Summer Reading 2014

fresh strawberriesOne of my greatest pleasures during the summer is settling into a cozy seat with a big bowl of cold, fresh, sweet strawberries, and reading a book. Ideally, I’ll have a glass of white wine, too. Maybe a nibble of cheese. And chocolate. But just give me some fruit and a good book, and I’ll be all set.

Last year I made a list of my recommended books for summer reading (and a few years ago I wrote a list of my favorite food books). I’m continuing the tradition since it looks like many of you love to read, too, and I think you’ll enjoy these books as much as I did. Like last year’s list, these books are great for summer reading, for fueling your wanderlust, for expanding your knowledge,  and best of all, for immersing yourself in stories filled with food, love, and inspiration.

Enjoy, and devour.

A Fork In The Road (anthology) – this Lonely Planet collection of stories is the best book for traveling foodies. Everyone says that to really experience a new place and culture, go eat their food, and the writers here certainly did. It’s filled with personal experiences, both legendary and unique. I recommend reading this over a few weeks, instead of cover-to-cover. With each story, I felt like I was getting a delightful taste of a different world.

Pretty Good Number One (memoir) – I already wrote about how much I loved this travel memoir by Matthew Amster-Burton and how it was it was my favorite guide book before I went on vacation to Japan earlier this year. This is such a funny and insightful book, and no doubt it will leave you hungry and make you want to book a plane ticket to Tokyo as soon as possible. Or at least get some good sushi at your local place. I was thrilled when the author commented on my Tokyo blog post!

The Best American Travel Writing 2013 (anthology) – the guest editor for this annual volume is Elizabeth Gilbert and she chose some marvelously written stories. Unlike the Lonely Planet anthology, this is pure, unadulterated travel writing (not necessarily food writing). The writers were able to make their stories come alive, as if with magic, and made me feel like I am actually there with them. There’s a good variety of topics – I loved the stories about running with the bulls in Pamplona, the African man who believed he had the cure for AIDS, and the confessions of a packing maximalist (I’ll leave you guessing if I can relate to that last one or not).

The Husband’s Secret (fiction) – I’ve read another book by Liane Moriarty (What Alice Forgot) and this is similarly engaging. The author is definitely a “chick lit”writer but this book is a little more serious and suspenseful. I like how the characters immediately drew me in, and the entire book actually made me think of how I would react, and how I would want to react, when faced with certain situations. This is a nice, light read with an interesting storyline.

The Dog Stars (fiction) – on the other hand, this book by Peter Heller is not that light. In fact this is the most serious and sobering of my recommended books for this summer. It’s set in a post-apocalyptic world, similar to one of my favorites last year, The Age of Miracles, and it’s equally haunting. As I wrote last year, I find the idea of the end of the world maddeningly scary and yet strangely fascinating. The Dog Stars is written in a jagged, raw, first perspective, and it will only take a few moments before you’re emphasizing with the main character. It’s a very sad but hopeful story.

The Vacationers (fiction) – now this gem by Emma Straub  is the epitome of a summer beach read! It’s fun and light, with the right mix of drama and a beautiful backdrop: the Spanish island of Mallorca. Last year, my wanderlust book was Beautiful Ruins, which made research a trip to the Italian Riviera. This year, it’s The Vacationers that’s imploring me to come back to Spain. I also have a soft spot for family stories, and while the story and the characters may seem predictable (a woman with a gay best friend! a husband with a mid-life crisis! a hot Spaniard!) I thoroughly enjoyed it all.

Delicious! (fiction) – I can’t put out a list of recommended books without including the debut fiction novel of one of my favorite writers of all time, Ruth Reichl (remember when I made her lemon pasta?) This is an entertaining and mouth-watering coming-of-age story, and it looks at the food and magazine world with rose-tinted glasses. It’s not as poetic as her other memoirs but it’s as charming.

What are you reading nowadays? Give me your recommendations!


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