Café au Lit: Coffee and Book Pairings

It’s the most wonderful time of the year: hot drink season. When the weather turns cold, I stock my cabinet with dessert-flavored black teas and mocha mixes, and I chill sweet, chocolatey stouts and porters in my fridge. For many of us, it’s the perfect time to curl up with a favorite drink and a good book. (Or Netflix. No judgment.)

I’ve been doing my part to encourage this pastime with Books Over Coffee, a monthly book club where I tasked myself with pairing bags of ground coffee with whatever title we’re reading. It’s a little challenging and a whole lot of fun, and a coworker suggested I share the combinations I came up with. I hope you enjoy them as much as I enjoyed sampling the candidates.

Read: The Overstory by Richard Powers 

Drink: Birds & Beans Wood Thrush medium roast from Birds & Beans 

Bird-friendly coffee like Birds & Beans is grown under the shade of trees and doesn’t contribute to deforestation. It’s a fitting brew to sip while reading Richard Powers’ epic love letter to trees, which spans the lives of nine characters and about 23 hours of listening time for you fellow audiobook fans. Settle down, brew yourself a pot, and imagine you’re sitting at the base of your childhood tree as you start the narrative’s journey.

Read: A Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay 

Drink: Dark Magic dark roast from Green Mountain Coffee Roasters 

Dark Magic is a staple of Keurig machines everywhere – just like how demon possession is a long-running horror trope. And to horror nerds like me, there’s something magical about the meta-narrative on the genre that you’ll find within the pages of A Head Full of Ghosts. The story is creepy enough on its own, but the references to Shirley Jackson, H.P. Lovecraft, The Exorcist, and contemporary horror writers will raise your spirits like a strong, hot drink on a cold winter night. If you love darkness, you’ll enjoy this unholy matrimony of book and brew.

Read: Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett 

Drink: Black and Tan from Eight O’Clock Coffee Company 

Angels and demons, good and evil, stark prophecy and satiric comedy are blended together in Good Omens, a collaboration from two prominent fantasy authors. It’s only fitting to accompany it with the bold and mild blend of Black and Tan. The laugh-out-loud jokes are delightful dollops of cream and sugar – and when you’ve drunk the last drop, you can have a second helping by watching the Amazon Prime miniseries.

Read: Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay 

Drink: Veranda Blend blonde roast from Starbucks 

Like the aesthetics of those blonde, sun-kissed Californian twins in the Sweet Valley High books, books which Roxane Gay devoured as a teen and scrutinized with her cultural commentary as an adult author, I find light roasts bland, ubiquitous, and unsatisfying. (If I’m feeling especially contrarian, I might say the same about Starbucks as an institution.) My distaste for light roasts – and the marketing for this one nods to both unattainable beauty standards and classism! – makes it the perfect tag-along while Gay pokes holes in pop culture, politics, feminism, and other topics in this book of essays.

In all fairness to Veranda Blend, this month’s book club hasn’t met yet, so I haven’t tried it. The blend may throw me a major twist like the best thrillers, or offer me that cloying tannic quality euphemized as “fruitiness,” like a well-reviewed literary novel that falls short of expectations. What will you be sipping when you curl up with your next read? (Or Netflix. No judgment.)

Another Literary Loss; Saying Goodbye to Terry Pratchett

pratchett2Fantasy writer Terry Pratchett, creator of the Discworld series and author of more than 70 books, died on March 12 2015. He was 66 and suffered from a rare form of early onset Alzheimer’s disease.

Pratchett was best known for Discworld, a series of more than 40 comic novels set in a teeming fantasy world. He has sold more than 65 million books worldwide, and his novels have pratchettcolorofbeen translated into several dozen languages. Pratchett was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 1998 and was knighted for services to literature in the 2009 New Year Honours.

Lets remember this wonderful author by reading (or rereading) some of our favorite books from Terry Pratchett. Here is a list of some of my favorite titles to get your started.

The Color of Magic: the First Discworld Novel pratchettdodger
A slightly disorganized and somewhat naive interplanetary tourist named Twosome joins up with a bumbling wizard and embarks on a chaotic voyage through a world filled withmonsters and dragons, heroes and knaves.

