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George R.R. Martin

Aug 22 2012

Cooking the books

by Dea Anne M

I am just one of a legion of fans who love George R.R. Martin’s series of novels collectively known as A Song of Ice and Fire. Halfway into the first book, A Game of Thrones, I knew that I was hooked. Martin’s work inspires a great deal of admiration and devotion in his followers and has been, in fact,  the subject of several posts on this blog ( for example here and here).  One of the latest Martin-inspired creations is the wonderful cookbook A Feast of Ice and Fire: the official companion cookbook by Chelsea Monroe-Cassel and Sariann Leher. Truly a labor of love, this book is compiled from the authors’ clever blog, The Inn at the Crossroads (featured in this post by my fellow blogger Jesse). A prominent feature of Martin’s series is his detailed descriptions of meals enjoyed (or not) by his characters. Monroe-Cassel and Leher’s blog project recreates dishes from the different regions that Martin has invented for his books. One of my favorite aspects of both the blog and the cookbook is that there is often a medieval version of the recipe on offer as well as a modern version. The authors have clearly done their research regarding the cooking and flavors of medieval Europe and their notes on the recipes are fascinating to read. Plus the recipes sound delicious!  I for one can’t wait to try cooking the Quails Drowned in Butter and the Almond Crusted Trout.  If you too are a fan of Martin’s work, I encourage you to check out this very interesting work. I promise you don’t have to be a cook to enjoy it!

DCPL has other cookbooks inspired by works of fiction that you may want to look into. Jan Karon’s Mitford Cookbook and Kitchen Reader edited by Martha McIntosh includes recipes for dishes mentioned throughout Karon’s much beloved Mitford series. Joanne Fluke, who writes a mystery series featuring bakery owner Hannah Swensen regales fans with Joanne Fluke’s Lake Eden Cookbook which features new recipes as well as those from the books. For the younger set, don’t miss The Little House Cookbook: frontier foods from Laura Ingalls Wilder’s classic stories by Barbara Walker if you’re a fan, as was I, of the Ingalls/Wilder saga. Finally, check out Green Eggs and Ham Cookbook: recipes inspired by Dr. Seuss! by Georgeanne Brennan. Included are recipes for (among many others) Pink Yink Ink Drink, Glunker Stew, and yes, Green Eggs and Ham featuring guacamole, cilantro, and parsley.

Do you have a favorite cookbook inspired by a work of fiction? Is there a book that you’d love to see inspire a cookbook?

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Aug 10 2012

Sharereads: Fiction and Nonfiction

by Joseph M

ShareReads intro

I’m a voracious reader, and working in the library, I come across interesting books on a regular basis. That being the case, I often find myself reading multiple books at a time. What I’m reading at any given moment depends on the occasion and my mood, and can run the gamut of content and format types. Generally, I find it easier to juggle more than one book at a time when I’m switching primarily between a work of fiction and a work of nonfiction. Earlier this summer, I found myself in just such a situation, dividing my reading time between two great books, which I’m going to talk more about below.

First, the fiction. The novel is called Hunter’s Run, and I found it noteworthy for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that it is a collaborative effort between three authors: George R. R. Martin, Gardner Dozois, and Daniel Abraham. All are notable writers on their own. George R. R. Martin is, among other things, the author of the bestselling Song of Ice and Fire series of books, on which the popular HBO series Game of Thrones is based. Gardner Dozois was the longtime editor of Asimov’s Science Fiction magazine and has won multiple Hugo and Nebula awards for his work as a writer and editor of short fiction. Daniel Abraham is a prolific voice in American science fiction, and no stranger to successful collaborations, having penned the lauded epic Leviathan Wakes (unfortunately not yet available at DCPL) with author Ty Franck under the pseudonym James S. A. Corey.

There are many different ways for authors to collaborate on books, and in this case the story took shape over the course of several decades, passing back and forth between the authors and appearing in a number of different variations before publication in its present form in 2007. You can click here for a more detailed summary of the process. In addition to Hunter’s Run, Abraham and Dozois have separately collaborated with Martin on other projects.

But the writing process which created it isn’t the only fascinating thing about Hunter’s Run. It’s a science fiction novel, but with elements reminiscent of Western and Adventure/Exploration genres of literature. In many ways, it could be classified as a Space Western. The sense of a wild frontier is established with a description of the setting: a mostly-unexplored alien planet, settled by human colonists within living memory, and much of the action takes place in the wilderness away from the human communities. A majority of the characters and place names have a Latin American or Caribbean flavor, which also adds to the “Western” feel of the book.

Another aspect of the novel worth mentioning is the main character, Diego Rivera. Diego could definitely be classified as an antihero (and we’ve written about antihero protagonists before on ShareReads) at the start of the story, but he undergoes a fascinating internal transformation as the plot unfolds, providing an interesting counterpoint to his travels in the external world and allowing the authors to explore complex themes of memory, identity, communication, and the ways we are shaped by our experiences.

