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!