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Candyfreak: A Journey through the Chocolate Underbelly of America

3.77  ·  Rating Details ·  4,777 Ratings  ·  742 Reviews
Perhaps you remember the whipped splendor of the Choco-Lite, or the luscious Caravelle bar, or maybe the sublime and perfectly balanced Hershey's Cookies 'n Mint. The Marathon, an inimitable rope of caramel covered in chocolate. Oompahs. Bit-O-Choc. The Kit Kat Dark. Steve Almond certainly does. In fact, he was so obsessed by the inexplicable disappearance of these bars-wh ...more
Hardcover, 266 pages
Published May 4th 2004 by Algonquin Books (first published 2004)
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RandomAnthony
From the book, page sixteen:

Every now and then, I’ll run into someone who claims not to like chocolate or other sweets, and while we live in a country where everyone has the right to eat what they want, I want to say for the record that I don’t trust these people, that I think something is wrong with them, and that they’re probably-this must be said-total duds in bed.

Candyfreak provides way too much candy-metaphor fodder for the weak-hearted reviewer. I don’t know I can resist saying things like
...more
Jill
Candyfreak is the most delightful book about candy that also happens to record the author’s deteriorating mental health. What a combination: Goo-Goo Clusters, Snickers, Valomilks, and Big Hunk bars all alongside ample doses of liberal guilt, childhood neglect, failure to commit emotionally in relationships, and a dooming fear of failure! Steve Almond is a clever writer who decides to explore America’s dying Mom and Pop candy industry in order to distract himself from his own depressing life.

So b
...more
Michael
Aug 29, 2007 Michael rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: humans
My review, 3.0:

First I would like to quote MC Pee Pants.

"I want candy, bubblegum and taffy.
Skip to the sweet shop with my girlfriend, Sandy.
Got my pennies saved. so I'm a sugar daddy.
I'm her Hume Cronyn, she my Jessica Tandy.
I want candy!

I need candy, any kind will do
Don't care if it's nutritious or FDA approved.
It's gonna make me spaz like bobcats on booze..."

etc, as the song stops being about candy.

The cover blurb calls the author "the Dave Eggers of food writing" ... which seems not only
...more
Malbadeen
May 12, 2010 Malbadeen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Steve Almond is deep passion veiled as giddy enthusiasm. So much of his writing just makes you want to high five the world and sceam "F**** yeah!"

If you're not careful you might lose your self in the enjoyment of it all and begin to take for granted his amazing ability to lift up the ordinary and point it out in a way that has you remembering your own forgotten sensations/images/relationships.

As an educator I am always begging/pleading/admonishing my collegues to please give our students opport
...more
Jon
Jul 16, 2008 Jon rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
There are definite five-star sections within this book. The author travels around the U.S. to visit a number independent candy manufacturers and tell their stories. These are great parts. It is a real eye-opener to hear that in the early 20th century there were over 6000 American candy companies and now there are only 150 or so. The rise of the "Big Three" of Nestle, Hershey and Mars has made it nearly impossible for any other manufacturers to get their products into stores. Reading these parts ...more
Vonia
Mar 27, 2014 Vonia rated it liked it
Being a Candy Connoisseur myself, I had high expectations for this. Did it live up to my expectations? Not quite. I suppose I was wanting something less personal-diary-coming-of-age-story, more candy-chocolate-informational-enlightenment. Almond was extremely honest, writing this as an essential documentation of a personal cross-country road trip, inserting personal stories, anecdotes, and/or tangents that were sometimes funny, sometimes interesting, but always distracting.

At the same time, he d
...more
Elizabeth
Aug 12, 2010 Elizabeth rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Elizabeth by: Jenny benevento
The back jacket describes Candyfreak as 'hilarious' - I think that's a bit of a stretch. Like Not That You Asked, I found Candyfreak a quick and enjoyable read - but not one that I expect to reread.

Personally, I wish this book was more about the candy industry and the small producers Almond visited. The highlights for me were his descriptions of the candy-making processes and of the candymakers themselves - interesting, fanatical characters who were often involved in every detail of the process.
...more
Melissa
If Steve Almond is a candyfreak, then I'm a candywhore. I'll take it where I can get it and I'm not half as discriminating about its origins.

