BOOK: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows (Dial Press, 2008) echoes the structure and the sweetness of 84 Charing Cross Road by using an exchange of charming letters to tell a story about bookish Brits struggling in the aftermath of World War II. On one side of the exchange: a 30-something newspaper columnist who has just had her war columns published as a book. On the other side: a shy farmer on the island of Guernsey who strikes up a correspondence about books, and introduces the author to other members of the oddly named literary society.
WHY READ? The novel holds readers through heartwarming anecdotes about interesting and occasionally peculiar people who have forged the type of friendships that give small-town life its reputation for satisfying simplicity. Prodded by the letters they exchange, the two main characters gradually reveal themselves to each other, creating a portrait of life under Nazi occupation and the austerity that followed the war. Don't look for profound insights into human nature. Instead, just enjoy the foibles of people who like to read, and who, incidentally, insist on serving delicious snacks at their gatherings.
MAKE IT: The literary society got started with a clandestine pig roast. On the way home one of the inebriated revelers started singing, which attracted six Nazi soldiers, Lugers drawn, who demanded to know why they were out after curfew. One of the women stepped forward and explained they had been to a meeting of the Guernsey Literary Society, and became so engrossed in their discussion that they lost track of time. In honor of this plot turn, book club members discussing the book might want to roast a pork loin, if not a whole pig, and serve thin slices on potato rolls. Serve with a sweet German wine such as a gerwurztraminer, or British beer, such as India pale ale or a brown ale.
TAKE IT: If you'd rather not cook, just stop at one of the many barbecue joints in the area and get some pulled pork to go and serve it on potato rolls.
Read & Feed is a monthly column in Taste that matches popular book club selections with food to serve at meetings. If you have suggestions or would like to share what your book club is cooking up, send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Put BOOK FOOD in the subject line.