100 Must-Read Books: Food in Fiction

Food and fiction are two of my favorite things in the world – and when the two combine, it’s magic! (Sometimes literally.) I know I missed many books – I could probably do a second list of 100 – so please leave your suggestions in the comments. Now grab a snack, because this list is going to make you hungry!

FOOD AS MAGIC

  1. Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel – “Tita longs her entire life to marry her lover, Pedro, but can never have him because of her mother’s upholding of the family tradition of the youngest daughter not marrying but taking care of her mother until the day she dies. Tita is only able to express herself when she cooks.”
  1. Magic Bitter, Magic Sweet by Charlie N. Holmberg – Maire can infuse baked goods with emotions and abilities. She’s enslaved by an eccentric and visited by a ghost who slowly helps her uncover past mistakes that yield cosmic consequences.
  1. Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor – “Affectionately dubbed “the Nigerian Harry Potter,” Akata Witch weaves together a heart-pounding tale of magic, mystery, and finding one’s place in the world.”
  1. Chocolat by Joanne Harris – “A small French town is turned upside down by the arrival of a bewitching chocolate confectioner, Vianne Rocher, and her spirited young daughter.”
  1. The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender – On her 9th birthday, Rose discovers she can taste the emotions of people through consuming the food they cook.
  1. The Mistress of Spices by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni – “Tilo, proprietress of the Spice Bazaar in Oakland, California, is not the elderly Indian woman she appears to be. Trained as a mistress of spices, she evokes the magical powers of the spices of her homeland to help her customers.”
  1. The Secret Ingredient of Wishes by Susan Bishop Crispell – 26-year-old Rachel can make wishes come true. When she accidentally grants a wish for the first time in years, she runs away to Nowhere, North Carolina where she meets Catch, who can bind secrets by baking them into pies.
  1. Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen – “In a garden surrounded by a tall fence, tucked away behind a small, quiet house in an even smaller town, is an apple tree that is rumored to bear a very special sort of fruit… the story of that enchanted tree, and the extraordinary people who tend it….”
  1. The Kitchen Daughter by Jael McHenry – “About a woman who discovers she can invoke ghosts by cooking from dead people’s recipes. Julie & Julia meets Jodi Picoult in this poignant and delectable novel with recipes, chronicling one woman’s journey of self-discovery at the stove.”
  1. Pomegranate Soup by Marsha Mehran – “For the inhabitants of the damp little Irish town of Ballinacroagh, the repertoire of gastronomic delights has never extended further than the limp meals of the local inn’s carvery. But things are about to change when three beautiful Iranian sisters arrive, determined to share the magic of their kitchen with the locals.”
  1. Last Call at the Nightshade Lounge by Paul Krueger – “A sharp and funny urban fantasy for “new adults” about a secret society of bartenders who fight monsters with alcohol fueled magic.”
  1. The Restaurant of Love Regained by Ito Ogawa – “Returning home from work, Rinko is shocked to find her flat is totally empty. Gone are her TV set, fridge, and above all, her boyfriend. She has no choice but to go back to her native village and her mother, on which she turned her back 10 years ago. There she decides to open a very special restaurant.”

 

SCI-FI, FANTASY, & MAGICAL REALISM

  1. A Song of Ice and Fire by George R. R. Martin – “Kings and queens, knights and renegades, liars, lords and honest men…all play the ‘Game of Thrones.’” (HBO)
  1. Look to the Sun by Emmie Mears – “Two strangers connected by a shared favourite book find themselves at the centre of their city’s political tragedy that has spanned generations and shaped their lives–and the book that brought them together.”
  1. Sassafras, Cypress & Indigo by Ntozake Shange – “Where there is a woman there is magic. The story of three sisters and their mother from Charleston, South Carolina.”
  1. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams – “Seconds before the Earth is demolished to make way for a galactic freeway, Arthur Dent is plucked off the planet by his friend Ford Prefect, a researcher for the revised edition of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.”
  1. In the Garden of Iden by Kage Baker – “In the 24th century, the Company preserves works of art and extinct forms of life (for profit of course). It recruits orphans from the past, renders them all but immortal, and trains them to serve the Company.”

