The Best Novels about Food and Foodies

January  9, 2016

Every so often, we take a break from flipping through cookbooks like they’re novels to pick up actual novels—about food, of course. Not surprisingly, it turns out that you all love it when food and eating play a main role in your fiction selections as well.

This week on the Hotline, Pili Gómez asked for recommendations for novels with foodies as main characters, noting that she’s already a fan of the Comisario Montalbano series by Andrea Camilleri and the Detective Carvalho books by Vazquez Montalban. As usual, you all came through with great suggestions—dozens of them:

Photo by Mark Weinberg
  • Uncle Jess says, “Donna Leon's Commissario Brunetti series takes place in Venice. Besides the occasional banquet or other food event, each book has at least one incredible lunch cooked by his loving wife. And Brunetti is always on the lookout for a good snack. Death in La Fenice is the first of the series, probably available in your library. There is even a cookbook with recipes for all the meals described in the detective stories. Mouthwatering!”

  • Lmkltk suggests the Nero Wolfe series by Rex Stout. Many others echoed this suggestion, and oldunc adds, "I've tried a number of foodie mysteries, none of which, other than Joan Hesse's Diet to Die For I would really recommend, but the Nero Wolfe books stand alone. Too Many Cooks, which I believe was the second of the series, is my personal favorite, although somewhat non-PC by current standards.”

  • Witloof recommends The Epicure's Lament by Kate Christensen.

  • Shannon Slice offers Kristin Chen’s debut novel, Soy Sauce for Beginners.

Photo by Pamela Dorman Books
Photo by Anchor Books
Photo by Vintage Books
Photo by Random House
  • Cookbookchick says, “I've enjoyed Diane Mott Davidson's series featuring Colorado caterer/sleuth Goldy Schulz, at least partly because she has a walk-in refrigerator in her home that fuels my kitchen fantasies! Ms. Davidson published an autobiography/cookbook in September that contains most of the recipes from her mystery novels. Because the story and characters develop, over time, I'd suggest starting with book one, Catering to Nobody.”

  • Marcena suggests picking up A Year in Provence by Peter Mayle and Chocolat by Joanne Harris.

  • Burning-ice and pierino both recommend Martin Walker’s books about Bruno, Chief of Police. Maedl loves them too, saying, “His wife, Julia Watson, is a food writer, and her influence is very apparent in the Bruno books. It is a favorite series of mine.”

  • Molly Fuller like Ruth Reichl’s Delicious!.

Photo by Anchor Books
Photo by Mariner Books

What are your favorite foodie novels? Tell us in the comments!

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Lazyretirementgirl
  • Melina
  • Gigi
  • susan g
    susan g
  • Megan Bodie
    Megan Bodie
I like esoteric facts about vegetables. Author of the IACP Award-nominated cookbook, Cooking with Scraps.


Lazyretirementgirl January 13, 2016
Colette's "My Mother's House" as well as Cheri and The Last of Cheri. Not "about cooking" but interwoven with food, cooking and gardening. And thanks everyone for these enticing ideas.
Melina January 13, 2016
The book of salt by Monique Truong, about Alice B Toklas and Gertrude Stein's Vietnamese cook...and La cucina by Lily Prior...thanks for a great topic!!
Gigi January 12, 2016
While not strictly novels, I loved readjng the memoirs of MFK Fisher as well as biographies of Julia Child. Fisher's story "I really wasn't that hungry" will make you just that.
susan G. January 11, 2016
For more lists, including one from me: -- Bookworms in the Pantry.
Megan B. January 11, 2016
I love Mastering the Art of French Eating by Ann Mah.
Alex B. January 11, 2016
Don't miss "Blood, Bones, and Butter" by Gabrielle Hamilton. It is written beautifully and covers everything from growing up among French cooking, working as an NYC catering chef, learning about Italian food by marrying an Italian and opening up Prune in the East Village.
AntoniaJames January 11, 2016
Let's not forget the great grand-daddy of them all, Maigret - wonderful details about place (hundreds of meals in hidden away French bistros) as well as about the food this discerning detective enjoyed.
With few exceptions, I find the personal accounts (I no longer call them "memoirs," given the downward spiral that genre has taken in recent years, especially when the primary theme is food) of A. J. Liebling, Joseph Wechsberg and Roy Andries de Groot far more enjoyable than any fictional accounts of food.
I recommend "Clementine in the Kitchen" by Samuel Chamberlain - non-fiction, but quite different from the works of the three mentioned above - as well. ;o)
Nancy January 11, 2016
AJ - I agree, and mentioned Maigret in my original comments
Chrissy /. January 11, 2016
Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle - one of my favorite writers on moving her family to a farm and growing their own food.
Nichole January 11, 2016
Anything by Barbara O'Neal, but especially "The Lost Recipe for Happiness."
Betsy January 11, 2016
I second that! I also loved her "How to Bake a Perfect Life."
Anne T. January 11, 2016
Tarquin Hall's Vish Puri series- fantastic series set in India. The main character's love affair with food and the descriptions never fail to send me to my Indian cookbooks and the kitchen.
Mary R. January 11, 2016
I echo other comments - great resource. Secrets of the Tsil Cafe by Thomas Fox Averill. Also Patricia Cornwell's Dr. Kay Scarpetta series. She also published a cookbook, Food to Die For: Secrets from Kay Scarpetta's Kitchen,
erinbdm January 10, 2016
The Telling Room, by Michael Paterneti is a saga about a Spanish cheese maker and is such a fun read. So much drama over cheese!
Eleanor C. January 10, 2016
The Leopard, by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa, this is a Sicilian classic
Bella M. January 10, 2016
Jenny Colgan's books: Rosie Hopkins’ Sweetshop series, Meet me at Cupcake Café series and The Loveliest Chocolate Shop In Paris.
pierino January 10, 2016
We ought not forget Laurie Colwin, Happy All the Time. She was a known for her food writing as well as her fiction.
luvcookbooks January 10, 2016
There is some good food in her fiction, esp Happy All the Time.
pierino January 10, 2016
The Debt to Pleasure is a great book with one of my favorite literary devices, the unreliable narrator.
AmeliaJ January 10, 2016
Don't miss, "The Cookbook Collector" by Allegra Goodman. Her description of a ripe peach is sublime.
Lynn D. January 10, 2016
Thanks everybody! I'll check back for more comments.
NancyN January 10, 2016
The Inspector Bruno series by Martin Walker, set in the French countryside, is a terrific mystery series, and often has scenes in which local delicacies are spotlighted (truffles, foie gras etc).

Titles: Bruno Chief of Police: A Novel of the French Countryside
The Crowded Grave...are just two, there are several more.

The Napa wine country mystery series by Nadia Gordon - these books are a bridge between cozy food mysteries, and more serious mysteries. The protagonist is the owner/chef of 'Wildside' a small, but well regarded restaurant in Napa. Mysteries center around wine, vineyards, and food.
Titles: Sharpshooter, Lethal Vintage, Death by the Glass, Murder Al Fresco
Alison H. January 10, 2016
I would recommend Bread and Wine by Shauna Neiquist. Life food and friends.... A book that touches emotions and triggers senses.