Monday, January 5, 2015

Switching Gears: Best Foodie Lit Books I've Read In 2014

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As we begin the new year I thought I'd take a different direction with my post today. I know, this is a food-based/recipe blog, but you might not know that I am an addicted reader too. This year I set a goal to read 100 books, something I haven't accomplished since before my 2 1/2 year old daughter appeared on the scene, and I actually met the goal!

A lot of what I read this year spanned 3 major genres: foodie lit, contemporary fiction (which I don't usually get into) and fiction/fantasy (including urban fantasy). I read some fantastic books this year and have set another goal to read 100 books in 2015. I thought I'd take a few minutes and share with you my top 6 "foodie lit" books that I read in 2014.

1. Out To Lunch (Stacey Ballis) I fell in love with this author's books when I read "Good Enough To Eat" in 2010. Since then I've hunted down all of her books and read them, eagerly awaiting the next novel. This one definitely didn't dissapoint. 

I first found her books through one of my favorite chick lit/memoir authors, Jen Lancaster, and I what I love most about Ballis' books are how engaging she makes each character. Within 10 pages I'm always hooked, relating to the female lead and disappointed when the book ends just because I want to find out more about their story. She always includes recipes in her novels and be sure to check out her blog for even more:

2. Kitchen Chinese (Ann Mah) I hadn't read any of Ann Mah's writing until I picked this book up. It had been languishing on my "to read" list for far too long, so I decided to dive in. I wasn't sure if I would really get into it, but as I kept reading I found myself intrigued by a culture I was formerly unaware of. 

Mah has such a unique perspective on life and food culture, being a Chinese-American woman on the outside of her expected culture. I loved learning more about authentic Chinese cusine through her eyes and also enjoyed a second book of hers I picked up this year: Mastering The Art of French Eating. Mah also has a blog, so check it out:

3. Julia's Chocolates (Cathy Lamb) Switching gears a little, this is more of a chick lit book with some foodie elements thrown in. The characters are vibrant, there's a romance thrown in. It has that great relational tone like the Ya Ya Sisterhood books and the Hot Flash Club books. It was a quick read, but an enjoyable one, and who can resist chocolate?

4. Delicious! (Ruth Reichl) This author may be my favorite foodie lit author so far, I fell in love with her writing when I picked up Garlic & Sapphires in 2011 (was published in 2006) and quickly started hunting down all of her other books. Tender At The Bone and Comfort Me With Apples were also fantastic reads and I couldn't wait to read her latest book this year. 

Delicious! is quite a departure from her other works, as it is a novel rather than a memoir, but she didn't dissapoint. The framework of the novel and the characters dipping in and out of the past and present was remarkably well-handled, never losing the reader. I highly recommend all of Reichl's books to anyone who loves food and rich character development. She also has a blog she updates regularly with recipes, so make sure to take a look:

5. Hungry Monkey (Matthew Amster-Burton) I have had this book on my "to read" list for over a year, but never picked it up because of the simple reason that my local library didn't have it available. I wasn't sure if I would like the author, so I didn't buy it. However, my fabulous best friend Becks who lives in the UK and reviews books for a living (jealous!), gave it to me as a birthday gift. Thankfully she trolls my goodreads account and knew just what book to select for me. 

I read the book very quickly and it resonated with me completely as the parent of a toddler. I read it at a perfect time because my daughter was going through a super-picky phase, so it gave me some great ideas of new flavors to introduce as well as permission to give myself grace when she turned her nose up at something innocuous as rice! Amster-Burton is one of my favorite all-around writers I discovered this year and I quickly picked up his 2 other foodie lit books: Pretty Good Number One and Child Octopus. I love them all and now own them all (suck it library!). The conversational tone in which he writes is infectous and I love his relationship with his daughter Iris, which is at the center of all of his books. Not to mention he's made me crave Japanese food constantly and encouraged me to branch out into some of those more-unfamiliar flavors at home.  His blog is also fantastic, so be sure to subscribe: 

6. Delancey (Molly Wizenberg) Can I just say how much I love this author? I know, with the exception of 2 books on this list, I'm reading foodie lit by authors I already know I love. Well, who cares? I absolutely love their work and I was excited about this book coming out since I first heard it announce more than a year ago! I follow Wizenberg on her blog: Orangette (and you should too), but first was hooked on her story and her writing when I picked up her book "A Homemade Life" in 2011 (published in 2009). 

Delancey is the story of her and her husband opening up their own pizza restaurant and its a fantastically truthful (and sometimes raw) and emotional accounting of their journey, triumphs and pitfalls along the way. I love it, its a unique look into the restaurant business and she ties it all together with self-awareness and relationships with those she loves.

So there it is, my top 6 foodie lit reads from 2014. I am always looking for more, so share your favorites and recommendations for me to check out this coming year!


  1. Love it :) I also read Delicious! and Delancey last year and thought they were great. So glad you enjoyed Hungry Monkey, too. I think I'd like the Ann Mah book; you might also enjoy Shark's Fin And Sichuan Pepper: A Sweet-Sour Memoir of Eating in China
    by Fuchsia Dunlop. I'm always surprised by how much I love foodie lit even though I don't cook. There's no one who doesn't love to eat!

    1. I have that book on my "to read" list, maybe I'll pick it up this year, thanks! I love foodie lit...and so true, who doesn't love to eat??