A somewhat idiosyncratic list of novels or novel-length works where food may be an important theme. Descriptions generally were found on Amazon.com.
The Belly of Paris, Zola, 320 pages
Unjustly deported to Devil's Island following Louis-Napoleon's coup-d'ˇtat in December 1851, Florent Quenu escapes and returns to Paris. He finds the city changed beyond recognition. The old Marchˇ des Innocents has been knocked down as part of Haussmann's grand program of urban reconstruction, replaced by Les Halles, the spectacular new food markets. Disgusted by a bourgeois society whose devotion to food is inseparable from its devotion to the Government, Florent attempts an insurrection. Les Halles, apocalyptic and destructive, play an active role in Zola's picture of a world in which food and the injustice of society are inextricably linked.
In Dubious Battle, John Steinbeck 274 pages
This 1936 novel—set in the California apple country—portrays a strike by migrant workers that metamorphoses from principled defiance into blind fanaticism.
Nectar in a Sieve, Kamala Marandya, 224 pages
This beautiful and eloquent story tells of a simple peasant woman in a primitive village in India whose whole life is a gallant and persistent battle to care for those she loves-an unforgettable novel that "will wring your heart out" (Associated Press).
The Hundred Foot Journey, Richard Morais, 272 pages
"That skinny Indian teenager has that mysterious something that comes along once a generation. He is one of those rare chefs who is simply born. He is an artist." And so begins the rise of Hassan Haji, the unlikely gourmand who recounts his lifeÕs journey in Richard MoraisÕs charming novel, The Hundred-Foot Journey. Lively and brimming with the colors, flavors, and scents of the kitchen, The Hundred-Foot Journey is a succulent treat about family, nationality, and the mysteries of good taste. Soon to be a major motion picture produced by Oprah Winfrey.
A Moveable Feast, Ernest Hemmingway, 250 pages
Ernest Hemingway may be the best food writer in the history of food writing. His posthumous memoir of Paris in the '20s overflows with fantastic food imagery and crystal-clear descriptions of cafes, bars, and brasseries. Hemingway is a writer perpetually aware of the contents of his belly and his glass—he coins the term Ņhunger-thinking,Ó noting that Ņhunger is good discipline and you learn from it."
Edible Stories, Mark Kurlansky 265 pages
In these linked stories, Mark Kurlansky reveals the bond that can hold people together, tear them apart, or make them become vegan: food. Through muffins or hot dogs, an indigenous Alaskan fish soup, a bean curd Thanksgiving turkey or potentially toxic cr¸me brulee, a rotating cast of characters learns how to honor the past, how to realize you're not in love with someone any more, and how to forgive. These women and men meet and eat and love, leave and drink and in the end, come together in Seattle as they are as inextricably linked with each other as they are with the food they eat and the wine they drink.
The Last Chinese Chief, Nicole Mones, 300 pages
This alluring novel of friendship, love, and cuisine brings the best-selling author of Lost in Translation and A Cup of Light to one of the great Chinese subjects: food. As in her previous novels, MonesÕs captivating story also brings into focus a changing China -- this time the hidden world of high culinary culture. When Maggie McElroy, a widowed American food writer, learns of a Chinese paternity claim against her late husbandÕs estate, she has to go immediately to Beijing. She asks her magazine for time off, but her editor counters with an assignment: to profile the rising culinary star Sam Liang. When Maggie McElroy, a widowed American food writer, learns of a Chinese paternity claim against her late husbandÕs estate, she has to go immediately to Beijing. She asks her magazine for time off, but her editor counters with an assignment: to profile the rising culinary star Sam Liang.
Ham on Rye, Charles Bukowski, 288 pages
In what is widely hailed as the best of
his many novels, Charles Bukowski details the long,
lonely years of his own hardscrabble youth in the raw voice of alter ego Henry Chinaski. From a harrowingly cheerless childhood in Germany
through acne-riddled high school years and his adolescent discoveries of
alcohol, women, and the Los Angeles Public Library's collection of D. H.
Lawrence, Ham on Rye offers a crude,
brutal, and savagely funny portrait of an outcast's coming-of-age during the
desperate days of the Great Depression.
Winter Girls, Laurie Anderson, 288 pages
Lia and Cassie are best friends, wintergirls frozen in fragile bodies, competitors in a deadly contest to see who can be the thinnest. But then Cassie suffers the ultimate loss-her life-and Lia is left behind, haunted by her friend's memory and racked with guilt for not being able to help save her. In her most powerfully moving novel since Speak, award-winning author Laurie Halse Anderson explores Lia's struggle, her painful path to recovery, and her desperate attempts to hold on to the most important thing of all: hope.
