Sometimes You Just Want a Donut


I woke up the other morning with an intense craving for a donut. Hot, crisp, sweet, chewy goodness. I didn’t want to make it myself, so I went out on a quest… and came up with the goods. As I was driving home with that pretty white bakery box on the seat next to me, I was musing on donuts. I don’t eat them every day. Actually, in the last year I could count the number of donuts I’ve eaten on the fingers of one hand. On the other hand… I’d need a lot of fingers. It would start to resemble a sea anemone. That would be scary… I bake. I love sweet stuff. I try to keep it in moderation, but there are times you just want a donut, or a piece of pie, or a cake, or a cookie.

This last week on my blog I turned it into an impromptu young adults reading week. I wrote about books for teen boys, how there seem to be very few (relative to romance plots aimed at girls) published by the big five, and there were three lists I published of books for teens. Those were generated by the collective minds of readers on social media, and there are some great suggestions. There were a few books recommended that raised an eyebrow on my part. It got me thinking. Some books are donuts, and some are spinach. Or broccoli, or brussels sprouts – pick your poison.

Anyone who has dealt with young kids knows that most of them have something they just won’t eat. For my dad it was peas. For my kids right now it’s tomatoes (in any form, even pizza sauce) and one of my daughters won’t eat ham. Go figure. I never would fix a special meal for picky eaters, but I made sure that there was enough variety on the table that no-one went hungry. After all, you can make pizza with white sauce, or garlic sauce… And if you force a kid to eat something, issues arise. My Grampa Ron will not eat butter – anything dairy, really – to this day, because as a child he lived on a dairy farm and they ate so much of it he can’t stand it. My Dad won’t eat peas (shelled) because he was forced to eat them, sometimes spending hours at the table staring at peas until he could finally force them down.

Now imagine this is reading. Books that wind up on recommended reading lists are, more often than not, broccoli and spinach. Might be ‘healthy’ and certainly never a donut. When I was getting recommendations for the lists, and ranking them according to votes, I weighted kid-recommended with a +1, and any book found on school recommended reading lists with a -1. It isn’t that I automatically assume that any book found educationally beneficial is bad – it’s that I know who makes those lists, and they aren’t the ones who are going to be reading them.

Forcing kids onto a diet works as well as forcing them to read only the ‘right’ books. In nutritional terms, a diet that an adult can live on (like veganism) will severely handicap a growing child. I’m not exaggerating – nutritionally deficient diets like vegetarian and vegan will retard the development of the human brain. The earlier the child is on that diet, the worse the overall effect. The right kind of books, and nothing but… do the same thing. Children and teens need the pleasure reading as much as they need fats in their diet. Without it, they will associate reading with unpleasant ‘flavor’ and will resist doing it unless they are forced to do so.

Now, what’s a donut book? Really, that’s going to be individual to each kid. In the responses to my call for good modern books for teens (especially boys), I had people who told me they had chosen to read some very heavy literature at a young age. This isn’t a surprise – I don’t remember when I started reading adult literature for pleasure, and I never shied away from big books. But then, I’m not normal and neither are all of my friends (I love you weirdos, you know that). For me as a teen a donut book might have been, say, Mom’s Grace Livingston Hill books. Or the Zane Grey novels. As I said, I was weird.

It doesn’t matter. Later in life I joked that the cheap paperbacks I picked up at the thrift shop (anything but Harlequin romances, which were too… too.) for a dime were ‘bon-bon’ books. As in, Mama got into the tub and had her bon-bon to relax after a long day. Mental candy. It wasn’t that they were all I was reading, it was simply that I needed something light. I didn’t need or want a book I had to work to get into. And I didn’t want a book I would drop in the water on falling asleep and be sad I’d destroyed. Kids need this kind of reading, too. Something that they associate with sweet treats.

Not all easy reads are donuts. Some are really like the German sour cream apple cake I recently made – there’s serious nutrition in there, but it’s also sweet and easy to enjoy. The skill to do this in a book surpasses the skill needed to do the cake in the kitchen. Books like that are what wound up on my lists this last week. The reads that stick with you, but you remember with a deep and abiding pleasure.

Hey, kid. Want a donut?

12-year-oVulcans Kittensld Linnea Vulkane is looking forward to a long, lazy summer on Grandpa Heph’s farm, watching newborn kittens grow up and helping out with chores. That all goes out the window the night Mars, god of war, demands her grandfather abandon her and return to Olympus for the brewing war.

