I’ve always loved books, drawing, and pizza. I was an avid reader growing up, perhaps sometimes overly so. In high school during final exam time, my mom would have to hide whatever Stephen King book I was devouring so I’d focus on studying.
Art was important to me as well. I’d often be drawing, and later developed an interest in painting. All the while, pizza accompanied me through life, from preschool to college and beyond. The resulting confluence of these interests would eventually lead to Pizzapedia, an illustrated guide to everyone’s favorite food.
Now that we’re all craving a slice of pie, I offer up fan favorites paired with their literary equivalents.
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and Other Jazz Age Stories by F. Scott Fitzgerald
The story opens with the narrator describing the life of Roger Button, a Baltimore socialite. He’s a middle-aged man, and his younger wife is having a child. He’s shocked to discover that his newborn son is actually a 70-year-old man. The man-baby’s feet hang over the crib, and he asks the horrified Roger Button, “Are you my father?” So begins the short story of a 70-year-old man who’s destined to age backward. Pair this tale of the chronologically reversed with a Detroit-style pizza, which, like Benjamin Button, is constructed in reverse order: the cheese and meat form the first layer, while the sauce goes on last.
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A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket
In the first book of the series, The Bad Beginning, the reader is introduced to four central characters: Violet, Klaus, and Sunny Baudelaire, as well as the sinister Count Olaf. A bad beginning indeed, as the children are informed that both their mother and father have died in a fire that destroyed their home. The children are left in the care of a distant relative, the greedy Count Olaf, who hatches the first of many ploys to steal the Baudelaire inheritance. These elaborate schemes typically unravel in comical fashion, making Olaf an entertaining antagonist to root against. A Series of Unfortunate Events should be paired with the oft-reviled Hawaiian-style pizza—another villain we love to hate.
The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair That Changed America by Erik Larson
We begin with Daniel Burnham contemplating his years planning the Chicago World’s Fair of 1893, held to honor the 400th anniversary of Columbus’s discovery of America. As Burnham assembles his architectural team, H.H. Holmes arrives in Chicago and converts a drug store into the “World’s Fair Hotel”—of which checking out is not an option. Cameos abound, with the likes of George Ferris and Buffalo Bill Cody making appearances. Larson doesn’t mention Chicago-style pizza, as it would be anachronistic, but don’t let that stop you from pairing it with the book—it would be just murder without it.
The Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick
Pat Peoples develops a theory about silver linings during his time in a psychiatric hospital: he believes his life is a movie produced by God, and his mission is to become physically and emotionally fit to ensure the happy ending of reuniting with his estranged wife, Nikki. With the help of his therapist, his new friend Tiffany, and the Philadelphia Eagles, Pat finds his silver lining. Pair this heartwarming journey of recovery with a Philadelphia tomato pie (Super Bowl 52 highlights optional).
The Godfather by Mario Puzo
The epic saga of crime and corruption introduces us to Don Vito Corleone, the head of a powerful New York crime family. We meet his sons and learn how the least-involved and distant son, Michael, becomes the heir to his father’s empire. The Godfather and its characters have been ingrained into contemporary American culture. As a quintessential New York story, I suggest pairing it with another Big Apple favorite: the New York slice. That’s an offer you can’t refuse.
The Aeneid by Virgil
The legendary epic poem tells the story of Trojan hero Aeneas, who, after years of wandering after the destruction of Troy, journeys to Italy to find a new home and eventually becomes the ancestor of what becomes the Roman nation—with Juno out to thwart his every move. So when you summon the muse and “sing of arms and the man,” you’re almost required to pair this Roman classic with a thin, crisp Roman-style pizza. It’ll give you the fuel to tackle those epic similes.
Guilty Pleasures by Laurell K. Hamilton
The first book in the New York Times-bestselling Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter series, Guilty Pleasures details the exploits of Anita Blake, a professional zombie raiser, vampire executioner, and supernatural consultant for the St. Louis police. Set in a parallel universe where supernatural creatures are real and their presence is well-known, Guilty Pleasures follows Anita Blake as she investigates a series of vampire murders. You should pair this one with a St. Louis-style pizza, which, like the book, hails from “The Gateway City” and has unnatural properties—a guilty pleasure in its own right.
The Call of Cthulhu and Other Weird Stories by H. P. Lovecraft
This story is considered the first of what’s become known as the Cthulhu Mythos—Lovecraft’s overarching horror plot involving incomprehensible creatures and ancient gods that populated Earth long before humanity came into being. Exploring themes of madness and cosmic horror, “The Call of Cthulhu” is one of Lovecraft’s most iconic works. The story begins when the narrator, Francis Thurston, discovers the notes of his late grand-uncle and is pulled into a conspiracy involving an ancient oceanic god and his violent followers. Pair these stories of ancient horror from the sea with the considerably less frightening New Haven clam pie, a pizza composed of much more benevolent sea creatures—which shouldn’t drive you to cosmic madness.
Featured Image: Dan Bransfield; Author Photo: Cindy Loughridge Photography