A Boozy Reader’s Guide to Decadent Duos

It’s that time of year again: you step outside at 5pm and it might as well be midnight. The sky is black and starless, the air is bone-cold, and before you know it, seasonal affective disorder has you held fast in its goblin’s grip. What better way to fend off the dreary winter blahs than to curl up with a book in your lap and a bottle of your favourite beer, wine, or spirit on your night table?

While it’s true that depression and alcohol consumption often go hand-in-hand, it is my belief that if you drink modestly and read voraciously, the combo is likely to do more good than bad. The following is a guide to some great books and their alcoholic counterparts.

Read Patrick DeWitt’s The Sisters Brothers (House of Anansi, 2011) with a snifter of E&J Brandy. Charlie and Eli Sisters, the two murderous cowboys of the title, spend a good chunk of this gritty novel burning their throats with good old-fashioned brandy in various saloons in the Old West. Any type of brandy will do for your reading enjoyment, but I am recommending E&J because it is distilled in California, where a majority of the novel is set.

Read A.D. Miller’s Snowdrops (HarperCollins, 2011) with a chilled glass of Stolichnaya vodka. It’s almost impossible to read a novel set in modern Moscow without experiencing a craving for some ice cold vodka. Nick Platt, Miller’s British protagonist working abroad, encounters so many Russian gangsters, sexy nightclub goers, and hardened old former communists that the book’s pages practically leak the great odourless liquid.

Read Lynn Coady’s Mean Boy (Doubleday, 2006) with a six-pack of Moosehead. If you recognize bits and pieces of your awkward, cringe-worthy undergraduate self in the pages of this funny and sad novel, set mostly at a small-town university in New Brunswick, you may want to indulge in one of Canada’s best home-brewed lagers. The buzz will help to dim the pain, and at the same time, bring you back to those good times of sharing a pint at the campus pub with the classmates and professors you loved and hated.

Read Kathryn Borel’s Corked (Wiley, 2009) with a bottle of French red wine. A brutally honest memoir about the author’s troubled relationship with her connoisseur father and their wine-tasting trip to France, this book will have you pining for some vino. As I read, I found myself wanting to taste the wines Borel didn’t like as much as the ones she did, and could feel my own amateurish appreciation for wine maturing into something more sophisticated, thanks to her unique and sensuous descriptions.

Read Shaughnessy Bishop-Stall’s Ghosted (Random House, 2010) with the cheapest bottle of champagne you can find. If you’re handy with a blade, slice the bottle open with a Japanese sword, as our protagonist Mason Dubisee does during a massive cocaine and poker party he throws in his friend’s apartment. On second thought, this book is filled with so much drug abuse and debauchery, so many criminals, depressives and wounded souls, you may instead want to enjoy it with a tall glass of mineral water and some steamed vegetables.

About the author

Stacey Madden

Stacey Madden holds an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Guelph, and has worked at Book City in Toronto for many years. His first novel, Poison Shy, will be published by ECW Press in Fall 2012.

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By Stacey Madden