissa Wiley
Little House by Boston Bay
On Tide Mill Lane
The Road from Roxbury
Across the Puddingstone Dam

The CAROLINE Years, by Maria D. Wilkes & Celia Wilkins
Little House in Brookfield
Little Town at the Crossroads
Little Clearing in the Woods
On Top of Concord Hill
Across the Rolling River
Little City by the Lake
A Little House of Their Own

Image source:  lauraingallswilderhome.com

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What’s That Book? Cotton in My Sack by Lois Lenski

whats-that-book

cotton-in-my-sack
Title
: Cotton in My Sack

Author and illustrator: Lois Lenski

Genre: Children’s Literature

Rating:  *****

What’s it about?  Realistic fiction about young Joanda Hutley and her sharecropper family, cotton pickers in Arkansas during the late 1940s.  The Hutleys endure many ups and downs and live from payday to payday, often squandering their money in town every Saturday, and leaving little for groceries and coal to heat their house.  Tractor accidents, illness, stolen cotton and other problems keep the Hutleys locked in place, until Uncle Shine Morse shows them how they must pull themselves up by their own bootstraps.

Despite their hardships, Joanda and her family work together and are a cheerful and loving group, which makes it a remarkably charming story.  Neighbors look out for each other and even the boss man’s wife turns out to be nice, making the story both a dose of reality and an example of the goodness in people.

Lenski is both the author and the illustrator of Cotton in My Sack and her unique illustrations show the family during the good and the bad, adding much to the story’s realism.

cotton-in-my-sack-pic
How did you hear about it? 
I first read it when I was a young girl.

Closing comment:  Cotton in My Sack is one of my favorite girlhood books.  Reading it again makes me understand how my reading tastes have developed, as I have always loved stories about large families and their struggles.  It reminds me now of a combination of the Little House on the Prairie books by Laura Ingalls Wilder and also a little bit of The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck.  I like how the author doesn’t gloss over the hard times but also shows the family’s resilience and optimism.

Lois Lenski wrote and illustrated many regional children’s books, and she won a Newbery Medal in 1946 for Strawberry Girl.  She wrote Cotton in My Sack at the request of children in Arkansas, who had read, Strawberry Girl and wanted her to write a book about them.

Contributor:  Ginette


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