The best food memoirs about transformative personal journeys

Why am I passionate about this?

Since childhood, when my best friend and I would experiment together with recipes from the Time-Life Foods of the World cookbook series and then gorge on the delectable results, I’ve been enamored of food and cooking, a love which eventually led me to pursue a degree in culinary arts (while simultaneously spending my days as a research and appellate attorney). In addition to Justice is Served, I also write the Sally Solari Mysteries, a culinary series set in Santa Cruz, California. 


I wrote...

Justice is Served: A Tale of Scallops, the Law, and Cooking for RBG

By Leslie Karst,

Book cover of Justice is Served: A Tale of Scallops, the Law, and Cooking for RBG

What is my book about?

In this true-life Julie and Julia-meets-Notorious RBG mash-up, former attorney Leslie Karst recounts how finagling her way into hosting an intimate dinner party for Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg sends her on a journey of culinary and personal discovery—and, ultimately, completely changes her life. 

Justice is Served is Karst’s light-hearted, earnest account of the journey this unexpected challenge launched her on, along the way, imparting details of RBG’s transformation from a young Jewish girl from Flatbush, Brooklyn, to one of the most celebrated Supreme Court justices in our nation’s history. A heartfelt story of simultaneously searching for delicious recipes and purpose in life, Justice is Served is an inspiring reminder that it’s never too late to discover—and follow—your deepest passion.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of The Omnivore's Dilemma

Leslie Karst Why did I love this book?

“What should we have for dinner?” is the premise of the fascinating and engaging book that shot Michael Pollan to fame and celebrity. In each of the book’s sections, Pollan follows from source to final product the workings of the three primary food chains—industrial (via corn); pastoral (poultry and meat); and foraged (hunting/gathering)—and in the process, comes to a new and personal understanding of how we as a culture eat and how we should be eating. One often hears about books that “changed my life,” but in this case, that is actually the truth: by making me truly aware of where my food actually comes from, this book quite literally changed the way I think about what I put into my mouth. 

By Michael Pollan,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked The Omnivore's Dilemma as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 10, 11, 12, and 13.

What is this book about?

The New York Times bestseller that's changing America's diet is now perfect for younger readers

"What's for dinner?" seemed like a simple question-until journalist and supermarket detective Michael Pollan delved behind the scenes. From fast food and big organic to small farms and old-fashioned hunting and gathering, this young readers' adaptation of Pollan's famous food-chain exploration encourages kids to consider the personal and global health implications of their food choices.

In a smart, compelling format with updated facts, plenty of photos, graphs, and visuals, as well as a new afterword and backmatter, The Omnivore's Dilemma serves up a bold message…


Book cover of Climbing the Mango Trees: A Memoir of a Childhood in India

Leslie Karst Why did I love this book?

Madhur Jaffrey—the actress/author/celebrity chef whose cookbooks opened up to an entire generation of Brits and Americans the wonders of Indian cuisine—taught me to cook Indian food. And then this beautiful memoir taught me to appreciate the history and culture from whence her recipes spring. A heartfelt and vivid tale of growing up in northern India under the shadow of the coming world war, Climbing the Mango Trees is the story of family, spicy cauliflower (and yes, mangos, too!), and the ability of food to evoke memory and unite us all. 

By Madhur Jaffrey,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Climbing the Mango Trees as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 14, 15, 16, and 17.

What is this book about?

'I was born in a sprawling house by the Yamuna River in Delhi. When I was a few minutes old, Grandmother welcomed me into the world by writing 'Om', which means 'I am' in Sanskrit, on my tongue with a little finger dipped in honey. When the family priest arrived to draw up my horoscope, he scribbled astrological symbols on a long scroll and set down a name for me, Indrani, or 'queen of the heavens'. My father ignored him completely and proclaimed my name was to be Madhur ('sweet as honey').' So begins Madhur Jaffrey's enchanting memoir of her…


Book cover of Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly

Leslie Karst Why did I love this book?

Long before The Bear television series, there was the Bourdain’s exposé of the underbelly of the culture of the restaurant kitchen. At times raunchy, exhilarating, sharp-witted, angry, and hilarious, Kitchen Confidential is not merely an unflinching look at what, at the time (2000), were the mysterious goings-on of commercial kitchens, but more importantly, it’s the story of a wild and passionate young man’s search for purpose and meaning in life through food and cooking—a story made all the more poignant by what we now know of Bourdain’s lifelong battle with depression.

By Anthony Bourdain,

Why should I read it?

