7 (Non-Cookbook) Books for Foodies

Ivan Orkin's Ivan Ramen

Throughout the holiday season, we’re gathering books that make the perfect gifts for everyone on your list—from your mother and the teen in your life to your foodie friend and the coworker who loves Harry Potter. Need more ideas? Check out all of our guides.

In case you haven’t heard: food is IN. Big time. Almost everyone has foodie friends or family members these days. Maybe you can’t cook your way into their hearts this holiday season, and maybe their cookbook collections are already so vast they need their own Dewey Decimal System, but don’t fear. You can still get their stomachs growling and be original about it with a foodie book that goes beyond recipes. From memoirs to history to paeans to food porn, there are no straight-up cookbooks on this list, but there’s a perfect pairing for every flavor of foodie.

For the hunter/gatherer foodie
Backyard Foraging: 65 Familiar Plants You Didn’t Know You Could Eat, by Ellen Zachos

Hyper-local is the newest/oldest food trend there is. On menus, chefs are touting the local lineage of their proteins and the provenance of their produce, and home chefs are eagerly sourcing their own ingredients from the ocean to the woodlands to their backyards. If you have a hunter-gatherer in your life, he or she will certainly appreciate this book, appropriate even for the urban beginner.

For the “umami-this, umami-that” foodie
Ivan Ramen: Love, Obsession, and Recipes from Tokyo’s Most Unlikely Noodle Joint, by Ivan Orkin and Chris Ying

Yes, yes, we know the mysterious fifth taste is the secret key to unlocking the universe’s untold deliciousness, now shut up about it already. Or don’t. Read this book by David Chang’s BFF, and bask in the slurpable, sippable, fatty succulence that is the Japanese noodle soup called ramen.

For the nostalgic foodie
Katz’s: Autobiography of a Delicatessen, by Jake Dell and Baldomero Fernandez
Katz’s, the legendary New York deli by which all other New York delis are judged, is an American icon. Whether your giftee goes there every Saturday for a hand-carved pastrami on rye, aspires to a visit, or has only experienced it as the backdrop to Meg Ryan’s O-throes, this dynamic, highly visual “autobiography” will make her as sentimental as a sandwich can.

For the food historian
Provence, 1970: M.F.K. Fisher, Julia Child, James Beard, and the Reinvention of American Taste, by Luke Barr
All hail the trinity of modern cuisine. Fisher’s grandnephew draws from his great-aunt’s journals and letters to reconstruct the  serendipitous 1970 get-together of the time’s greatest culinary innovators, a meeting that would incontrovertibly change the course of American cooking. Like eavesdropping on a salon where palate finally shook pretentiousness.

For the hell-raiser foodie
Nine Lives: A Chef’s Journey from Chaos to Control, by Brandon Baltzley
The hard-living, tattooed chef is something of a cliché now, thanks to potty-mouthed geniuses like Anthony Bourdain, but Chef Baltzley, once called “the Salvador Dalí of cooking,” has wrestled as many demons as any of them and lived to tell the harrowing tale.

For the romantic foodie
Poor Man’s Feast: A Love Story of Comfort, Desire, and the Art of Simple Cooking, by Elissa Altman
James Beard Award–winning food blogger Altman grew up believing that, when it came to food, sophistication and simplicity were mutually exclusive (a kind of “the higher the hair, the closer to God” approach). It took a romantic relationship, with her partner Susan, to change her relationship with food. Lucky for us they met.

For the foodie who still tells bathroom jokes
The Essential Scratch and Sniff Guide to Becoming a Wine Expert: Take a Whiff of That, by Richard Betts
The cover reads: “Wine is a grocery, not a luxury.” Whether you’re hinting to an over-the-top oenophile to lighten up, or trying to steer a Two-Buck-Chucker on to more mature choices, this funny and fun wine guide, by a master sommelier, is not just for laughs—you might actually get a better bottle of wine out of it.

 What’s your favorite foodie read?

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