In addition to all of that, Hunter’s Run is also quite an exciting book, and does not lack for action and suspense; I certainly had trouble putting it down once I got started.

Now I’d like to talk a bit about What I Eat: Around The World In 80 Diets by Faith D’Aluisio and Peter Menzel, the excellent nonfiction work I enjoyed concurrently with the novel discussed above. Peter and Faith are a husband and wife team who have traveled the world and documented the lives of people they met through photography and essays. In previous works such as Material World and Hungry Planet, they arrange “family portraits” based on the theme of the work; all the household possessions of the family were piled together for the portraits in Material World, while in Hungry Planet the families were pictured with a week’s-worth of food. In What I Eat, the authors alter the concept, focusing on the food intake of individuals over the course of a single average day, and using meticulous research to determine a caloric count. In all, 80 individuals were profiled in the book, and are ranked from first to last in order of calories consumed. The result is fascinating, informative, and poignant. I would recommend this book to anyone and everyone. For a “taste” of what the book has to offer, you can visit the official website. Or, you can just check it out from your local library!

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Jul 1 2011

ShareReads: A Song of Ice and Fire

by Jesse M

ShareReads appears on the DCPLive blog on Fridays. Each week, a different person will share a little about what they’re currently reading, and why they like or don’t like it. The heart of ShareReads will be responses from blog readers, and the window of opportunity here is wide. Feel free to respond and discuss the book or author being mentioned, ask or answer a question, or even take the conversation in a different direction: mention what you are currently reading, and how you feel about it. The point of ShareReads is to have an ongoing discussion about books and reading. Remember: posting a response also counts as an activity for the Summer Reading for Adults program.

***UPDATE***: You can now place reservations on A Dance With Dragons!!

T-minus 11 days until the fantasy literature event of the year, the release of A Dance With Dragons, George R. R. Martin’s long awaited (5+ years!) fifth installment in his epic, award-winning A Song of Ice and Fire series (hereafter referred to as ASOIAF). I can hardly contain my excitement!

Fellow fans of the series will understand why. Beginning with A Game of Thrones and continuing through A Clash of Kings, A Storm of Swords, and A Feast for Crows, Martin has taken readers on a wild ride across kingdoms and continents, through battles and political intrigues, and into the hearts and minds of some of the most compelling characters ever to grace the page. The high quality writing, epic scope of the series, and the sizable (and still growing) number of point-of-view characters have resulted in a large and devoted fan base who eagerly await the remaining novels and hungrily devour every scrap of news related to the series.

Map of Westeros

A fan submitted map of the continent of Westeros, where much of ASOIAF takes place. Click through for a larger image.

To help keep track of all the myriad characters and plotlines, as well as to keep themselves occupied while waiting for Martin to finish A Dance With Dragons, fans have created websites which index a variety of information pertinent to the series. In-depth character and plot analysis, maps, heraldry, and spirited discussion of various “conspiracy theories” (some plausible, some rather dubious) can be found at such sites, the two most notable being Westeros.org and Towerofthehand.com. Both sites also contain episode guides and discussion forums for the ASOIAF television adaptation, Game Of Thrones, which just recently wrapped up its first season.

But let the reader beware: plot spoilers abound on both sites, particularly in the discussion forums. While both sites do a good job compartmentalizing potential spoiler information so that users won’t accidentally browse upon it, Tower Of The Hand also has a clever system in place which lets visitors to the site indicate how many books in the series they have read (as well as how many episodes of the television program they’ve viewed) and then hides problematic articles and essays. Even so, commenters aren’t obliged to add spoiler tags, so if you aren’t all caught up, be cautious.

For those who, like myself, read all the books years ago and would like a little refresher on what’s going on before diving into A Dance With Dragons, the blog Wertzone has written an excellent four part essay on what has happened so far. Part 1 details the ancient history of the world, part 2 covers the events of the past 300 years, part 3 recollects the events of the first two books, and part 4 catches readers up with the events of the third and fourth books.

While the long, agonizing wait for A Dance With Dragons is finally coming to an end, George R. R. Martin isn’t the only author who has kept his readers in a state of frantic anticipation as they await the next installment of a beloved series. An old friend of mine told me that the gaps between installments of Stephen King’s Dark Tower series were nearly unbearable for him (the spread between the publication of first installment and seventh and final volume was a staggering 27 years!), especially after King’s accident in 1999 when he was struck by a vehicle while walking on the shoulder of the road (The injuries King sustained were so difficult to cope with that at one point he announced his retirement from the writing world before eventually reconsidering and finishing the series).

What authors/series have kept you in suspense? Was the wait ultimately worthwhile?

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Jun 1 2011

Perilous devotion

by Dea Anne M

I’ve become hooked on the HBO series A Game of Thrones which is based, of course, on the first book in the wildly popular epic fantasy series A Song of Fire and Ice written by George R. R. Martin. My fellow blogger Jesse has posted here before on the excellence of Martin’s work and I have to say that  I am now looking forward to reading the books myself.