 

Historical

  1. Feast of Sorrow by Crystal King – “Set amongst the scandal, wealth, and upstairs-downstairs politics of a Roman family, Crystal King’s seminal debut features the man who inspired the world’s oldest cookbook and the ambition that led to his destruction.”
  1. Appetite by Philip Kazan – “Nino Latini is the son of a butcher, but once his unique talent is discovered (he can taste each individual ingredient, even in the smallest quantities, in any dish) he becomes chef to some of the most famous of Renaissance personalities.”
  1. Cinnamon and Gunpowder by Eli Brown – Regency-era pirate Mad Hannah Mabbot breaks with common practice and spares one of her captives, chef Owen Wedgwood, on one condition: each Sunday he must prepare a delicious dinner, despite the hardships of finding decent ingredients on a pirate ship.
  1. John Saturnall’s Feast by Lawrence Norfolk – Lady Lucretia will have none of the suitors her father has chosen for her, and goes on a hunger strike against the engagement. Saturnall is tasked with creating the most delectable dishes possible in order to entice Lucretia to eat.
  1. The Book of Unholy Mischief by Elle Newmark – Orphan Luciano is apprenticed to the doge’s chef in Renaissance Italy. But ingredients aren’t the only secrets the chef is keeping.
  1. The Secret of Magic by Deborah Johnson – “In 1946, a young female attorney from New York City attempts the impossible: attaining justice for a black man in the Deep South.”

 

