Get access to everything we publish when you sign up for Outside+.
Cookbooks aren’t the only section to hit up next time you’re at the bookstore. The wonderful world of fiction has an endless number of novels that will appeal to foodies, spanning across all types of genres. You can lose yourself in a narrative following the lives of food writers, chefs, restaurateurs, and other character-driven stories that take place within the food industry.
Whether you’re in need of a new read or coming up short on gift ideas for your food-obsessed friend, there’s no shortage of options. Check out these 12 fiction books and get ready to add them to your to-be-read list.
1. Number One Chinese Restaurant: A Novel by Lillian Li
Order some Chinese food for dinner and snuggle up with this debut novel written by Lillian Li. Number One Chinese Restaurant unpacks the complicated lives of those working at The Beijing Duck House, a go-to restaurant in Maryland. A disaster forces its main characters to deal with their own unique troubles, as well as the intricate relationships that exist within the restaurant.
2. The Kitchen Front: A Novel by Jennifer Ryan
The Kitchen Front by Jennifer Ryan is a historical fiction novel that takes place two years into World War II. To help housewives with food rationing efforts, a BBC radio program holds a cooking contest in which the winner will become the first female co-host of the show. There are four women competing for this life-changing opportunity, each going through personal hardships that may leave you torn over who to root for.
3. Sweethand by N.G. Peltierbook
Is there anything more frustrating than having a persistent mother wondering when you’ll find settle down in life with a partner? For Cherisse in the novel Sweethand by N.G. Peltier, that’s exactly what she has to deal with following a dramatic breakup with her boyfriend.
As the pastry chef tries focusing on her growing business amidst her sister’s many wedding activities, she ends up dealing with her least favorite eligible bachelor, Keiran. With forced proximity and the classic enemies-to-lovers trope, this story will quickly become a favorite for fans of contemporary romance.
4. Somewhere Between Bitter and Sweet by Laekan Zea Kemp
Somewhere Between Bitter and Sweet, a debut young adult novel from Laekan Zea Kemp, follows two young people’s journey of familial expectations, food, and first love. Penelope has dreamed of opening her own pastelería next to her father’s restaurant, Nacho’s Tacos, despite the differing expectations that come from her traditional Mexican American parents.
Meanwhile, Nacho’s Tacos new hire Xander is dealing with his own family related issues. As the two main characters connect, they must also deal with the pressing threat impacting both Xander’s immigrant status and the fate of Penelope’s family business.
5. Envy of Angels by Matt Wallace
Humans aren’t the only ones who enjoy good food and New York City outings. In Envy of Angels by Matt Wallace, immerse yourself into the world of supernatural beings that work at a catering company. This urban fantasy book is clever, original, and filled with funny plot points that’ll keep you hooked.
There’s good news for those who end up loving this novel — it’s part of a seven-book series that offers even more supernatural catering chronicles.
6. Rosaline Palmer Takes the Cake by Alexis Hall
There’s a lot at stake for our heroine in Rosaline Palmer Takes the Cake by Alexis Hall. As a single mother with money troubles, Rosaline ends up putting her culinary skills to the test on the country’s top baking show — no pressure, right?
Not only is she focused on winning the prize money, but there are also two potential love interests who challenge her beliefs and ways of thinking. It’s safe to say this book is a must-read for fans of The Great British Bake Off and contemporary romance.
7. The Dishwasher by Stéphane Larue
If you’ve ever worked in a restaurant, see how your experience measures up to the plot in The Dishwasher. When times get tough, the main character returns to his humble first job that promises a paycheck — washing dishes at a posh restaurant called La Trattoria. Stéphane Larue vividly writes about the reality of working behind-the-scenes in the service industry while dealing with personal hardships in the city of Montreal.
8. A Pho Love Story by Loan Le
The number of food references Loan Le writes in A Pho Love Story will most definitely have you aching for Vietnamese cuisine while reading. This modern take on Romeo and Juliet has two star-crossed lovers navigate their relationship as they deal with their parents’ neighbouring and competing pho restaurants. Will this longtime family feud get in the way of these teens making it work?
9. Ghosts by Dolly Alderton
The life of a food writer may seem like bliss, but that doesn’t seem to be the case for Nina Dean. On top of the stress of not impressing her editor with the idea of her second book, she’s dealing with her father’s Alzheimer’s, mother trouble, and growing apart from her best friend — all while trying to have a successful love life.
Ghosts by Dolly Alderton is a contemporary romance that will have you laughing and relating to a 30-something person just trying to figure out life.
10. Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danier
What better way to launch yourself into adulthood than by working in a snazzy New York City restaurant? For 22-year-old Tess, her new job as a backwaiter becomes the backdrop of her crash course in the alluring — yet grimy — life of a young person in Manhattan. From fine dining and champagne to dive bars and illicit drugs, Sweetbitter explores one corner of the service industry with a coming-of-age narrative.
11. Arsenic and Adobo by Mia P. Manansala
Between matchmaking aunties, post-breakup recovery, and trying to keep her family’s Filipino restaurant up and running, Lila Macapagal’s begins as your typical romantic comedy. That quickly changes once her food critic ex-boyfriend drops dead soon after they have a confrontation — yikes.
To rule herself out as a suspect and ensure her family’s storefront isn’t sold by the landlord, Lila takes this investigation into her own hands. Mia P. Manansala writes Arsenic and Abodos as a lighthearted whodunit that will have you eagerly flipping pages for answers.
12. My Italian Bulldozer by Alexander McCall Smith
Indulge in some Italian comfort food while living vicariously through Paul Stewart, our main character in My Italian Bulldozer. This humorous novel follows his unexpected journey through the Tuscan countryside as he tries to get over his ex-girlfriend and finish his latest cookbook — all while traveling with a bulldozer instead of a rental car.
If you’re still interested in Paul’s journey after this book, then you’re in luck. Alexander McCall Smith wrote a sequel called The Second-Worst Restaurant in France. This one takes place in a French village where the food writer continues to deal with more unexpected ups and downs.
Looking for more fun foodie ideas beyond fiction? Check out these: