Foodie Reads


Here is an ongoing list of what I call “Great Foodie Reads.”  You will see some of the “classics,” but hopefully you will be able to find something new.  This list contains fiction, non-fiction, and maybe a cookbook or two.  You might be surprised by a few of my selections.

Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen
As I read this novel, I had flashes of To Kill a Mockingbird, In the Garden of Good and Evil, and even some vague reminders of Flannery O’Connor. Put this all together with a botanical twist and you have Garden Spells. I was certainly un…

Sweeter off the Vine: Fruit Desserts for Every Season by Yossy Arefi
The cookbook is divided into seasonal sections featuring produce from each. The “Spring” section starts out with herbs, rhubarb, strawberry and cherries. “Summer” contains recipes for stone fruit and berries; “Fall” includes grapes, apples, …

Twain’s Feast: Searching for America’s Lost Foods in the Footsteps of Samuel Clemens by Andrew Beahrs
Twain’s early days in New Orleans begin with his arrival with little more than $9 in his pocket and an ambition to become a river boat pilot on the bustling Mississippi. Beahrs continues to trace Twain’s later voyage, not as a pilot, but…

Scarlet Feather by Maeve Binchy
I am sure that you are all familiar with Binchy, the Irish treasure who wrote over thirty works including novels, short stories, non-fiction and one play. I read her Circle of Friends way back in 1990 and I know that my mother is fond of…

Medium Raw: A Bloody Valentine to the World of Food and the People Who Cook by Anthony Bourdain
My husband knows that I would run away with Anthony Bourdain if I had the chance.

The Shape of Water by Andrea Camilleri
This book, set in Italy about a police detective, reminded me of House of Cards because of the intrigue and power struggles depicted in the novel. All of the political wrangling in The Shape of Water really did remind me of what was bein…

Death by Darjeeling by Laura Childs
You see, I just don’t like mysteries. I am too impatient as a reader. I want immediate gratification. I want it solved now! Needless to say, I often skip to the last part so I can figure out who did it. But not with DbD. Not to soun…

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
It really took me a while to pick up any of Collins’ books. I mean, really, it was all adolescent literature. Then I picked it up. I picked it up and couldn’t put it down. I was amazed I loved it so much (and I am reading the second i…

Home Cooking: A Writer in the Kitchen by Laurie Colwin
I found this book humorous but melancholy. I kept thinking about Colwin’s sudden death at such a young age. Perhaps (not perhaps—most assuredly) it has something to do with an approaching birthday that inches me toward the age of forty-e…

Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler
I really, really wanted to LOVE this book. I had heard about it on NPR and ordered it immediately. It took me three months to read it. Maybe it was because I couldn’t identify with the main character, only referred to as Little One, …

A Thousand Days in Tuscany: A Bittersweet Adventure by Marlena de Blasi
I am a sucker for the continuation of De Blasi’s story. (See A Thousand Days in Venice in my Foodie Read list).

The Lady in the Palazzo: At Home in Umbria by Marlena de Blasi
I was on a de Blasi OCD binge for a while and read EVERYTHING. I cannot pick my favorite and some may find her style and voice a bit insipid, but I love her style, language, and descriptions of all things Italian (including the food).

A Thousand Days in Venice by Marlena de Blasi
“It’s about loving your life and treating the life with the respect it deserves. Even when it is hard… and it is hard a lot.”—Marlena de Blasi (quoted from a Polish interview)

Minnesota’s Bounty: The Farmers Market Cookbook by Beth Dooley
I received this book as a gift from a relative who lives in the North Country. Although I am not a frequent visitor to any Minnesota farmers market, I do visit my local markets religiously.

The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh
The Language of Flowers is a cross between White Oleander (because of the foster care system depiction) and Garden Spells (because of the power of the flowers).  Besides the flowers, there’s lots of food (some because of the food deprivation the main character experiences as a child).

Funny in Farsi: A Memoir of Growing Up Iranian in America by Firoozeh Dumas
I love reading memoirs. Dumas’ book is funny, but it is also bittersweet as she and her family try to continue their life in America during the fall of the Shah and the Iran hostage situation. She found humor in what I imagine were some …

Heartburn by Nora Ephron
I think I have dark sense of humor and cutting sarcasm. I cannot hold a candle, however, to the dark, sarcastic, snarky humor in Heartburn by the late Nora Ephron. Along with the sarcasm, though, there are sweet and telling quotes like t…

Stir: My Broken Brain and the Meals That Brought Me Home by Jessica Fechtor (to-read) 

The Art of Eating by M.F.K. Fisher
I had purchased Fisher’s The Art of Eating a few years ago when I realized I could not be a quintessential foodie without having read her works. I was excited for another opportunity to delve into her delicious wit and revisit “How to Co…

Burnt Toast Makes You Sing Good: A Memoir of Food and Love from an American Midwest Family by Kathleen Flinn
“Burnt toast makes you sing good,” is a saying that Flinn’s grandmother would use. It exemplifies the hardships of Flinn’s family and the practicality of a grandmother who didn’t waste anything. Flinn’s memoir is full of practical recipe…

Insatiable: Tales from a Life of Delicious Excess by Gael Greene
Quite the read! Not to ruin anything for anybody, but did she really sleep with Elvis, Clint Eastwood and Burt Reynolds? Greene really tracks the current foodie fanaticism from the early 80s to today.

