10 Non-Cookbooks That Every Foodie Needs To Read

I have a not-so-secret love of cookbooks — though, rarely, do I actually ever use them for their intended purpose: cooking. While I don’t often have the patience to regularly baste a turkey, or babysit a soufflé, or stem enough fresh thyme to meet the requirements of any recipe, what I do have the patience for is curling up with a really great book about food (and, you know, maybe a snack.) I love descriptions of butter browning and crusts turning golden, the edges of Brussels sprouts crinkling in a broiler and freshly grated parmesan melting over marinara sauce. I relish the experience of reading about why the notes of a certain beverage will pair well with a particular fish — even if I never have any intention of procuring said beverage or sautéing said fish myself. Basically, I have an entire shelf of food porn texts in my kitchen — few of which have ever been used for actual cooking. (Julia Child, I’m sorry.)

If you’re a book-loving foodie (or a food-loving bookworm), there’s an entire world of culinary literature out there for the devouring: food memoirs and story-filled cookbooks and biographies of folks who changed the way we eat completely. Here are 10 books every foodie should pick up this year.

'The Food Explorer: The True Adventures of the Globe-Trotting Botanist Who Transformed What America Eats' by Daniel Stone

If the job title “Food Explorer” sounds too good to be true, think again. David Fairchild was, in fact, a late-nineteenth-century food explorer who traveled the world, taking once-regional crops (like avocados, mangos, seedless grapes — basically everything you love in your morning smoothie) global. The Food Explorer by Daniel Stone tells the story of this globe-trotting foodie, whose background in botany is responsible for tons of the fruits and veggies that land on your plate today.

Click here to buy.

'What She Ate: Six Remarkable Women and the Food That Tells Their Stories' by Laura Shapiro

If you’re a foodie yourself, you already know that our relationships with food can be some of the most significant and enduring (think: Grandma’s secret-recipe meatloaf, or Dad’s impossible-to-replicate chili) of our lives. In What She Ate: Six Remarkable Women and the Food That Tells Their Stories, Laura Shapiro looks at the lives of six famous, historical women, including First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, Hitler’s mistress Eva Braun, and the writer Barbara Pym, and explores how the food on their plates can tell the stories of their lives.

Click here to buy.

'No Recipe: Cooking as Spiritual Practice' by Edward Espe Brown

Consider this one your “Zen and the art of cooking” one-stop-shop. No Recipe: Cooking as Spiritual Practice is a collection of essays by chef and cookbook author Edward Espe Brown, each of which read like a meditation on food, mindfulness, spirituality, and the art of cooking and eating in a way that is both artful and reverent.

Click here to buy.

'Give a Girl a Knife: A Memoir' by Amy Thielen

Amy Thielen’s food-filled memoir, Give a Girl a Knife, tells the story of the Thielen’s journey from her grandmother’s farmhouse kitchen in the rural Midwest, to some of the hottest restaurants in New York City, all the way to an off-the-grid cabin kitchen she moved into with her artist husband, as she seeks out the roots of her culinary heritage.

Click here to buy.

'Hippie Food: How Back-to-the-Landers, Longhairs, and Revolutionaries Changed the Way We Eat' by Jonathan Kauffman

If you’re obsessed with whole grain, kale, farm-to-table everything, then Jonathan Kauffman’s Hippie Food: How Back-to-the-Landers, Longhairs, and Revolutionaries Changed the Way We Eat is definitely the book for you. Kauffman's book chronicles how the food movement of the 1960s and 1970s — one that embraced organics, co-ops, and a more communal way of farming and eating — led the way for the food we’re loving in the United States today.

Click here to buy.

'The Monk of Mokha' by Dave Eggers

Perfect for the coffee-loving foodie, Dave Eggers's The Monk of Mokha is the biography of Mokhtar Alkhanshali, a Yemeni American twenty-something man whose passion for his country’s coffee history leads him back to Yemen, where he’s determined to revive Yemeni coffee traditions and bring them back to the United States. That is, until Yemen is bombed by Saudi Arabia, disrupting Alkhanshali’s dreams.

Click here to buy.

'Coming to My Senses: The Making of a Counterculture Cook' by Alice Waters

If you haven’t heard of Alice Waters, it’s time to go back to Foodie 101. She’s the renegade chef and founder of Chez Panisse — the Berkeley-based French restaurant that has been called the most influential restaurant in the United States. In Coming to My Senses: The Making of a Counterculture Cook, Waters charts her early days as a chef and restaurant founder, and takes readers through her evolution as an advocate of organic produce, fresh products, and prix fixe menus.

Click here to buy.

'Knives & Ink: Chefs and the Stories Behind Their Tattoos (with Recipes)' by Isaac Fitzgerald and Wendy MacNaughton

Fun, unique, and beautifully illustrated, Knives & Ink: Chefs and the Stories Behind Their Tattoos (with Recipes) by Isaac Fitzgerald and Wendy MacNaughton takes a decidedly different (closer) view of chefs and the kitchens they reign over. From rural diners to some of the hippest restaurants in the world, Fitzgerald and MacNaughton pay homage to chefs’ most-loved tattoos and the recipes that go with them.

Click here to buy.

'The Brewmaster's Table: Discovering the Pleasures of Real Beer with Real Food' by Garrett Oliver

While you might be familiar with fancy food and wine pairings, what you might not know is that the world of food and beer pairings can be just as decadent — and complex. In The Brewmaster's Table: Discovering the Pleasures of Real Beer with Real Food by Garrett Oliver, the Vice President of Production of the Brooklyn Brewery takes readers behind the scenes of what goes into pairing a dish with the ultimate beer. He also explores the history of the beverage, demonstrating its versatility — perfect for both backyard BBQs and five-star dining.

Click here to buy.

'The Best Cook in the World: Tales from My Momma's Table' by Rick Bragg

If you’re lucky enough to have a mother (or even a grandmother) of your own who is as kitchen-savvy as Rick Bragg’s, then you already know how irreplaceable not only the dishes they make, but the time spent with them in the kitchen, really is. In The Best Cook in the World: Tales from My Momma's Table, Bragg shares the culinary biography of his mother, Margaret Bragg — a woman who somehow made perfect dishes (some handed down by generations since the days before the American Civil War!) without the help of cookbooks or recipes, but by letting tradition and instinct guide her instead.

Click here to buy.