A Little Raskin: The Seattle Public Library's Five Favorite Food Books

What to read while you feed.

While librarians are now adept at troubleshooting e-book readers and helping job hunters negotiate employment websites, many readers still want an answer to the old-fashioned question: "What should I read?" The Seattle Public Library this year inaugurated an innovative online service designed to produce a personalized answer. Participants in "Your Next Five Books" fill out a form detailing "literary turn-ons and turn-offs." A librarian reviews the information, and then sends back a list of five recommended titles. To test the new program, we recently asked the library to suggest books for Voracious readers based on this year's most-read posts. Here, David Wright of the Readers Services Division shares the results:

Here at The Seattle Public Library, we help a lot of people find something good to read, based not on what is a hot seller right now or our own predilections, but on what they seem likely to enjoy. It's one of the most pleasurable things we do, and also one of the most challenging. In library jargon, it's called "reader's advisory." (There, now you can talk like a librarian.)

We serve readers of all kinds, so when Hanna Raskin suggested we create a list for Weekly readers based solely on your favorite blog posts—a rich smorgasbord of homemade Girl Scout cookies, monster burgers, bacon, ramen, and grilled-cheese sandwiches—we said absolutely. But just to keep things interesting, we agreed not to include cookbooks.

Your fascination with Julien Perry's epic struggle to get herself around a hamburger named "The Behemoth" made us think you'll enjoy Ben Sherwood's uplifting romantic comedy, The Man Who Ate the 747. Nebraska farmer Wally Chubb's grindingly slow ingestion of a jumbo jet is a labor of love, as he attempts to impress a lifelong crush whose heart seems as unwinnable as a black-box flight-data recorder is indigestible.

Since you were seeking creative ways to prepare ramen, we thought you'd appreciate NPR commentator Andy Raskin's wincingly funny memoir, The Ramen King and I: How the Inventor of Instant Noodles Fixed My Love Life, filled with hard-won lessons on making the best of what you have. Then again, such culinary innovation suggests you might enjoy passing time with Gerald Samper, the mischievous gourmet whose experimentation with bizarre ingredients (field mice, otter, udders, cat . . . ) helps fuel the heady, madcap energy of James Hamilton-Paterson's archly funny romp, Cooking With Fernet Branca.

Since you enjoyed Jason Sheehan's thoughtful, mouthwatering piece on bacon as a window onto Western Civilization, we think you'll like Tom Standage's History of the World in 6 Glasses, which neatly sums up millennia of human endeavor with drinks characteristic of every age, from the consoling, bready beer of ancient times to the Enlightenment's stimulating coffee to our mass-mediated Coca-Cola world.

Sure, grilled-cheese sandwiches and bacon aren't healthy, but you can't live forever, right? This seems to be the conclusion drawn by the gourmands of The Beef Stew Club in Luis Fernando Verissimo's deliciously macabre The Club of Angels. And ascend they do, through flights of exquisite savor and succulence, to their final repast.

We hope you enjoy these piquant titles, and will visit us at the library for more. All five books are available at The Seattle Public Library. For your own customized reading list, visit spl.org/yournext5.


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