Love and Olive Oil

Six Books Worth Devouring

A healthy appetite for literature. Devouring a good book. I think the fact that we talk about books and cake in much the same way makes it a perfectly acceptable subject to address on a food blog. Maybe the next cake I bake will be a page-turner, a true masterpiece (alas, it doesn’t seem to work quite as well the other way around.)

The worst situation I can possibly imagine is finishing one book and not having a new one to start right away. Every time I see a friend mention a good book, on their blog or on social media or casually in passing, I add it to my reading list, which seems to be growing faster than I could ever read (and I consider myself a pretty fast reader). I should probably watch less TV, and devote that time to reading instead if I want to even begin to catch up.

I’ve always been a fast reader. During my school years, I’d read practically a years’ worth of books during our two week Christmas vacation. It was really my only chance to read for fun and not for English class. I’d drag my parents to the bookstore where I’d guilt them into dropping a small fortune on a stack of new books for me to read. And even that wouldn’t be enough, and we’d end up back at the bookstore 2 or 3 more times before vacation was over. While I love the crisp pages of a new book, I’d go broke if I continued to buy all my books brand new. That and the fact that our bookshelves have been overtaken with props and dishware, I have nowhere to store them anyway. Have I mentioned that libraries are wonderful?

I thought I’d take a brief detour from recipe after recipe to share with you some of the best books I’ve read over the past year. I’m pretty easy to please when it comes to books, if the book keeps me reading I’ll usually give it 3 stars at least (or, ever the optimist, I’ll usually give it 3.5 stars). But I keep my 5 star ratings tightly guarded, and only the books that truly enthralled me, surprised me, delighted me to no end, get that coveted rating. And these are all worthy enough to share. I do hope you’ll add them to your own reading lists and enjoy them as much as I did.

(FYI there are lots of affiliate links in this post. Click if you want, or don’t. Just know that by doing so, you’re supporting my ravenous reading habit.)

Recommended Reading, March 2014

The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde – Literary buffs will love this book. It’s downright weird, witty, and utterly charming, taking place in a world where people are obsessed with literature, time-travel is commonplace, and books literally come to life. Once I finished it, I was delighted to discover it’s part of a series. I’m half-way through the second book right now and loving it just as much as the first.

A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness – I’m not usually one for witches and vampires. I’ve never read Twilight. I don’t watch any of the dozens of vampire shows on TV. But I picked this one up on a whim and absolutely adored it. The characters, despite being magical beings, are likable and relatable. And the story is enthralling and original. I finished this book and immediately checked out the second book in the series, and enjoyed it just as much as the first. I am anxiously awaiting the third and final installment, due out this coming July.

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs – This series from Quirk Books (the same publisher as our cookbooks) is nothing short of delightful. A unique story about some truly unique children, told through fantastical fiction and a remarkable collection of historical images. I adored the first book, devoured the second (Hollow City), and am anxiously awaiting the third. Rumor has it it’s going to be a movie too, directed by Tim Burton. Um, how fabulous will that be?

11/22/63 by Stephen King – Let me start by saying this is not your typical Stephen King novel (I can’t do horror, books OR movies). It borders on historical fiction, a thrilling story based in fact, with a bit of sci-fi (time travel) thrown in for good measure. I couldn’t put it down. I even got Taylor to read this one (and he’s not usually one to stray from Michael Crichton or Tom Clancy).

The Bookman’s Tale by Charlie Lovett – Another book about books. And art. And love. And life. The author himself was an antiquarian bookseller and brings that knowledge and love of literature to this novel. The story takes you back in time through these old books, where they’ve been and the mysteries they’ve encountered.

Room by Emma Donoghue – This was not an easy book to read. It kept me awake at night, anxious and fearful and literally trembling. I cried, multiple times. And yet, I was so deeply moved by the story, despite not having any children myself, and I think anyone would be hard-pressed not to feel the same way after reading it. It’s the kind of book that you never forget. Read it. And weep. (Literally).

You know, reviewing books is harder than I thought. Expressing thoughts in writing about someone else’s writing? Not easy. I think I’ll stick to talking about food. At least until I’ve got another handful of 5-star books in my repertoire, and then maybe I’ll share again.

But now it’s your turn, what were some of the best books you’ve read in the last year?

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  1. Just found your reading list. Very exciting!!!

  2. LOVED your suggestions!!! Read 5 of the 6. (To scared to read “room”).  Please write about books more!  I’m not a huge reader (quantity) but I do love to read.  Mostly because I find it hard to find books I like, i’m always overwhelmed by choice and haven’t found the right person to listen to when it comes to recommendations.  And low and behold here are 5 I loved!!! I would be so grateful to hear more of what you liked.

