The best novels about food

Why am I passionate about this?

Crystal King is the author of The Chef’s Secret and Feast of Sorrow, which was long-listed for the Center for Fiction’s First Novel Prize and was a Must-Read for the MassBook Awards. She is an author, culinary enthusiast, and marketing expert. Her writing is fueled by a love of history and a passion for the food, language, and culture of Italy. She has taught classes in writing, creativity, and social media at GrubStreet, Harvard Extension School, and Boston University, among others. She resides in Boston.


I wrote...

Feast of Sorrow: A Novel of Ancient Rome

By Crystal King,

Book cover of Feast of Sorrow: A Novel of Ancient Rome

What is my book about?

Set amongst the scandal, wealth, and upstairs-downstairs politics of a Roman family, Crystal King’s seminal debut, Feast Of Sorrow, features the man who inspired the world’s oldest cookbook and the ambition that led to his destruction.

On a blistering day in the twenty-sixth year of Augustus Caesar’s reign, a young chef, Thrasius, is acquired for the exorbitant price of twenty thousand denarii. His purchaser is the infamous gourmet Marcus Gavius Apicius, wealthy beyond measure, obsessed with a taste for fine meals from exotic places, and a singular ambition: to serve as culinary advisor to Caesar, an honor that will cement his legacy as Rome's leading epicure.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of The Flounder

Crystal King Why did I love this book?

An epic feast of a book, The Flounder winds the reader from the Stone Age to the present day, mixing fantasy and history with dashes of actual recipes here and there. This novel is a long meal, full of the strangest stories including talking fish and three-breasted women, but in every era and every chapter, there is a woman who is master of both man and kitchen.

By Günter Grass,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Gunter Grass, says The Times, 'is on his own as an artist', and indeed this extraordinary, provoking and joyously Rabelaisian celebration of life, food and sex is unique.

Lifted from their ancient fairytale, the fisherman and his wife are still living today. During the months of Ilsebill's pregnancy, the fisherman tells her of his adventures through time with the Flounder, constituting a complete reworking of social, political and gastronomic history.


Book cover of Cooking with Fernet Branca

Crystal King Why did I love this book?

A fantastic parody of the Italian food/holiday/romance novels that saturated the market in the 90s and 00s, this novel feels as wine-soaked as its cover. Hilarious, tipsy, and over-the-top. The characters are wild, the circumstances are campy and it makes for a very fun read. Cook the recipes--if you dare.

By James Hamilton-Paterson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Cooking with Fernet Branca as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

“A very funny sendup of Italian-cooking-holiday-romance novels” (Publishers Weekly).

Gerald Samper, an effete English snob, has his own private hilltop in Tuscany where he whiles away his time working as a ghostwriter for celebrities and inventing wholly original culinary concoctions―including ice cream made with garlic and the bitter, herb-based liqueur known as Fernet Branca. But Gerald’s idyll is about to be shattered by the arrival of Marta, on the run from a crime-riddled former Soviet republic, as a series of misunderstandings brings this odd couple into ever closer and more disastrous proximity . . .

“Provokes the sort of indecorous…


Book cover of Appetite

Crystal King Why did I love this book?

Nino Latino is the nephew of Fra Filippo Lippi, one of the greatest Florentine painters. For Nino, every taste brings a heightened connection to the people and places around him. He rises to culinary acclaim but it’s the forbidden hand of a woman that threatens to undo him. Appetite is a book to relish and devour.

By Philip Kazan,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Florence, 1466. A lust for life, a passion for power and a taste for adventure...

In Florence, everyone has a passion. With 60,000 souls inside the city, crammed into a cobweb of clattering streets, countless alleys, towers, workshops, tanneries, cloisters, churches and burial grounds, they live their lives in the narrow world between the walls. Nino Latini knows that if you want to survive without losing yourself completely, then you've got to have a passion.

But Nino's greatest gift will be his greatest curse. Nino can taste things that other people cannot. Every flavour, every ingredient comes alive for him…


Book cover of The Uncertain Hour: A Novel

Crystal King Why did I love this book?

In A.D. 66, Petronius, the author of the food-filled first novel, The Satyricon, has been implicated in an assassination plot to rid the world of Emperor Nero. He now faces a terrible choice: to end his life with honor, or to face an executioner at dawn. The Uncertain Hour is the sumptuous, beautiful tale of Petronius’s last, marvelous feast before he takes his place among the stars in the heavens.

By Jesse Browner,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Uncertain Hour as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

a.d. 66: Having been falsely implicated in a plot to assassinate the emperor Nero, Titus Petronius has a choice: await the executioner at dawn, or die a noble Roman death by his own hand. Deciding that his will be a suicide like no other the world has ever seen, he summons a small circle of intimate friends to his magnificent villa on the enchanting Tyrrhenian coast of southern Italy. There, over the course of a balmy autumn's night, Petronius throws the party of a lifetime. As they feast on course after course of the most sumptuous and exotic fare the…


Book cover of The Belly of Paris

Crystal King Why did I love this book?

In the third novel of Zola’s twenty-volume series Les Rougon-Macquart, a man named Florent, accused of a crime he didn’t commit, escapes to Paris and becomes a fish inspector at the Les Halles market. Food and politics collide in the heart of the market, giving the reader some of the most vivid and delicious descriptions you’ll ever find on the page.

By Emile Zola, Brian Nelson,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Belly of Paris as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'Respectable people... What bastards!'

Unjustly deported to Devil's Island following Louis-Napoleon's coup-d'etat in December 1851, Florent Quenu escapes and returns to Paris. He finds the city changed beyond recognition. The old Marche des Innocents has been knocked down as part of Haussmann's grand programme of urban reconstruction to make way for 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…


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By Mari Sangiovanni,

Book cover of Liddy-Jean Marketing Queen and the Matchmaking Scheme

Mari Sangiovanni

New book alert!

What is my book about?

Introducing the irrepressible Liddy-Jean Carpenter, a young woman who has learning disabilities but also has a genius plan.

While Liddy-Jean spends her days doing minor office tasks with nobody paying attention, she sees how badly the wand-waving big boss treats the Marketing Department worker bees. So, she takes lots of notes for a business book to teach bosses to be better. Liddy-Jean likes office-mate Rose and Rose’s new friend Jenny, but she doesn’t like Rose’s creepy boyfriend. So how can she save Rose?

Liddy-Jean knows with certainty that love is love, and she concludes that Rose should be with Jenny, bosses should do better, and everybody needs the services of Liddy-Jean, Marketing Queen.

Liddy-Jean Marketing Queen and the Matchmaking Scheme

By Mari Sangiovanni,

What is this book about?

Novelist and filmmaker Mari SanGiovanni introduces readers to the irrepressible Liddy-Jean Carpenter, a matchmaker with special talents who will charm readers with her wit, wisdom, and sensibilities in this warm, enchanting love-is-love office romance.

Liddy-Jean Carpenter has learning disabilities. But she also has a surprisingly genius plan.

While she spends her days doing minor office tasks with nobody paying attention, she sees how badly the wand-waving big boss treats the Marketing Department worker bees. So, she takes lots of notes for a business book to teach bosses to be better.

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Interested in suicide, the Stone Age, and Tuscany?

10,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about suicide, the Stone Age, and Tuscany.

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