Foodie Novels That Will Give You an Appetite for Life

If you love to eat as much as you love to read, you’ll enjoy these mouthwatering books. Writing about something as common as eating can be a difficult thing to master. This list is made up of inventive fiction and non-fiction in which the authors use their love of food to create captivating stories. While books centered on food can describe pictureque meals, these authors have more than just a love of eating in mind. Many awaken the reader with social commentary and cultural insight, such as Mia Alvar’s In the Country: Stories.  From Peter Mayle’s autobiographical A Year in Provencewith vivid descriptions of southern French delicacies, to Mark Kurlansky’s delightful food-based short stories in Edible Stories: A Novel in Sixteen Parts, this list will satisfy all types of eaters and readers!

Ham on Rye by Charles Bukowski

Bukowski’s semi-autobiographical, coming-of-age novel, features food in a pivotal role in uncovering the persona of the narrator, Hank Chinaski, and his view of the world. Ham on Rye is a candid, somewhat philosophical look into American society, using classic American foods and landmarks as symbols. Bukowski’s novel celebrates kitschy American food while casting an observantly dark view of it, all through the voice of teenage angst.   

The Dinner by Herman Koch

Dutch writer Herman Koch crafted a story around two couples, all parents, who meet in a bourgie restaurant- one that does not appeal to everyone at the table. Koch delves into the lives of each person throughout the allegorical high-class, five-course meal, with uncomfortable conversations that slowly reveal the dark truth behind the parents and their children. According to Claire Messud of the New York Times, the tense drama is distinctly culturally attuned to European society, but is relatable world-wide with its references to modern technology and the characters’ querrel over percieved societal standards.

In the Country: Stories by Mia Alvar

In the Country shares the stories of nine men and women of the Filipino diaspora.  Each character has been uprooted by the Filipine Regime (unnamed in the book), fleeing world-wide to places like New York City, or caught and sent to a prison close by. While everything around them changes, their distinct Filipino culture keeps them tied to their community, especially through the sharing of food as they attempt to maintain some sense of normalcy.  Alvar’s stories are bound to make you tear as she teaches you about the history of the Philippines through the eyes of her distinct characters.

Eating Viet Nam: Dispatches from a Blue Plastic Table by Graham Holliday

For those who love to travel, this book will surely make your mind wander straight to the heart of Vietnam’s food capital, Hanoi. Author Graham Holliday takes you on his adventure to eat as much Vietnamese food as possible, and he truly makes the food look enticing. Take the opening line for example; “As the pig’s uterus landed on the blue plastic table in front of me, I knew I’d made a mistake.” Eating Viet Nam has been hailed by such foodies as Anothy Bourdain as a delicious travel story that will make readers want to visit the country- if not for its food, than for its culture, people, and landscape.     

The Debt to Pleasure by John Lanchester

This ode-to-food is catered to those who enjoy a more tongue-in-cheek story.  Lanchester’s award-winning, debut novel chronicles Tarquin Winot’s quest to, supposedly, make a cookbook. In reality, he is up to something far more distrubing, but Winot does not forsake his food-lovers, maintaining tempting accounts of meals throughout his odd journey.  The unreliable narrator travels to the famously gastronomic south of France, creating eccentric and delicious recipes, contemplating vast philosophies of life, and comically revealing his murderous side. 

A Year in Provence by Peter Mayle 

Similar to The Debt to Pleasure, A Year In Provence takes place in the south of France, but this autobiographical story is far more animated and light hearted. Yet, Mayle does not leave out the strenuous realities of moving into a 200-year-old house in the French country side, where winters are grueling and a concrete worker’s schedule is hard to come by. The book is humorous, honest, and absolutely filled to the brim with descriptions of succulent Provencal-style duck, potatoes, wine, and more!  

Chocolat by Joanne Harris

This book is so incredibly tantalizing that it was famously made into a sultry Oscar-nominated film starring Juliette Binoche and Johnny Depp, though the book and movie are quite different.  The story focuses on the eclectic chocolatier Vianne Rocher, who opens an exquisite chocolate shop in the aging and unchanging French town of Lansquenet (France seems to play a big role in this food-loving list.) In reading Chocolat, you can practically taste the rich chocolate concoctions which set the characters, and readers, into a composed disarray of hedonism, passion, and exuberance. Harris’ yummy novel undoubtedly leaves the reader in a whimsical, hungry state.

Edible Stories by Mark Kurlansky

Author Mark Kurlansky is no stranger to the world of edible writing. Each of the sixteen short stories that make up this tasty book are attentively connected via food.  Edible Stories beautifully displays Kurlansky’s vast knowledge of food and human nature. His tales portray various characters cooking, eating, and drinking, all of whom are linked together in a manner that portrays just how important food is to us all.  

The Edible Woman by Margaret Atwood 

Atwood’s book differs a bit from the rest that appear on this list. Instead of eating food, the protagonist, Marian McAlpin, suffers from not being able to eat. What a frightening thought!  Marian attains this strange ailment after her engagement, and continues to endure something even more odd- the feeling that she herself is being consumed.  The Edible Woman explores gender stereotypes with a keenly ironic touch.    

Life From Scratch: A Memoir of Food, Family, and Forgiveness by Sasha Martin

Before she wrote Life from Scratch, Sasha Martin was a food blogger.  Her memoir chronicles her epic, four-year journey to taste at least one meal from 195 countries. As the title suggests, Martin’s adventure becomes more than just a journey for her taste buds.  She poignantly reflects on her childhood and her reasoning for undertaking this food-obsessed task. Life From Scratch is a self-reflective memoir about healing, finding happiness, and, of course, eating.