I’m not sure what it is about the beach (or the lake, pool or hammock) in the summer that gives us the freedom to read strictly for pleasure, but it does. If you don’t want to lug a big cookbook onto the beach or think too hard about our food system by reading The Omnivore’s Dilemma pool side, I’ve got five books for you that feature food and wine that also make great summer reads.

I Feel Bad About My Neck by Nora Ephron. Ephron’s 1983 book Heartburn could also be on this list, but her more recent memoir has an entire chapter devoted to her devotion to certain cookbooks at different times in her life, and her love of cooking is spattered throughout the book. My favorite food piece in the whole book, however, may be her ability to justify buying anything if she can get it to equal the price of a cappuccino.

This usually involves dividing the cost of the item I can’t afford by the number of years I’m planning to use it, and if that doesn’t work, by the number of days or hours or minutes, until I get to a number that is less than the cost of a cup of cappuccino.
The book is not totally devoted to cooking and food – there are a lot of other funny and poignant anecdotes about her life.

Judgment of Paris: California vs France and the Historic 1976 Paris Tasting That Revolutionized Wine by George M. Taber. Did you see the movie Bottle Shock? This book is about the events that happened in that movie -- only the book came out first and tells it like it really happened. Taber, a reporter for Time, was the only journalist to attend the wine tasting. He tells the history of wine in Napa Valley through the stories of the people who made it what it is today as well as the story of the wine tasting that put Napa Valley on the world wine map.

This is probably the heaviest read of the list, but I really enjoyed reading it and I learned so much about wine through his storytelling.

Under the Tuscan Sun by Frances Mayes. Another book that was made into a movie -- and changed a lot along the way. If you’ve seen the beautifully filmed movie starring Diane Lane, you’ll know that food is practically one of the main characters. Mayes, a world traveler and food writer, tells of her adventure of restoring a villa in Tuscany and talks about the Tuscan food throughout the book -- complete with recipes.

Living in a Foreign Language: A Memoir of Food, Wine, and Love in Italy by Michael Tucker. I haven’t read this one yet, I only recently learned of it, but I plan on it being one of my by the pool/beach reads. Michael Tucker and his wife, Jill Eikenberry, both formerly from the TV show L.A. Law, sent their last child off to college and went on vacation in Italy. While there they impulsively buy a 350-year-old stone cottage in the Umbrian countryside. They immerse themselves in the food, wine and art culture, as they fall in love with their new life.

A Year in Provence by Peter Mayle. If you’re only going to choose one of my recommendations from this list, make it this one. I love this book. Month by month, Mayle chronicles his first year living in Provence with his wife. He talks about the renovations to their vineyard home, but he also talks about going to the French markets, the incredible small restaurants where wine is free flowing and food is fresh, learning about his vineyard, and even hunting for mushrooms. You will find yourself missing Provence when you are finished with this book, even if you have never stepped foot in France.

Hmmm… can you tell from this list that I secretly want to live in some villa near a vineyard in a foreign culture that celebrates food and wine as a day-to-day part of their lives? I didn’t realize that this list would say so much about me, but it does.

Do you have any summer reads that would make good additions to this list? Tell us about them in the comments.

Photo: Shayan (USA)

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