1. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez & port wine.
“Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendia was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice.”
When you’re reading One Hundred Years of Solitude, it’s as much about keeping track of the Jose Arcadios and the Aurelianos (I believe there are seventeen) as about absorbing the writing whole, not word-by-word. Port wine is not only intoxicating but also sticky-sweet, a perfect complement to the unreal, enigmatic writing of Garcia Marquez. It also helps if you read this at 3 AM, by candle light, during a lunar eclipse (or the lights of aurora borealis if you happen to live very far north).
2. The Meaning of Night by Michael Cox & scotch.
“After killing the red-haired man, I took myself off to Quinn’s for an oyster supper.”
This is one of those novels that is typically brooding and mysterious, with a cold & calculating English gentleman for a protagonist; but, unexpectedly (at least for me), his trials lend him a personable air and the excellent storytelling places this book above any stereotyping. The author wrote the novel in impeccable Victorian style, created thorough footnotes to go along with his script, and packaged everything in such a believable format that it’s impossible not to completely appreciate and love it. Due to style, as well as content, it should be read in an armchair, preferably by a fireplace in a library, well past midnight, and with a glass of good scotch. (I don’t know anything about good scotch, but if I did, I would know that this is the book to read while drinking it.)
3. The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand & Jamaica Blue Mountain reserve coffee.
“Then there was only the ocean and the sky and the figure of Howard Roark.”
Ayn Rand has the power to make her reader demand perfection. Her protagonists are the epitome of uncomplaining hard work – not as self sacrifice, but in the name of doing things right because excellence suits them. You need coffee to keep up with the unending reserve of energy that these people possess. And no coffee is better than reserve coffee.
4. Perfume by Patrick Suskind & spiced chai tea.
“In eighteenth century-France there lived a man who was one of the most gifted and abominable personages in an era that knew no lack of gifted and abominable personages.”
Every time I read this book – four so far – I become more convinced that it’s my favourite of all time. It’s quite perfect: a treat for the senses, a mystery, a subtle and eerie thriller, brilliant in character development, and in an unlikely way a romance and a story of passion. Set in eighteenth century France, and taking Paris as its center stage, it explores the scents that surround us everyday and assigns them an other-worldly status. I won’t give away the plot line (and its many twists and turns), but I will say that to match such a rich experience, you want flavour, depth, and warmth. To be read before sleep and at long stretches.
5. The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon & hot chocolate.
“I still remember the day my father took me to the Cemetery of Forgotten Books for the first time.”
The story, set in Barcelona and beginning in 1945, centers around a boy who is allowed to choose one rare book from a secret labyrinth of shelves. The author of his chosen book – Julian Carax – becomes the source of a long winded mystery, with dazzling psychological twists and all the elements of an ideal story book – but also sensual, devastating, and at times, frightening. I imagine that children who love stories imagine themselves reading these kinds of novels when they grow up. But somehow as we grow up we lose the interest in the fascinating fairy tales. This book provides a way to get that sense of wonder back – so grab a cup of hot chocolate, with a shot of brandy if you’d like, and read this by a window on a snowy winter night.
Too Obvious/Didn’t Make the Cut:
– A Clockwork Orange & a glass of milk
– Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky & a glass of vodka
– The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald & mint juleps