6 delicious books every foodie should read

J. Ryan Stradal is the author of the best-selling novels Kitchens of the Great Midwest and The Lager Queen of Minnesota. His new novel, Saturday Night at the Lakeside Supper Club, focuses on a mother, a daughter, a grandmother, and the family business.

Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel (1989) 

I wasn’t ready for this book when I read it in high school, but it recalibrated my notions of long-form narrative, genre conventions, and food writing all at once. Esquivel’s novel remains a load-bearing wall of food fiction, and its magnificent descriptions are as sensuous and moving as any in the intervening decades. Buy it here.

The Cook by Maylis de Kerangal (2016)

A painfully short book I didn’t want to end. I could’ve read it in an afternoon, but instead rationed it like a box of exquisite chocolates. This beautiful story following a young cook’s career path is that good — you’ll be left wanting much more. Buy it here.

Love & Saffron: A Novel of Friendship, Food, and Love by Kim Fay (2022) 

Fay wrote her debut novel after decades as a food writer and avid home chef, and the book joyfully bursts with her life experience. Inspired by the food writing of Los Angeles Times stalwart Barbara Hansen, Fay’s epistolary book follows two passionate cooks as they introduce each other to new ingredients and help each other navigate life’s challenges. Buy it here.

My Year of Meats by Ruth Ozeki (1998) 

Of Ozeki’s books that deal with food, her debut remains my favorite, and not just because the main character, Jane Takagi-Little, shares my Minnesota heritage. I also worked in entertainment, as Ozeki has, and I’ve never read a novel that so effortlessly blends the subjects of television and food, and does it with such brilliance, humor, and expertise. Buy it here.

Number One Chinese Restaurant by Lillian Li (2018)

Another dazzling debut, Li’s book focuses on the friction between brothers who inherit a family-run Chinese restaurant and the consequences of their differing notions of success. Filled with a large cast of memorable characters, generational discord, and a vivid setting, this novel is a true delight. Buy it here.

Cheap Novelties: The Pleasures of Urban Decay by Ben Katchor (1991)

While not strictly about food, the food-centered stories in this understated collection are peerless. Katchor’s protagonist, a beleaguered real estate photographer, muses humorously on such subjects as the economics of a value-priced dinner special and the cruelty of individual sugar packets. Buy it here.

This article was first published in the latest issue of The Week magazine. If you want to read more like it, you can try six risk-free issues of the magazine here.

J. Ryan Stradal is the author of the best-selling novels Kitchens of the Great Midwest and The Lager Queen of Minnesota. His new novel, Saturday Night at the Lakeside Supper Club, focuses on a mother, a daughter, a grandmother, and the family business. Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel (1989)  I wasn’t ready for…

J. Ryan Stradal is the author of the best-selling novels Kitchens of the Great Midwest and The Lager Queen of Minnesota. His new novel, Saturday Night at the Lakeside Supper Club, focuses on a mother, a daughter, a grandmother, and the family business. Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel (1989)  I wasn’t ready for…