15 scrumptious books every food lover needs to devour

Apr 17 2023, 10:55 pm

For non-food fanatics, reading about eating might seem as pointless as reading about breathing, sleeping, or anything else we do daily. But to a food freak, there’s something special about a book that describes cooking in a way you can taste off the page.

Of course, there are countless food books we couldn’t include, but we chose the (non-cookbook) page-turners every foodie should savour.

Here are 15 books about food and eating, that include memoirs, fiction, history, and even a graphic novel.

Happy reading!

Kitchen Confidential, Anthony Bourdain (2000)

The book that started it all — catapulting Anthony Bourdain into stardom, who started as a cheeky, hard-living chef to become the most beloved food and travel host who forever changed the food TV game by becoming a champion of cultural curiosity.

But even putting aside Bourdain’s legacy and tragic death, this book is a blast, and one that blew the lid off the underbelly of chef life (much like the series The Bear would years later). Bourdain tells it like it is, and makes us forever rethink ordering fish on Mondays or enjoying brunch again. A funny, insightful, and raw book to read and read again

Crying in H Mart, Michelle Zauner (2021)

As if the young Michelle Zauner wasn’t talented enough at making music as Japanese Breakfast, turns out she’s a hell of a writer, too. Crying in H Mart landed in almost every Best Of 2021 book list, and for good reason.

Her touching and engrossing memoir takes us through her struggles as an American-Asian student, her musical journey, and the hole her mother’s death left in her life — all interwoven with Korean food memories and passions. The H Mart and the special Seoul ingredients found within, serve as her saving grace.

The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals, Michael Pollan (2006)

Journalist Michael Pollan knows how to make sprawling topics engaging and a joy to read. He’s written some damn important stuff on food (and now concentrates on the science of psychedelics), but The Omnivore’s Dilemma is his seminal work. It created a lot of buzz when it first came out and still changes the way we think about eating.

Pollan dives deep into the evolutionary, political, environmental, and health factors in what we put on our plates. He traces the details of four meals — from McDonald’s, Whole Foods, a small farm, and his own — and the discoveries are fascinating, scary, a little hopeful, and will make you rethink what you put on your fork forever after.

Like Water for Chocolate, Laura Esquivel (1989)

Not only a book for food lovers, but a literary classic, Like Water for Chocolate is an epic Mexican story that brims with romance, magic, family tension, and most of all, mouthwatering descriptions of food that are often on the sensual side of things.

Pedro falls for Tita from the magical properties of the food she makes, and from there, the book takes readers into the forbidden, strange, and unforgettable path they follow. The descriptions of food and eating will leave you salivating.

Salt Fat Acid Heat: Mastering the Elements of Good Cooking, Samin Nosrat (2017)

Part science textbook, part cookbook, and part memoir, Salt Fat Acid Heat is a revolutionary (and entertaining) read into how to use those four elements for maxim flavour, texture, and balance. Samin Nosrat not only takes the intimidation out of home cooking, but shows how the simple chemistry of salt, fat, acid, and heat can transform any meal into something amazing.

With cool illustrations, 100 recipes, and Nosrat’s funny, easy-going writing style, it’s no wonder this book inspired her Netflix series of the same name. She’s a wonderful teacher and this book will inspire anyone in their own kitchen.

Eat a Peach, David Chang (2020)

David Chang — celebrity chef, a mainstay of food documentaries, and the brains of a restaurant empire that includes the infamous Momofuku — tells his incredible journey from growing up a lonely child of Korean immigrants to making pork buns and kimchi fads New Yorkers clamoured for, wanting inside his happening scene.

But this isn’t a book from a bragging chef. Chang’s memoir is packed with bouts of depression, paranoia, doubt, failure, and humility. You can even sense him apologizing in print to every kitchen member he was a jackass toward. It’s an honest and compelling read.

Garlic and Sapphires: The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise, Ruth Reichl (2005)

Ever wanted to know what it’s like to be a food critic? Ever thought it must be the greatest job on Earth? No one is more qualified to answer those questions than Ruth Reichl, who’s been the food critic for The New York Times, LA Times, and editor-in-chief of Gourmet magazine. Pretty much the most important restaurant critic of her time.

