Well-read and Caffeinated: 10 Ideal Coffee/Tea and Book Pairings

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Today’s Special: An iced Nutella latte with my blog and a side of Plato’s Republic

It is a truth universally acknowledged that all readers in possession of a good book are in want of a delicious beverage to sip. But why settle for just any latte? In my opinion, books and coffee are like fine wine and cheese; you must pair them properly so as to derive the fullest enjoyment from both. I do not have a great deal of experience in pairing wine and cheese, but I certainly know how to create the perfect book and beverage combination. Use your favorite book to choose your next drink or use your favorite drink to pick your next read. Either way, I’m sure you will enjoy these well-read and caffeinated combos.

  1. Anne of Green Gables & Raspberry Herbal Tea
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Raspberry cordial didn’t work out so well…we will stick with tea.

This sweet pair will make you dream of a simpler time. The warm yet fruity flavor of this tea reflects the loving yet spunky characters. Besides, Anne always wanted to try raspberry cordial and a hot raspberry tea fits well with this classic comfort read.

2. Little Women & Lavender Latte

It’s a drink that’s bold like Jo, sweet like Beth, refined like Meg, and artsy like Amy. Drink it hot or cold, but savor its multi-layered flavor as you dig into this thick book with more than one fascinating heroine!

3. Gone with the Wind & Dark Roast with Hints of Cocoa 

 

 

This coffee is a shocking as this book was to its original audience and as strong and bitter as its famous lovers, Scarlett and Rhett. Still, it also has the sweetness of Melanie in its chocolate undertones.

4. Sherlock Holmes & A London Fog

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Sherlock’s other favorite tea has eyeballs in it. It was an experiment. 

Nothing says mystery or England quite like this tea and Sherlock Holmes! The smoothness of the vanilla matches Sherlock’s wit and the base, Earl Grey tea, is as dark as, well, a London fog! Besides, with just enough caffeine, this will help you stay up all night to solve the case.

5. Edgar Allan Poe & Decaf 

Nothing says horror like decaffeinated coffee. Why is that even a thing?

Okay, actually I would pair Mr. Poe’s writings with a Cappuccino because his poetry is surprisingly delicate like foam, though his short stories are as jolting as the straight espresso that lurks below.

6. Ray Bradbury’s Short stories & a Caffe Americano with Hazelnut Syrupimages-1.jpg

No doubt Bradbury’s stories are perfect midnight-reading tales, so in order to stay up reading these deliciously creepy stories by one of America’s most influential authors, enjoy a caffe americano with plenty of espresso and some hazelnut syrup to fully enjoy his more nutty stories.

7. Pride and Prejudice & Mint Green Tea

It might be bitter at first, but just like the relationship of Darcy and Elizabeth, it will sweeten over time. This refreshing drink parallels the honest sass of Jane Austen and is as sure to be a good match for this book as Jane was for Bingley. Add sugar or fruity syrups according to your taste, for this book is also darling and romantic.

8. The Chronicles of Narnia & English Breakfast Tea with Cream and Sugar

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C.S. Lewis once said “You can never find a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me.” I’m 98% sure, being the epitome of the British author, Mr. Lewis was thinking of English breakfast tea when he said this and, based off the whimsy of his stories, I suspect he (and perhaps Mr. Tumnus!) added cream and sugar to his drinks.

9. Anna Karenina & Latte Machiatto 

Deceptively sweet, like the book’s title character, this drink has a foundation of espresso followed by a layer of milk. Be sure to load this beverage with an extra shot since this book is nearly 1000 pages of incredible insight and you’ll want to power through large bits at once.

10. The Divine Comedy and Cafe Freddo

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Cafe fredd0+Cathedral+ Dante=a truly Divine Comedy (Pun #3!)

Decaffeinated coffee is my Inferno, so instead go for cafe freddo, which is espresso shaken with ice and vanilla and served in a wine glass. This elegant beverage and Dante’s beautiful poetry make for a match made in Paradise. (Sorry, could not resist a second Dante pun.) This drink is as Italian as this trilogy and guaranteed to be a favorite!

