It’s pretty straightforward. One book. One beer. One photo. People seem to like it because often good books go well with good beer. Sometimes, you’ll land on a real stinker book- or beer-wise. The following selections are not those times, though. These pairings are the real deal, the 1 percent, the extra fry in the bottom of a bag. Happy reading and happy drinking.
Book: The Last Girlfriend on Earth: And Other Love Stories by Simon Rich
Beer: Mai Bock by Atwater Brewery
I want to be Simon Rich when I grow up. Nevermind the fact that he’s 10 years younger than me and looks like he’s 14 years old. The Last Girlfriend on Earth is full of funny stories about the absurdity of relationships and love. Your standard romantic characters, such as Cupid and condoms appear, but you’ll be more intrigued (taken aback?) by other subjects, such as Hitler falling in love and moving to Prospect Heights in contemporary New York. The stories are the basis for the TV show Man Seeking Woman, and Rich is just one genius grant away from taking over the world with his humorous outlook on life. Pair this book with Mai Bock by Detroit’s Atwater Brewery, because, like most relationships, it starts off sweet and smooth but ends with a bitter aftertaste.
Book: The Bohemians: Mark Twain and the San Francisco Writers Who Reinvented American Literature by Ben Tarnoff
Beer: Ginger Barrel Aged Ale Brrrbon ‘13 by Widmer Brothers Brewing
The Bohemians by Ben Tarnoff made me want to move to San Francisco (again). His descriptions and stories about Mark Twain and the burgeoning literary scene in that scandalous City by the Bay in the 19th century inflamed a want in me to be a part of something exploding with creativity. Tarnoff explains how Twain’s San Francisco time influenced his writing. Tarnoff also includes other San Francisco literary heroes, such as Bret Harte, Charles Warren Stoddard and Ina Coolbrith. The rivalry between Twain and Harte is particularly engaging and supports the theory that often great art is created via feuds. Pair this book with Widmer Brothers Brewing’s Ginger Barrel Aged Ale Brrrbon ‘13, because, like San Francisco, it balances frou-frou (ginger) with working class (bourbon).
Book: The Last Cowboy: A Life of Tom Landry by Mark Ribowsky
Beer: Prickly Pear by Shiner
I’ve been a Dallas Cowboys fan since birth, and I continue to be no matter how many criminals they sign. Growing up, I fondly remember Tom Landry’s famous hat framing his stoicism. His demeanor caused more questions than answers much of the time, so when I came across The Last Cowboy: A Life of Tom Landry, I immediately read it. Plus, I love biographies and living in the past. Readers will learn more than they ever thought they wanted to know about Landry and the Cowboys in this hefty (720 pages!) book. For example, I learned that Cowboys fans from day one have never been that vocal during games. So now when I hear people complaining about the low energy of fans at games, I know it’s just part of the organization’s DNA. Pair this book with Shiner’s Prickly Pear, because 1) it’s a beer brewed in Texas and you’re reading about a Texas football team, and 2) Landry could be prickly person on more than one occasion.
Book: Trying Not to Try: Ancient China, Modern Science, and the Power of Spontaneity by Edward Slingerland
Beer: Twilight Summer Ale by Deschutes Brewery
Practically every child since 1977 has wanted to use the Force in their everyday lives. While most think it’s a movie fantasy, its origin is found in the Eastern philosophy of wu-wei, which translates to “no trying” or “no doing.” Edward Slingerland is an expert in Asian studies and he effortlessly guides readers through hundreds of years of Chinese philosophy and contemporary brain science to help us understand what it’s like to be “in the flow” and how that makes us happy. Sadly, though, I’m still unable to lift an X-wing Fighter out of a swamp after reading the book. Pair this one with Twilight Summer Ale because twilight is the perfect time between light and dark, doing and not doing.
Book: Spinning Into Butter by Rebecca Gilman
Beer: Saint Dymphna by Lakewood Brewing Co.
I don’t think enough people read plays for pleasure. Just because a play isn’t being performed doesn’t mean you can’t read it. Go on, I dare you. In fact, start with Spinning Into Butter. The story is set at a small college that is investigating racist messages left for one of its students. The topic is timely, but the end result isn’t tidy. As any great play does, the questions raised aren’t easily answered. So, pair this play with Saint Dymphna as you discuss the story with your friends. The beer’s flavor is complex, much like the play.
— Jason Hensel is the creator of the Tumblr site titled, Book and Beer.