If you're a real foodie and want to indulge your palate without touching your wallet or your waistline, a novel can be a great place to start. These 50 books will help to educate and inspire you, whether you're a college student or a chef, with tales of culinary prowess. So check out a few of these reads to feed your brain and whet your appetite for great food tales.
Read through these books to get a culinary and literary education all in one.
- The Passionate Epicure by Marcel Rouff: This story introduces a character whose great loves include wine, women and food.
- The Belly of Paris by Emile Zola: In this classic novel, Zola blends politics and a love of food to create a story that will be hard for readers to put down.
- Chef: A Novel by Jaspreet Singh: Set in Kashmir, the no man's land between Pakistan and India, this novel follows a young man who learns to embrace food under the tutelage of a military chef.
- The Flounder by Gunter Grass: If you've ever found yourself having a strange and profound relationship with your food, check out this book by famous author Grass.
- Mistress of Spices by Chitra Divakaruni: Full of mythology and whimsy, this novel exposes a spice merchant for who she really is– the mistress of spices.
- Kitchen by Bannan Yoshimoto: This best-selling novel blends a coming of age story with thrilling descriptions of contemporary Japan and of course, food.
- High Bonnet: A Novel of Epicurean Adventures by Idwal Jones: This novel follows Jean-Marie Gallois as he works his way up from saucier to chef de cuisine.
- Gourmet Rhapsody by Muriel Barberry: Meet France's premier restaurant critic M. Pierre Arthens as he lies on his deathbed and remembers the great meals of his life in this food-focused novel.
- Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle-Stop Cafe by Fannie Flagg: While many may be familiar with this book from the movie made of it, the story it tells is filled with Southern charm, wit, heartbreak and life centered around a small cafe.
These books are fun, interesting and filled with food.
- Eat Cake by Jeanne Ray: In this story, a mom's ability to bake delicious treats is one of the few things that keeps her sane when dealing with a chaotic family.
- The School of Essential Ingredients by Erica Bauermeister: The characters in this story join to take a cooking class, but as the novel progresses it becomes clear that they're all looking for something more than just good food.
- St. Burl's Obituary by Daniel Akst: Check out this book for the tale of an overweight obit writer who gets caught up in a mob killing at the restaurant he co-owns.
- My Year of Meats by Ruth Ozeki: Through this novel, readers will learn about the American meat industry through the story of a Japanese reporter doing work to promote beef consumption.
- The Book of Salt by Monique Truong: In this fictional memoir, a Vietnamese cook must decide to stay in his own country, travel to France, or journey to America with his former employers.
- The Discovery of Chocolate by James Runcie: Follow along as a young Spaniard travels through time and shares and learns about chocolate throughout history, all the while longing for the love he lost.
- The Cupcake Queen by Heather Hepler: Check out this book about a young girl whose life starts to change when she works in her mother's cupcake shop.
- Five Quarters of the Orange by Joanne Harris: In this book, a woman now in her sixties looks back on her life in Nazi-occupied France, sharing stories of heartbreak and the simple pleasures of food alike.
- In the Kitchen: A Novel by Monica Ali: Get a glimpse into what a kitchen is really like, from the long hours to the sometimes cruel conditions to which immigrant workers are subjected in this novel.
- Mangoes and Quince by Carol Field: Cookbook author Carol Field weaves her love of food into this novel, sharing the tale of a family transplanted to Amsterdam and struggling to find their places there.
- Liquor: A Novel by Poppy Brite: Read this story about a pair of friends who attempt to open a restaurant in New Orleans with a menu based on liquor.
- Blue Plate Special: A Novel of Love, Loss, and Food by Frances Norris: Read through this novel to find a tale of a food stylist struggling to find a place for herself in the world.
- World of Pies by Karen Stolz: The chapters of this charming book end with dessert recipes, and follow nearly 30 years in the life of Roxanne Milner.
- Chocolat by Joanna Harris: Focused on a sumptuous chocolate shop in a small town, this novel pits the sinful delights of chocolate against the will of the church.
- Bone In the Throat by Anthony Bourdain: Better known for his work hosting travel shows, many don't know that Bourdain has actually written a couple novels. This, one of his first, blends culinary delights with mafia violence and intimidation.