Contemporary

  1. Confused Spice by Mathis Bailey – “A blossoming relationship between a gay man and his allegedly straight neighbor begins through the art of cooking.”
  1. Baking Cakes in Kigali by Gaile Parkin – “As Angel helps her customers to work through their problems, they, in turn, help her to lay to rest the demons she has buried deep inside until, finally, she is able to face the truth and to achieve a sense of peace.”
  1. The Chocolate Lovers’ Club by Carole Matthews – “Four unforgettable women from totally different worlds form a select group. Whenever there’s a crisis, they meet in their sanctuary, and with a cheating boyfriend who promises he’ll change, a flirtatious boss, a gambling husband, and a loveless marriage, there’s always plenty to discuss.”
  1. Month of Sundays by Yolanda Wallace – “Rachel finds herself on a blind date with Griffin Sutton, the sexy celebrity chef with a reputation for being easy on the eyes but hard on the heart. Griffin decides the best way to Rachel’s reluctant heart is to take her on a culinary trip around the world one Sunday at a time.”
  1. The City Baker’s Guide to Country Living by Louise Miller – “A full-hearted novel about a big-city baker who discovers the true meaning of home—and that sometimes the best things are found when you didn’t even know you were looking.”
  1. Spice by Seressia Glass – “Nadia Spiceland works in the business of temptation. The confections she crafts at the Sugar and Spice Bakery and Café lure in the locals. But one customer is interested in more than just her delectable sticky buns…”
  1. A Bollywood Affair by Sonali Dev – After marrying a second woman, an absent husband sends his brother to finalize the annulment of his first (child) marriage. When he meets Mili, Samir gets more than he bargained for.
  1. State of the Onion by Julie Hyzy – “White House Assistant Chef Olivia Paras—you can call her Ollie—faces challenges aplenty: a heated competition for the soon-to-be-vacant top chef’s job, the sneering antagonism of the president’s newly appointed “sensitivity director” and, of course, the mysterious intruder she unwittingly stops on the White House lawn with a couple of swift blows from a frying pan.” (Publisher’s Weekly)
  1. Soy Sauce for Beginners by Kirstin Chen – “Gretchen Lin, adrift at the age of thirty, moves back to her childhood home in Singapore and immediately finds herself face-to-face with the twin headaches she’s avoided her entire adult life: her mother’s drinking problem and the machinations of her father’s artisanal soy sauce business.”
  1. The Hundred-Foot Journey by Richard C. Morais – “Slumdog Millionaire meets Ratatouille” (The New York Times Book Review) in this “delicious fairytale-like read” (NPR) about family, nationality, and the mysteries of good taste.
  1. Sweet Reality by Laura Heffernan – Jen Reid’s life has been great since she walked off a reality show. But now her bakery is in jeopardy and she has to step back into the spotlight to save it.
  1. Caged in Winter by Brighton Walsh – “A “new adult novel featuring a fiercely independent college senior and the tattooed chef who gets under (and over, and on) her skin.”
  1. Idlewild by Jude Sierra – “A widowed restaurateur falls for a young waiter in a Detroit-set romance with heart, sweat, and tears.” (Kirkus Reviews)
  1. The Edible Woman by Margaret Atwood – “Ever since her engagement, Marian McAlpin can’t eat. Worse yet, while Marian ought to feel consumed with passion, she really just feels … consumed.”
  1. Luck on the Line by Zoraida Cordóva – “When her celebrity chef mother challenges her to finish something, Lucky agrees to help her launch Boston’s next hot restaurant, The Star. Even if it means working with the infuriating, egotistical, and undeniably sexy head chef.”
  1. Under the Cajun Moon by Mindy Starns Clark – “When Chloe is summoned back home after an accident hospitalizes her father, she re-enters the scene to conduct business for her dad and gets framed for murder Cajun-style.”
  1. Crescent by Diana Abu-Jaber – Sirine works in a Lebanese restaurant in Los Angeles. She meets a handsome professor of Arabic literature and starts questioning everything she thought she knew about him and her own identity as an Arab-American.
  1. North to You by Tif Marcelo – “A San Francisco food truck owner gets a second chance with her old flame. He’s helping his parents renovate their Filipino restaurant before he deploys.” (RT Book Reviews)
  1. The School of Essential Ingredients by Erica Bauermeister – “Eight students gather in Lillian’s Restaurant every Monday night for cooking class. It soon becomes clear, however, that each one seeks a recipe for something beyond the kitchen.”
  1. Delicious by Ruth Reichl – When the food magazine she works for shuts down, Billie Breslin is asked to stay behind to man the public relations hotline for recipe inquiries. What she doesn’t know is that this boring, lonely job will be the portal to a life-changing discovery.