I enjoyed writing this and hope you liked reading it! Let me know if you try any of these combinations and/or what you think. Thanks for reading!

-Ryanne

 

Literary Tourism

Don’t be a tourist. I don’t mean don’t travel; by all means, see the world and explore new places! But don’t be a tourist, defined as “a person who travels for pleasure, especially sight-seeing and staying in hotels.”

 

That doesn’t sound so bad, but can one really experience a place through simply seeing sights and staying in hotels? No! To truly travel, one cannot be a basic tourist; one must be an explorer, investigating unfamiliar places and actually living in them, even if just for a few days. In France, a tourist might see the Eiffel Tower, but an explorer bicycles around Paris in search of tiny bakeries and the perfect macarons. In London, a tourist will stay safe and dry inside the red double-decker buses, but an explorer would wander the rainy streets alongside the locals until breaking for a steaming cup of tea.

 

In the same way, a tourist visiting my home state of Arizona will pick up a postcard with a stereotypical desert scene (tumbleweeds, mountains, and a few saguaro cacti thrown in for good measure) but will not realize that there is so much more to this state. Sure, we have the Grand Canyon (all tourists know that) but as majestic as the desert and canyon are, Arizona has so much more to offer! We have haboobs (its not a naughty word, I promise; they are massive dust storms), the most colorful sunsets I’ve ever seen, cities full of attractions, and even snowy mountains! Just the other day I posted a video of myself throwing snow into the air on Instagram and a college friend of mine commented “I thought you lived in Arizona!” Well, I do, but to anyone who just looks at AZ from a tourist perspective, the snow and pine trees are inconsistent with the dusty and hot images portrayed in media and even on our license plates. However, Arizona is more than just “gila monsters and tarantulas”, as some Maine resident so eloquently put it and it is easy to discover this if one puts out the necessary effort as an explorer.

 

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Snow between the desert and the mountains… Arizona is full of surprises!

 

How does this relate to literature? Well, just as one cannot fully experience a place from a few cheap postcards and a couple bus rides past the most famous monuments, one cannot grasp the full significance of a novel from its labels and, I venture to say, its misconceptions.

 

Take Tolstoy’s self-proclaimed masterpiece Anna Karenina for example. On the cover of a film adaption of the book, it was described as “Tolstoy’s tragic story of star-crossed lovers.” NO. NO NO NO NO NO. THIS IS NOT A LOVE STORY!!!

 

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Alternate Title: Gone with the Wind, Russian Edition

 

I’m not sure if the cover designer for this film adaption did not read the book or was just stupid, but either way, he completely missed the point. In zeroing in on the obvious story of the lust-affair (I refuse to recognize it as love) between Anna and Vronsky, the cover designer and potentially the reader/viewer is acting as a tourist, reducing a great work of literature to a mere soap opera, thus doing Tolstoy and him or herself a disservice in failing to grasp the more essential messages of the novel.

 

For instance, in gasping over the central scandal of A.K., the reader might miss the search for spiritual peace that serves as Levin’s motivation even more so than his desire for a family. Similarly, the conflict between the traditional Russian ways and the industrializing Western practices might be forgotten, erasing any true comprehension of the context of the novel within history and society. More concerning, however, is that in overlooking such essential themes, the reader forgoes the opportunity to make connections between these ideas and those within other works of literature and even within his or her own life. Questions raised by an analytical reading of the text such as “what is the role of desire?” and “is everything motivated by a sense of self-service?” cannot be answered if one is relying solely on the most basic understanding of plot. Certainly the deterioration of morality and the struggle of desires found directly within the affair between Anna and Vronsky is significant, but in mislabelling this as a romance or love between “star-crossed lovers”, the reader runs the risk of missing even these most obvious themes and becoming a literary tourist who is concerned only with the surface. This provides entertainment, just as looking at a postcard or snapping a selfie in front of the Eiffel Tower provides entertainment and perhaps even a sense of accomplishment, but ultimately it is not as rewarding as truly dedicating oneself to analyzing and drawing less obvious insights from the novel through literary exploration.

