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Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Literary Comfort Food




Today the radio show The Takeaway is asking listeners to name their recommendations for an economic hard times reading list. A few callers have brought up their idea of "comfort food" reading, like A Tree Grows in Brooklyn and Huck Finn.

That got me thinking about what makes for "comfort food" reading--clearly something simple and easy, like mashed potatoes and chicken stew, yet also somewhat edifying, unlike junk food (pulp fiction). Also, comfort food reading is fun, not preachy or ascetic (unsalted vegan macrobiotic). Here's my list:

Happy All the Time by Laurie Colwin
Sure it's about a bunch of rich New Yorkers, but it's so light and sweet and earnest--a book about people falling in love and learning to weave their different lives together.

Love Walked In Marisa de los Santos
Transport Happy All the Time to Baltimore and substitute the Jewish characters with Filipino... No really, this novel is lovely and I've been meaning to read the sequel, Belong to Me.

On Beauty and White Teeth by Zadie Smith
True, Smith does tackle some difficult issues, but she does so in such an entertaining way--her characters are so much damn fun.

Cat's Eye, The Edible Woman, and Robber Bride by Margaret Atwood
I think we all know Atwood can get a little didactic at times, but I love these three for her delicious story-telling and characterization.

Golden Country by Jennifer Gilmore
Another helping of scrumptious story telling. Word is she's working on her next novel and I can't wait to read it.

So what's your literary equivalent of comfort food? Readers who list Holy Scriptures will have rotten tomatoes thrown at them, by the way. Ditto for Harry Potter. You love the Harry Potter I GET IT! Do you remember reading anything else? Tell me your meatloaf.

*After publishing this it occurred to me that some of these writers might object to the idea of equating their work with comfort food. I mean it in the best way, though! By comfort food I do not mean bland, pedestrian, or merely OK.

4 comments:

janeannechovy said...

Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett (which I mean to re-read before getting the sequel, which came out a couple of years ago).

The Virgin in the Garden + sequels by AS Byatt.

Cat's Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut (always bears re-reading).

Jitterbug Perfume by Tom Robbins (likewise).

These are all nice, juicy satisfying reads, thoroughly enjoyable, thoroughly accessible but not junky writing: Daughter's Keeper by Ayelet Waldman. Ahab's Wife by Sena Jeter Naslund. Empire Falls by Richard Russo. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon. Behind the Scenes at the Museum by Kate Atkinson.

I also really like The Robber Bride and almost anything else by Atwood.

ME said...

A Town Like Alice by Neville Shute

Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver

Ceremony by Leslie Marmon Silko

Anne of Green Gables--whole series.

mamacita said...

Nora Ephron's Heartburn is a great food book AND a great novel.

Stella said...

i love your margaret atwood choices...read her obsessively at one time.

can i add all jane austen novels? rereading them is so satisfying and soothing...and they are relentlessly funny.