  3. Oh, I just love when I stumble across a post on book recommendations (especially one that lists a few I’ve read and LOVED!), I’ve read A Discovery of Witches twice and am very much looking forward to the third book. Have you read The Historian? Oh, I loved that book, it’s one I read over and over. Love it. The Story of a Beautiful girl is such a lovely and heartbreaking (in a good way) story. Oh, I think of it all the time. A novel that really touched my heart.

    Thank you for this great post. I can’t wait to read The Eyre Affair, it’s a series I’m not familiar with yet have a feeling I will love it. (Hmmmm….I think I used “love” enough here. ;)

  4. I love book recommendations! 
    I love to read so they are always welcome. My favorites in the past year were The Engagements and The School of Essential Ingredients. In fact, the second one is part of a two part series that revolves around a chef and the students in her cooking class, so it combines my love of food and cooking! 
    I also loved Attachments by Rainbow Rowell and The Fault in Our Stars (and yes, even I cried at this one. 

  5. Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand and Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple! 

  6. We read the Stephen King book for our book club and loved it.  It was actually the 1st Stephen King I read, since I am not into the blood and gore type things.  I will have to check out your other selections.  We are reading – “We are all completely besides ourselves” right now and perhaps I will suggest one of yours for our next selection. Thank you!!

  7. I would also recommend The Maze Runner by James Dashner and The Paris Wife by Paula McLain. But my all-time favorite book is Little Women :)

  8. I’ve also read Room (terrifyingly heartbreaking), 11/22/63 (mysterious and lovely), and Miss Perigrine’s Home for Peculiar Children (so unique – excited to read the sequel). I’ll add the rest to my Goodreads list. The best best best book I’ve read lately is The Fault in Our Stars. HIGHLY recommend (with a box of tissues handy). Great list!

  9. The “Art of Racing in the Rain” by Gary Stein was one of my all-time favorites!

  10. I was a HUGE fan of the new Stephen King book :) Took me awhile to get through it but I loved every minute of it! I was also happy to see him straying away from the typical Stephen King “scary” style.

    I recently read a REALLY fantastic futuristic crime fiction novel called the Human Source Code by author Lubos Borik ( It is a very original and thrilling novel about the possibilities of DNA manipulation and the power it could give over the population. An international organization is using “public health care” as a way to change peoples DNA and create “something” new. Detective Klapman sees a link between a group of seemingly unrelated deaths and begins to dig deeper. I love detective novels and also enjoy stories that involve future scenarios that are actually possible, so this one was right up my alley. In a modern world where our privacy seems to be less and less important, It left we with a strong sense of uneasiness but also a feeling of wonder at what could be. Must read! Maybe it will make it onto a future blog list of yours :)

  11. Room is a powerful little book. I literally threw it against a wall before I finished it. Great list!

  12. LOVE this post! Cake and books go so well together, right?! Right now I’m off cake for lent, but the reading I can still do.
    My reading habits are like yours – I love to plough through books and feel empty when I finish. I think my ‘to read’ list has now reached 120 – one of them being Room :)
    I’ll check out the others now, and I’m sure I’ll find more to add on. Thanks!

  13. I finally read 20,000 Leagues under the Sea last year, and it was amazing. So much more captivating than 400 pages describing latin names for sea life should be, haha.

    Again late to the game, but I finally discoverd the shivering, uneasy joy that is Lovecraft. Can’t wait to save up and justify getting the collected works!

    Longitude, by Dava Sobel was both interesting and informative, relating the race to develope a way of reliably measuring time, and therefor distance, at sea.

    And a bunch of good old fashioned crime noir, in the form of a growing obsession with Raymond Chandler and all things Phillip Marlow.

  14. I love the Thursday Next books as well, so here are a few recommendations that seem sort of related in some way.

    The Artemis Fowl series by Eoin Colfer is YA but super engaging, with similar quirky humor. Eoin Colfer’s stand-alone book Airman was also really engaging.

    Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan was one I held off on reading for awhile, but when I finally did, I loved it! It’s a combination of Silicon Valley tech plus antiquarian book/typeface/secret code/secret society sort of stuff. I think I read it in a weekend.

    The Dresden Files series by Jim Butcher  is about a wizard in Chicago who solves crimes. I’m not really a mystery person, but snarky, nerdy humor (usually relating to Star Wars) totally works for me.

    Since you mention A Discovery of Witches, I should point out that the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon pretty much ruined other historical fiction for me because it’s *so* well-written. Also, there are like eight 1000-page books, as well as a spin-off series, so they should keep you busy for awhile  :)  Don’t let the romance aspect throw you off – it’s more about a marriage than about courtship or flirting. I find it really uplifting to read about how Claire and Jaime keep their relationship together through several wars, continents, centuries, etc.