 

To be a literary explorer is to abandon the beaten path of skimming and summarizing, to delve into a book and search for underlying themes and hidden details. It means to live within the novel, making connections and pondering implications, rather than simply to take snapshots of quotes without understanding their context or characters without examining their motivations. Just as to have a more accurate and full knowledge of the world, one must act as an explorer rather than a tourist, to be a genuinely good reader, one must abandon the shallows of literary tourism and explore the greater depths of analysis.

 

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This is me in Salzburg, Austria. Tourists would never dare ride unicorns, but an explorer like myself would. 😉

 

To close, consider this: If you were to travel to London, what would you most remember: seeing Buckingham Palace or finding the yummiest meat pie in a hole-in-the-wall pub? Or in Paris, would you value seeing the Mona Lisa with thousands of other people in the Louvre or finding a piece of brilliant art for sale by a local? In Arizona, would you remember the scorching sun or the many different climates? In the same way, as a reader, when you finish a novel, will you remember only the most prominent story or will you choose to explore beyond what can be learned from SparkNotes summaries? Ultimately, it is your choice, but as both a traveler and bookworm, I can assure you that playing the explorer is always the most rewarding (and most exciting) role.

A Bookish take on New Years Resolutions

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As with every new year, we find ourselves drafting lists of resolutions. Eat healthier. Wake up early. Finish that novel. Run. Get to know that person. Keep your room clean. Practice daily. We all know these resolutions and, more likely than not, we’ve all broken them. Every year it seems we make the same sort of resolutions and the disappointing pattern becomes- well- dull. Perhaps it is time we made some different resolutions and, since, coming up with them can be a struggle, I’ve managed to poll our favorite literary characters for input. (How, you ask? Well I have all of these characters on speed-dial, clearly.) Maybe this year is the year to make a resolution inspired by the wisdom of literary legends, and- who knows?- maybe this will be the year where you’ll finally keep your resolution to the end!

 

 “What is your top New Year’s Resolution?” as answered by our favorite literary characters: 

“Kindred spirits are not so scarce as I used to think. It’s splendid to find out there are so many of them in the world.” –Anne of Green Gables

Anne Shirley: Cherish dear friends and make new ones.

 

“There is a stubbornness in me that can never bear to be frightened at the will of others. My courage always rises above any attempt to intimidate me.” –Pride and Prejudice

Elizabeth Bennet: Be less concerned with the opinions of others.

 

“In vain I have struggled. It will not do. My feelings will not be repressed. I must tell you how ardently I admire and love you.” –Pride and Prejudice

Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy: Share feelings honestly and respectfully.

 

“My mind…rebels at stagnation. Give me problems, give me work, give me the most abstruse cryptogram or the most intricate analysis…I crave for mental exaltation.” –Sherlock Holmes: The Sign of the Four

Sherlock Holmes: Be ever curious and value opportunities to learn.

 

“Courage is knowing you’re licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what.” –To Kill a Mockingbird

Atticus Finch: Persevere despite all challenges.

 

“Tomorrow is another day.” –Gone with the Wind

Scarlett O’Hara: Don’t dwell on the failures of the day; tomorrow brings another chance.

 

“I am no bird; and no net ensnares me: I am a free human being with an independent will.” –Jane Eyre

Jane Eyre: Appreciate freedom and enjoy independence.

“Sorry! I don’t want any adventures, thank you. Not today. Good morning! But please come to tea- any time you like! Why not tomorrow? Good bye!” –The Hobbit

Bilbo Baggins: Be more open to adventures.

“My principal sin is doubt. I doubt everything, and am in doubt most of the time.” –Anna Karenina

Konstantin Levin: Let go of self-doubt.

 

What’s my resolution? My answer is “all of the above.” Happy New Year everyone! Let’s make this an exciting chapter in our lives!

Romeo is not Romance

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I was perusing Pinterest this afternoon and came across this nifty picture. Seeing that it included classic books, I stopped my mindless scrolling, looked through it, and nearly shouted aloud.

No.

No.

No!!! No. No. NO. N.O. No.

What was so frustrating about this pin? Well, first of all is the fact that it lists Nicholas Sparks alongside Shakespeare, which is like creating a playlist of music that includes Miley Cyrus and Beethoven; it is not okay. (Nobody wants to be interrupted by “Wrecking Ball” between movements of “Sonata Pathetique”!)

