Summer might be a month away, but our local pool opens this weekend, and for me, it's the beginning of summer. It’s time to start making reading lists. Every year, I share with you some fun reads for food lovers. These aren’t cookbooks or books about what’s wrong with our food system. These are books with food (or wine) as a theme that are a bit breezier to read as you sit poolside, lying on the grass in the park, or soaking in the sun at the beach.


If you’re looking for a book like that, here are my suggestions.


  1. The Tenth Muse: My Life in Food” by Judith Jones. This memoir by food editor Judith Jones is wonderful. The book follows her life, mostly through her experiences with food, from childhood to present day. She grew up with bland American food (garlic was not allowed in her home — it was considered alien and vulgar) yet made it a point in her childhood to eat as much flavorful, exciting food as she could get her hands on. While living in France she started writing, and later editing, food pieces, and food became a major part of her life. She’s the woman who made sure that Julia Child’s “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” finally got published. Like many food memoirs that span decades, there’s a lot of history to be gleaned, both political and gastronomic, from the stories told. There are also great recipes at the end of the book collected through a lifetime of eating well.
  2. The Drops of God” by Shin and Yuko Kibayashi. I’ve already written about this Japanese Manga series (Stocking stuffers for wine lovers) that teaches about wine and has had a profound effect on wine drinking in Japan. In this fictional series of graphic novels, Kanzaki Shizuku learns that to receive his inheritance from his recently deceased father, he must compete against a smug wine critic who his father legally adopted only a week before his death. The books take you though the competition, and while Shizuku learns about wine, the readers do, too. The first four books in this series have been translated into English, giving you plenty of fun reading material for the summer.
  3. Tender at the Bone” by Ruth Reichl. Former Gourmet magazine editor Reichl’s first food memoir (she’s written several books) takes us from her childhood (where her mother often served foods that made people ill) through her early days in Berkeley as part of the beginnings of the organic food movement there in the 1970s, to her education in food and wine by some of the biggest influencers of the day. There’s a lot of personal information about her family and marriage. She’s led quite a life, and readers get to experience it with her through her memories and her recipes.
  4. Lucky Peach magazine. I’m throwing you a curve ball here. This quarterly food magazine that debuted last year is always a great read from cover to cover. Last summer, I asked if the magazine was worth the $10 cover price, and concluded after reading the first issue that it was. After devouring issues two and three, I stand by that conclusion. Very few advertisements and very long feature pieces make this food magazine read more like a book than a cooking magazine, but you will learn some techniques and find some great recipes, too.
  5. My Kitchen Wars” by Betty Fussell – I always include at least one book on my summer reads list that I haven’t read yet. This book is on my list to read this summer. This is one of those food memoirs that I’m hoping will teach me about the history of America through the story. The jacket cover says “Fussell pries open the past, giving voice to a generation of women whose stories were shaped but nonetheless silenced by an era of domestic strife and global conflict, from World War II to Vietnam.” I’m looking forward to what there is to learn.

Bonus book

While not a book that revolves around food, Paul Reiser’s “Familyhood” was one of the most enjoyable books I read over the past year. Actor and comedian Reiser (“Mad About You”), tells some serious stories about his family with wonderful humor and simply some funny stories about his family. His boys are roughly the same age as my boys, making the truths he reveals about parents and children even funnier. The book made me laugh out loud several times and even brought a tear or two to my eyes.


If there aren't enough ideas for you here, visit my lists of summer reads from previous years.



Are there any food-centric books on your summer reading list? What are they?


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

5 summer reads for food lovers: 2012 list
As summer planning moves into overdrive, don't forget to plan some time outside with a good book.