Non-cookbooks

For those with an appetite for well-written words, we’ve compiled this year’s most noteworthy books about food—and, since they’re not cookbooks, they don’t require any kitchen competence at all. Put together a stack for the book-lover in your life. Molly Wizenberg’s much-anticipated Delancey was the first subject for Eater’s own book club; Kate Christensen’s Blue Plate Special will console a tender heart; Dan Barber will convince you to save the food world in The Third Plate; and more. —Daniela Galarza

Photo of Food, A Love Story

Food, A Love Story

Jim Gaffigan has spent nearly two decades peppering his stand up act with mentions of his love of food, here he goes deeper into a few pet theories. Find out how the comedian feels about foodies, study his guide to American food geography, and learn about the beauty and oft-misunderstood brilliance of Chicago deep dish-style pizza.

Photo of A Curious History of Food and Drink

A Curious History of Food and Drink

When it comes to food history, writer Ian Crofton managed to single out the silly, the sassy, and the satisfying across geography and time. Aristotle, Catherine de’Medici, little-known Chinese emperors, and Lady Gaga make cameos. Riddles and recipes round out the Trivial Pursuit-ready snippets.

Photo of Anything That Moves

Anything That Moves

Though author and New Yorker staff writer Dana Goodyear’s thesis may be a reach — she makes the case that true “foodies” are thrill seekers at heart, looking for the next exotic, Andrew Zimmern-style experience — her voice and writing are incredibly gratifying.

Photo of Blue Plate Special

Blue Plate Special

Finally, a book that reads like a gut punch to all of those cutesy food memoirs that leave behind a saccharine aftertaste. Kate Christensen’s effortless candor is terrific; the recipes at the end of each chapter add even more heart.

Photo of Delancey

Delancey

How does Orangette blogger Molly Wizenberg bring so much life, clarity, and love to her words without even a teaspoon of twee? This, her second book, outlines what it’s like for a person of sensitive temperament to open a restaurant with your new, somewhat capricious husband. By the end, you’ll feel like one of Wizenberg’s oldest, dearest friends.

Photo of Edible French

Edible French

O.G. food blogger Clotilde Dusoulier of Chocolate & Zucchini has compiled her posts on French food idioms into a playfully illustrated book. It’s worth en faire tout un fromage — making a whole cheese out of it — or making a big to do.

Photo of Eat, Memory

Eat, Memory

Amanda Hesser edited this collection of essays from noted writers and chefs. Read Dan Barber’s admission to fooling an entire dining room when his pride got the best of him, and sink down into the tenderness of Gabrielle Hamilton’s experience in hiring a blind cook.

Photo of One Souffle at a Time

One Souffle at a Time

After years of teaching wealthy housewives how to make Yorkshire Pudding and bavarian creams, noted cookbook author Anne Willan takes stock of her long career. Read it for the camos from great chefs and food personalities Willan worked alongside, including Julia Child, Craig Claiborne, and James Beard.

Photo of Fictitious Dishes

Fictitious Dishes

Photographer Dinah Fried’s meticulously arranged images bring literature’s most famous meals to life in vivid, often witty, frequently hunger-inducing tableaus. Is this actually the ideal coffee table book? We think so.

Photo of Seconds

Seconds

In this graphic novel, Bryan Lee O’Malley puts a flavorful spin on the impatience of youth. What would you do if you could start anew? It’s a read ideal for all ages, but will cut to the bone for anyone inclined to seek a career in the kitchen.

Photo of The American Plate

The American Plate

This easy-to-digest, easily readable reference book is packed with tidbits you’ll soon be spouting to your boss and best friend. History Channel chief historian Libby H. O’Connell’s offers a valuable glance at America’s oldest tradition.

Photo of The Language of Food

The Language of Food

This must-read from Dan Jurasfsky is more than a trivia collection; his deep dive into everything from how menus are written — what makes a dish “sexy”? How do we “feel” food? — to the linguistic history of some of English’s most common words for food will entrance even the most casual eater.

Photo of The Third Plate

The Third Plate

Dan Barber gets on an apple box to tell explain why we’re eating the wrong foods at the wrong times, and why we’re eating too much of certain foods and not enough of others. It’s more compelling than a Michael Pollan lecture; Barber’s a working chef who lives and breathes and serves up his most important directive: that farm-to-table is not enough.

Photo of Whisk(e)y Distilled

Whisk(e)y Distilled

Heather Greene describes herself as a “spirits sommelier,” but her approach to whiskey isn’t so much about formal pomp and circumstance as it is reminiscent of your hip aunt after a drink or two. After reading this book, whiskey will seem less of a mystery and more like a discovery — one that you’ll want to share with old friends and new.

Share Non-cookbooks