Food is more than just sustenance for the body. The act of preparing food is sustenance for the soul. It is a great feeling to take various ingredients, carefully prepare them, and turn them into a wonderfully delicious meal one can enjoy in the coziness of home. Cook books, celebrity chef biographies, culinary mysteries, and novels with a culinary twist are just some of the places where ideas and recipes are found and where culinary curiosity is explored. If you’re a real foodie and want to indulge your palate without touching your wallet or your waistline, a novel can be a great place to start. These books will help to educate and inspire you, whether you’re a novice cook or a chef. So check out a few of these reads to feed your brain and whet your appetite for great food tales.
Read through these books to get a culinary and literary education all in one.
Popular Literature with Food Themes
These books are fun, interesting and filled with food.
Eat cake: a novel by Jeanne Ray: In this story, a mom’s ability to bake delicious treats is one of the few things that keeps her sane when dealing with a chaotic family.
The school of essential ingredients by Erica Bauermeister: The characters in this story join to take a cooking class, but as the novel progresses it becomes clear that they’re all looking for something more than just good food.
The cupcake queen by Heather Hepler: Check out this book about a young girl whose life starts to change when she works in her mother’s cupcake shop.
Chocolat: a novel by Joanna Harris: Focused on a sumptuous chocolate shop in a small town, this novel pits the sinful delights of chocolate against the will of the church.
Bone in the throat by Anthony Bourdain: Better known for his work hosting travel shows, many don’t know that Bourdain has actually written a couple novels. This, one of his first, blends culinary delights with mafia violence and intimidation.
Fried green tomatoes at the Whistle-Stop Cafe: A Novel by Fannie Flagg: While many may be familiar with this book from the movie made of it, the story it tells is filled with Southern charm, wit, heartbreak and life centered around a small café.
Sweetbitter: a novel by Stephanie Danler: A lush, raw, thrilling novel of the senses about a year in the life of a uniquely beguiling young woman, set in the wild, seductive world of a famous New York City restaurant.
The quilter’s kitchen: an Elm Creek quilts novel with recipes by JenniferChiaverini: The Quilter’s Kitchen follows Anna’s flavorful explorations of the kitchens of Elm Creek Manor, past and present. As she records beloved recipes and creates original dishes seasoned with love, she discovers anew how the gifts of the table gather friends and family ever closer.
Food proves to be the way to the heart in these romantic tales.
Crescent by Diana Abu-Jaber: This novel focuses on a young Iraqi-American as she cooks in a Lebanese restaurant, struggles with family and finds love.
Little Beach Street Bakery: Little Beach Street Bakery Series, Book 1 by Jenny Colgan: Little Beach Street Bakery is the story of how one woman discovered bright new life where she least expected.
If you’d like to cook along with your reading, check out these books.
Like water for chocolate: A Novel in Monthly Installments with Recipes, Romances, and Home Remedies by Laura Esquivel: Forced to prepare the wedding dinner for the marriage of the man she loves to her sister, this poignant tale will keep you reading and hungry until the end.
The debt to pleasure: a novel by John Lanchester: Check out this sensuous book for recipes and nearly erotic descriptions of the pleasures of eating and food.
Heartburn by Nora Ephron: With recipes sprinkled throughout, this novel tells about the heartbreak of a cookbook writer when she discovers her husband is having an affair while she is seven months pregnant, based on Ephron’s real-life marriage breakup.
Hell hath no curry: a Pennsylvania Dutch mystery with recipes by Tamar Myers: Three days before he’s due to tie the knot with Priscilla Livengood, eligible bachelor Cornelious Weaver suffers a massive heart attack-in another woman’s bed.
The crepes of wrath: a Pennsylvania Dutch mystery with recipes by Tamar Myers: The mystery surrounds a local cook who is found poisoned to death by a bad batch of crepes
Custard’s last stand: a Pennsylvania Dutch mystery with recipes by Tamar Myers: A brand-new mouthwatering mystery with all the right ingredients (Mostly Murder), including hilarious heroine Magdalena Yoder.
The recipe box: a novel with recipes by Viola Shipman: Growing up in northern Michigan, Samantha “Sam” Mullins felt trapped on her family’s orchard and pie shop, so she left with dreams of making her own mark in the world. But life as an overworked, undervalued sous chef at a reality star’s New York bakery is not what Sam dreamed.
A catered Thanksgiving: a mystery with recipes by Isis Crawford: Whipping up Thanksgiving dinner can be stressful for anyone, but that goes double for the Field family. Everything has to be perfect, or they risk getting cut out of dominating patriarch Monty’s lucrative will.
These novels create a mystery around food, dining and cooking.
A body to die for: a Savannah Reid mystery by G. A. McKevett: In this installment of PI Savannah Reid’s adventures, she is on the hunt for the killer of a philandering husband with a diet guru at the main suspect.
Cream puff murder: Hannah Swensen Mystery Series, Book 11 by Joanne Fluke: Protagonist Hannah Swensen must go on a diet due to the treats she’s been eating at her bakery, but when she joins a local gym she finds much more than weight loss.
Chocolate to die for by JoAnna Carl: Follow along as a chocoholic tries to solve mysteries in this set of two novels.
Death of a chef: Capucine Culinary Mystery Series, Book 4 by Alexander Campeon: Police Judiciaire Commissaire Capucine LeTellier takes a frantic call from Cecile, her best friend, Cecile has just bought a fabulously expensive vintage Louis Vuitton steamer trunk at the Paris Flea Market. She’s horrified to find the trunk contains the naked body of a man who seems to have blown his head off.”
The vintage caper: Sam Levitt Series, Book 1 by Peter Mayle: Mayle is known for his tales of life in Provence, and while this tale begins in LA, it will take readers on a trip to some of the greatest wine regions of France in search of the stolen wine.
Agatha Raisin and the quiche of death by M.C. Beaton: Bored, lonely and used to getting her way, Agatha enters a local baking contest. Surely a blue ribbon for the best quiche will make her the toast of the town. But her recipe for social advancement sours when Judge Cummings-Browne not only snubs her entry, but falls over dead!
Dying for chocolate: Goldy Bear Culinary Mystery Series, Book 2 by Diane Mott Davidson: Meet Goldy Bear: a bright, opinionated, wildly inventive caterer whose personal life has become a recipe for disaster. She’s got an abusive ex-husband who’s into making tasteless threats, a rash of mounting bills that are taking a huge bite out of her budget, and two enticing men knocking on her door.
These books are fun reads about the culinary world.
Animal, vegetable, miracle: [a year of food life] by Barbara Kingslover: In this book, readers can hear about novelist Kingslover’s experiments with growing organic food in her own backyard.
My life in France by Julia Child: The enchanting, bestselling memoir by America’s most beloved chef, My Life in France is being reissued to coincide with the movie based on Julia Child’s life, starring Meryl Streep. Illustrations throughout.
The apprentice: my life in the kitchen by Jacques Pepin: Tells the story of his rise from a frightened apprentice in an exacting Old World kitchen to an Emmy Award-winning superstar who taught millions of Americans how to cook and shaped the nation’s tastes in the bargain. (eBook)
The French chef in America: Julia Child’s second act by Alex Prud’Homme: The French Chef in America, follows Julia Child in her return to America, on becoming the celebrity chef that we welcomed into our homes in the 1960’s with her show “The French Chef”, and her evolution in the culinary world until her death in 2004.