Sunday, March 7, 2021

How Many Ways to Love Books? by Molly MacRae

I love everything about books. Reading them, of course. That goes without saying doesn’t it? Reading them to myself, to the grandchildren in a box, with a fox, on a train, in the rain. I also love selling books. Back in the 90s I managed an independent bookstore. I loved that job. Customers in bookshops are, for the most part, happy to be there because they love books, too. Then there’s lending books. I just retired after eighteen years in the children’s department of the public library. Eighteen years of connecting children with books and hearing them squeal, belly-laugh, and shout with joy when they found the books they were looking for—and one little girl who said, with hushed reverence, “Charlotte’s Web is my absolute favorite book in the whole world.”

What else do I love about books? Making them! Okay, so far I’ve only made a few simple, folded books (and a really cool box that looks like a book). I follow several handmade book artists online, though, and boy do I have visions of beautiful handmade books dancing in my head and plans to make them (after I finish writing the book due in mid-April). 

cover of a very simple zhen xian bao
(Chinese thread book)

first two folded boxes in zhen xian bao revealed

all three boxes in zhen xian bao open
(more elaborate zhen xian bao will
have a dozen or more folded boxes inside)

really cool box that looks like a book

And yes, I love writing books, too. Or, as some writers more accurately put it, I love having written books. The actual writing can be like pulling my brains out of my head with crochet hooks.

Now let me add one more thing I love about books—eating them. Or again, to be more accurate, making books meant to be eaten for the annual International Edible Book Festival.

Have you ever been to an Edible Book Festival? They’re held all over the world on or around April 1st to celebrate the birthday of Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin (born April 1, 1755). Brillat-Savarin was a French gastronome famous for his witty meditation on food, Physiologie du gout. The festivals are loads of fun. People come up with the most amazing creations. Some edible books are culinary wonders. Others are done strictly for the laughs (or groans). The books are judged in a variety of categories. Last year’s categories at the University of Illinois festival were:

  • Best Depiction of a Classic
  • Best Visual Presentation
  • Most Appetizing
  • Funniest/Punniest
  • Best Entry Based on a Book for Children or Teens
  • Best Collaborative Creation
  • People’s Choice

After the winners are announced, attendees are invited to eat the books.

I entered the University of Illinois contest way back in 2008 and 2009. My “The Chard in the Scone” won 2nd place for Literary Merit in 2008, but “Rum Plus Stilton” got nothing in 2009. Bummer.

The Chard in the Scone
(It was a really lovely chili cheese scone.
If you'd like the scone recipe, let me know.)

I haven’t entered since, figuring I’ve probably peaked. But I’ve been toying with a couple of ideas lately, so maybe I’ll reconsider. What do you think of “Little Hummus in the Big Woods” or “Mastering the Artichoke of French Cooking”?

You can find pictures of entries from past festivals by Googling, and you can read more about the whys and wherefores of the International Edible Book Festival on Wikipedia. Most festivals this year will be virtual. But that’s cool, because now you can enter a festival that’s nowhere near where you live (and, if you make a book that’s truly appetizing, you can eat it yourself). There’s a short list of festivals at Book Riot.

If you were to create an edible book, would you try for the artistic/literary experience or are you more apt to go for the humorous/loony?

Molly MacRae writes the award-winning, national bestselling Haunted Yarn Shop Mysteries and the Highland Bookshop Mysteries. Visit Molly on Facebook and Pinterest and connect with her on Twitter  or Instagram.




  1. Your handmade books are gorgeous!

    I have never heard of an Edible Book Festival. I would go for the punny, I think. Since my books are set in the tropics it would definitely pertain to tropical fruits! And yes, please, send along the scone recipe. I'll leave out the chard, but the scones will be as hit at my house!

  2. I would go for punny, too. Something with apples or cranberries.

  3. That is hilarious. I would go in a heartbeat...of course at this point I'd go most anywhere in a heartbeat :-)

  4. Hilarious, Molly. I didn’t know this event existed.

  5. Thanks, everyone! Glad you liked the post.

    Susan, if the U of I has an in-person Edible Book Festival next year, maybe you can drive over and we can make a day of it. Festival in the morning, and a book signing in the afternoon?

  6. Kait, I'll post the recipe in the comments later this morning. The scones are delicious!

  7. Given my culinary skills, I would have to go with loony humor. (Although in truth I might be trying for literary!)

  8. Considering my skills in the kitchen, I think I'll volunteer to be a judge and "assess" all of your attempts.

  9. Jim, that's why I go for the punny (which wasn't a category the years I entered). I can cook, but I'm no food artist. A friend of mine won 1st prize, one year, with her gorgeous "Life of Pi." So creative.

  10. Debra, that's excellent. Consider yourself signed up.

  11. Chili Cheese Scones

    Preheat oven to 400℉
    Makes 12 wedges


    2 cups unbleached white flour (or use part whole wheat)
    ½ cup yellow cornmeal
    1 tablespoon baking powder
    1 to 2 teaspoons red pepper flakes
    ½ teaspoon ground cumin (I might add ¾ teaspoon next time)
    ¼ cup butter cut into ½-inch pieces
    ¼ pound cheddar cheese, shredded (Or try another cheese – pepper jack? Manchego?)
    2 large eggs
    ½ cup milk

    To make:

    Mix dry ingredients in a large bowl; cut in butter until it’s the size of small peas; stir in shredded cheese

    Beat eggs and milk; set aside 2 tablespoons of the mixture for brushing the scones; add remainder of egg and milk mixture to dry ingredients and stir until evenly moistened

    Scrape dough onto a floured board; knead about 6 times or until dough holds together; divide dough in half; pat each half into a ¾-inch round (5-6 inches diameter)

    Set rounds well apart on greased baking sheet; cut each round (not quite through to the bottom) into 6 wedges; brush rounds with reserved egg mixture

    Bake until golden brown – about 18 minutes

    Eat hot or warm, breaking rounds into your pre-cut wedges

  12. Thanks, Molly, I'm looking forward to doing some baking!

  13. Such a variety of resources for the book-lover!