Soup Swap: Comforting Recipes to Make and Share by Kathy Gunst
I usually don’t read introductions to cookbooks, but Gunst’s description of how this book came to be is an interesting read. Faced with an unreasonably harsh and long New England winter, Gunst found herself having soup for breakfast, lu…

The Secret Book of Frida Kahlo: A Novel by F.G. Haghenbeck
A fictionalized version of Kahlo’s weird and wonderful life, complete with recipes from her “secret book.”

Sugar Rush: Master Tips, Techniques, and Recipes for Sweet Baking by Johnny Iuzzini
Super sweet recipes from an energetic chef.  My favorite thus far is the cumin flavored butternut squash brownies.

Unbound by Steph Jagger
Jaggers sets out on a physical quest: to follow the snow across North and South America, Asia, Europe, and New Zealand in order to ski four million vertical feet. Her time frame is one year.  There’s lots of calorific food needed to ski this many miles.

The United States of Arugula: The Sun Dried, Cold Pressed, Dark Roasted, Extra Virgin Story of the American Food Revolution by David Kamp
“Food is anything that nourishes the body.” –Fannie Farmer

Certainly at one time in American history, this quote was correct. Food was sustenance and little more. Time had to be taken to eat, but when early colonists, settlers and pione…

Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving by Judi Kingry
Best canning and preserving book ever! The harissa sauce recipe is outstanding! As is the spicy Thai dipping sauce. This is not just a jelly and jam book!

The Dinner by Herman Koch
Dark and deeply disturbing, this is one of those books I couldn’t put down. Kind of like a train wreck you know is coming, Koch sets the wheels in motion of a wreck that will destroy many lives.

The 3000-Mile Garden: An Exchange of Letters on Gardening, Food, and the Good Life by Leslie Land
Two distinct voices emerge from this nonfiction work, the prim and proper Englishman who writes about his garden in sentimental terms and the brash New Englander who comments on leeks making her fart! What a pair.

August: Osage County by Tracy Letts
I like to describe the Weston clan as a dysfunctional family squared on crack. If you thought Joan Crawford was a monster mother in Mommy Dearest, be prepared to meet Violet Weston, the mother of all monster mothers. (Be forewarned, ther…

Victuals: An Appalachian Journey, with Recipes by Ronni Lundy
Victuals by Ronni Lundy is less of a cookbook and more of a beautifully photographed history of Appalachian food culture. Although the book contains eighty recipes, I loved reading the introspective essays.

Life from Scratch: A Memoir of Food, Family, and Forgiveness by Sasha Martin
Martin currently resides in Tulsa so that is why I initially picked up her book.  She writes more of her early formative tragic years and how that shaped where she is today—a mother, wife and food blogger.

The Feast Nearby: How I lost my job, buried a marriage, and found my way by keeping chickens, foraging, preserving, bartering, and eating locally by Robin Mather
In this book of essays, Mather describes how she put her life back together while living in a tiny vacation property (before tiny houses were in).   She is plain spoken and practical.

The Baker’s Daughter by Sarah McCoy
Definitely a book within a book (and then some).  I would even hasten to say that there were more than two plot parallels here or at least there were more plot twists that kept me page flipping.

Bon Appetempt: A Coming-of-Age Story by Amelia Morris

The Unprejudiced Palate by Angelo Pellegrini
Angelo M. Pellegrini was an Italian immigrant who spent his formative years growing up in Tuscany. His family was poor and he foraged and scrounged and worked hard as a youth, gathering mushrooms and manure to help make ends meet.

Julie and Julia: 365 Days, 524 Recipes, 1 Tiny Apartment Kitchen: How One Girl Risked Her Marriage, Her Job, and Her Sanity to Master the Art of Living by Julie Powell
Is there anyone who hasn’t read this yet?

That Old Ace in the Hole
 by Annie Proulx
“You know how far Texas stretches here….it ain’t nothing but yonder.”

I loved this rambling book of panhandle history and panhandle characters.

The Apprentice: My Life in the Kitchen by Jacques Pépin
The Apprentice struck me as a testament to how Pépin figures into the cultural literacy of the United States, his adopted home. From HoJo’s to cooking for some of the most politically influential figures of the 20th century, he tells his story with self-deprecating humor and insight.

