Did you make a 2021 reading goal? Do you have a plan for completing it? I like to start my year with short books to give myself a head start. January in Minnesota means lots of snow and coldness, and a nice bowl of soup is a regular (almost daily) meal. So I have combined the two activities: you can keep working on your Goodreads goal while also making dinner! Below you will find short books, mangas, poetry, graphic novels, and short story collections (all of which I add to my “read” count!). Check out these awesome pairings and join me as I enjoy my soup and stories.
Along with Vanessa (@nessas.lair), I made (and ate!) these delicious soups; if you want to know how to make them, check out Vanessa’s blog: https://nessaslair.com/ .
Fangirl, Vol1. Manga
Paired with Potato Bacon Soup
Whether or not you have read Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell, this manga will introduce you to or reignite your love of Cath, Simon Snow, and Levi. Cath and her twin sister (Wren) head to college, but now that she’s in college, Cath is completely outside of her comfort zone. There are suddenly all these new people in her life. She’s got a surly roommate with a charming boyfriend, a writing professor who thinks fanfiction is the end of the civilized world, and a handsome new writing partner. Unfortunately Wren has found her own path that keeps her away from Cath. Cath and Wren are from Nebraska and go to university in the same state; Nebraska is fond of it’s potato soups. So while your potato bacon soup is simmering, make sure you check out Fangirl, vol 1.
Moriarty the Patriot, Vol. 1
Paired with Potato Leek Soup
Moriarty is my all-time favorite villain, and I love that he gets a back-story in this manga. It was recently turned into an anime and because of the hype it was translated to English and published in the United States in October 2020. The manga follows Moriarty before he was Sherlock’s rival. He fights against the unfair class system in London by making sure corrupt nobility get their comeuppance, but even the best-intentioned plans can spin out of control. This favorite soup of the British will be enjoyed with a new twist on a classic villain.
Missing Mike by Shari Green
Paired with Chili
Missing Mike is about Mike, Caera Donovan’s dog, and is told in verse. Usually Mike follows Caera everywhere, but on the day the family first smells smoke in the air, he becomes anxious. Pine Grove is in the path of a wildfire and the family is ordered to evacuate. In the ensuing chaos, Mike runs off. And then the unthinkable happens; there is no time to search for him. They are forced to leave him behind. Once in the city, far from the burn zone, the Donovans are housed with a volunteer host family, but Caera can only think about what she may have lost. As she reflects on what “home” means to her, Caera knows only one thing. She is not going to lose Mike. She will do whatever it takes to find him, even if it means going back to Pine Grove on her own. I promise this sweet book will make you tear up, but you can totally blame it on the onions you chopped for the chili. In the comfort of your home, Mike and Caera’s story and the spicy chili will keep you warm this winter.
Light Filters In: Poems by Caroline Kaufman
Paired with Butternut Squash Soup
I read this meaningful book of poetry at the beginning of 2020, so I paired it with the soup I made for the beginning of 2021. In Light Filters In, Caroline Kaufman—known on Instagram as @poeticpoison—does what she does best: reflects our own experiences back at us and makes us feel less alone, one exquisite and insightful piece at a time. She writes about giving up too much of yourself to someone else, not fitting in, endlessly Googling “how to be happy,” and ultimately figuring out who you are. I plan to read it again this year because I think it will take on more meaning as we live through COVID-19. This soup pairs well with leftover brie and baguettes. (Ours is from our New Year’s Eve charcuterie board).
Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli
Paired with Chicken with Stars soup
I first read Stargirl during the #buzzwordreadathon (word: star), and after finishing it, I proceeded to buy loads of copies and pass it out to my students. It’s a sweet book that adults and students will love. In Stargirl, Leo Borlock follows the unspoken rule at Mica Area High School: don’t stand out–under any circumstances! Then Stargirl arrives at Mica High and everything changes–for Leo and for the entire school. After 15 years of homeschooling, Stargirl bursts into tenth grade in an explosion of color and a clatter of ukulele music, enchanting the Mica student body. Pair this book with a delicious chicken noodle soup, but use star-shaped pasta (otherwise called ‘pastina’) to add a little fun to your soup!
