Welcome to my third annual list of summer reads for food lovers. This has become one of my favorite annual posts.

When I’m lying in the sun enjoying a book, I don’t want to be leafing through the pages of a cookbook or being educated about how conventionally grown crops are destroying the environment; I want to be entertained by a rich story.

I find travelogues and memoirs to be great summer reads because I'm able to immerse myself in stories about real people, food and culture all while vicariously traveling — even if I’m in my own back yard. If you like a lighter (but by no means dumbed down — you’ll learn a lot from these books) read in the summer, I’ve got five suggestions for you.

  1. "As Always, Julia: The Letters of Julia Child and Avis DeVoto" edited by Joan Reardon – I reviewed this book for you earlier this spring. It’s one of those books that make it difficult to decide what to read next because you just want more of the book you just finished. The letters between Julia Child and her confidant and friend Avis DeVoto chronicle the often-painful journey of getting “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” published as well as the personal, public and political life of the two women and their husbands. You’ll fall in love with these two friends all while learning some political, culinary and publishing history.
  2. "Round Ireland with a Fridge" by Tony Hawks – I debated about whether to include this book on the list. It’s a great book, but food isn’t the emphasis (although there is plenty of food and drink peppered throughout the story). In the end, I decided I needed to recommend this book that made me laugh out loud at times. Tony Hawks is a comedian from England. After a few too many pints one night, he made a bet with a friend that he could hitchhike around Ireland in one month accompanied by a dorm-sized refrigerator. The book tells the story of how he did just that and how the people of Ireland embraced his crazy trek. It’s funny, thought-provoking at times, and a tribute to the good-hearted people of Ireland.
  3. "Beyond the Pasta: Recipes, Language & Life with an Italian Family" by Mark Leslie – Mark Leslie did something that’s going to make you jealous. He spent a month of his life living with an Italian family for a full-immersion cooking and language program. He took language lessons from one family member, cooking lessons from the Nonna of the family, and Italian life and culture lessons from all the family and their friends. His book details each day of his month living with the family in Viterbo, Italy, a city 70 miles northwest of Rome. It reads like a daily diary with a bonus recipe at the end of each day. You’ll be licking your lips at the descriptions of daily gelatos and pizza bianco, dreaming that it was you in the kitchen with Nonna making Sicilian Rice Balls or Bean and Onion Bruschetta, and reaching for your smartphone on the beach to scour the Internet for discount flights to Italy while you’re reading this book.

    The next two books are on my personal summer reading list. I haven’t read them yet.
  4. "How to Eat a Small Country" by Amy Finley – Amy Finley won season three of “The Next Food Network Star,” was given her own cooking show, “The Gourmet Next Door,” and walked away from it after six episodes. Her new television career was destroying her family. To save their marriage, she and her husband moved their family to France where they used the dining table to repair the damage done to their family. Although I haven’t read this book yet, I’m already thinking that I’m going to end up admiring Finley immensely.
  5. "The Sweet Life in Paris" by David Lebovitz – I picked this book up last weekend at the book table at BlogHer Food because it looks like a perfect book to read by the pool. Lebovitz was a successful pastry chef and cookbook author who decided to move to Paris, and as the back of the book says, “he soon discovered it’s a different world en France.” With chapters about the most important words to know in France, dining like a Parisian, dressing like a Parisian, and finding balance in the chocolate shop, I’m very much looking forward to living vicariously in this different world through Lebovitz, the same way I’ve lived in Provence through David Mayle. I also can’t wait to dive into some of the recipes at the end of each chapter. Bacon and Blue Cheese Cake? Wow! I might have to make that one this weekend.
If there aren’t enough options for you here, check out my summer reading lists for 2009 and 2010. Happy reading!

Robin Shreeves ( @rshreeves ) focuses on food from a family perspective from her home base in New Jersey.

5 summer reads for food lovers: 2011 list
While you're soaking up the sun, enjoy stories of lives immersed in food while you learn a little about other cultures, history and cooking.