Ready for some books you can really sink your teeth into? Today we’ve collected our choice for the 13 best books about food — not cookbooks or recipes, necessarily — but books that celebrate the ritual of eating, or in some way call into question our habits and desires when it comes to food. Experience the highs and lows of food culture with these 13 books from some of our most beloved authors, food critics, and TV personalities.
A Cook’s Tour by Anthony Bourdain: From Japan where he eats traditional fugu, a poisonous blowfish that can only be prepared by specially licensed chefs, to a delectable snack in the Mecong Delta, follow the star of the Travel Channel’s No Reservations as he embarks on a quest around the world to find the ultimate meal.
A Year in Provence by Peter Mayle: It doesn’t get more local than this account of the author’s first year in Provence, where he samples the local cuisine, meets and dines with new, eccentric neighbors, and hunts for truffles in the French countryside.
In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan: Michael Pollan’s book, The Omnivore’s Dilemma, launched a national conversation about the American way of eating; now In Defense of Food shows us how to change it, one meal at a time. Pollan proposes a new answer to the question of what we should eat that comes down to seven simple but liberating words: Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants. Pollan’s bracing and eloquent manifesto shows us how we can start making thoughtful food choices that will enrich our lives, enlarge our sense of what it means to be healthy, and bring pleasure back to eating.
Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer: One of the great literary writers of our time exposes common misconceptions about how animals are slaughtered and processed for food, drawing on sources from ranging from popular culture to national tradition to reveal how the meat industry misrepresents its practices.
Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser: The now classic book explores the homogenization of American culture and the impact of the fast food industry on modern-day health, economy, politics, popular culture, entertainment, and food production.
Meat Eater, Steven Rinella: In a recent post on essential grilling and BBQ cookbooks we featured Steven Rinella’s Meat Eater, and decided his chronicles on hunting and fishing were worth another look. Hunting, Rinella argues, is intimately connected with our humanity; assuming responsibility for acquiring the meat that we eat, rather than entrusting it to proxy executioners, processors, packagers, and distributors, is one of the most respectful and exhilarating things a meat eater can do.
The Raw and the Cooked: Adventures of a Roving Gourmand by Jim Harrison: Along with Rinella’s Meat Eater, we return again to our outdoor cooking blog post, this time from one of America’s most beloved novelists and poets shares his collected essays on food, drink and French cuisine.
My Life in France by Julia Child: A memoir begun just months before Child’s death describes the legendary food expert’s years in Paris, Marseille, and Provence and her journey from a young woman from Pasadena who cannot cook or speak any French to the publication of her legendary cookbooks.
Candyfreak by Steve Almond: A self-proclaimed candy fanatic and lifelong chocoholic traces the history of some of the much-loved candies from his youth, describing the business practices and creative candy-making techniques of some of the small companies.
The Sharper Your Knife, the Less You Cry by Kathleen Flinn: A view from inside Le Cordon Bleu cooking school; A funny, inspiring account of Kathleen Flinn’s struggle in a stew of hot-tempered chefs, competitive classmates, her own “wretchedly inadequate” French, and the basics of French cuisine.
The Bizarre Truth by Andrew Zimmern: The host of Bizarre Foods presents a whimsical exploration of some of the world’s most unusual and taboo foods, explaining what cultural markets reveal about their locales while describing such meals as possum and roasted bats.
The Jungle by Upton Sinclair: Famous for exposing the brutal conditions of Chicago’s stockyards at the turn of the 19th Century, Sinclair brought into sharp moral focus the appalling odds against which immigrants and other working people struggled for their share of the American dream. Denounced by the conservative press as an un-American libel on the meatpacking industry, the book was championed by more progressive thinkers, including then President Theodore Roosevelt, and was a major catalyst to the passing of the Pure Food and Meat Inspection act.
In the enriched Blio eBook edition, features Editor Jonathan Beecher invites readers to go beyond the pages and gain more insight with specially-commissioned additions, including: Chronology; Filmography (and the 1914 The Jungle Film Poster); Early Twentieth-Century Reviews of The Jungle; Suggestions for Further Reading; The Jungle and the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906; The Jungle Book Cover Designs; Federal Food and Drugs Act of 1906; Immigrants and the Meatpacking Industry, Then and Now; Images of the Chicago Stockyards; Images of Cuts of Beef and Pork; and Enriched eBook Notes.
Do you have a favorite book about food and eating culture? Let us know in the comments, and visit us on Facebook and Twitter to continue the discussion.