Summer Reading

This year, my summer days are filled with both healthy eats and indulgences, strawberries and sweet wine, sun and seafood, and plenty of ice cream. My summer days (and nights) are also filled with reading.

I already wrote a list of some of my favorite food books, and today I want to give you more suggestions.  The books below aren’t just food related (although I do read and write an awful lot about  it); I’m also sprinkling in some other books that I really enjoyed.  The food books are all memoirs, and the others are incredible works of fiction.

Like my previous list, these are great for summer reading, for discovering new recipes, for expanding your knowledge,  and best of all, for immersing yourself in stories filled with food, love, and inspiration.

Enjoy, and devour.

Blood, Bones & Butter (memoir) – I admit that I was initially bored by Gabrielle Hamilton but after a few chapters, I was enthralled by the author’s honesty and humor. This gives an inside peek into a chef’s life, but it’s not just a story about food and cooking. It’s also about family and relationships and how one’s youth shapes adult lives. Hamilton is the chef/owner of Prune in New York and she not only made me want to book a table there, but after reading this book, she also has me eating prosciutto sandwiches with olive oil and “a smear of cool waxy butter.”

The Age of Miracles (fiction) – I was hooked as soon as I read the book’s description on Amazon: “the world is ending not with a bang so much as a long, drawn-out whimper.” Author Karen Thompson Walker weaves a coming-of-age tale about a dystopian world where the Earth’s rotation gradually slows down, resulting in longer days and nights and disrupting cosmic rhythms.  I find the idea of the end of the world maddeningly scary and yet strangely fascinating, so I couldn’t put down this book.  The characters and premise of the book are really haunting and moving at the same time.

My Life from Scratch (memoir) – this was written by Gesine Bullock-Prado, professional pastry chef and author (and Sandra Bullock’s sister!) It’s the story of how she left her Hollywood career and started over by opening a bakery. It’s a treat to read the poignant stories of her family and friends interwoven with tempting recipes. I’ve always believed that the best things to eat are the foods that we share with and remind us of our loved ones, so it was really heart-warming to read this book.

Where’d You Go, Bernadette? (fiction) – this is a fun and light novel by Maria Semple. Even the cover art of the woman with the huge sunglasses immediately made me think of easy summer reading. It’s the story of how a woman suddenly vanished, so her daughter compiles all sorts of clues to try and find her. And yet, it’s not all light and laughter. The book is both dark and funny, kind and nasty, sharp and sweet.

Poor Man’s Feast (memoir) – reading just one entry at Elissa Altman blog made me realize that this is someone who can write beautiful prose.  That same trait is exhibited in her memoir, filled with so much simplicity and authenticity.  It was enchanting to read about her upbringing and her gastronomical obsessions.  The author and I are vastly different from each other, and yet I find her stories so relatable.  I think it’s mostly because what she wants – what we all want – is universal: family, love, and something to bring it all together.

The Night Circus (fiction) – I’ve been recommending this book by Erin Morgenstern to friends who say, “I want to read something new / I don’t care what genre as long as it’s good.” Yes, it is about a magical night circus and the story of the two young magicians, so it may not be for everyone. But it is one of the most captivating books I’ve read. This is certainly one of those books to lose yourself into, as you dive in to the dazzling world of fantasy. (I also particularly liked that one of the main character’s name is Celia, which is my mom’s name.)

Beautiful Ruins (fiction) – I’ve had this novel by Jess Walters on my Amazon wish list for nearly a year, and I want to kick myself for just reading it this month. This was wonderfully written and superbly romantic. It’s a fifty-year long story, and the author languidly switches back and forth between Italy in the 60s and present-day Hollywood. I had vivid images of the Ligurian Sea on my mind and as soon as I finished the book, I literally started researching a trip to the Italian Riviera. This has all the elements of the most perfect beach read: celebrities, love, drama, action, and a breath-taking coastline.

My Berlin Kitchen (memoir)the author, Luisa Weiss of The Wednesday Chef blog, immediately struck a chord with me when she wrote about living in a diaspora, of living and being in two countries but neither fully belonging.  I found great comfort in her writing and can relate to her journey of finding herself.  The book is essentially a tribute to German food and the city of Berlin, brimming with colorful stories and mouth-watering recipes. As someone who experiences the profound emotions that connect food with memories, and someone who considers two countries to both be home, this has become one of my favorite books to date. As the author so aptly said, “Distance means nothing when your kitchen smells like home.” 

What have you been reading lately? I’d love to hear about your recommendations in the comments section!


23 Responses to “Summer Reading”

  1. #
    Monica posted July 24, 2013 at 9:13 am

    Maybe I should’ve given Blood, Bones…more of a chance. I read a bit of it and stopped…but to be fair, I’d been reading a ton of food memoirs and I think I needed something different. Thanks for these recommendations. Have you read ‘School of Essential Ingredients’? I loved it. There’s also a follow-up book to that called ‘The Lost Art of Mixing’ that was good, though I liked the first more. Hope all is well!

