Do you have a "voracious appetite" for reading? Have you ever “devoured” a book? Have you ever had the depraved desire to slather your first-edition F. Scott Fitzgerald classic with whipped cream and chocolate sauce? Do you look forward to resuming that book you put down on the subway with the same hunger that you anticipate that chocolate cake at your favorite restaurant? Does a good dessert make you feel equally comfortable as a good book, like you would want to curl up in bed with either (aside from the crumbs that a dessert might shed, of course)?
If you answered “yes” to these questions, then you, like me, are a bibliovore!
Allow me to explain a little. I am a foodie. Food analogies have always appealed to me, and my perception of the world is largely colored by the experience of eating. I have always thought of different foods as corresponding to different categories of literature. In my mind, books that belong on the dessert menu are the finest literature. But there are other categories, of course, and here is where my particular tastes and biases become apparent. Here are some examples. Many books of the "self-help" nature are like fast food: of little nutritional value. A well-written textbook? That would be a veggie platter with hummus for dipping. Historical fiction so well-written it makes you feel as though you’re traveling back in time? Something fun can only be compared to a peanut-butter-and-banana sandwich. The latest Harlequin romance novel? One bucket of Häagen-Dazs coming right up. Bill Bryson’s most recent masterpiece on the history of the household, reconstructed in impeccably researched detail room by room? That would be a prix fixe four-course meal at your favorite swanky restaurant. Virtually anything written by Jack London? A veggie stir-fry slathered in healthy dose of peanut sauce. Most YA chick lit? A neon-colored blow-pop—that flavor that turns your tongue dark purple. Books that can be likened to a fine pastries are few and far between, indeed.
This brings me to my favorite category: dessert literature. You know how some books are so riveting they'll make you miss your stop on the train? These are the books you just can't help but compare to... well, dessert! I have always thought that some authors were so good at their craft that it was impossible not to liken them to gourmet pastry chefs adding the finishing touches to their edible creations. You know what I mean when I speak of rich desserts: luxuriously self-indulgent treats like chocolate mousse, fudge, cashew cream profiteroles, fluffy meringues, amaretto-drenched tiramisu, crepes in all their glorious forms... just to name a few. Books consistent with such decadence are so pleasurable to read they don’t even feel like literature or education. They're the types of books where you just submit to the pleasure of getting lost in the plot. A few of my favorite “dessert books” include Jack London's Martin Eden
, Friedrich Nietzsche's Thus Spoke Zarathustra
, Bill Bryson's A Walk in the Woods
(or equally impressive and enjoyable Mother Tongue
), anything by Suzanne Collins but most recently, the Hunger Games
trilogy. Ah yes, I dare say that Francis Bacon just might deem these books "digestible."
Even the processes of writing and cooking beg to be compared. A great writer often labors through many drafts and might agonize over every word just as a chef uses the finest ingredients and knows how to add interesting flavors without any of them being overwhelming to the senses. A great writer will use wonderful language but will make sure prose alone doesn't get in the way of enjoyment of the story. Both chef and writer want you to lose yourself in the process of enjoying their product.
One of the reasons I feel lucky to be a librarian is because I’ve always thought of my career as an unlimited access pass to an all-you-can-eat buffet. Being a librarian is like being able to sample different desserts and having the option of tasting more or sampling something else from the proverbial Lazy Susan. With so many flavors to sample, it’s virtually impossible to get bored.
Which leads me to the question... what flavor is your book? Have you tasted, chewed, or digested anything good lately?