Many cooks like to read a cookbook as if it were a novel. You'll find us propped up in bed at night with a hefty tome on our knees (like this one) or leafing through a smaller, lighter version (like this one) in the bathtub. For us, cookbooks are as captivating and entertaining as any wander through the moors or dive into the deep blue sea.
But on occasion we also like to read about food, discovering interesting science and botanical facts about the ingredients we use every day, exploring their history and impact on civilization. Or we may enjoy reading about the lives of people who love to cook as much as we do. Read on for a few recommendations for books for cooks that aren't cookbooks!
An Extravagant Hunger by Anne Zimmerman $17.10
This biography of M.F.K. Fisher focuses on a very rich and productive time in Fisher's life, her 'passionate years' in France and Switzerland. Zimmerman spent months sifting through Fisher's letters and papers to create a vivid portrait of a complex and extraordinary person.
Mycophilia: Revelations from the Weird World of Mushrooms by Eugenia Bone $17.15
If you eat mushrooms, then this book is for you. This is a nicely balanced look at the science and botany of mushrooms as well as the sometimes wacky world of mycology and the cast of characters who inhabit it. Fascinating and entertaining!
An Everlasting Meal by Tammar Adler $15.01
This actually is more of a cookbook, but it's mostly written in prose, so it reads like a novel or memoir. Ms. Adler coaxes and encourages us to be relaxed, experimental and at ease in our kitchens and cooking. I especially appreciated her advice to precook a lot of vegetables and store them in the refrigerator.
Extra Virginity: The Sublime and Scandalous World of Olive Oil by Tom Mueller $15.57
In just one generation, olive oil has gone from being a somewhat special and exotic cooking oil to a kitchen staple in many American homes. What country produces the best oil? And is it really as pure as we think it is? Best to be informed about this most precious of ingredients.
The Table Comes First: Family, France and the Meaning of Food by Adam Gopnik $15.85
With his usual wit and charm, Adam Gopnik explores the history behind and meaning of our modern obsession with food and encourages us to also focus on our human connections as well as our taste buds.
Tomatoland: How Modern Industrial Agriculture Destroyed Our Most Alluring Fruit by Barry Estabrook $10.88
If you read this book, you will never buy a tomato in winter again, or look at the classic 'supermarket; tomato in the same way. And that's a very, very good thing.
Blood Bones and Butter by Gabrielle Hamilton $15.60 and Life, on the Line by Grant Achatz $14.62
Two very different chefs who run two very different restaurants. Both are extremely hard working and devoted to their craft, but struggle with their personal lives. Achatz's struggle with tongue cancer is legendary but Hamilton's attempts to reconcile her personal relationships are also compelling.
The Best Food Writing 2011 edited by Holly Hughes $10.77
A yearly compilation of the best of food writing. Makes a great stocking stuffer or casual gift!
Related: Book Review: The Dirty Life by Kristin Kimball