Secondly, many of these books are not love stories! Aside from Nicholas Sparks and several others which I have not read, these books, although they center on romantic relationships, were not written to be advertised as “The Greatest Love Stories of All Time”! Rather, their authors used romantic relationships, usually FAILED romantic relationships at that, to communicate other concepts. I have serious doubts as to whether the creator of this pin read anything beyond the synopsis paragraphs, and if he/she did, I am begging him/her to reread them with a little more mental effort. Please, for the sake of literature nerds everywhere and for the authors who are turning over in their graves as I write. Sure, these novels may appear to be love stories, but…

(warning, spoilers)

Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell: Failed loved triangle, lust wins over love, the only true love comes from a dying woman whose husband is nearly unfaithful to her. Also romantic gold.

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy: Anna commits adultery, abandons her husband and child, and ultimately throws herself under a train in a realization of her guilt. Practically flowers and chocolate.

Romeo and Juliet by Shakespeare: Two angsty teenagers kill themselves after a forbidden

Pretty sure this is what Shakespeare was thinking... :P
Pretty sure this is what Shakespeare was thinking… 😛

marriage. I don’t even have a snarky comment. This is tragedy, pure and simple.

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald: Gatsby’s love for Daisy is a representation of his desire for acceptance by the “Old Money” of society, so if wealth and envy are synonymous with love, then certainly this is a love story. Who cares if the lovers actually end up together, right?

Okay, so now that I have relieved myself through sarcasm, I will admit that this list is not completely wrong. Some of these books are quite adorable and “loverly.” Jane Eyre had a warm, fuzzy resolution, The Princess Bride is a romantic romp, and I can’t deny that Pride and Prejudice is delightful. (Who doesn’t love Mr. Darcy?) However, I wish that readers would exercise more discernment; a pair (or triangle) of lovers does not imply a romance, just as a death does not mean a tragedy. Books are much more than an “adventure” or “mystery” or, in this case, a “love story” and we have a duty as readers to study the masterpieces of these authors with a mind that can see beyond the surface and ponder the deeper implications of the seemingly straight-forward plots.

Granted, even if it isn’t a love story, I’d venture to say that it’s still a better love story than Twilight.

Apologies if you liked Twilight. I haven’t read it, but it was such a fitting end to this post! 😉

Human Attraction

I am a proud Sherlockian and for those of you who are not citizens of a geek fandom, that is simply someone who is obsessed with Sherlock Holmes, whether it is the BBC television show, Benedict Cumberbatch in general, or the original works of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. I was first inducted as a Sherlockian when I happened upon the BBC show on Netflix, having already watched every Disney movie and Bigfoot documentary available. The show inspired me, for it provided a fresh, modern take on classic tales without making a mess of them as many have done (cough cough…Elementary…). After watching every episode at least twice and knowing it will probably be at least a decade before season four, I picked up a gigantic copy of the original stories and have been lugging it around with me for the past few weeks. (That in itself is a feat as it weighs at least five pounds; my biceps are getting huge!)

This morning as I read one of Mr. Holmes’ many adventures, “The Engineer’s Thumb,” I found myself more confused than poor Mr. Watson. You see, while Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s writing is impeccable and his tales chillingly pleasant, I often find myself wondering why he chose the plot lines that he did. After all, why write about an ordinary murder when death by boomerang is more surprising and also fits the evidence? Why purposefully leave a case unsolved or allow a criminal to escape? But most importantly, why don’t these frustrating details hinder my enjoyment of these stories? I personally love Sherlock Holmes, but it seems that the neatly-packaged resolutions of Nancy Drew might be more pleasant to the average reader. These questions and more have tantalized my brain for the past week, and so, following my hero’s example, I have deduced that the answer is elementary.

