We may receive a commission on purchases made from links.
Enjoying food is all about using our senses. From taste to smell to touch, food encourages us to be present and find real enjoyment in what we are eating. However, reading about food is another unique way to invigorate our senses. According to The New Yorker, reading about food and the art of cuisine creates a more intimate and thought-provoking experience that only true foodies can appreciate.
While many may assume that a book about food is the same thing as a cookbook, that couldn’t be further from the truth. From memoirs that describe travels filled with culinary delights to books that recount a career as a chef, the possibilities are endless. That being said, if you’re looking for a new piece of literature to become immersed in, you should consider branching out from the typical romance novel or sci-fi book. Here are 15 books that every food lover should read!
Blood, Bones & Butter by Gabrielle Hamilton
Gabrielle Hamilton’s "Blood, Bones & Butter" tells a story that goes far beyond her love for food. If you enjoy reading about others’ struggles and triumphs, then "Blood, Bones & Butter" is a great nighttime read. The book starts off with Hamilton’s childhood, describing her exposure and time in the kitchen with her mother and how that laid the foundation for her love of food, and her renowned work as a chef.
Then, readers are taken to France, Greece, and Turkey, as Hamilton explains what it was like hopping from kitchen to kitchen, learning the ins and outs of the hospitality industry. Finally, "Blood, Bones & Butter" gives an inside look into the process that Hamilton has to undergo when opening her own restaurant Prune in New York City. If you are craving something honest, raw, and consuming, this is the book for you.
Taste: My Life Through Food by Stanley Tucci
Stanley Tucci is a well-known actor with a major passion for food. In his memoir, "Taste: My Life Through Food," Tucci examines the impact that food and growing up in the kitchen had on his life. In addition to being a New York Times bestseller, "Taste: My Life Through Food" was also named a notable book both by NPR and The Washington Post. Though Tucci had written two other books, "The Tucci Cookbook" and "The Tucci Table" in the past, those were more recipe-focused.
"Taste: My Life Through Food" revolves more around the story behind his favorite Italian dishes and recipes. The book takes readers through Tucci’s childhood in Westchester and eventually explains how he met his wife, giving an intimate inside look as to how they bonded over cooking homemade meals in the kitchen. If you were a fan of Tucci’s show, "Stanley Tucci: Searching For Italy," you’ll love this book.
The Tummy Trilogy by Calvin Trillin
Calvin Trillin is a seasoned author that has written popular books such as "American Fried," "Alice, Let’s Eat," and "Third Helpings." His long career as a writer and traveler has given him a massive amount of insight into the food industry, and in the 1970s, Trilling made a name for himself as one of the most credible and beloved food writers. "The Tummy Trilogy" gives readers access to all three of his books in one place, creating a sort of series that flows well and is delightful to read.
Though it is very informative, "The Tummy Trilogy" is also widely known for its wit and humor. If you are in need of a book that keeps things light-hearted and humorous, this is without a doubt a solid option. Trillin’s passion for great food exudes through the pages, inspiring readers to develop their own sense of joy and appreciation for great eating.
The Man Who Ate Everything by Jeffrey Steingarten
"The Man Who Ate Everything" by Jeffrey Steingarten is a funny yet intriguing book that takes readers on a real adventure. In addition to being a James Beard Book Award finalist, "The Man Who Ate Everything" also won the Julia Child Book Award, making it a renowned option. Jeffrey Steingarten made a name for himself in the industry after being appointed as a food critic for Vogue, forcing him to expand his palette and taste.
This book describes a wide array of culinary creations and excursions that Steingarten experienced, including hand-massaged beef in Japan and decadent gelato in Italy. The use of humor and comedy makes this read a breeze, though it might make you hungry along the way, so be sure to have a tasty snack nearby. "The Man Who Ate Everything" also includes some top-notch recipes that will inspire you to get creative in the kitchen and branch out with trying new things.
The Art of Eating by M.F.K. Fisher
If you have a real passion for food and the artistry in it, then you need to read "The Art of Eating" by M.F.K. Fisher. This book has been around for more than 50 years, inspiring at-home chefs and cooking connoisseurs to get creative and make unique masterpieces in the kitchen. The words of Fisher are elegant, poised, and descriptive, creating an image in the reader’s mind that makes them hang on the edge of each sentence.
