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.
The Time Traveler
- A Wrinkle in Time, Madeleine L’Engle
- Listening for Madeleine: A Portrait of Madeleine L’Engle in Many Voices, Leonard S. Marcus
- When You Reach Me, Rebecca Stead
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.
- Brideshead Revisited, Evelyn Waugh
- Below Stairs: The Classic Kitchen Maid’s Memoir That Inspired “Upstairs, Downstairs” and “Downton Abbey”, Margaret Powell
- Rules of Civility, Amor Towle
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
- My Life in France, Julia Child
- A Homemade Life: Stories and Recipes from My Kitchen Table, Molly Wizenberg
- The Sweet Life in Paris: Delicious Adventures in the World’s Most Glorious – and Perplexing – City, David Lebovitz
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.
- The Devil Wears Prada, Lauren Weisberger
- Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion, Elizabeth Cline
- Grace: A Memoir, Grace Coddington
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?