Comfort Me with Apples: More Adventures at the Table by Ruth Reichl
I have read everything of Reichl’s and I rue the day that Gourmet went away. I admire Reichl. I admire that she had the gumption to not only live in a communal ramshackle dwelling in Berkeley but that she also rubbed shoulders with Alice Waters. I admire the way she jumped at the chance to become a food writer and restaurant critic, first for New West and then on to the LA Times and finally settling in at the NY Times. Ultimately, Reichl is probably best known as the final editor at Gourmet. I admire her gumption and ability to live life to the fullest, even when that gets her into trouble.

Yes, Chef: A Memoir by Marcus Samuelsson
Samuelsson’s memoir reminded me a lot of The Apprentice: My Life in the Kitchen by Jacques Pépin. Both books are an honest telling about a chef’s passion for food and life. Both chefs do not hesitate to highlight their mistakes and short…

The Blue Chair Jam Cookbook by Rachel Saunders
For the most innovative preserve recipes with the most beautiful pictures, pick this one up.

Blue Chair Cooks with Jam & Marmalade by Rachel Saunders
I love the Blue Chair Jam Cookbook so I jumped to order this one when it came out. Besides, I believed that this book would give me lots of ideas on how to use all my jams in cooking.

Toast by Nigel Slater
I read this book after seeing the film version. After reading Toast, I wanted to swoop in and adopt the boy of Slater’s childhood. His mother dies at a young age and his emotionally distant father soon marries a woman that Slater can’t…

Tomorrow There Will Be Apricots by Jessica Soffer
I would really like to give Tomorrow There Will Be Apricots three and a half stars. I think Soffer’s mastery of descriptive language is superb. “Black lines were under his nails as if he’d scraped off all the words of a book, page by page, by page”…

something to food about: Exploring Creativity with Innovative Chefs by Ahmir Questlove Thompson
I was drawn to the cover of this book for a couple of reasons. As a child I was fascinated with the 16th century painting by Giuseppe Arcimboldo of Rudolf II of Habsburg.  This book is intelligently written and photographed beautifully.

Outlaw Cook by John Thorne
Thorne had me hooked in the preface. As he wrote about the fact that he “couldn’t have too many recipes,” I knew I was reading the words of a kindred spirit. I, too, am a hoarder of recipes, cookbooks, clippings, and I am constantly find…

The Color of Tea by Hannah Tunnicliffe
What a lovely book—truly lovely. I loved that Grace found her way in Macau and created her own extended family through her friends and employees.  loved that Grace found her true being in a foreign land with foreign customs, tastes, a…

The Preservation Kitchen: The Craft of Making and Cooking with Pickles, Preserves, and Aigre-doux By Paul Virant
I would probably give this a four star-star rating EXCEPT this was my first kindle cookbook. I won’t do that again. Some of the recipes are pretty extensive and cover multiple pages. There was much page scanning.  The tomato jam recipe is to die for!

A Place at the Table by Susan Rebecca White
Do you like a good traditional pound cake recipe and inspired Southern cuisine? Do you like a novel with Southern charm (and that Southern Gothic element as well)? What about a good quirky character ensemble?

A Homemade Life: Stories and Recipes from My Kitchen Table by Molly Wizenberg
I first became aware of Molly Wizenberg from her column in Bon Appetit. (Of course, those more hip than myself knew Molly early on from her blog, Orangette.)   This was one of the first food-memoirs I read and I will always have a soft spot in my heart for Wizenberg.  (And, she grew up in Oklahoma!)

The Wurst of Lucky Peach: A Treasury of Encased Meat by Chris Ying
Written in the snarky, humorous style of the periodical Lucky Peach.


Please contact me at if you have recommendations for adding to this list.

For full reviews and other “to-reads,” please visit my Foodie Reads shelf at GoodReads:

Debra’s bookshelf: foodie-reads

A Homemade Life: Stories and Recipes from My Kitchen Table
it was amazing

I first became aware of Molly Wizenberg from her column in Bon Appetit. (Of course, those more hip than myself knew Molly early on from her blog, Orangette.)I remember our first meeting well.

It was the Summer of 2008 and I read about…

The Secret Book of Frida Kahlo: A Novel
it was amazing

In my very early twenties, I was exposed to Kahlo’s works at an exhibition at SMU. I was enthralled.I had never seen anything so weird or wonderful.

Since that time and long ago art exhibit, I have been fascinated with the life and w…

it was ok

I really, really wanted to LOVE this book. I had heard about it on NPR and ordered it immediately.It took me three months to read it.

Maybe it was because I couldn’t identify with the main character, only referred to as Little One, …

something to food about: Exploring Creativity with Innovative Chefs
it was amazing

I was drawn to the cover of this book for a couple of reasons. As a child I was fascinated with the 16th century painting by Giuseppe Arcimboldo of Rudolf II of Habsburg.Does anyone else remember this painting from their old set of Ch…


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