clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

15 Book Recommendations for Food Lovers

Eater-recommended novels and memoirs perfect for food and drink obsessives

If you buy something from an Eater link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics policy.

About once a month, Eater Book Club meets in our Test Kitchen in New York City, bringing readers together to discuss a book that dives into food or drink in some way — whether it’s a memoir, reported non-fiction, any kind of novel, or something different. Here’s a list of the books we’ve read since Eater Book Club got started in 2018. And for more food book recommendations from Eater, check out the best cookbooks for beginners or these books worth gifting.

Editor’s note, April 2020: Eater Book Club is currently online-only. Find out more about book club on Instagram and all of Eater’s virtual events right this way.

Arbitrary Stupid Goal by Tamara Shopsin

Tamara Shopsin grew up in her parents’ store-turned-restaurant in New York’s Greenwich Village, and in this memoir, she chronicles that time and what it was like to grow up as a restaurant kid. Equal parts funny and elegant, told in a loose, non-linear style, Arbitrary Stupid Goal is a perfect snapshot of a New York City that no longer exists. Get it for $9

Burn the Place by Iliana Regan

Restaurateur Iliana Regan’s stunning and beautiful memoir recounts the chef’s life in and out of restaurants — focusing on her family, her addiction, and her identity just as much as the food itself — and traces the path she took to opening her acclaimed Chicago restaurant, Elizabeth. Get it for $17

The Cooking Gene by Michael Twitty

Culinary historian Michael Twitty traces his family’s history — and the history of Southern food culture — in this important memoir. From his ancestors’ home of Ghana to plantations in the South, and from Civil War battlefields to black-owned farms, Twitty’s book shows why it’s so important to have conversations about who food really belongs to. Get it for $15

Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata, translated by Ginny Tapley Takemori

In Convenience Store Woman, title character Keiko Furukura’s life is consumed by the goings-on of the store she’s worked in for all of her adult life. She knows the routines and rhythms, the best way to upsell customers on rainy days and hot ones, how to anticipate customers’ every next move. It’s the only thing she cares about (and, really, the only thing she truly understands) — and everything gets completely out of whack when she tries to leave it and fit in with the outside world. Get it for $11

Cork Dork by Bianca Bosker

Cork Dork is one former tech journalist’s look into the weird, weird world of wine. Bianca Bosker quits her day job and to see if she has what it takes to join the obsessive community of sommeliers and become one of the best in the business. Get it for $11

Gingerbread by Helen Oyeyemi

Helen Oyeyemi’s lyrical and winding novel takes readers into an intricate world full of blink-and-you’ll-miss-it magic, where dolls talk, fictional countries exist (maybe!), changelings walk amongst people. This is a book — about gingerbread, definitely, but also about family and longing — that will throw you for a loop. Get it for $16

Heartburn by Nora Ephron

Rom-com legend Nora Ephron’s semi-autobiographical novel Heartburn is funny and devastating, chronicling the drawn-out breakup of protagonist Rachel Samstat, a cookbook author who discovers her husband is having an affair with a married friend — both couples exist in the same high-profile circle — while she is seven months pregnant with their second child. With recipes, Ephron’s signature dry humor, and the roller-coaster theatrics that comes with any dramatic breakup, this short novel is a page-turner until the very end. Get it for $11

JELL-O Girls by Allie Rowbottom

It’s hard to say no to a book about “a descendant of the Jell-O fortune,” and Jell-O Girls doesn’t disappoint. In this memoir, author Allie Rowbottom weaves a story of a family history funded by the sale of the Jell-O business for $67 million in 1925, switching perspectives between herself, her mother, and her grandmother with ease. What results is a tragedy, mostly — the threat of a family curse looms large in this book, the dark side of the cheery Jell-O fortune — but one that’s told beautifully. Get it for $13

Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain

Anthony Bourdain’s groundbreaking memoir about life inside restaurant kitchens changed the way America thought about the industry when it was published in 2000. Times have changed significantly since then, but the book is still worth reading for fantastical stories from the “culinary underbelly,” told with the wicked-sharp prose Bourdain was known for. Get it for $13

Notes From a Young Black Chef by Kwame Onwuachi and Joshua David Stein

Everyone knows opening restaurants isn’t easy, but nobody chronicles the ups and downs of opening — and what it takes to get there — like chef Kwame Onwuachi. This memoir presents the highs and lows of the chef’s life story, from his childhood in the Bronx and the summer trip to Nigeria that ended up lasting years, to his stint on Top Chef and the deep anticipation (and ultimate downfall) of his first ambitious fine-dining restaurant. This refreshingly candid memoir keeps readers hooked until the very last page. Get it for $16

Number One Chinese Restaurant by Lillian Li

This novel chronicles a family drama complete with secret affairs, arson, and blackmail, told through the everyday ups and downs of multi-generational life in the restaurant business. The vivid descriptions in the book — whether it’s hand-rolling hot duck into pancakes or a relationship that’s gone sour — are what make it special. Get it for $12

PS I Still Love You by Jenny Han

Jenny Han stopped by Eater Book Club in February, right around the time the sequel to instant-classic Netflix film To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before came out, to talk about adapting food scenes, stress baking, and more. (Read an interview with the author here.) Her second book — and the movie adaptation — are filled with quiet, meaningful food scenes. Get it for $6

Save Me the Plums by Ruth Reichl

In this memoir of Ruth Reichl’s days at the helm of now-shuttered but once-preeminent food magazine Gourmet, the famed food writer and critic details what it was like to run a print magazine in the heyday of print magazines, and then see it through until the devastatingly bitter end. The memoir is filled with media-world insights, Reichl-saves-the-day memories, and well-timed recipes. It’s just as juicy as you want it to be. Get it for $18

The Way You Make Me Feel by Maurene Goo

Teenager Clara Shin got in trouble one too many times at school, and now she’s stuck working on her dad’s Korean-Brazilian food truck for the whole summer. Amid missing her always-traveling influencer mom, battling her frenemy on the job, falling in love, and coming to terms with who she is, Clara rolls out dough for kimchi pasteis, makes marinade for grilled picanha skewers, and learns how to take her lombo to the perfect level of crisp. Get it for $9

With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo

Emoni Santiago dreams of being a chef, but as a high school senior with a three-year-old daughter, she knows she has to work twice — or tenfold — as hard to get what she wants. In this stunning follow-up to the slam poet’s National Book Award-winning debut novel, Elizabeth Acevedo’s Emoni — stubborn, witty, and full of talent — chronicles the everyday struggles and wins that come with senior year: college prep, living with grandma, and wanting so badly to achieve your dreams. Peppered through her narrative are tons of cooking and eating scenes, plus her own recipes. Get it for $9

Have a book you’d like to recommend, or want to join the New York mailing list for future book clubs? Email with “Eater Book Club” in the subject line.

Vox Media has affiliate partnerships. These do not influence editorial content, though Vox Media may earn commissions for products purchased via affiliate links. For more information, see our ethics policy.