Now Old Vulcan is racing around the world and across higher planes with Sehkmet to gather allies, leaving Linn and an old immortal friend to protect the farm and the very special litter. But even the best wards won’t last forever, and when the farm goes up in flames, she is on the run with a daypack, a strange horse, a sword, and an armful of kittens. Linn needs to grow up fast and master her powers, before the war finds the unlikely refugees…



  1. Should read the YA SF books for boys by TR Dillon — The Hall of Brains series.

  2. Equally, however, it should be noted that while an adult *can* live on a vegan diet, it is not what we were designed for/evolved for.

    1. I’m in total agreement, but as long as they are actually working at making it nutritionally balanced, I’m fine with them doing it to themselves. They’re adults. Kids or cats, on the other hand…

      1. Sorry Cedar, I’m just tired of being told that i *should* eat a vegan diet or that we’re *supposed to* eat a vegan diet…

        1. Oh, I know it. There’s a reason I periodically rant on my blog about ‘organic’ and gluten free (and this is in spite of, or maybe because of, my Mom and sister having to be gluten free).

          1. It is possible I cannot handle wheat and dairy for medical reasons, but I keep quiet about it because I hate the idea of being associated with the food cranks. Even if the folks who don’t need it do end up subsidizing the alternative foods.

            1. I have trouble with dairy. But I don’t want everyone else to stop drinking/eating it. I do try to tailor recipes around it, and offer options when I blog recipes.

              1. I couldn’t say exactly what is wrong with me. I can be sure that it isn’t that my needs are exactly the same as everyone else’s.

                “All those greens will give you vegetable poisoning. You need more hot dogs in your diet.”


          2. “There’s a reason I periodically rant on my blog about ‘organic’ and gluten free,”

            Short version (for GF): “It’s a medical necessity for some folk, not a fad. When you treat it like a fad, the people who DO need it get shafted by folks who no longer take it seriously.”

            1. Bingo. A friend truly needs gluten free. A few years ago, when GF was the big fad, she and anotehr friend went to a new place to eat. Restaurant advertised GF, waiter said it was GF, she ate, it wasn’t entirely GF. She got sick. Manager was terribly apologetic and said that they assumed she was one of the fad eaters and they weren’t as careful as they should have been. He refunded the meal price. After that, she’s always specified “for medical reasons, not because of the [Brand X diet].”

        2. I tried to eat a vegan diet for a while, but the vegans keep running away when I try to roast them for dinner. 😛

  3. Not YA, but Terry Pratchett wrote the yummiest health food evah!

    I can only gaze in wonder, and get back to writing donuts. Donuts sell, that’s why there are three within easy driving distance, not including the two grocery stores. Good thing I read this after breakfast . . . I probably won’t pop out and buy a few for lunch, or an afternoon snack.

      1. Mort wasn’t written as YA, but it immediately came to mind. Mort is what made ours Pratchett fans, and it just feels right for high school age. Yes, there’s some vaguely racy moments, but they are more burlesque, and had no problems recommending it to mine.

    1. Not Discworld, but his novel “Tribes” is good YA. As is the first Tiffany Aching book.

      Book my kids unexpectedly enjoyed- Animal Farm. I read it as a serialised bedtime story more than once, due to popular demand.

  4. BTW, for a classic read, Treasure Island holds up well. It was recommended to me by my father, who enjoyed it when he was about my age at the time.

    1. I always liked Swiss Family Robinson much better. Although when I first read it (1960s), I didn’t believe at all that they could possibly have known and done all of those things…

      I still couldn’t do everything that they managed – but getting closer every day.

          1. What I had (have, actually, somewhere) is an edition that had illustrations – and annotations / illustrations of things like the plants, animals, things unfamiliar to a “modern” child (like “hogshead”) what they probably built… Very nice. Part of a set of classics, like Call of the Wild, yes and Treasure Island, etc.

            Aha! Found it finally on the net… I have just the twelve “numbered” volumes (again, somewhere). I know that SFR was the only one that I actually wore out the binding on… (Although Arabian Nights is pretty worn, too, IIRC.)

      1. When I was in grade school I _loved_ SFR. I tried reading it again last year and had to set it aside after about 1/3 of the way through. It just seemed so stale, too many lists of things, etc.