The Debt to Pleasure, 272 pages
Winner of the Whitbread Award for Best First Novel and a New York Times Notable Book, The Debt to Pleasure is a wickedly funny ode to food. Traveling from Portsmouth to the south of France, Tarquin Winot, the bookÕs snobbish narrator, instructs us in his philosophy on everything from the erotics of dislike to the psychology of the menu. Under the guise of completing a cookbook, Winot is in fact on a much more sinister mission that only gradually comes to light.
Like Water for Chocolate, 256 pages
Earthy, magical, and utterly charming, this tale of family life in tum-of-the-century Mexico became a best-selling phenomenon with its winning blend of poignant romance and bittersweet wit.
Five Quarters of the Orange Joanne Harris, 320 pages
In Five Quarters of the Orange, Joanne Harris returns to the small-town, postwar France of Chocolat. This time she follows the fortunes of Framboise Dartigan, named for a raspberry but with the disposition of, well, a lemon. The proprietor of a cafˇ in a rustic village, this crabby old lady recalls the days of her childhood, which coincided with the German occupation. Back then, she and her brother and sister traded on the black market with the Germans, developing a friendship with a charismatic young soldier named Tomas. This intrigue provided a distraction from their grim home life--their father was killed in the war and their mother was a secretive, troubled woman. Yet their relationship with Tomas led to a violent series of events that still torment the aging Framboise.
The Physiology of Taste 220 pages
A delightful and hilarious classic about the joys of the table, The Physiology of Taste is the most famous book about food ever written. First published in France in 1825 and continuously in print ever since, Jean Anthelme Brillat-SavarinÕs masterpiece is a historical, philosophical, and epicurean collection of recipes, reflections, and anecdotes on everything and anything gastronomical. Brillat-Savarin—who famously stated ŅTell me what you eat and I shall tell you what you areÓ—shrewdly expounds upon culinary matters that still resonate today, from the rise of the destination restaurant to matters of diet and weight, and in M. F. K. Fisher, whose commentary is both brilliant and amusing, he has an editor with a sensitivity and wit to match his own.
The Chief, Jaspreet Singh, 248 pages
Kirpal Singh is riding the slow train to Kashmir. With India passing by his window, he reflects on his destination, which is also his past: a military camp to which he has not returned for fourteen years.
Kirpal, called Kip, is shy and not yet twenty when he arrives for the first time at General Kumar's camp, nestled in the shadow of the Siachen Glacier. At twenty thousand feet, the glacier makes a forbidding battlefield; its crevasses claimed the body of Kip's father. Kip becomes an apprentice under the camp's chef, Kishen, a fiery mentor who guides him toward the heady spheres of food and women.
In this place of contradictions, erratic violence, and extreme temperatures, Kip learns to prepare local dishes and delicacies from around the globe. Even as months pass, Kip, a Sikh, feels secure in his allegiance to India, firmly on the right side of this interminable conflict. Then, one muggy day, a Pakistani "terrorist" with long, flowing hair is swept up on the banks of the river and changes everything.
Mesmeric, mournful, and intensely lyrical, Chef is a brave and compassionate debut about hope, love, and memory set against the devastatingly beautiful, war-scarred backdrop of occupied Kashmir.
The Passionate Epicure, Marcel Rouff, 208 pages
In the classic French novel The Passionate Epicure, Marcel Rouff introduces Dodin-Bouffant, a character based loosely on Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, an infamous bachelor and epicure dedicated to the high arts: the art of food and the art of love.
The Mistress of Spices, Chitra Divakaruni 350 pages
Magical, tantalizing, and sensual, The Mistress of Spices is the story of Tilo, a young woman born in another time, in a faraway place, who is trained in the ancient art of spices and ordained as a mistress charged with special powers. Once fully initiated in a rite of fire, the now immortal Tilo--in the gnarled and arthritic body of an old woman--travels through time to Oakland, California, where she opens a shop from which she administers spices as curatives to her customers. An unexpected romance with a handsome stranger eventually forces her to choose between the supernatural life of an immortal and the vicissitudes of modern life. Spellbinding and hypnotizing, The Mistress of Spices is a tale of joy and sorrow and one special woman's magical powers.
Bone in the Throat, Anthony Bourdain. 304 pages
A wildly funny, irreverent tale of murder, mayhem, and the mob. When up-and-coming chef Tommy Pagana settles for a less than glamorous stint at his uncle's restaurant in Manhattan's Little Italy, he unwittingly finds himself a partner in big-time crime. And when the mob decides to use the kitchen for a murder, nothing Tommy learned in cooking school has prepared him for what happens next. With the FBI on one side, and his eccentric wise guy superiors on the other, Tommy has to struggle to do right by his conscience, and to avoid getting killed in the meantime.
Too Short -- Read as a pair:
Jesse, Gary Soto, 166 pages
Coming of age in the shadow of the Vietnam War, Jesse, a young Mexican American, and his older brother, Abel, work long hours in the fields in order to save money for college in the hope that education will help them escape poverty. Reprint. SLJ. K. H. VY.