Reichl demystifies the gig completely. With humour, insight, tales of donning disguises, and her favourite reviews and recipes, Garlic and Sapphires is a fun foodie read that shows how amazing and absurd restaurant culture is.

Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal, Eric Schlosser (2001)

Sometimes the truth hurts. This groundbreaking journalistic classic isn’t exactly a witch hunt, but it’s a massive eye-opener to how far fast food’s effects reach and change the world we live in.

Fast Food Nation covers everything your cheap burger and fries have impacted: farming, obesity, advertising, highway culture, exploitation of migrant workers, small businesses, and the environment. It’s the kind of non-fiction you can’t put down and the kind that might make you put down your tray forever.

My Life in France, Julia Child and Alex Prud’homme (2006); Julie & Julia: My Year of Cooking Dangerously, Julie Powell (2005)

We’re grouping these two books as one pick because together, they formed the screenplay for Nora Ephron’s fantastic film Julie & Julia, which ping pongs between Julia Child’s time in France and blogger-turned-author Julie Powell’s attempt to cook one of Child’s French recipes every day for a year.

As separate books, they both stand up. Julia Child’s My Life in France is a sweet memoir about her curiosity about France’s cuisine that led to Child becoming one of the most beloved cookbook authors and TV chefs in history. Powell’s book is worth the read for the sheer determination of her kitchen project, but reviewers mostly agree her blog was a better platform to follow.

Blood, Bones, and Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef, Gabrielle Hamilton (2001)

Anthony Bourdain called this “simply the best memoir by a chef ever.” And you can see how he would take to Gabrielle Hamilton’s personality and style. She’s brash, rants about bogus fads, and comes across as a badass. Blood, Bones, and Butter takes readers from her childhood kitchen lessons to running the beloved NYC restaurant Prune. It’s also a brutally honest look at marriage and a celebration of gathering friends outdoors for delicious food.

Salt: A World History, Mark Kurlansky (2002)

Trust us when we say a history book on the way salt has shaped civilization is un-put-downable. Mark Kurlansky (who wrote similar books on cod and oysters), takes the reader through the ways salt shaped history, from wars and empires to forming cities, religious ceremonies, and cultural change.

This is the kind of book that can make you the most interesting guest at a dinner party, spouting off facts on how salt makes flamingos pink and how the word “salary” comes from the Roman Empire paying its soldiers in salt.

The Man Who Ate Everything, Jeffrey Steingarten (1997)

Professional food writer Jeffrey Steingarten’s best seller is a laugh-out-loud collection of essays that dig into what makes countless dinners. It’s outrageous, meticulous, and its descriptions of food are vivid. From mastering the art of french fries and preparing the perfect turkey skin to tasting “hand-massaged” cows in Japan — it really does seem like the guy ate everything, and for this, we are pretty jealous.

Taste: My Life Through Food, Stanley Tucci (2021)

Most people became aware of actor Stanley Tucci’s Italian roots and passion for food through his visually delicious CNN series Searching For Italy. But way before that his romance with Italian food was evident in the film Big Night, which he co-wrote, co-directed, and starred in. After that, he published a couple of Italian American cookbooks. So it was time to publish a memoir.

Taste tells Tucci’s story of growing up in Westchester, New York, loving family food around the table, and his adventures in film. The guy knows his stuff, and being an award-winning actor, the audiobook, read by Tucci himself, adds an intimate and slick level to the story.

Relish: My Life in the Kitchen, Lucy Knisley (2013)

Graphic novels are finally getting their due this decade and Relish proves some stories are meant to be visual. This memoir follows the key points in Lucy Knisley’s life as the daughter of a chef. She does it through celebrating what she was eating at the time, and each section includes a recipe close to her heart. It’s funny, offbeat, and charming.

Chocolat, Joanne Harris (1999)

You hear it all the time: read the book before you see the movie. But in the case of Chocolat, the movie is so iconic, we forever link the characters to the flawless Hollywood faces of Johnny Depp and Juliette Binoche. But the book is worth the visit.

An uptight village in France gets its sensual and sexual vibe on when a newcomer opens a decadent chocolate shop. We all know that chocolate can lead to love, but this story amps up the horny factor between the two in fantastic ways.

Jordan KawchukJordan Kawchuk

+ Dished
+ Curated
+ Best of