This morning I had pound cake for breakfast. Let’s not mince words here – all bets are off when it comes to the Holiday table. The decadent flesh of sweet potatoes, pumpkins and poultry are all posed to pile our plates sky high and destroy diets with a mean caloric vengeance. This bandwagon has already made the rounds at my house, and the spoils of potluck are nestled in our fridge, winking innocently in Saran-wrap coats. Leftovers are a shameless breed of temptress, and I will be forever ensnared by her wiles. In this season, as our waistlines expand and guilt haunts our Tupperware, many of us crave the comforts of familiarity and simplicity to stave off the Holiday hangover. Go ahead and enjoy that Charlie Brown Christmas special; take no shame delighting in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade (pound cake breakfast optional). Take a big scoop of the cozy comfys with your meal this year, and may I offer some light reading for dessert?
I like a good book – we’ve talked about High Literature before – it goes well with everything and offers a healthy dose of escapism without murdering any precious brain cells. Espousing the benefits of reading is a soap box I spend a great deal of time carting around, and the Holiday season makes no exception. However, I understand well the lazy cocoon of the turkey stupor; now is not the time to venture into a round with War and Peace. Enjoy these ten “Palate Cleansers” when the couch calls your name. Settle in with a story guaranteed to move well, taste great and leave plenty of room for pie.
1) Beatrice and Virgil by Yann Martel
-You know him from Life of Pi. Martel marries a quirky story with a heavy subject and conveys serious emotional gravity in an eccentric, little package. You can do it in two days!
2) The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri
-This is one of those rare cases when hype matches quality word for word. Lahiri paints the classic coming-of-age tale in Indian spice and moves the reader through a life with a deft voice.
3) Henry and June by Anais Nin
-Yes you can bring sex to the dinner table! Made famous by the NC-17 film of the same name (which you should also see), this real collection of Nin’s diaries from Paris in the 1930s is everything you could hope for in seduction, female virility and indulgent affairs of the heart and body as it chronicles Nin’s sexual discovery with American writer Henry Miller and his wife June. Do Miller’s Tropic of Cancer for follow up when you’re feeling more adventurous.
4) Of Love and Other Demons by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
- It’s everything you love about the King of Magical Realism in fun size! This ferocious novella carries all of Garcia Marquez’s lush prose and raw characterizations without leaving you emotionally drained at the end (well, maybe a little).
5) East, West by Salman Rushdie
- If you’ve already been to The Mountaintop, this collection of short stories will help breathe the thinner air on your way down. Rushdie uses his wry humor and colorful language to full effect. Ask me if you can borrow my signed copy!
6) The Reader by Bernhard Schlink
- Simple but powerful. You know the story, but Schlink’s masterful little book is well-worth the read. Straightforward, unequivocal and full of perspective.
7) Blankets by Craig Thompson
- The Graphic Novel in true form. This illustrated and autobiographical story discusses ideas of love, puberty and losing religion.
8) The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test by Tom Wolfe
- Now you too can understand the term “Creative Non-fiction”! Follow Ken Kesey and his band of Merry Pranksters as they embark into the winsome colors of the mind. Witness the birth of 60s drug culture through the lens of good story telling and well-wielded prose.
9) The Arrival by Shaun Tan
- Big kids can read picture books too. Leave this story on the coffee table and flip through Tan’s artistic pages for a whimsical look at The Journey.
10) Winkie by Clifford Chase
- You will not find many books featuring teddy bears accused of terrorism. Fantastical in nature and surprisingly raw in character, Chase explores innocence in a twisted fairy tale.
Feeling satiated? A well-crafted Palate Cleanser makes a great night cap. Light up your reading corner, toss Twilight in the garbage and get a title that garners respect without making you reach for the dictionary. Balance this season’s Thanksgiving torpor with a good-old-fashioned story; you can save the big books for your New Year’s Resolution.
Photo: Courtesy of The Broke and The Bookish www.brokeandbookish.blogspot.com