8 authors picked Kitchen Confidential as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

THE CLASSIC BESTSELLER: 'The greatest book about food ever written' 'A compelling book with its intriguing mix of clever writing and kitchen patois ... more horrifically gripping than a Stephen King novel' Sunday Times 'Extraordinary ... written with a clarity and a clear-eyed wit to put the professional food-writing fraternity to shame' Observer _____________________________ After twenty-five years of 'sex, drugs, bad behaviour and haute cuisine', chef and novelist Anthony Bourdain decided to tell all - and he meant all. From his first oyster in the Gironde to his lowly position as a dishwasher in a honky-tonk fish restaurant in Provincetown;…


Book cover of My Life in France

Leslie Karst Why did I love this book?

Commencing with that momentous lunch of Sole Meunière (“it was the most exciting meal of my life”), which launched Julia Child on her quest to unravel the secrets of French cuisine, this is a delightful memoir of the post-war years of the future celebrity chef spent in Paris and Marseille with her charming husband Paul. I can hear Child’s hearty laugh and exuberant voice throughout as she regales us lucky readers with stories of learning how to properly scramble an egg at Le Cordon Bleu, of visits to the local crémerie for fresh-churned butter and Camembert cheese, and late-night dinner parties at their Parisian digs. Few books have made me smile (and feel hungry) as much as this one did. 

By Julia Child, Alex Prud'homme,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked My Life in France as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

NATIONAL BESTSELLER • Julia's story of her transformative years in France in her own words is "captivating ... her marvelously distinctive voice is present on every page.” (San Francisco Chronicle).

Although she would later singlehandedly create a new approach to American cuisine with her cookbook Mastering the Art of French Cooking and her television show The French Chef, Julia Child was not always a master chef. Indeed, when she first arrived in France in 1948 with her husband, Paul, who was to work for the USIS, she spoke no French and knew nothing about the country itself.

But as she…


Book cover of Born Round: A Story of Family, Food and a Ferocious Appetite

Leslie Karst Why did I love this book?

Possessing an insatiable appetite even as a toddler, Frank Bruni has long had a complicated relationship with food. Body shame—made all the worse by being a single gay man trying to conform to an impossible standard—drove him from fad diets, to manic exercise, and even bulimia. Nevertheless, in 2004, he accepted the position as restaurant critic for The New York Times. Having spent the better part of my own life acutely conscious of my caloric intake, I found Born Round to be a moving account of the struggle so many of us face regarding body image, and how coming to terms with our own limits and the compromises we need to make can provide a path to self-love and happiness. 

By Frank Bruni,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Born Round as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The New York Times restaurant critic's heartbreaking and hilarious account of how he learned to love food just enough

Frank Bruni was born round. Round as in stout, chubby, and always hungry. His relationship with eating was difficult and his struggle with it began early. When named the restaurant critic for The New York Times in 2004, he knew he would be performing one of the most watched tasks in the epicurean universe. And with food his friend and enemy both, his jitters focused primarily on whether he'd finally made some sense of that relationship. A captivating story of his…


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Ferry to Cooperation Island

By Carol Newman Cronin,

Book cover of Ferry to Cooperation Island

Carol Newman Cronin Author Of Ferry to Cooperation Island

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Sailor Olympian Editor New Englander Rum drinker

Carol's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

James Malloy is a ferry captain--or used to be, until he was unceremoniously fired and replaced by a "girl" named Courtney Farris. Now, instead of piloting Brenton Island’s daily lifeline to the glitzy docks of Newport, Rhode Island, James spends his days beached, bitter, and bored.

When he discovers a plan for a private golf course on wilderness sacred to his dying best friend, James is determined to stop such "improvements." But despite Brenton's nickname as "Cooperation Island," he's used to working solo. To keep historic trees and ocean shoreline open to all, he'll have to learn to cooperate with other islanders--including Captain Courtney, who might just morph from irritant to irresistible once James learns a secret that's been kept from him for years.

Ferry to Cooperation Island

By Carol Newman Cronin,

What is this book about?

Loner James Malloy is a ferry captain-or used to be, until he was unceremoniously fired and replaced by a girl named Courtney Farris. Now, instead of piloting Brenton Island's daily lifeline to the glitzy docks of Newport, Rhode Island, James spends his days beached, bitter, and bored.

When he discovers a private golf course staked out across wilderness sacred to his dying best friend, a Narragansett Indian, James is determined to stop such "improvements." But despite Brenton's nickname as "Cooperation Island," he's used to working solo. To keep rocky bluffs, historic trees, and ocean shoreline open to all, he'll have…


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