I’ve said, what feels like a million times, that there is a book for every person out there. Even if, right this second, you are what the world would consider a non-reader, regardless of your age or station in life, I still believe that there is a book out there for you. In my real life (the non-cooking, baking and blogging part of my life), I am a high school English teacher. When I tell people this little detail, they usually groan or make some other noise that clearly indicates a high degree of pain and anguish. Many people had that English teacher in high school. I can honestly say that I didn’t, but I know many who did. I probably didn’t have that experience as a student because I grew up with a love of reading and writing, so what my English teachers asked me to do seemed fun to me. Well, that, and I’m a big people pleasing dork as well.
I was inspired to write this post because of something that happened on Facebook that does not merit a retell. I need to begin by saying that I am a sucker for a great cozy mystery. In high school, two of my English teachers introduced us to the works of Agatha Christie, and since that time, I’ve been hooked. Because I also love cooking and baking, the mystery subgenre that I most often pick up is what is now called “culinary mysteries.” They follow the same rules, use the same plot devices, often include an amateur sleuth or other accidental detective, and…wait for it…they include recipes. The food and recipes play a role in the novel. I love them. Now, when you compare these novels to those of Dickens and Austen, of course they do not “measure up” in terms of snooty literary merit. But you know what, they entertain, and doesn’t that have merit of its own? They force the reader to participate and try to solve the mystery before the sleuth. They require that you notice and analyze details that are skillfully laid in your path by the writer. They may not force you to consider the ills of society or the meaning of life, but they are carefully written and just like the works of the “heavy hitters” they are crafted with love and astounding attention to detail.
This mystery category is one that I read voraciously. I’m always on the lookout for a new author or series, and I especially love that most of the culinary mysteries also include recipes. The sleuths, who are often small food business owners, and the recipes are a constant source of inspiration for me.
Since most of the books from my collection of culinary mysteries are sitting on a cart in my classroom, this post will be link heavy rather than photo heavy, but if you like mysteries AND you like food, you just might find something you’ll like. These are great vacation and relaxation reads, and a great break, in general, from the “heavy” reading we all feel like we’re supposed to do so that we can continue to call ourselves serious readers. I have to say, though, I hate that idea. If you read, you’re a reader. Period. Read what you love, read what entertains and engages you, and you will be happy…and, quite possibly, inspired to try something new or do more of what you already love.
Here are some of my favorites….
Paige Shelton’s books – Paige is fresh in my memory because I recently spoke with her in a Facebook conversation with her about the mystery unit I’m teaching and she offered to send my students some book marks! Her two series, her Farmers’ Market mysteries and her Country Cooking School mysteries, are fun reads with really great characters.
B.B. Haywood‘s Candy Holliday Mysteries
JoAnne Fluke‘s Hannah Swenson Mysteries
Avery Aames‘s Cheese Shop Mysteries
Sheila Connolly‘s Orchard Mysteries
Cleo Coyle‘s Coffee House Mysteries
Laura Childs‘s two series relating to the culinary world – her Tea Shop Mysteries and her Cackleberry Club series
Sammi Carter‘s Candy Shop Mysteries
Riley Adams‘s Memphis Barbecue Mysteries
This list could go on for days! If you check out one of these authors, you will, no doubt, stumble upon the others…and many more, for that matter. It seems that with every trip to the book store or to my Nook shopping app, I find a new cozy culinary mystery or a new author. These books, along with so many other things in this world, really do fuel me to keep going into my kitchen and making food to share with family and friends. I’m just happy that my kitchen exploits have not included any of that messy murder part that the characters in these books encounter (knock on wood)!
What books inspire you? I’d love to hear some of your reading suggestions!