  5. Mars comes to get *Vulcan*? Oh *hell* no! (Kidding…mostly) The dude who cuckolded Vulcan (btw I loved “Grandpa Hephaestus” bit) comes to tell him he’s gotta abandon his granddaughter? Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrr… (what? I’m passionate about my mythology…and just about everything else…*sheepish expression*) Please tell me Vulcan is a total badass in this series! I love the dude, and I hate how often I’ve seen him portrayed as a sad, cuckolded cripple who’s good at banging on metal… Venus can go pound sand imo. *growls*
    More on topic, I couldn’t agree more with the point of this post! I was a voracious reader already when I discovered Harry Potter, but that series kicked my passion for reading into high gear! The Aeneid, Isaac Asimov, Homer, The Divine Comedy, etc all came a little later. Although “Twilight” still makes me shudder with visceral loathing…I guess it could have played a similar role for some people? *shiver* Anyway, excellent point! 🙂

    1. Yes, he’s a badass – and remarried to Pele. But he’s not the main character, that would be his granddaughter. I had a lot of fun writing this book.

      and thanks! It’s been an interesting week writing about this topic.

    1. my teachers hated them because i would use them to point out that it was possible to write in second person.

  6. I read Crane Brinton’s Anatomy of Revolution in my teens, and then read everything else of his I could find. I also managed to get through the Dupuy Encyclopedia of Military History, but didn’t retain much because I didn’t have a good enough foundation.

    In my decrepit old age, I’ve been reading a bunch of donut books lately.

      1. There’s no such thing as “Just One”. They hunt in packs of usually a dozen. Sometimes they get whittled down, but if you find just one, he’s probably wounded, with a piece torn off by someone who “didn’t want to eat a whole one” but who will inevitably return to finish him off.

  7. Our term is “popcorn novels.” They go quickly and are fun but don’t leave much behind. (Bon bon novels might make you think your mind will get flabby… 😀 )

    1. I call them “fluff-for-brain.” Mercedes Lackey helped get me through grad school. “I don’t want nuance, dang it, I want a fun story with a happy ending! GRAAWWWWRRRRR!”

      1. Oh, yes. I’ve recently been reading E M Foner’s “Earthcent” series (well, the first two – the rest will have to wait for more funds). Just plain fun. (Not ROFL fun, though – even that is too much for me after some days…)

  8. In my misspent youth I read a lot of things like Mack Bolan and The Destroyer when I wanted to escape from escaping. I explained it to friends who were aghast at fantasy or science fiction that it was mental chewing gum.

  9. Myself, even though I’m now far from being a Young Adult, I’m finding that I’m reading a lot of YA books (of the “books for boys” variety), because there seems to be far more interesting SF published for YA than for adults these days. This is probably an indication of how messed up the major SF publishing houses are these days.

    And thanks for putting “Please Don’t Tell My Parents I’m a Supervillian” on your reading list! I think it is a really delightful book, even as an adult, and I plan on nominating “Please Don’t Tell My Parents I’ve Got Henchmen” for a Hugo next year. I don’t care that the Hugo in-crowd disdains YA books!

  10. My baby brother (19 as of this April) *loved* the Leven Thumps series by Obert Skye, and the 13th Reality series by James Dashner. Also Brandon Mull’s Fablehaven series. And the Ranger’s Apprentice books, by John Flanagan. Although I haven’t managed to read any of them yet, the key word is ‘yet’–I still love a good adventurous YA book that isn’t focused on so-called “romance” (which usually seems more a “what to avoid” example regarding relationships, regardless of age…)

    1. Oh, yes on the romance plots. I was having serious cringes when my daughter talked me into reading Twilight. I didn’t make it all the way through…

  11. I really liked Enchantress from the Stars and was shocked at the sequel, I Will Fear no Evil (I think), which is very definitely NOT YA (the rape and torture scenes sort-of violate the genre, imo).

    I read everything, though. Three school libraries worth of fiction and got into the 000 section of the library when the fiction ran out (aliens! esp! pyramid power! and it’s all real – or not so much, sigh).

    Favorites were probably (in age ascending order): Burgess Bird Books, Hardy Boys, Tom Swift and Tom Swift, Jr, Tom Corbin – Space Cadet, Tarzan (read four of them while sick for two days in middle school – original editions, which my Mom later gave to Goodwill; someone got lucky), Diriny (sp? Katherine Kurtz), and the Belgariad.

    I actually liked Twilight – I bought them to read flying to/from Moscow – but it was hardly “all that”.

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