    The other historical fiction series that I absolutely love is the Temeraire series by Naomi Novik. It’s the Napoleonic Wars, but with dragons. Talking dragons who like math and literature. So. Cool. And the historical fiction part is really well done – dragons aren’t magical, they’re scientific, and they’re used as the aerial forces on all sides of the wars in a way that works really well (as long as you don’t have a problem with dragons in the Napoleonic Wars, that is). There’s also a hint of really cool naval stuff thrown in, a la the Patrick O’Brian series, that gives it a really great flavor.

    Not that I have any problem with magic – I’m currently reading Jim Butcher’s other series, the Codex Alera, for the third time. Overall, the novels in the series get better and better, and it sort of blows my mind how well Jim Butcher wove together things that you get little snippets of at the beginning, but that have so much more import later in the series. I describe it to people as sort of Tolkien with more women and more romantic relationships. I think Jim Butcher describes it as ancient Rome meets Pokemon. Either way – highly recommended.

    And finally, if you didn’t read the Tamora Pierce Tortall books as a kid (I didn’t), I highly recommend them now. They’re YA fiction, but really well written, and all about young girls who break out of the roles society marked out for them to do things like become knights, or mages,  or spies. They’re all set in a world that’s a little like medieval Europe but with magic. The series technically starts with the Alanna books, but I read the Daine books first (starting with Wild Magic) and they are definitely my favorite. 

    Thanks for your recommendations, and for all the recommendations in the comments!

  15. I couldn’t get through A Discovery of Witches. Really, I tried, but it just seemed a bit too formulaic – like every new part of the book I’d read someplace before.  But Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children was AMAZING! It’s technically YA fiction, but who cares?! So much better than most YA fiction today.  I’m excited for the sequel, Hollow City, which was just released in the last month or so. Thanks for this post! I love new book recommendations from bloggers I follow :)

  16. I think the same thing. I always want to share good books I read but then when it comes to it a complete blank. A “It’s good” should suffice right?

  17. I think we are on the same book loving adventure …I had read most of these but will give the other a read! Thanks!

  18. I know paper copies are preferable, but if you have a library card, check if your library works with the overdrive system. You can get ebooks and audiobooks checked out directly to your devices; it is amazing.  ( I have a long commute so I love audiobooks, I use it my iphone ) 

    • I’ll admit, I spend all day staring at the screen, so it’s kind of nice to have a non-screen alternative when I want to read in the evening. As far as audio books – love them for long drives, but since I don’t really have a commute working from home, and I can’t concentrate on two things at once (trying to work AND listen to a book I’d be way distracted) so really no time to listen to them.

  19. So glad to see Jasper Fforde on your list! I adore everything he writes!

  20. I’m working my through the Song of Fire and Ice series, but as soon as I’m done, I’ll be ready for more!

    • I’ve been reading the 4th book for what seems like years. It’s my ‘in between’ book (since I own it) for when I’m waiting for a book to come available at the library. I enjoyed the first 3 but this one not nearly as much.

  21. It looks like we share more than just a name!!! I, too, have always been obsessed with reading and I devour them faster than it takes most people to read a magazine! Fortunately my parents were always eager to buy me books to feed the beast! 

    I haven’t ready ANY of these books and I’m giddy just thinking about buying them!! Any book about books is fine by me! Have you read The Shadow of the Wind? You must! And this year I have been positively obsessed with Kate Morton (any and all of her books have more twists and turns than a mountain road). Just finished The Secret Keeper – I wasn’t too enthused by the back but I could no put it down!!! I could go all night but feel free to email me if you want my favorite books about books!

    • Yes, my parents were more than happy to invest in my reading habit. Better than the alternatives for teenagers I guess! haha. And thanks for the recommendations, added those two to my list! :)

  22. The Jasper Fforder Thursday Next series is my absolute favorite! Its like Douglas Adams but set in literature instead of space. Hysterical and genius! There are quite of a few of them in the series too. He also has the Nursery Crime books which had me actually guffawing , causing some to think I lost my mind. Nope, just immersed in the Book World!

  23. you have tempted me to read witches, i have avoided it for all the reasons you mentioned. i too read like crazy, if this was out of your normal genre, and you enjoyed it, i will be brave and add it to my wishlist. 
    as you mentioned “weird books are the best”, let me nudge you to some not so mainstream well worth checking out. the more you read, the more you appreciate the different, except for exceptions below~ 

    andrews brain
    family fang
    something missing by mathew dicks
    montaro caine
    the universe verses alex woods
    the worlds strongest librarian
    from the kitchen of half truth, especially as a foodie ;-)
    dad is fat
    one last thing before i go
    a tale for time being
    mrs kennedy and me
    mr rosenblum dreams in english
    memoirs of an imaginary friend

  24. Given the way you started this post, I have to introduce my blog: PAPER/PLATES (! We are a literary food blog, sharing recipes inspired by books. I’d love for you to check it out. 