So what’s it like to be the creator of such a beloved series of books? Maybe the title of this post overstates the issue, but the New Yorker recently ran an interesting article about George R. R. Martin and his unique relationship with his fans. The devotion of of Martin’s readers has inspired such actions as naming children after characters in the books and establishing series related blogs  (like this one featured in Jesse’s recent post).  The series, originally planned as a trilogy, is now supposed to ultimately encompass seven books. Four books have been published already and a fifth volume,  A Dance With Dragons, will be appearing on July 12th this year.  Given the passion with which some readers regard A Song of Fire and Ice added to the fact that the previous title in the series, A Feast for Crows, appeared in 2005, it might not be surprising that some readers behave in a fashion that might seem a little…unhinged. Apparently, Martin has received unpleasant comments when he has posted about sporting events or vacations on his blog and there are a few blogs run by disaffected fans including one called Finish the Book, George.

How far will readers go to make their displeasure known and to what lengths will writers go to keep fans happy?

In 1893, Arthur Conan Doyle, who wanted to devote more of his time to historical fiction, “killed off” Sherlock Holmes. The outcry from fans of the intrepid detective was so great and prolonged that Doyle finally brought Holmes back to life in the 1901 short story “The Adventure of the Empty House” (included in The Complete Sherlock Holmes).

In 2008, fans of Stephanie Meyers’ extremely popular Twilight series were so disappointed with the final book, Breaking Dawn, that calls went out for readers to return books to their point-of-purchase place as a form of consumer protest. Meyers’ reaction on her website was a fairly sensible (to me, anyway) statement  “In the end, it’s just a book.”

In 2002, Maori novelist Witi Ihimaera, author of The Whale Rider,  began re-writing five previously published novels because he felt that they did not accurately reflect the political realities of the time in which they were set. He guaranteed to pay refunds to any reader unhappy with the new version of a title. As of the summer of 2009, he had paid out $673.

Finally who could forget the ultimate dissatisfied fan, Annie Wilkes? Memorably played by Kathy Bates in the 1990 film Misery based on Stephen King’s novel by the same name, Annie’s deadly antics as a novelist’s “number one fan” could chill the blood of even the most stalwart of writers. It’s enough to make you think twice about killing off a character…or even approaching the keyboard at all!

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May 20 2011

Food in Fantasy Literature

by Jesse M

This evening they had supped on oxtail soup, summer greens tossed with pecans, grapes, red fennel, and crumbled cheese, hot crab pie, spiced squash, and quails drowned in butter. Each dish had come with its own wine. Lord Janos allowed that he had never eaten half so well.
A Clash of Kings

Have you ever read a passage in a fantasy novel describing a hearty meal the characters are about to consume, and found your mouth watering? If so, you’re in good company. Many readers, intrigued (and hungry!) after learning what their favorite characters have been eating, have decided to try their hand at preparing the dishes referenced in books they’ve enjoyed. The passage quoted above, along with the spread of food pictured, is courtesy of a blog called The Inn at the Crossroads, a reference to an inn featured in the fantasy series A Song of Ice and Fire by George R. R. Martin. There are numerous descriptions of food throughout the books in the series, and the authors of the blog have featured over two dozen dishes thus far, each with mouth-watering illustrations and accompanied by the relevant passage from the book in addition to recipes for the dishes. In many cases, two recipes are presented; one medieval version along with a more modern variation.

The bloggers behind Inn at the Crossroads are the most recent in a long line of chefs who have prepared dishes inspired by their reading material. For instance, recipes for food from the seminal Lord of the Rings trilogy (such as Lembas, the highly nutritious elven bread) are featured on a number of websites, one of the best known of which is Middle-Earth recipes. Fans of the Dragonlance series of books by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman might like to try Otik’s spiced potatoes, a recipe for which can be found here. And no list of fantasy literature cuisine would be complete without mentioning the delectable descriptions of foodstuffs from Brian Jacques’ Redwall series. The meals described in the various books of the series were so appealing to fans that in 2005 Jacques published The Redwall Cookbook, which featured recipes for some of the most appetizing dishes.

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Mar 11 2011

A Dance With Dragons

by Jesse M

Big news for fantasy fans: author George R. R. Martin has announced an official publication date for the long awaited fifth installment of his celebrated A Song of Ice and Fire series! Originally slated to be published in 2007, A Dance With Dragons will finally be on shelves by July 12 of this year.  But the good news doesn’t end there.
Martin has also been hard at work adapting a miniseries, “A Game of Thrones“, based on his novels for HBO. The first episode will debut in just over a month, on April 17. HBO has just released a trailer for the series, which you can watch here.

For those not in the know, George R. R. Martin is a prolific and acclaimed author of science fiction and fantasy. Dubbed “the American Tolkien” by TIME magazine, he also possesses the distinction of being my favorite fantasy writer of all time. You can read more about the author and his work at his website, and learn more about the world in which the novels are set here.

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