Which food books (and I'm thinking books on food and cooking rather than recipe books) do you find on your bedside cabinet rather than on the kitchen shelves?

McGee on Food and Cooking: An Encyclopedia of Kitchen Science, History and Culture keeps creeping back as it answers all those questions about why something works, or doesn't;

Anything by M. F. K. Fisher as I never tire of her simple, witty prose and sheer love of food.

  • Possible duplicate of cooking.stackexchange.com/questions/396/…
    – Pulse
    Commented Jul 18, 2010 at 10:07
  • Any question that asks users to create a list of answers (i.e. polls or list-of-X) should be make community wiki. I converted this question. Commented Jul 18, 2010 at 15:02
  • I consider this a dupe. The difference is way too subtle and subjective to make this stand out.
    – Aaronut
    Commented Jul 18, 2010 at 17:21
  • 15
    My spouse has a cooking blog and thus is a food writer
    – Dinah
    Commented Jul 18, 2010 at 17:52
  • 4
    @Din well, that is probably the most on-topic answer to this question possible.
    – bmargulies
    Commented Jul 18, 2010 at 20:04

10 Answers 10


Jeffrey Steingarten - The Man Who Ate Everything and It Must Be Something I Ate

The New Yorker Anthology of Food Writing

Herve This - Molecular Gastronomy


Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain.

  • Only if you're not planning on eating at a restaurant for breakfast.
    – bmargulies
    Commented Jul 18, 2010 at 20:05
  • 1
    Only if you think being a chef is incompatible with sobriety, family life, staying in one place for any meaningful amount of time, or not being angry... or if you want to be inspired to feel that way.
    – Ocaasi
    Commented Aug 7, 2010 at 7:24

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver

In Defense of Food and Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan

Those are the ones I've been working on recently.

  • 1
    Add The Botany of Desire by Pollan. It's less political, but as insightful about our relationship with agriculture as anything I've ever seen.
    – Ocaasi
    Commented Aug 7, 2010 at 7:27

Ruhlman, Bourdain, and Steingarten, as others have mentioned. Alan Richman's Fork It Over is also really good, especially the chapters on BBQ, and the decline of the Jewish delicatessen.


Currently, Michael Ruhlman. I loved The Making of a Chef, and I'm working on The Soul of a Chef. Ruhlman can be a bit of a snob when it comes to cooking, but he loves the craft and that passion really comes through in his writing.

Also, I can highly recommend Cod and Salt by Mark Kurlansky. More history than food writing, but both are absolutely fascinating.


I truly love the Old Foodie Blog: http://www.theoldfoodie.com/ I read it on my kindle at bedtime. And Bourdain. And Ruhlman.


While it's pretty dense (and can help put you to sleep), Marion Nestle's Food Politics does a fantastic job in looking at the relation between the US Government's regulating nutrition and food supply and the big commercial food industry.

While not a "foodie" book talking about dishes and ingredients, it helps expose the root of where most of the education and communication about nutrition comes from in the United States. This shapes food culture and cooking for more of us than we sometimes realize.

Nutrition has become a culture itself and like all cultures has a heavy influence on cooking style and inspiration.

  • Have you read Diet for a Small Planet. It's probably the book that started the discussion.
    – Ocaasi
    Commented Aug 7, 2010 at 7:26

Heat, by Bill Buford is a fantastic read.


These might count as either recipie books or travel books, but the two In serach of perfection books by Heston Blumenthal are both fascinating readings. Not sure I'll ever make the Chilli that needs a whole bottle of Jack Daniels but the effort that you can put into creating great food is truly fascinating.

  • Nigel Slater - Toast

    Strange, moving and somehow makes the reader feel nostalgia for the food crimes of the 1970s.

  • Jeffrey Steingarten - The Man Who Ate Everything

    All of it but especially the first chapter on his attempts to perfect the art of baking bread.

  • Julie Powell - Julie & Julia

    Makes you feel a little bit braver about tackling something ambitious.

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