    To answer your question, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s “Americanah” was the best book I read in 2013. More recently, I enjoyed Laura McHugh’s murder-mystery “The Weight of Blood.”

  25. ok, ok, ok …. you have totally gotten my blood to pump and boil …. I WANT Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children !! it seems soo interesting, I HAVE TO get my hands on it asap. Thank you so much for sharing, I’m over the moon excited to read this novel. Can’t wait. Currently reading Rules of Civility.

  26. If you liked Room, try The Bear by Claire Cameron. It’s also told from the child’s perspective. 

  27. The discovery of Witches is my favourite book , and I can’t wait for the next instalment which comes out this summer !!!! 

  28. Room was especially hard to read because I had not-on-purpose read two other abduction-type books before that one. Thanks for this list because I was looking for new books!

  29. Room and the Stephen King Novel have been on my list for AGES!! I think I’ll begin Room (since it’s already loaded onto my nook, no excuses) once I finish The House of the Scorpion. Interesting, but a tough read for me as the dialog is VERY simple (most of it, thus far, is from a child’s point of view) and that just makes it tougher for me to lose myself in the book. 

  30. I LOVED A Discovery of Witches and the sequel. I can’t wait for this summer!  If you liked The Eyre Affair (which I also loved…an earlier poster is right though, they start to go down hill at books 4-5) then you should check out The Rook  by Daniel O’Malley. It’s a little weird and quirky at first, but then the mystery is actually really absorbing. My friend who hates “weird” books loved it too!

  31. I read Me Before You by Jojo Moyes a few weeks ago and absolutely loved it…I highly recommend it. So, so good. 

  32. Devour and Ravenous? Love both of those words! You just gave me more ideas for my Pinterest “Books I Want To Read” board.  Thanks!

  33. Between speed reading and similar taste in books, we might be literary kindred spirits. The Eyre Affair is fantastic but the Thursday Next series lost steam around book 4 or 5. I want to finish it eventually, if only to see what happens to our heroine in the end. A Discovery of Witches and Shadow of Night were AMAZING! I can’t wait for Book of Life to come out. I missed seeing Harkness when she came to Parnassus and am bummed an appearance isn’t scheduled on her next book tour. I would love to just sit in on one of her history classes. I haven’t heard of Bookman’s Tale but your other 3 are already on my To Read list.

    I’m currently in the middle of We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, which is fantastic. Planning on seeing the author speak Tuesday for Salon@615. Other recent favorites: The Signature of All Things, Silver Linings Playbook, The Rosie Project, Americanah, The Interestings. Shall I go on?

    • Ahh more books to add to my list! Thank you!

      Definitely bummed to hear Thursday Next goes downhill, but I can see how that might happen (it’s so dang clever he’s got to run out of material eventually, right?) But I’ll keep reading it regardless. :)

    • Oh and I DID just finish The Interestings recently, and didn’t find it all that interesting. Haha. I enjoyed it well enough though, another 3.5 star book for me. :)

  34. I devoured Snow Child (in fact read all 400+ pages in a single cross country plane ride this December). The Light Between Two Ocean was incredible (and made me a bit weepy, but still amazing). And Kitchen House. Can’t wait to try some of your suggestions. I haven’t read any of these yet. Thanks, Lindsay!

  35. I keep wanting to review the books I’ve read lately (bc I’m always reading) but I know the second I start writing, I’m going to say things like “um, this was good…really good… yeah you should read it…” and that’s about it. Haha

  36. I pinned this right away. I’m so happy with these books and your review. Thank you.

  37. Discovery of Witches is one of my favorites! I’m super excited to read the third in the trilogy, which is coming out this summer!!

  38. I really liked The Beautiful Ruins.  Our book club read it and I found it to be very sweet and clever.

  39. I absolutely loved The Bookman’s Tale! And I’ve been meaning to read The Discovery of Witches for the longest time, but since the final volume is coming out this summer, I think I’m going to wait and read all three at once. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children is on my shelf as well — too many books & too little time! Love this book-related post :)

  40. Amazing! I just got a Kindle and am devouring books so this post is perfect. ROOM is only $2.99 on Kindle right now so I think I might dive into that one. I like that out of all the ones you mentioned, I decide to choose the heart-wrenching one.

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