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13 scrumptious summer food reads to take you from kitchen to hammock

Perfect books for food lovers, from fiction to Kitchen Confidential.
Summer food books: fiction and non-fiction books from Margaret Atwood (The Edible Woman) to Anthony Bourdain's Kitchen confidential

It’s summer vacation and time to crack open a paperback (or your ebook) stretch out the legs and find a shady nook to settle in for some foodie escapism.

We’ve put together a reading list filled with drama in NYC dining rooms, mastering technique in the French countryside and kitchen stories filled with romance, tears and triumph (and even the gripping history of butter — slippery yes, but also gripping.)

Check out our picks for best summer food books:

Kitchen Fiction – Summer food reads

Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler, $22.

If there’s an “it girl” on this list it’s Sweetbitter, the story of Tess, 22, who comes to NYC to escape her small town and lands a gig working front-of-house at one of the city’s top restaurants (a thinly disguised Union Square Café). What follows are life lessons in wine, love, drugs and food (both upscale and off-the-grid).

Summer food reads: Sweetbitter, by Stephanie-Danler.

Blood Bones & Butter by Gabrielle Hamilton, $19.

Crowned one of the best books of the year when it was released, Gabrielle Hamilton’s memoir takes you on an epic adventure. You may know her as the owner of Prune in NYC but her story begins in her childhood home in New Hope, Pa., where she learns to cook, forage and use food scraps from her French mother. Continuing through to the kitchens of Italy, Greece and France the journey is culinary, personal (the story of her marriage) and a frank look at the realities of being a woman in a male-dominated industry.

Summer food reads: Blood Bones and Butter, by Gabrielle Hamilton.
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Butter:  A Rich History by Elaine Khosrova, $32.

Butter is boss, says Elaine Khosrova in her exploration of its rich history — from an accidental invention to evolution as a staple of cuisine. If you’re curious about the butter bogs of Ireland, the sacred butter sculptures of Tibet or butter’s role in everything from spirituality to politics, this is the book to curl up with (or use as proof that your butter addiction is a sign of intellect).

Summer food reads: Butter: A Rich History, by Elaine Khosrova.

Delancey: A Man, A Woman, A Restaurant, A Marriage by Molly Wizenberg, $21.

Grab a glass of Chianti and vicariously open your own pizza restaurant by reading Molly Wizenberg’s memoir.  Wizenberg is the creator of the blog Orangette and her book tells the story of the decision to pursue a culinary dream (her husband’s) which almost caused a crisis in her marriage.  You can reap the benefits of their struggles: she peppers the book with the simple-but-delicious recipes they ate while opening the restaurant, which sustained them during the insanity that the project ultimately became.

Summer food reads: Delancy, a Memoir. A man, a woman, a restaurant, a marriage. By Molly Wizenberg

Give a Girl a Knife by Amy Thielen, $35.

Amy Thielen is a James Beard award winning cookbook author and the host of The New Midwestern Table on the Food Network. Her food memoir takes us from her childhood in rural Minnesota to the fine dining kitchens of NYC where she worked for chefs such as Daniel Boulud and Jean-Georges Vongerichten. She is driven back to her roots by her grandmother’s tales of cooking in the family farmhouse, and eventually realizes that her nostalgia for the simple things in life and cooking (gravy vs demi-glace) are too hard to resist.

Summer food reads: Give a Girl a Knife, by Amy Thielen.
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What She Ate by Laura Shapiro, $36.

A short but fun read (provides time for napping and reading). What She Ate, available on July 25, is Shapiro’s take on six famous women through the lens of food and cooking. They include Eleanor Roosevelt (first lady), Eva Braun (Hitler’s mistress) and Helen Gurley Brown (famed Cosmopolitan editor).

Summer food reads: What She Ate, by Laura Shapiro.

Life On The Line by Grant Achatz and Nick Kokonas, $19.

Grant Achatz was at the height of his success as one of America’s greatest chefs when he was diagnosed with stage IV tongue cancer. The aggressive radiation and chemotherapy left him unable to taste, and he trained his kitchen crew at the award-winning resto Alinea in Chicago to mimic his palate. Meanwhile, he relearned to cook using his other senses.

Summer food reads: Life, on the line by Grant Ashatz.

My Kitchen Year by Ruth Reichl, $40.

When Gourmet was shuttered in 2009, the closure sent shockwaves through the industry and its sudden demise also rocked the life of its editor-in-chief, famed NYT’s food critic and acclaimed food writer Ruth Reichl.  This book is an easy-but-emotional read through the year that followed — Ruth also includes the recipes she cooked that year which became the basis of this book, and the summer section will take your you straight from reading to recipe list.
TIP: Buy this, if only for the easiest, most delicious apricot pie recipe in the world. It will become a staple.

Summer food reads: My Kitchen Year, by Ruth Reichl.
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My Life in France by Julia Child, with Alex Prud’homme, $18.

Today, we know Julia Child as a culinary legend, but at one time she was in a place that may be familiar; a woman looking for a career fit, and one who didn’t actually learn to cook until her mid-30s. My Life in France is her autobiography and chronicles the famous first meal that opened her mind to the wonders of French cuisine. It also celebrates her journey as she wrote Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Above all, it is a love letter to France, to her husband and to the life she loved in her adopted country.

Summer food reads: My Life In France, by Julia Childs.

My Mother’s Kitchen by Peter Gethers, $39.

Peter Gethers’ mother, Judy Gethers, discovered a passion for cooking in her 50s and, in time, became friends with some of the most well-known chefs in the U.S.A. (including Wolfgang Puck). She also taught cooking alongside Julia Child. When Judy suffered a debilitating stroke in her 80s, Peter grew closer to his mother over the meals they shared until he, who  grew up appreciating food and wine but never knowing how to cook, decided he wanted to learn so he could cook his mother the meal of her dreams. A memoir about family and the meals that bind us — comfort food for a rainy day indoors.

Summer food reads: My Mother's Kitchen: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner and the meaning of life

Notes on a Banana by David Leite, $34.

The candid memoir of David Leite, creator of the James Beard award-winning website Leite’s Culinaria, tackles the subjects of growing up and learning to accept himself. He struggled through mental illness and accepting his sexual identity, all while navigating his family and taking solace in cooking.  Julia Child and a Viking stove named “Thor” helped get him through his struggle with mental illness. If you’d pick up a book by David Sedaris or Augusten Burroughs, you’ll want to tuck this one into the beach bag.

Summer food reads: Notes on a Banana, by David Leite.
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The Edible Woman by Margaret Atwood, $21.

Crushing on Canadian icon Margaret Atwood?  Perhaps you need a break from A Handmaid’s Tale and its anxiety-inducing narrative.  Atwood’s 1969 novel tells the story of a young woman named Marian, who goes from being a consumer in society to identifying with the things being consumed. Sure, there are “themes to be explored” but there’s also a funny, witty narrative to carry you away.

13 scrumptious summer food reads to take you from kitchen to hammock

Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain, $20.

If you’re taking a break from Netflix and Chill (because the damn streaming signal is sh&%$ at the cottage) then wean yourself off  Parts Unknown and No Reservations by getting back to where it all began. Kitchen Confidential not only launched Anthony Bourdain into the spotlight, it was a seminal book that changed food writing forever with its no-hold-barred exporation of the kitchen underbelly.

13 scrumptious summer food reads to take you from kitchen to hammock

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