Serious Reads: 5 Food Books We're Loving

Serious Reads

Reviews of food-themed memoirs, beach reads, and histories.

1. Steal the Menu, by Raymond Sokolov

Raymond Sokolov is one of the most esteemed names in food writing. He's written about food and foodways for Natural History magazine and the Wall Street Journal, and served a stint as the New York Times restaurant critic. In Steal the Menu: A Memoir of Forty Years in Food, he discusses his forays into food writing with humility, humor, and insight. His poignant recollections of dining experiences and observations about the industry are well worth a read.

2. Pandora's Lunchbox, by Melanie Warner

Anyone who's been to a grocery store knows that much of the food we find in American supermarkets is packaged, shelf-stable, or preserved. In Pandora's Lunchbox: How Processed Food Took Over the American Meal, Melanie Warner takes us through the history and conception of processed foods. She attends trade shows, observes food chemistry labs, and does her own ad-hoc food experiments to better understand the way science has changed our groceries. Warner's expertise as a business writer provides a unique take on the process of food industrialization.

3. Poor Man's Feast, by Elissa Altman

Elissa Altman writes beautifully and honestly about food, love, and how the two intersect over at her James Beard award-winning blog, Poor Man's Feast. Her new book, Poor Man's Feast: A Love Story of Comfort, Desire, and the Art of Simple Cooking is just as personal, a lovely read about Altman's life-long passion for food. Altman writes deeply about her relationship with her partner, Susan, and with edgy wit about her less-than-supportive, "food-phobic" mother, among other rich characters. As humble and relatable as her blog, Altman's memoir is a reflection on work, love, cooking, and finding the balance between them all.

4. Gaining Ground, by Forrest Pritchard

When a young Forrest Pritchard saw his family's farm falling deep into debt due to the encroaching threat of industrial agriculture, he decided to shift his life's path toward sustainable farming. Gaining Ground: A Story of Farmers' Markets, Local Food, and Saving the Family Farm is a refreshingly farmer-focused story of the struggles and successes of sustainable agriculture. This detailed story of negotiating a farming lifestyle is punctuated with adorable pictures of Pritchard's family and anecdotes that show the power of keeping a family farm alive.

5. Restaurant Man, by Joe Bastianich

As one of the most successful restaurateurs in the industry, Joe Bastianich has shaped New York's Italian landscape for nearly three decades. His bestselling memoir Restaurant Man alternates between stories of his young adulthood in Queens and his prolific career as a restaurant owner. He bluntly shares tips and behind-the-scenes insights into the math and science of restaurants. Though at times a bit crass, Bastianich's book is revelatory about the energy, intellect, and talent required to run a successful restaurant. He speaks from his experience growing up under his mother's training, and from opening and operating over a dozen restaurants with his business partner, Mario Batali.

About the Author:Leah Douglas loves learning about, talking about, reading about, and consuming food. Her other work can be found at her website.