Stir it Up, Robin Ganeshram 176 pages
A Trinidadian-American girlÕs dream is challenged by her family. Thirteen-year-old Anjali's life is rich with the smell of curry from her parents' roti shop and an absolute passion for food. More than anything, Anjali wants to be a chef who competes on a kids' cooking reality TV show. But Anjali must keep her wish a secret from her family, who thinks Anjali's passions are beneath her. Thank goodness for Deema, Anjali's grandmother, whose insight and love can push past even the oldest family beliefs. Woven with recipes that cook up emotions and actual culinary recipes that make food, this novel is as delicious as it is satisfying.
Gourmet Rhapsody, Muriel Barburry 156 pages??
a charming voyage that traces the career of Monsieur Arthens from childhood to maturity across a celebration of all manner of culinary delights. Alternating with the voice of the supercilious Arthens is a chorus belonging to his acquaintances and familiars relatives, lovers, a would-be protˇgˇ, even a cat. Each will have his or her say about M. Arthens, a man who has inspired only extreme emotions in people. Here, as in The Elegance of Hedgehog, Muriel Barbery?s story celebrates life?s simple pleasures and sublime moments while condemning the arrogance and vulgarity of power.
Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck 464 pages
First published in 1939, SteinbeckÕs Pulitzer Prize-winning epic of the Great Depression chronicles the Dust Bowl migration of the 1930s and tells the story of one Oklahoma farm family, the Joads-driven from their homestead and forced to travel west to the promised land of California. Out of their trials and their repeated collisions against the hard realities of an America divided into Haves and Have-Nots evolves a drama that is intensely human yet majestic in its scale and moral vision, elemental yet plainspoken, tragic but ultimately stirring in its human dignity.
American Psycho, Brett Ellis, 416 pages
In American Psycho, Bret Easton Ellis imaginatively explores the incomprehensible depths of madness and captures the insanity of violence in our time or any other. Patrick Bateman moves among the young and trendy in 1980s Manhattan. Young, handsome, and well educated, Bateman earns his fortune on Wall Street by day while spending his nights in ways we cannot begin to fathom. Expressing his true self through torture and murder, Bateman prefigures an apocalyptic horror that no society could bear to confrontÉ.The violence committed by Patrick Bateman is truly sickening on many levels. Ellis provides GRAPHIC descriptions of Bateman's murders, rapes, tortures, and yes, cannibalism.
The Flounder, Gunter Grass, 560 pages
It all begins in the Stone Age, when a talking fish is caught by a fisherman at the very spot where millennia later Grass's home town, Danzig, will arise. Like the fish, the fisherman is immortal, and down through the ages they move together. As Grass blends his ingredients into a powerful brew, he shows himself at the peak of his linguistic inventiveness.
Kitchen, banana Yoshimoto
Fried Green Tomatoes, 488 pages
The Alienist, Caleb Carr, 512 pages
The year is 1896, the place, New York
City. On a cold March night New York Times reporter John Schuyler Moore
is summoned to the East River by his friend and former Harvard classmate Dr.
Laszlo Kreizler, a psychologist, or
"alienist." On the unfinished Williamsburg Bridge, they view the
horribly mutilated body of an adolescent boy, a prostitute from one of
Manhattan's infamous brothels.
The newly appointed police commissioner, Theodore Roosevelt, in a highly unorthodox move, enlists the two men in the murder investigation, counting on the reserved Kreizler's intellect and Moore's knowledge of New York's vast criminal underworld. They are joined by Sara Howard, a brave and determined woman who works as a secretary in the police department. Laboring in secret (for alienists, and the emerging discipline of psychology, are viewed by the public with skepticism at best), the unlikely team embarks on what is a revolutionary effort in criminology-- amassing a psychological profile of the man they're looking for based on the details of his crimes. Their dangerous quest takes them into the tortured past and twisted mind of a murderer who has killed before. and will kill again before the hunt is over.
Fast-paced and gripping, infused with a historian's exactitude, The Alienist conjures up the Gilded Age and its untarnished underside: verminous tenements and opulent mansions, corrupt cops and flamboyant gangsters, shining opera houses and seamy gin mills. Here is a New York during an age when questioning society's belief that all killers are born, not made, could have unexpected and mortal consequences.
Joy Luck Club, Amy Tan, 288 pages
Four mothers, four daughters, four families whose histories shift with the four winds depending on who's "saying" the stories. In 1949 four Chinese women, recent immigrants to San Francisco, begin meeting to eat dim sum, play mahjong, and talk. United in shared unspeakable loss and hope, they call themselves the Joy Luck Club. Rather than sink into tragedy, they choose to gather to raise their spirits and money. "To despair was to wish back for something already lost. Or to prolong what was already unbearable." Forty years later the stories and history continue.
The Earth Did not Devour Him