This brings me to my deduction: classic literature endures not because its plots are smooth and its resolutions entirely satisfying, but because it is distinctly human. In the case of the Sherlock Holmes tales, if every mystery had been sensational and every loose end tied up, it would not be believable. No human life is exiting all of the time and no human life has every problem resolved perfectly. The same statement is true of Anna Karenina, Gone With the Wind, The Picture of Dorian Gray, Vanity Fair, the fairy tales of Hans Christian Anderson and the Brothers Grimm, and nearly every other piece of true literature. None of these renowned books has the perfect fairy-tale ending that audiences today expect and none of their plots are completely fantastic. If they had such endings and plots, they would be predictable and dull and probably not survive more than a generation. But they do not! AK made the terrible choices characteristic of humanity’s sinful nature, GWtW was wrought with tragedy and unstable relationships, TPoDG certainly did not end well, VF was riddled with unfortunate and unpredictable circumstances, and even the beloved fairy tales we heard as children were in actuality filled with gore and sorrow. None of these great books have complete “happily-ever-afters” or crystal-stair plots, but they did not need to. What makes a story a classic is its ability to reflect, even through fiction, the human condition, which is not generally solved by wit or relieved by magic.

However, none of this is to say that these stories are dull! They would not have lived through generations of frivolous human readers if they were. Rather, as Sherlock Holmes states, “Life is infinitely stranger than anything which the mind of man could invent… it [makes] all fiction with its conventionalities and foreseen conclusions most stale and unprofitable.”  Thus, unlike certain modern tales of predictable sensationalism and tidy endings (hint hint…Twilight…), these classic works will endure as long as mankind because they are the mirror of man’s humanity and, according to current psychology, we are attracted to what is representative of ourselves.

Anna Karenina

I recently finished Anna Karenina, despite the warnings of a friend that Russian novels are tedious and that I would better spend my time chewing cardboard. Yes, it was lengthy, but tedious? Certainly not!

The depth to this book was incredible.  It was witty, enchanting, heart-breaking, and thought-provoking all at once.  However, I disagree with most readers (or… movie watchers) about the most important theme of this book.  While most argue that the theme of Anna Karenina is love, whether forbidden love, maternal love, wedded love, or sisterly love, I would argue that Leo Tolstoy’s real intent was to display through wonderfully flawed characters the universal struggle between spiritual truth and our own pride.

What leads me to this conclusion is the ending of the book.  (I know, it took over 800 pages to get there, but it is worth it!) Throughout the book, the individual struggles of an enormous cast of characters are related in detail.  This is common to classic literature and at first seems tedious (more than once I have sighed in aggravation: “Get on with the love story, Tolstoy!”) but it results in a more well-rounded piece that features a caricature of nearly every type of person, revealing his or her unique struggle and the ultimate resolution of that struggle.

In order to avoid spoilers, I’ll use Constantine Levin as an example rather than the alluring Mrs. Karenina.  At the beginning of the novel, Levin is introduced as a hard-working yet sensitive farmer.  He makes it clear to all who meet him that he is an agnostic, something shocking to the hypocritical Russian aristocracy of the late seventeenth century.  Throughout the novel, Levin holds fast to this view, even when he marries… (No spoilers! Read the book!) a devout Christian. Despite his insistence that his logical mind prevents him from accepting Christianity, he is in turmoil, always pursuing something more through farming, writing, or marriage, but never quite satisfying the void in his life.  Finally, when he had gained success in the eyes of society and should have been content, he allows himself to admit his hopelessness.  He had everything he had desired: a thriving farm, a lovely wife, a healthy son, and plenty of friends, but his soul was lost.  At last, after reflecting alone over his struggles and questions, he reached the conclusion that what he had truly been missing was faith.  As soon as he realized this, the anguish he had hid for years fled and he breathed in the peace he had been yearning for, stating:

“I have discovered nothing. I have only perceived what it is that I know.  I have understood the Power that not only gave me life in the past but is giving me life now. I have freed myself from deception and learnt to know my Master” (Tostoy 785).

Thus, the meaning of this book is not that “if one loves, one loves the whole person as he or she is,” although that is definitely a major theme.  Rather, the overarching claim of this novel is that there is hope for the soul in agony.  Some characters, such as Levin, found this hope or possessed it from the opening chapter, and some (again, no spoilers, so I won’t say who…) continued to careen down the paths of selfish desire that they paved for themselves, ultimately ending in tragedy.