  1. Back to the Good Fortune Diner by Vicki Essex – After losing her job in Manhattan, Tiffany Cheung finds herself in her hometown, working at her family’s Chinese diner. The only bright side is that her high school crush is hotter than ever, and he needs her help…again.
  1. The Love Goddess’ Cooking School by Melissa Senate – “When Holly inherits Camilla’s Cucinotta, she’s determined to forget about fortunes and love and become an Italian cooking teacher worthy of her grandmother’s legacy. But Holly’s four students are seeking much more than how to make Camilla’s chicken alla Milanese.”
  1. The Restaurant Critic’s Wife by Elizabeth LaBan – “When Sam is offered his dream job in Philadelphia, his wife, Lila, a young woman who never meant to settle down, is pulled from her familiar career world into a life in a new city as a wife and mother.” (New York Times)
  1. Angelina’s Bachelors by Brian O’Reilly – “Young widow Angelina D’Angelo finds emotional and financial sustenance after her husband’s sudden death by cooking for seven bachelors in her South Philly neighborhood.” (People)
  1. Margherita’s Notebook by Elisabetta Flumeri & Gabriella Giacometti – “Escape to the winding cobblestone streets and rolling hills of Tuscany in this delicious, romantic, and charming tale of irresistible attraction and dreams fulfilled, complete with mouthwatering authentic Italian recipes—perfect for fans of Chocolat and Under the Tuscan Sun.”
  1. Bread Alone by Judi Hendricks – Wynter Morrison rediscovers her passion for bread-making after her husband leaves her for another woman.
  1. The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan – Focuses on four Chinese American immigrant families in San Francisco who start a club known as The Joy Luck Club, playing mahjong for money while feasting on a variety of foods.
  1. When in Doubt, Add Butter by Beth Harbison – “A perfect blend of chick lit and women’s fiction that tells the story of private chef Gemma Craig and her bumpy road to happily-ever-after.” (Publisher’s Weekly)
  1. Sweet Love  by Sarah Strohmeyer – “Once a brilliant local TV reporter, Julie Mueller has been fired for being forty. Broke, divorced, unemployed, and struggling to raise a teenaged daughter alone, she’s given up on happiness — that is until she receives culinary classes for Mother’s Day.”
  1. The Winemakers by Jan Moran – “A young woman. A family secret. A devastating truth that could destroy the man she loves.”
  1. Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler –  “A thrilling novel of the senses and a coming-of-age tale, following a small-town girl into the electrifying world of New York City and the education of a lifetime at one of the most exclusive restaurants in Manhattan.”
  1. How to Cook a Tart by Nina Killham – “Jasmine March is a larger-than-life celebrity chef whose sumptuous food is so wickedly delicious that she’s just been dumped by the television networks for having too many calories in her recipes. Meanwhile her husband’s having an affair and her daughter hardly eats at all.”
  1. Burning Down George Orwell’s House by Andrew Ervin – “A darkly comic debut novel about advertising, truth, single malt, Scottish hospitality—or lack thereof—and George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four.”
  1. How to Bake a Perfect Life by Barbara O’Neal – “In a novel as warm and embracing as a family kitchen, Barbara O’Neal explores the poignant, sometimes complex relationships between mothers and daughters—and the healing magic of homemade bread.”
  1. Comfort Food by Kate Jacobs – “Shortly before turning 50, TV cooking show personality Augusta “Gus” Simpson discovers that the network wants to boost her ratings by teaming her with a beautiful, young new co-host.”
  1. Serving Pleasure by Alisha Rai – “A fun, sexy story with a tortured artist hero and a strong, sassy heroine who isn’t afraid to ask for what she wants.” (Roni Loren)
  1. Kitchens of the Great Midwest by J. Ryan Stradal – “A young woman with a once-in-a-generation palate becomes the iconic chef behind the country’s most coveted dinner reservation.”
  1. The Coincidence of Coconut Cake by Amy E. Reichert – “You’ve Got Mail meets How to Eat a Cupcake in this delightful novel about a talented chef and the food critic who brings down her restaurant—whose chance meeting turns into a delectable romance of mistaken identities.”
  1. The Wedding Bees by Sarah-Kate Lynch – “When Sugar Wallace arrives in Manhattan with nothing but a beehive, a secret past and a taste for good manners, life starts to change for the dispirited occupants of 33 Flores Street.”
  1. Julia’s Chocolates by Cathy Lamb – “From the moment Julia Bennett leaves her abusive Boston fiance at the altar and her ugly wedding dress hanging from a tree in North Dakota, she knows she’s driving away from the old Julia, but what she’s driving toward is as messy and undefined as her own wounded soul.”