The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
paired with Gazpacho
A lot of high school students are required to read this book before they graduate, but you never know what this year could bring you. I recommend this short book about an Andalusian shepherd boy named Santiago who travels from his homeland in Spain to the Egyptian desert in search of a treasure buried near the Pyramids. Along the way he meets a Gypsy woman, a man who calls himself king, and an alchemist, all of whom point Santiago in the direction of his quest. No one knows what the treasure is, or if Santiago will be able to surmount the obstacles in his path. But what starts out as a journey to find worldly goods turns into a discovery of the treasure found within. Start your journey with Gazpacho, a soup that originated in Santiago’s region!
The Wild Robot by Peter Brown
Paired with Jenny’s Zuppa Toscana
Why Jenny’s Zuppa Toscana? If you look at the recipe (check out Nessa’s blog), you’ll see that I add more greens (and other things) than most of the typical soup recipes call for. This lovely middle-grade robot story will make you wish you were outside, and maybe some extra greens can do the trick? At the beginning of The Wild Robot, robot Roz opens her eyes for the first time and discovers that she is all alone on a remote, wild island. She has no idea how she got there or what her purpose is–but she knows she needs to survive. As Roz slowly befriends the animals, the island starts to feel like home–until, one day, the robot’s mysterious past comes back to haunt her. Enjoy Jenny’s Zuppa Toscana and let it remind you that you can find friends in unlikely places.
Kindred Spirits by Rainbow Rowell
Paired with Broccoli Cheddar Soup
Kindred Spirits is a novella about waiting in line in mid-December for the new Star Wars movie. Elena decides to queue outside her local cinema to see the new Star Wars movie. She’s expecting a celebration with crowds of people who love Han, Luke, and Leia just as much as she does. What she’s not expecting is to be last in a line of only three people, to have to pee into a collectible Star Wars soda cup behind a dumpster, or to meet that unlikely someone who just might truly understand the way she feels. If Elena was my friend, I’d bring her something warm to eat like this Broccoli Cheddar Soup. Rainbow Rowell is one of my all-time favorite authors, so I thought I should pair this book with one of my favorite soups. This cheesy (and sweet) story is perfect!
Primer by Jennifer Munro
Paired with Root Vegetable Soup
Ashley Rayburn is the superhero that I found to be so relatable. She is an upbeat girl but has bounced from foster home to foster home. Her latest set of foster parents are Kitch and Yuka Nolan. Yuka is a geneticist working for a very high-level tech company, one that’s contracted out to work for the government and the military. For the military, she’s developed a set of body paints that, when applied to the wearer, grant them a wide range of special powers. Fearful that this invention will be misused, Yuka sneaks the set of paints home. Ashley, an artist, is excited to see the paints and tries them out before anyone tells her what they’re supposed to be used for. The story is sweet and the art is colorful and bright, so I had to pair it with this bright root vegetable soup! A few beets will add the vibrant color that you’ll see in Primer.
Together, Apart Short Story Collection
Paired with Egg Drop Soup
This is a collection of original contemporary love stories set during life in lockdown. Ok, so you might not finish this entire book in the 15 minutes it takes Egg Drop Soup to simmer, but you should definitely read Jennifer Yen’s story about an unconventional romance that starts with fortune reading and a take-out order (of Egg Drop Soup!). I also loved the stories by Rachael Lippincott, Erin Hahn, and Sajni Patel. This book is romantic, realistic, sweet, and uplifting, with a guaranteed happy ending. And, let’s be honest, a happy ending from this pandemic would be nice!
I can’t wait to go to a cafe and sit down with a book and a bowl of broccoli cheddar soup, but for the foreseeable winter I will be at home making my soup. What are you reading this January? Let us know in the comments how you’re going to meet your goals.