Food proves to be the way to the heart in these romantic tales.
- Blessed Are the Cheesemakers by Sarah-Kate Lynch: This tender love story is told through a love of food, in this case the delightful cheeses of Ireland.
- Crescent by Diana Abu-Jaber: This novel focuses on a young Iraqi-American as she cooks in a Lebanese restaurant, struggles with family and finds love.
- La Cucina by Lily Prior: After losing her love, this protagonist of this novel pours her passions into cooking, leading a lonely life until she happens to meet an English chef and writer.
- The Last Chinese Chef by Nicole Mones: Smarting from the death of her husband and news of his infidelities, food writer Maggie finds solace in the food of a Chinese chef.
- Kitchen Chinese by Ann Mah: Read about love, starting over and some pretty delicious Chinese meals in this novel.
- Bread Alone by Judi Hendricks: In this novel, a woman finds solace in bread making as her life falls apart and falls together all at once.
If you'd like to cook along with your reading, check out these books.
- Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel: Forced to prepare the wedding dinner for the marriage of the man she loves to her sister, this poignant tale will keep you reading and hungry until the end.
- The Cuttlefish by Maryline Desbiolles: Each chapter begins with a recipe for cuttlefish, as the narrator cooks dinner for friends and looks back over her life.
- Pomegranate Soup: A Novel by Marsha Mehran: As three Iranian sisters attempt to set up shop and bake in a small Irish village, a personal and cultural battle takes place. Readers can cook along with the book with the recipes included.
- Debt to Pleasure by John Lanchester: Check out this sensuous book for recipes and nearly erotic descriptions of the pleasures of eating and food.
- Heartburn by Nora Ephron: With recipes sprinkled throughout, this novel tells about the heartbreak of a cookbook writer when she discovers her husband is having an affair while she is seven months pregnant, based on Ephron's real-life marriage breakup.
These novels create a mystery around food, dining and cooking.
- A Toast to Murder: A Wine Lover's Mystery by Michele Scott: This fun book mixes wine, murder and mystery at a winery.
- A Body to Die For by G. A. McKevett: In this installment of PI Savannah Reid's adventures, she is on the hunt for the killer of a philandering husband with a diet guru at the main suspect.
- Death in Two Courses by Claudia Bishop: This book brings together two mystery stories, one dealing with a murder mystery related to a mall and the other with the wedding rehearsal dinner of a senator.
- Dead in the Dregs by Peter Lewis: Wine lovers will appreciate this tale of intrigue involving a wine critic gone missing.
- Cream Puff Murder by Joanne Fluke: Protagonist Hannah Swensen must go on a diet due to the treats she's been eating at her bakery, but when she joins a local gym she finds much more than weight loss.
- Chocolate to Die For by JoAnna Carl: Follow along as a chocoholic tries to solve mysteries in this set of two novels.
- The Grave Gourmet by Alexander Campeon: Food poisoning turns into homicide in this novel filled with international espionage and intrigue.
- Butter Safe Than Sorry by Tamar Myers: Set in an Amish town, this story follows an innkeeper as she attempts to track down a group of robbers.
- The Vintage Caper by Peter Mayle: Mayle is known for his tales of life in Provence, and while this tale begins in LA, it will take readers on a trip to some of the greatest wine regions of France in search of the stolen wine.
These books are fun reads about the culinary world.
- Alone in the Kitchen With an Eggplant edited by Jenni Farrari-Adler: This book collects essays from a wide range of authors writing about creating a meal for one.
- Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingslover: In this book, readers can hear about novelist Kingslover's experiments with growing organic food in her own backyard.
- Service Included: Four-Star Secrets of an Eavesdropping Waiter by Phoebe Damrosch: Ever wanted to know what it's like to work in a restaurant? This book dishes on all the little secrets.
- Down and Out in Paris and London by George Orwell: In this autobiographical work, Orwell disguises himself as the working poor, getting jobs in kitchens, hospitals and other place across France and England.
- The Man Who Ate Everything by Jeffrey Steingarten: The food critic of Vogue, Steingarten brings together fun and entertaining essays in this great book.
- Cooking for Mr. Latte by Amanda Hesser: In this modern dating story, you'll hear about the real life romance between Hesser and writer Tad Friend.