That said, you can't help but laugh outright at the sugar-fanaticism of a man who gets faint with joy witnessing the birth of chocolate bunnies and is rendered speechless at the thoughtless waste of even one piece of chocolate, recalling, "I stood there in a cloud of disillusionment...I'm someone who has been known to eat the pieces of candy found underneat
...more
Luann
Mar 23, 2008 Luann rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: anyone who likes chocolate
I had to read this one quickly because it was bad for me. Very bad. Is there anyone who has read this and didn't feel the overpowering NEED to eat chocolate while reading this book? If so, please post in the comments to this review because I want to know where you get your incredible willpower! And the problem was that if I wasn't eating chocolate, I just had to be eating something, anything, while reading this book! I defy anyone not to salivate at his descriptions of chocolate. Here's just one ...more
Grace
Apr 13, 2015 Grace rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
I applaud myself on having consumed only two candy bars during the process of reading this book. However, seeing as I read this book mostly over the course of a single day, that may not be something to brag about. I advise you to read this book while at a very safe distance from any candy sources, because I was sitting next to an enormous candy display in a bookstore and could not resist the purchase of a pack of turtles, which I had just read about, the 5th Avenue, which Almond mentions in pass ...more
Leigh
Oct 08, 2009 Leigh rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: men, nonfiction lovers
Recommended to Leigh by: Beth
Candy Freak is the story of Steve Almond's obsession with candy, particularly candy that no longer exists. Almond begins the story lamenting the disappearance of the candy bars of his youth, and wonders why such perfect candies aren't being made anymore. He sets out to explore the "chocolate underbelly of America", touring several small candy factories and getting the viewpoints of small, independently-owned candy companies. Almond discovers that there are indeed many candies being made by these ...more
Thom
Mar 22, 2010 Thom rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Read this shortly after it showed up on the library "new books" shelf. Agree completely with another reviewer - there are some definite five star sections in here. One stellar example is the history: what used to be thousands of candy companies are now, a century later, down to just over 100. The games the major companies play (and get away with) for shelf space is tragic.

Other parts of the book were autobiographical and not as well written. Seeing similar things in his newest book. Steve Almond
...more
Heather
Feb 25, 2010 Heather rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a really easy, enjoyable read. I guess I'm not quite on the freak level of Almond because he is a real sensualist when it comes to candy, coming up with eating strategies that I never would have considered. It makes for some interesting, funny reading. On the downside, it's a little depressing to think that even the world of candy is super capitalistic and cut-throat.

I found a lot of the candies that he talks about in the book for my book club tomorrow. I have a huge sweet tooth, so I h
...more
Tama Filipas
May 22, 2014 Tama Filipas rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I laughed SO HARD during the first half of this book. Super interesting story of the small guys in the candy biz and where they've (mostly) all gone, gobbled up by the big guys. I wanted to search out some of the old school candy bars, and did find some, though it wasn't easy. Made me think back to my tiny hometown and the local chocolate shop that was on Main Street, at the base of West Hill. Where did they go? I have a vague memory of going there on a class field trip at some point in elementa ...more
Raina
Jan 04, 2010 Raina rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I wish that this wasn't read by an actor - I can hear the acting a bit. But maybe Steve Almond isn't like David Sedaris. And that's ok.

I really enjoyed this story of candy. He traces the descent of small businesses in amerika and the evil big three takeover of amerikan candy. Also imparts lots of anecdotes and issues lots of chocolate porn descriptions of the candy he consumes as he travels across amerika touring various candy factories. So fun. Funny too, though probably too sophisticated for
...more
Livia
Dec 01, 2015 Livia rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Mr. Almond does a great job of interviewing and touring various real candy factories in the US. He made me WANT to try the Idaho Spud. His description of a food trade show was accurate, if a little depressing. The trade show featured cheesecake, chicken wings, pizza, french fries, etc., with NOT A VEGETABLE IN SIGHT. Oh sorry, there were some fake veggies. The story of candy comes through and carries readers along.
Amy "the book-bat"
I enjoyed listening to this book. I thought the descriptions of the chocolates were amazing. I would love to find and try some of the candy bars mentioned throughout the book. I could have done without hearing the bits about how he fondled himself in the restroom and found a lump on his private parts. That really didn't need to be included. Overall, the book made my hungry for some chocolate.
Christy Sherrill
Dec 31, 2007 Christy Sherrill rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone
This book is sweet. The author explores why sugar makes him shallow. The redeeming fact to this sweet and shallow book is the author apologizes for this in the preface and then goes deep to find the history, facts, industry, theories and thoughts surrounding sugar. Some of my favorite quotes from the this exploration:

" So, the question: Given all this moral knowledge, how can I lead the life of a unbridled candyfreak?"

"I hate most vegetable.................I realize that I am going to hell."

" In
...more
Bookworm
Nov 13, 2014 Bookworm rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I thought I might be getting Godiva but got cheap chocolate instead. Candy lover and perhaps aptly named Steve Almond takes the reader on a journey about candy: the history of candy's rise in the US, how it's made, what he likes and why he loves candy so. It sounds like an awesome story, right?
 
Wrong. The book is a slap-dash mix of childhood reminiscing, descriptions of how candies are made (right down to what goes on in factories), what happens when candies disappear and why candies are so popu
...more
Speeda
Dec 21, 2015 Speeda rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoy everything about Steve Almond's writing style. I describe him as "the neurotic self-aware humorist Dave Eggers and Chuck Klosterman aspire to be" to anyone who will listen.

The book follows our protagonist through recollections of a childhood spent buying, sneaking, and gobbling all kinds of candies to establish an adulthood mission to write a book exploring contemporary candy factories. This is mostly so they'll let him in to sample the freshest stuff, but also to take his mind off his
...more
Tracey
Checked out from the library & munched my way through it in a weekend.

If you're looking for a history of candymaking, this isn't the book for you. It's equally a memoir, and a paean to an obsession. Even though I'm not a candy bar aficionado (preferring my chocolate pure & dark), I found this exploration of the author's fascination with candy, complete with visits to regional candy makers very entertaining.

