Reading is better when it’s done wine tasting style

Reading is better when it’s done wine tasting style

I’m a sucker for a wine flight on a restaurant menu. Instead of the usual glass, a flight contains several small glasses of different wines. By sipping several different wines back to back, you get a better feel for a certain varietal or vintage. Comparing the different flavors lets you appreciate the wines’ depth and breadth far better than an individual glass.

(Or so they say, I’m definitely a novice when it comes to wine.)

But I do know my books, and I love a good literary tasting flight. I usually choose books spur of the moment, picking up whatever looks good (or whatever the library has on reserve for me). But there’s an advantage to purposeful groupings: a flight teaches me far more about a subject’s depth and breadth than my usual one-off method.

The options for book flights are endless: you can read all of Jane Austen, or the Transcendentalist poets, or the Lost Generation. You can delve into the Civil War or stem cell research or Arctic exploration. But my favorite flights combine genres: the variety and varying viewpoints fascinate me, while delivering the depth and breadth that makes a flight sing.

I’ve put together a menu of 4 flights to get you started. I’d love to hear your personal favorites in comments.

Tasting flights for wine and books

The Time Traveler

In this flight Madeleine L’Engles 1962 classic (which she refused to identify as Kid Lit, even though it’s marketed at such today) joins with Rebecca Stead’s 2010 Newberry Winner that leans heavily on the earlier book. Pairing these two novels with Listening for Madeleine’s 50+ interviews (including Stead’s) brings a fascinating depth to L’Engle and her work.

Class Matters

Evelyn Waugh’s gorgeous 1945 novel encapsulates the fall of the British empire in one aristocratic family. To shed more light on the class issues at play, this flight first looks back to the 1920s, to the memoir of an English kitchen maid–the lowest of the low of the downstairs servants. Next, we look abroad to the pre-war world of 1938 New York City, when social stratifications are still stark and social climbing drives the plot of Towle’s debut novel.

From Paris, With Love

This flight features 3 memoirs made distinct by time and voice. Begin with Julia Child’s 2006 memoir, where you’ll marvel over how she serendipitously fell in love with French cooking in mid-century Paris. Two modern memoirs round out the grouping: Wizenberg’s 2009 tale is poignant and soulful; Lebovitz’s 2009 account is full of snark and dark humor. Together these three accounts provide wildly different views of this great city–and its food.

Fashion Cents

Begin with Weisberger’s easy-reading 2004 novel about the young intern hired as an assistant to Miranda Priestly, the high-powered fashion editor notoriously modeled on Vogue’s Anna Wintour. Next, pick up Cline’s journalistic exploration of the origins–and true cost–of fast fashion. Coddington’s 2012 memoir doesn’t stand on its own (save for the gorgeous photos) but adds an interesting dimension to the conversation on fashion’s importance and implications. All three books benefit from a viewing of the 2009 documentary The September Issue, about the making of Vogue’s encyclopedia-like fall fashion issue, which focuses heavily on the relationship between Wintour and Coddington.

What’s a personal favorite book flight? Or a flight you’d like to try? 

photo credit: 1, 2

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80 comments

  1. Esther says:

    My book list is already daunting and now so many more selections to add to it! Between your list and the wonderful
    Suggestions in the comments, I’ll have reading material for months to come. Thanks for all of the wonderful suggestions
    and the concept of book flights–it’s lovely!

  2. Janet says:

    Never thought of grouping, tend to read opposites, if I’ve read a murder mystery I’ll go for something humorous next. I have read The Martian and The Hitchiker’s Guide to the Universe, but many years apart.

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