However, one of the best parts of "The Art of Eating" is the fact that it has inspired readers to romanticize their lives and find beauty in anything and everything. From a glass of wine to the softness of dough, Fisher manages to highlight the very best of everything in a way that makes life seem all the more magical and special. Even icon and legend Julia Child was a fan of Fisher and "The Art of Eating," proving its expertise and impact. Room Magazine called "The Art of Eating" M.F.K. Fisher’s "magnum opus."
What Did You Eat Yesterday? by Fumi Yoshinanga
"What Did You Eat Yesterday" is a romantic book written by award-winning author Fumi Yoshinaga. The story follows two men who bond over a shared love of delicious cuisine. As they continue to sit down for meals together, the relationship deepens, creating a very intimate experience for the reader as they follow along with the growth and expansion of the men’s dynamic. Most of the meals that they share are home-cooked, setting the scene for a private atmosphere where this same-sex couple can be free and comfortable in their own space.
While reviewing the book for AIPT Comics, writer Alex Cline said, "The food throughout serves primarily as a tool for getting the characters into situations where they can earnestly layout their emotions and pluck on heartstrings … Come for the sweet old couple, stay for the old couple acting even sweeter as they lovingly prepare each other’s favorite dishes to de-stress after long, hard days at work."
In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan
Anyone who has faced struggles around food or its complexity should grab a copy of Michael Pollan’s "In Defense of Food." Since society, particularly in America, has formed a culture of obsessing with diets and "wellness," many people have developed a strained relationship with the very thing that provides us with energy, nutrition, and sustenance. To help readers find their balance and heal their relationships with food, Pollan suggests that they increase their plant intake, be mindful of moderation, and simply enjoy eating once again. Though these are not "one size fits all" ideas or methods, it’s still a worthwhile read.
According to The New York Times, "In Defense of Food" originally grew out of one of Pollan’s essays, shedding light on the importance of nutrition and prioritizing how and what humans eat. Though it is much more difficult for some than others, Pollan explains that spending more time in the kitchen and purchasing food of a higher quality makes all the difference in finding peace with food and learning how to love it again.
Yes, Chef: A Memoir by Marcus Samuelsson
It is no secret that working in a kitchen can be quite stressful. In "Yes, Chef: A Memoir," Marcus Samuelsson chronicles his life and experience in the kitchen since his childhood. Having earned a New York Times three-star rating at the young age of 24, Samuelsson offers a unique level of expertise in his writing that sheds a light on the realities of working in a fast-paced, successful kitchen. Eventually, the book dives into the process that Samuelsson had to undergo when opening his restaurant, Red Rooster, in Harlem.
Though many people have learned to simply accept the fact that many professional chefs and kitchens are high-strung and somewhat volatile, Samuelsson has gone out of his way to be different than that culture. In a review for the New York Times, writer Craig Seligman said, "He respects French classicism, but his own approach is both more inclusive and vastly more humane."
My Life in France by Alex Prud’homme and Julia Child
Julia Child is without a doubt one of the most famous chefs in history. Her larger-than-life personality and knack for French cuisine made her an icon and legend, and her legacy is able to live on through her book, "My Life in France." If you’re a die-hard fan of Julia Child, or you simply want to learn more about her and her story, "My Life in France" is an inspiring tale of romance and success.
In addition to fans and food lovers, those who appreciate French culture or simply love exploring the stunning and vibrant country will adore this book. While writing a review for the New York Times, Alan Riding said, "Read no further if you dislike France, consider the French irritating, find French cooking pretentious and the French art de vivre overrated — because Julia Child liked everything about France. And her memoir, ‘My Life in France,’ is an affectionate merci for all that France gave her."
Gourmet Rhapsody by Muriel Barbery
Between the catchy title and the top-notch content, "Gourmet Rhapsody" by Muriel Barbery is a must-read for foodies and critics alike. The story follows a fictional food critic by the name of Pierre Arthens, one of the most revered critics in Paris. However, Arthens is dying, forcing him to look back on his life and relive his past. As he mulls over his life, Arthens realizes that he needs one more final, amazing meal before he can peacefully pass on.
