How to Host a Literary Dinner Party

Dinner parties are a fun, easy way to get together with your friends in a memorable way. Whether in a cozy dining room on a wintry evening, or al fresco for summer, a dinner party can get a new twist when you throw books into the mix. Hosting a literary dinner party allows you to express your creativity in the kitchen, and guarantees fun conversation among your guests.

It’s easy to throw a literary dinner party:

  1. Pick a book. This will create the “theme” of your party.
  2. Create a menu.
  3. Create a dinner setting.

Those are the basics, but here are some other ideas to consider!

Invite Your Guests

For a literary dinner party, you need to keep the guest list to a minimum, and 4-8 people are ideal. Pick up the phone and call your guests, or if the theme is a little more extravagant (i.e. If you’re discussing The Great Gatsby) some print invitations in the mail will add a special touch. Let them know the “theme” (the book) of the party.

Have Guests Bring a Copy of the Book

Whether it’s a library copy, a used book or a first edition, your guests should bring a copy of the book you selected as the dinner party theme. Ask them to select their favorite passage to read aloud after dinner, or as an icebreaker during cocktail hour. They can dress up as characters, bring props, or act out scenes. Have fun and be creative!

Set the Scene For Your Dinner Party

Does the book take place on a tropical island? Line the driveway with tiki torches or include some bananas and coconuts as part of a table centerpiece. Is your selection a noir book? Use black and white plates, napkins, candles, and dramatic place setting cards. Use lighting, table decor, and background music in the entranceways and the kitchen to reflect the book and the menu.

Send Them Home With a Gift

A unique dinner party favor will end the evening on a pleasant note. Send your guests home with a nice bookmark or bookplate.

Create the Menu

This is the most challenging and most exciting part: creating a menu based upon the book you selected. Remember, you always have cookbooks at your fingertips. Browse, mark, and combine different food pairings to capture the themes or settings of the book in real life!

I’ve included some custom sample menus below:

The Heart is a Lonely Hunter 

Carson McCullers:  The Heart is a Lonely Hunter

  • Fried Catfish
  • Seasoned Corn Bread or Hushpuppies
  • Stewed Collard Greens
  • Sweet Potato Pie
  • RC Cola or sweet tea
Lord of the Flies  William Golding:  Lord of the Flies

  • Codfish or Wild Salmon w/ Coconut Sauce &
  • Jasmine Rice (optional: serve in banana leaves)
  • Curried Pork Roast
  • Mango & Red Cabbage Slaw (garnish with cilantro)
  • Spring water or Mai Tais
Lolita  Vladimir Nabokov:  Lolita

  • Grilled Cheeseburgers (with a toppings bar, incl lettuce, tomato, condiments, pickles, onions, etc.)
  • Russet Potato Oven Fries
  • Classic Hot Fudge Brownie Sundaes
  • Shirley Temples or Scotch and soda
Portrait of a Lady  Henry James: Portrait of a Lady

  • Rack of Lamb with Red Currant-Wine Sauce
  • Seared Asparagus with Garlic-Infused Butter
  • Roasted New Potatoes
  • Maple-Baked Pears
  • Light Pinot Noir or sparkling water
Swann's WayMarcel Proust: Swann’s Way

Brunch Menu! 

  • Grand Marnier French Toast
  • Coddled Eggs
  • Fresh Seasonal Berries with Cream
  • Fragrant Tea or Champagne


This entry was written by and posted on January 4, 2011 at 4:08 pm, filed under For Fun, How-to and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink

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