Dinner and a Book

Go one step beyond the usual wine, cheese and crackers with a menu that matches the theme of your book club's latest selection.

Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested: that is, some books are to be read only in parts, others to be read, but not curiously, and some few to be read wholly, and with diligence and attention.
–Francis Bacon

Here are a few top book club selections and coordinating menus that are sure to add a new depth of flavor to your discussions. Planning a book club party? See our step-by-step guide for a fun Girls' Night In.

Atonement, Ian McEwan
Serve high tea and transport your book group to pre-WWII England and the large country estate of the Tallis family.

Bel Canto, Ann Patchett
Offer your book club members a South American menu as a tribute to the unnamed South American County where the novel takes place.

The Devil in the White City, Erik Larsen
For a discussion of this tale of murder and madness that surrounded the 1893 Chicago World's Fair, you must offer some dishes that reflect the spirit of that great city.

Eat, Pray, Love, Elizabeth Gilbert
Elizabeth begins her journey of self discovery with gastronomic delights in Italy, so consider starting your book club discussion with a menu she would have relished.

Gilead, Marilynne Robinson
The narrator, Reverend John Ames, is 76 years old and has spent most of his life in Gilead, Iowa as preacher in this small rural community. Capture the heart of a rural community with a menu worthy of sharing with your neighbors.

Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, Mary Ann Shaffer, Annie Barrows
A dinner featuring a roasted pig was the beginning of this literary society and therefore, the perfect entrée for your own literary gathering.

The Help, Kathryn Stockett
If you are brave and have a good sense of humor, a chocolate pie is a must for any discussion of this novel about a budding civil rights activist and two black women who work as maids in Jackson, Mississippi in the early 1960s. Savor the story while dining on a Southern-style meal.

The Kite Runner, Khaled Hosseini
Capture some of the flavor and culture of Afghanistan in the early 1970s with this Middle Eastern menu.

Middlesex, Jeffrey Eugenides
Create an original Greek menu for your discussion of this saga of a Greek-American family and the main character, Cal/Callie.

The Namesake, Jhumpa Lahiri
The foods and rituals of India are part of the story as the characters search for home, identity, and meaning in their lives. Enrich your discussion of the novel with the flavors, textures and aromas of Indian cuisine. .

The Poisonwood Bible, Barbara Kingsolver
Although the missionary and his family are woefully unprepared for life in Belgian Congo, you can be prepared with a menu that captures some of the flavors of Africa. .

The Red Tent, Anita Diamante
Gather your female friends and immerse yourselves in this believable account of women's lives in Old Testament biblical times, and enrich your fellowship with foods from "the land of milk and honey".

The Secret Life of Bees, Sue Monk Kidd
Because August, the oldest sister of the "Calendar sisters" is a beekeeper, offering a menu dripping in honey is a must for any discussion of this popular Southern novel.

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, Lisa See
It's unlikely that Snow Flower and Lily ever munched on fortune cookies in 19-century rural China, but it's still fun to offer them with a Chinese menu that may offer inspiration for your conversation about this story of friendship and ancient traditions.

Trail of Crumbs, Kim Sunee
Enhance your discussion of this poignant memoir by sampling some of the recipes from the book.

The Help, Kathryn Stockett

Feast your way through this rich novel by preparing decadent Southern recipes inspired by the book.

July 2009