 

MG & YA

  1. The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart by Stephanie Burgis – Aventurine is a brave young dragon determined to prove herself to her family. She’s tricked and transformed into a human, then takes an apprenticeship at a chocolatier.
  1. The Truth About Twinkie Pie by Kat Yeh – Sisters GiGi and DiDi win a national cooking contest, move to Long Island, and face a new school with new friends and enemies, a first crush, and family secrets.
  1. Taste Test by Kelly Fiore – Nora Henderson competes in a teen cooking reality tv show. Mysterious accidents, an annoyingly charming contestant, and a high-society roommate complicate the contest.
  1. Maybe in Paris by Rebecca Christiansen – “When Keira’s brother disappears from their hotel room during their trip to Paris Keira realizes, too late, that her brother is sicker than she was willing to believe. To bring him home safe, Keira must tear down the wall that Levi’s sickness and her own guilt have built between them.” (YA Interrobang)
  1. My New Crush Gave to Me by Shani Petroff – Charlie plans to rig Secret Santa to win Teo’s heart, but as she spends more time with his cousin, she starts to wonder if she really knows who she wants for Christmas.
  1. The Sin Eater’s Daughter by Melinda Salisbury – Twylla, as a goddess embodied, can kill men with her touch. She’s engaged to the Prince, who’s immune to her touch, but new hope arrives in the form of a new guard.
  1. Under a Painted Sky by Stacey Lee – “A much needed multicultural look at the Oregon Trail, with resourceful, smart, and brave Chinese American and African American girls as main characters.” (School Library Journal)
  1. You’re Invited and You’re Invited Too by Jen Malone and Gail Nall – Four twelve-year-old best friends start their own party planning business in their beach town and find themselves dealing with everything from runaway birthday dogs to a hurricane that threatens a bridezilla’s wedding.
  1. The Harry Potter series by JK Rowling – A boy discovers he’s not only a wizard, but the Chosen One.
  1. A la Carte by Tanita S. Davis – “Lainey, the only daughter of a California restaurateur, has only one ambition: She dreams of becoming the African-American, vegetarian answer to Julia Child—complete with televised cooking show.”
  1. Hit by Delilah S. Dawson – “In order to save her mother, a teen is forced to become an indentured assassin in this sizzling “movie ready” (Kirkus Reviews) dystopian thriller.”
  1. From Where I Watch You by Shannon Grogan – Kara is about to realize her dream of becoming a professional baker by participating in a national baking competition. But the past holds many secrets, and they come to light as Kara faces an anonymous terror: Someone is leaving her handwritten notes.
  1. The Wrath & The Dawn by Renee Ahdieh – “A lush, hypnotic, swoony re-imagining of the “Arabian Nights” framing story.” (Kirkus Reviews)
  1. The Wish Granter by CJ Redwine – “An epic, romantic, and action-packed fantasy inspired by the tale of Rumpelstiltskin, about a bastard princess who must take on an evil fae to save her brother’s soul.”
  1. Between Two Skies by Joanne O’Sullivan – “Hurricane Katrina sets a teenage girl adrift. But a new life — and the promise of love — emerges in this rich, highly readable debut.”
  1. Conviction by Kelly Loy Gilbert – “When 16-year-old Braden Raynor’s father is arrested for a hit-and-run accident that leaves a police officer dead, every hidden secret is dragged into the light.” (Kirkus Reviews)
  1. Bittersweet by Sarah Ockler – “From the author of Twenty Boy Summer, a teen pushes the limits to follow her dreams—and learns there’s a fine line between bitter and sweet….”
  1. Sweetly by Jackson Pearce – “As a child, Gretchen’s twin sister was taken by a witch-like monster in the woods. Ever since, Gretchen and her brother, Ansel, have felt the long branches of the witch’s forest threatening to make them disappear, too.”
  1. How to Make Out by Brianna Shrum – Sixteen-year-old Renly poses as a “certified expert” and starts a how-to blog to answer all of life’s questions.
  1. The Timekeeper by Tara Sim – “In an alternate Victorian world controlled by clock towers, a damaged clock can fracture time—and a destroyed one can stop it completely. It’s a truth that seventeen-year-old clock mechanic Danny Hart knows all too well; his father has been trapped in a Stopped town east of London for three years.”
  1. Redwall by Brian Jacques – “Redwall Abbey, tranquil home to a community of peace-loving mice is threatened by Cluny the Scourge – the evil-one-eyed rat warlord – and his battle-hardened horde of predators.”
  1. Silver Phoenix by Cindy Pon – “On the day of her first betrothal meeting–and rejection–Ai Ling discovers a power welling deep within her.”
  1. The Summer My Life Began by Shannon Greenland – “Elizabeth Margaret has always known what her life would contain: an internship at her father’s firm, a degree from Harvard, and a career as a lawyer. The only problem is, it’s not what she wants. So she jumps at the chance to get away and spend a month with the aunt she never knew.”
  1. Charmed Vengeance by Suzanne Lazear – “When her true love, Steven, is forced to break their magical bond, Noli Braddock decides to join her brother on the crew of the airship Vixen’s Revenge.”
  1. Pig Park by Claudia Guadalupe Martinez – “Fifteen-year-old Masi Burciaga faces her last summer at Pig Park, a once-thriving Chicago neighborhood abandoned when its largest employer moved to China. With her family’s bakery headed for bankruptcy and her parents headed for divorce, Masi and her friends assume the challenge of building an enormous pyramid on the park green.”
  1. Where Futures End by Parker Peevyhouse –  “A collection of five time-spanning, interconnected novellas that weave a subtly science-fictional web stretching out from the present into the future, presenting eerily plausible possibilities for social media, corporate sponsorship, and humanity, as our world collides with a mysterious alternate universe.”
  1. Rump: The True Story of Rumpelstiltskin by Liesl Shurtliff – “A fresh riff on the Grimm Brothers’ ‘Rumpelstiltskin’ told with wit from the impish point of view from the troublemaker himself.” (People Magazine)
  1. Kissing Max Holden by Katy Upperman – “Will Jill follow her heart, and allow their kisses to blossom into something more, or will she listen to her head and stop kissing Max Holden altogether?”
  1. Gabi, A Girl In Pieces by Isabel Quintero – “Gabi Hernandez chronicles her last year in high school in her diary: college applications, Cindy’s pregnancy, Sebastian’s coming out, the cute boys, her father’s meth habit, and the food she craves. And best of all, the poetry that helps forge her identity.”
  1. Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli – “Twelve-year-old Jeffrey becomes a legend when he performs extraordinary deeds while struggling to survive in a community divided by racial boundaries.”
  1. To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han – Lara Jean, instead of admitting her crushes, wrote each boy a letter, sealed it, and hid it in a box under her bed. One day Lara Jean discovers that somehow her secret box of letters has been mailed.