The story then takes readers through the journey of Arthens life, all the way from childhood right up to his deathbed. The book does a great job of highlighting the sweetness and joy of life while showcasing just how dangerous the overuse of power can be. "Gourmet Rhapsody" is a wonderful story that revolves around food but dives deeper into the real struggles that so many of us face in life.
The Cooking Gene by Michael W. Twitty
After winning the James Beard Award for Best Food Writing and Book of the Year in 2018, "The Cooking Gene" by Michael W. Twitty made its way to the top of many foodies’ reading lists. Twitty is a renowned culinary historian who dives deep into African American culinary history and Southern cuisine, specifically. If you are a fan of traditional barbecue or soul food, your mouth will water while flipping through the pages. However, your mind will also be extremely stimulated by Twitty’s thought-provoking words and explanations.
According to TheCookingGene.com, this informative yet entertaining book allows readers to take a journey into the past of the roots of Twitty’s family, soul food, and more. In addition to raising awareness and educating, "The Cooking Gene" is utterly entertaining and inspiring, and you are sure to walk away from this book with an abundance of new info to take into the kitchen and beyond.
Tender at the Bone: Growing Up at the Table by Ruth Reichl
"Tender at the Bone: Growing Up at the Table" is a memoir by Ruth Reichl that is comical, sweet, and full of wit. Though the book is a memoir, the characters are written in a more fictional and fun way that is lighthearted and almost childlike. For example, Reichl refers to her mother as "The Queen of Mold," highlighting the fact that her mom was a known food poisoner and not the most talented chef. All of the characters mentioned in "Tender at the Bone: Growing Up at the Table" have a unique charm to them, and they keep the reader enticed the entire way through.
During a book review for The New York Times, writer Ruth Adams Bronz said, "Ms. Reichl writes with such simplicity — even the recipes included in this memoir are stripped down to their bare goodness — that it’s easy to read along as if we were being sold yet another inevitable-seeming success story. But do not be fooled by the modesty of its style. This is a book about a sturdy child who by overcoming many obstacles and dangers creates herself as a distinguished woman of her own world."
Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life by Barbara Kingsolver, Camille Kingsolver, and Steven L. Hopp
If you’re fascinated by the idea of living off of the grid or being sustainable on your own, you need to read "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life" by Barbara Kingsolver. This book is partially a memoir with contributions from Barbara’s family, and partially an investigation into food and rural living. The story starts when the Kingsolver family decides to abandon the modern ways of living and promises to only grow their own food or buy from a local farm for one whole year.
Nowadays, the family has a farm where you can book a tour through their website. In addition to being intriguing, this book also sheds a light on the importance of healthy eating. Knowing where your food comes from is key to getting important nutrients and vitamins throughout your day, and the Kingsolver family is sure to inspire you to be more aware of what you put into your body.
A Cook’s Tour: Global Adventures in Extreme Cuisines by Anthony Bourdain
The late Anthony Bourdain left an irreplaceable and impactful mark on the food community before his tragic passing. In his book, "A Cook’s Tour: Global Adventures in Extreme Cuisines," Bourdain describes his unique and abundant travels across the globe. In his hit television show, "No Reservations," Bourdain made it very clear that he valued traveling just as much as he valued a good meal, and his book shows just how intertwined those two passions truly were.
The entire basis of his book (and adventures as a whole), is rooted in the question, "What would be the perfect meal?" As he travels across the world, exploring some of the most vibrant and underrated culinary destinations in existence, Bourdain immerses readers in his adventures. Reading this book is a very transportive experience that you wouldn’t want to miss out on.
Relish: My Life in the Kitchen by Lucy Knisley
"Relish: My Life in the Kitchen" by Lucy Knisley is a New York Times bestseller that tells the story of Lucy Knisley’s relationship with cooking and being in the kitchen. Growing up as the daughter of a gourmet chef had a huge impact on how she viewed eating, cooking, and life in general. One thing that allows "Relish: My Life in the Kitchen" to stand out among the crowd is the fact that it is a graphic novel, giving you more visual stimulation as you read.
While writing a review for Comics Alliance, J. Caleb Mozzocco said, "Knisley’s style hits that sweet spot between cartoony and representational, so that everything looks fun and abstracted yet recognizable and utilitarian, and she modulates the degree of realism like a camera coming in and out of focus, to highlight the humor or drama of a situation, or to render something more recognizable when necessary."