    • #
      Bianca Garcia posted July 24, 2013 at 9:43 am

      I usually take a break from all the food memoirs too, then I come back rejuvenated :) I’ll check out School of Essential Ingredients, thanks!

  2. #
    Kathy posted July 24, 2013 at 10:06 am

    If you liked Where’d You Go, Bernadette? I recommend the Gillian Flynn books (Gone Girl, Sharp Objects, Dark Places), they’re a little bit darker than Bernadette but fantastic and twisty in the same way.

    • #
      Bianca Garcia posted July 24, 2013 at 10:24 am

      I LOVED Gone Girl!! Waayyyy better than Bernadette :) As soon as I finished reading Gone Girl, I went back to the first page and started reading it all over again. I haven’t checked out her other books though, thanks for the recommendations!

  3. #
    Amy @ Elephant Eats posted July 24, 2013 at 10:44 am

    I’m going to have to mark these down! I haven’t had much time to read lately, since my commute has shortened at my new job. I really miss having a good read on the way to and from work.

    • #
      Bianca Garcia posted July 24, 2013 at 10:47 am

      My pleasure :) There’s nothing like losing myself in a book during my commute – it really makes it fly by!

  4. #
    Megan posted July 24, 2013 at 10:46 am

    I loved Blood, Bones, and Butter. I’d also recommend Spoon Fed.

    • #
      Bianca Garcia posted July 25, 2013 at 11:07 am

      Spoon Fed going on my Amazon wish list now! Thanks!

  5. #
    Rhonda (@diningalone) posted July 24, 2013 at 11:19 am

    I love reading and I am always looking for new books and authors to check out, thanks for the reviews.

  6. #
    val posted July 24, 2013 at 6:28 pm

    I love a good read. Thanks for sharing.

  7. #
    Amy (Savory Moments) posted July 24, 2013 at 8:05 pm

    Thanks for this! I am always looking for new books to read. I actually just picked up The Night Circus at the library the other day. I haven’t started it yet though.

  8. #
    Meghan posted July 24, 2013 at 8:22 pm

    Great list! I need to plan a day of reading on the beach this summer.

  9. #
    Michelle posted July 24, 2013 at 10:04 pm

    Oh, thank you, Bianca! I am just starting to work on my vacation reading list (we go on vacation in the fall). The only one of these I’ve read is Hamilton’s, which I loved. And do go visit Prune next time you’re in the city—it’s my favorite and most-visited NY restaurant.

    • #
      Bianca Garcia posted July 25, 2013 at 11:09 am

      I just looked at the Prune menu – everything looks sooooo good! Now I just need to plan a NYC trip :)

  10. #
    Joanne posted July 25, 2013 at 6:47 am

    I’ve had so many of these on my to-read list but I’ve been reading Let the Great World Spin and it’s fabulous but taking me forever!

    • #
      Bianca Garcia posted July 25, 2013 at 11:11 am

      I’ll check out that book, thanks!

  11. #
    Sarah Mitus posted July 25, 2013 at 5:24 pm

    I just finished “Tell the Wolves I’m Home” for my book club! I didn’t think I was going to like it at first, but I was of course crying by the end of it. I really enjoyed it and I wasn’t expecting to when I began.

    • #
      Bianca Garcia posted July 26, 2013 at 11:20 am

      Sarah, that has been on my to-read list for months, too! I’ll pick up a copy soon. Hope all is well in SF! xo

  12. #
    Sam @ The Second Lunch posted July 26, 2013 at 9:11 am

    I love Blood, Bones and Butter – even better as a book on tape because she reads it herself. She’s a fantastic human! (Also, her sister Melissa is one half of Canal House, so, good genetics). I went to Prune this year for my birthday – Bianca, you’d love it. So much whimsy, paired with simple, perfect execution. (We had a glorious salad with all sorts of fresh crunchies, a soft shell crab sandwich slathered with fresh mayo on baguette, a side of French fries – not on the menu as a stand alone, but they gave me them anyway, wonderful strawberry milk for dessert…and the BEST weird New Yorkers next to us to eavesdrop on.

  13. #
    Erica @ In and Around Town posted July 26, 2013 at 12:32 pm

    I read the Night Circus over a year ago and I still think about it – love that book! Thank you for finally convincing me to read beautiful Ruins – it has been sitting on my Amazon list for awhile now.

    • #
      Bianca Garcia posted July 26, 2013 at 12:44 pm

      You’re gonna love Beautiful Ruins!

  14. #
    Lily @ Life, Love, and Cupcakes posted August 6, 2013 at 10:41 am

    I’ve been seriously slacking on my summer reading, partially because no book has been able to keep my interest (which is a serious first for me!). I definitely have to agree with you about The Night Circus, COMPLETELY captivating!! I also loved Where’d You Go, Bernadette?..such a perfect summer read!

  15. #
    Molly Galler posted August 16, 2013 at 5:09 pm

    Where’d You Go Bernadette and The Night Circus are both on my list. You should try Instructions for a Heat Wave and Sisterland. Both so good!

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