Almond (who comments on the irony of his last name) writes wryly of using candy
...more
Eustacia Tan
Mar 10, 2016 Eustacia Tan rated it really liked it
Before I read Candyfreak, I thought I liked Candy. After reading this, I realised that I am far, far from a Candyfreak. Steve Almond is clearly the master here.

Candyfreak is basically about this guy's love story with candy, and about the underdog candy makers (I.e. The companies that are not Nestle and the like). Which is probably why I don't recognise most of the candy here. There's something called the Idaho Spud, there's a Big Hunk, and all sorts of candies that I don't recognise. Clearly wh
...more
Kathy
Oct 10, 2007 Kathy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
From a blog post in 2005:
What a fun and interesting read! The full title is Candyfreak - A Journey Through The Chocolate Underbelly of America by Steve Almond The author is a self-avowed candy addict and traces his addiction back to a childhood need for affection. His anecdotes about his childhood candy habits (hording, sorting and classifying candy as well as his Halloween strategy) and bonding with his Father (The Enabler) via candy bars are hilarious, touching and sometimes a bit sad.

The mai
...more
Regine
Sep 22, 2010 Regine rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Candy. Candy. Candy. There's just something so nostalgic about it. I'm sure that everyone's had the experience of biting into a piece of candy, and as soon as the flavour swells in your mouth, little bits and pieces of your childhood come back. For me, it's the little Choc Nut bars -- little powdery chocolates flavoured with peanuts, each delicately wrapped in a red and white paper. Everytime I bite into one of these guys, I'm reminded of Sunday shopping with my parents at the Asian mart, and th ...more
Rachel
May 07, 2016 Rachel rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: foodies, pop culture nerds
This was a fun audiobook read. While it's not a book I would have added to my overstuff shelf as a paperback, I'm glad I got this via PaperBackSwap on audiobook.

The narrator is a little cheesy, but the author sounds like a cheesy kind of guy, so it's a decent fit. Some parts are pretty hard to fathom, but I have no doubt he's that into candy.

While it was silly and light-hearted for most of it, there was two parts that weren't quite as light-hearted. One I just didn't like and that was his polit
...more
GoldenjoyBazyll
Jan 07, 2009 GoldenjoyBazyll rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: amazing-people
godiva... lint....kit kats.... you name them I love them. After reading this book I definately have a better underastanding of the American candy industry. I never knew that there were stocking fees to place candy at registers at supermarkets. I never knew the history of independent candy makers in the late 1800's and early 1900's. It ws interesting to read how social factors such as war's inpacted the business of candy producers. Who knew???? The book started out very interesting and very enter ...more
Karen-Leigh
If you are on a diet....do not read this book. A trip down memory lane of nostalgia for all the candy favourites of our lives that have been discontinued and for which we continue to look. My personal lost madeline is an orange coloured ball, the size of a small jaw breaker, made with coconut and very chewy and lasted a long time. You sucked it like a jaw breaker until the orange coating was gone and exterior slightly softened by saliva and heat of your mouth until you could bite into it and sta ...more
Kate M
Dec 01, 2014 Kate M rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting book, and in reading it I have learned more than I ever thought I would know about the chocolate candy industry. Seriously. Did you know that it costs nearly $20,000 just to get a spot on the shelves by the cash register at one of the three major food chains? And did you know that the three major chocolate makers (Nestle, Mars, and Hersey's) all own their own chocolate plantations? Or that smaller candy makers look down on Hersey's chocolate as not being tasty enough (a fact on which ...more
Laura
Aug 16, 2007 Laura rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is about...well, a Candyfreak. Almond is obsessed with candy -- eating it, talking about it, thinking about it, keeping it around the house, finding new types. So he undertakes a trip cross-country to the few candy factories that will let him watch the process of making the stuff (the processes are highly proprietary, it seems).

Almond comes across a scarily neurotic and utterly likable, and who can't be happy reading about someone who loves candy? Sometimes he was trying a bit too hard
...more
Michael
Apr 04, 2007 Michael rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Geeks of all stripes
I love to read pretty much anything written by geeks. People who are unhealthily obsessed with a given subject and clearly amped to educate others about it. With enough geeky passion on display, the subject becomes almost irrelevant.

Steve Almond is a hardcore geek for candy. His enthusiasm is more than evident in this book. It's a quick read, he writes well and I for one found myself desperately wanting something with chocolate and hazelnuts in it when I was done.

Highly recommended.
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Steve Almond is the author of two story collections, My Life in Heavy Metal and The Evil B.B. Chow, the non-fiction book Candyfreak, and the novel Which Brings Me to You, co-written with Julianna Baggott. He lives outside Boston with his wife and baby daughter Josephine.
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“Every now and then, I'll run into someone who claims not to like chocolate, and while we live in a country where everyone has the right to eat what they want, I want to say for the record that I don't trust these people, that I think something is wrong with them, and that they're probably - and this must be said - total duds in bed.” 110 likes
“The answer is that we don't choose our freaks, they choose us.” 79 likes
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