In an alternative version of Victorian London, a seventeen-year-old Dodger, a street urchin, rises in life when he saves a mysterious girl, meets Charles Dickens, and unintentionally puts a stop to the murders of Sweeny Todd.pratchettomens

Good Omens by Terry Pratchett & Neil Gaiman
The world is going to end next Saturday, but there are a few problems–the Antichrist has been misplaced, the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse ride motorcycles, and the representatives from heaven and hell decide that they like the human race.

pratchettsnuffSnuff: a Novel of Discworld 
Commander Sam Vimes of the Ankh-Morpork City Watch attempts to take a vacation, but, as usual, nothing goes as planned.

After a tsunami destroys all that they have ever known, Mau, an island boy, and Daphne, an aristocratic English girl, together with a small band of refugees, set about rebuilding their community and the things that matter to them.PRATCHETTSCIENCE

The Science of Discworld by Terry Pratchett, Ian Stewart, and Jack Cohen
The wizards of Discworld accidentally create a new universe, the one which houses Earth, and proceed to explain the science of this place, interweaving fantasy chapters with those that explain actual scientific principles.

More great books include: I Shall Wear MidnightOnly You Can save MankindThe Carpet PeopleThe long Earth by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter, Thud!: a Novel of DiscworldThe Wee Free MenWintersmithThe Amazing Maurice and His Educated RodentsThief of Time: a Novel of DiscworldThe Carpet PeopleA Hat Full of SkyThe Fifth Elephant, and Going Postal: a Novel of Discworld.

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Six Picks : Historical Fiction for Teens

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

There have been some real stand-outs in Historical Fiction this year, here are six of our favorites:

Code Name Verity. In 1943, a British fighter plane crashes in Nazi-occupied France and the survivor tells a tale of friendship, war, espionage, and great courage as she relates what she must to survive while keeping secret all that she can. This Michael L. Printz Award Honor book was called “a fiendishly-plotted mind game of a novel” in The New York Times.

The Diviners by Libba Bray

The Diviners by Libba Bray

The Diviners. In Book 1 of this new series by Libba Bray, seventeen-year-old Evie O’Neill is thrilled when she is exiled from small-town Ohio to New York City in 1926, even when a rash of occult-based murders thrusts Evie and her uncle, curator of The Museum of American Folklore, Superstition, and the Occult, into the thick of the investigation.

Dodger by Terry Pratchett

Dodger by Terry Pratchett

Dodger. In an alternative version of Victorian London, a seventeen-year-old Dodger, a cunning and cheeky street urchin, unexpectedly rises in life when he saves a mysterious girl, meets Charles Dickens, and unintentionally puts a stop to the murders of Sweeney Todd. Kirkus Reviews called it, “Masterful. Unexpected, drily funny and full of the pathos and wonder of life: Don’t miss it.”

Keeping the Castle by Patrice Kindl

Keeping the Castle by Patrice Kindl

Keeping the Castle. A tale of romance, riches, and real estate. In order to support her family and maintain their ancient castle in Lesser Hoo, 17-year-old Althea bears the burden of finding a wealthy suitor who can remedy their financial problems. When the young and attractive (and very rich) Lord Boring arrives, and Althea sets her plans in motion. The problem; his friend and business manager Mr. Fredericks keeps getting in the way.

Scarlet by A. C. Gaughen

Scarlet by A. C. Gaughen

Scarlet. Will Scarlet shadows Robin Hood, with an unerring eye for finding treasures to steal and throwing daggers with deadly accuracy, but when Gisbourne, a ruthless bounty hunter, is hired by the sheriff to capture Robin and his band of thieves, Robin must become Will’s protector risking his own life in the process. The twist to this story is that “Will” is actually “Scarlet”, a girl disguising herself as a boy – a girl with many secrets…

Sophia's War by Avi

Sophia’s War by Avi

Sophia’s War. In this Revolutionary War tale, the year is 1776. After witnessing the execution of Nathan Hale in New York City, newly occupied by the British army, young Sophia Calderwood resolves to do all she can to help the American cause, including becoming a spy.