 

Children’s Books

  1. Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs by Judi and Ron Barrett – “Chewandswallow is a place where the food falls from the sky. Instead of rain or snow they get hot dogs and a drizzle of soda, or peas and carrots! Things started going wrong in Chewandswallow though and the weather went nuts!”
  1. Baking Day at Grandma’s by Anika Denise – “Three effervescent bear cubs bundle up and journey through a wintry landscape to Grandma’s cozy cottage for a day spent making treats, sipping hot cocoa, and sharing hugs.”
  1. Cora Cooks Pancit by Dorina Lazo Gilmore, Illustrated by Kristi Valiant – “Cora loves being in the kitchen, but she always gets stuck doing the kid jobs like licking the spoon. One day, however, when her older sisters and brother head out, Cora finally gets the chance to be Mama’s assistant chef.”
  1. Goldy Luck and the Three Pandas by Natasha Yim, illustrated by Grace Zong – “In this Chinese American retelling of “Goldilocks and the Three Bears,” a careless Goldy Luck wreaks havoc on the home of a family of panda bears.”
  1. The Pigeon Finds a Hot Dog! by Mo Willems – “The Pigeon finds a hot dog and is about to eat it when he is interrupted by The Duckling who is curious and full of questions.”
  1. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl – “Willy Wonka’s famous chocolate factory is opening at last! But only five lucky children will be allowed inside. And the winners are: Augustus Gloop, Veruca Salt, Violet Beauregarde, Mike Teavee, and Charlie Bucket, Our Hero, a boy who is honest and kind, brave and true, and good and ready for the wildest time of his life!”

 

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