13 Best Fiction Food Books, Ranked

A cold iced coffee dripping with condensation, your legs stretched out on a lounge chair, the sun beating down on you, and a good book in hand — we can't think of a more perfect situation. There truly is nothing like devouring a good book. And if you're anything like us, you probably prefer reading about things you enjoy. Yes, everyone loves dipping their toes in unfamiliar waters and learning about things they know nothing of, but it is just as fun to read a book about the thing you're passionate about. If you're a dancer, a fiction book centered around ballet will be a delight. And if you're a home baker, professional chef, coffee shop enthusiast, or some iteration of a foodie, reading books about food and drinks is extra delicious.

With that in mind, we've come up with a list of the best fiction food books, because who wants to read cookbooks all the time? Sometimes you want to step into a world that's not your own and see what it would be like to be a bartender in Brooklyn, a pastry chef, or even work in a gourmet ice cream truck. Those are all plot points of the fiction books we've gathered, and we're tickled pink to present you with our list, ranked based on how universally appealing the books are as well as how central food/drinks are to the plot.

13. One Last Stop

Ah, Casey McQuiston. For us, anything they write is an automatic buy. After their debut novel "Red, White & Royal Blue" swept everyone everywhere off their feet, we were ecstatically awaiting the author's second novel. And in the summer of 2021, they delivered "One Last Stop." Personally, we think that the concept for this book could be a bit hard to pull off, as there are so many elements going on with it. But McQuiston delivered, and did so with great emotion.

"One Last Stop" is about a lot of things, including moving to New York City from Louisiana, drag queens, being the child of a single parent, LGBTQ+ rights throughout history, cold cases, time travel, the subway system, and, of course, food. When the main character in this book, August, moves to NYC, she gets a job at a pancake diner. The pancakes, syrup, and diner parts of this book are fun and add heart to the novel, and (no spoilers) do play a key element in the plot. But they're competing with many other things going on, which is why this book got the last place on our ranking. But that ranking is no slight, at least in terms of how much we enjoyed it — we love this book. It's just that food isn't at the core of it.

12. The Second-Worst Restaurant in France

No, we didn't put this one in second-to-last place because of the title — we do actually have standards and reasoning behind the rankings. This sequel to a book called "My Italian Bulldozer" (what a name, right?) is about a cookbook author who finds himself in the French countryside when working on his next project. The author of "The Second-Worst Restaurant in France," Alexander McCall Smith, is well-regarded in the book world, and his writing is solid. But one of the reasons we ranked this where we did is because we think this read doesn't pull you in as much as some of the others. It's an enjoyable one if you're already in a good place with reading, but we wouldn't exactly recommend it to you to get out of a slump.

Even so, the plot is fun, the characters are vibrant, and the food elements are certainly there. If you've ever wondered what it takes to be a cookbook author, we think this book gives you a fun peek into what that's like. And if you already happen to be a cookbook author yourself, that'll only make this book all the more enjoyable.

11. Melt With You

If you think the title of this book is punny and adorable, just wait until you read it. "Melt With You" by Jennifer Dugan is the sweetest summer read, and it'll make you want to bite into an ice cream sandwich. If you enjoy friends to lovers to enemies to lovers or any version of those tropes, you'll love the banter and tension in this book.

We can't think of a better book to read on the beach as the sun sets. This one is about two girls, Chloe and Fallon, who are friends-to-lovers-to-enemies-to-friends, and their parents co-own a gourmet ice cream truck. What a premise for a young adult book, right? We love it. Even if you've never worked at an ice cream shop or in a food truck, this book will make you feel like you have. It's bubbly and enjoyable with a decent scoop of coming-of-age life lessons in there. It's ranked a bit lower on our list because we know not everyone is looking for a YA book. But even if you're not typically a reader of Young Adult, keep this one on your radar for a sweet palate cleanser of a book.

10. A Taste of Sage

Reading about someone whose dream failed doesn't exactly sound like a fun time, but we promise you this book is nothing short of a wild ride. There are quite a variety of fiction books in this ranking about a wide range of food and drink topics, but funnily enough, this is the only one where the main character is a chef who opens up their own restaurant. Well, that's not exactly the plot, as that restaurant subsequently doesn't work out, and Lumi (the main character) is forced to take a job as a chef at someone else's eatery. That's a tough blow.

We enjoy this book for its tenacious wit and the different types of tension going on. You have tension between Lumi and her past, tension in her career, and, of course, the tension between Lumi and her boss, Julien. If you're a foodie, you'll enjoy this book for its culinary anecdotes and misadventures, but also the nods to life in NYC and what it's like when your dream doesn't exactly pan out. It's a great read, but it just wasn't our favorite on this list.

9. Lessons in Chemistry

This one has been popular for a while now, and for good reason — "Lessons in Chemistry" by Bonnie Garmus is a masterpiece. The only reason we didn't rank it higher is because, while the food elements do shine, they're not quite the heart and soul of the story. Science, feminism, and other elements of the story work together to form a fascinating, unique book, and while food is a main component, it's not the star of the show.

That being said, this is still an excellent book to read if you're a foodie. Think if Alton Brown had a science cooking show back in the 1960s, except if he was a woman, and if he spoke with a bit more scientific flair on-air. That's about the premise of this book (without giving too much away, of course). If you're a science nerd, you'll probably enjoy this one as well. And if you liked the book "Hidden Figures," we'd be shocked if you didn't add this one to your TBR (to-be-read list, if you're not fluent in book-speak).

8. The Summer Job

A summer job. Haven't we all had one growing up at some point? For most people, you probably worked as a waitress at a local restaurant or maybe a lifeguard at the beach. But Birdy, the main character in "The Summer Job," landed herself the odd gig of working as a wine expert in a Scottish hotel. Except, well, she didn't get the job — she technically stole it from her friend who does actually know the difference between chardonnay and Champagne.

A genuinely funny book about not only not knowing what you're talking about (not only in the expert wine world, but in general), author Lizzy Dent takes you on a ride of reds, whites, and everything in between. We think it's a crime to read this book in any other season than summer, and if you're a wine person (or perhaps are a wannabe wine snob), you'll get a kick out of this one. But, we know wine isn't everyone's forte, so that's why it lands in the middle of our list. Even so, a fun read about unexpected summer plans and drinking rosé is fun for everyone, so give it a try.

7. Varina Palladino's Jersey Italian Love Story

We first saw this book in the new arrivals section of Barnes and Noble, and right away the title and cover caught our eye. How could it not, when we love everything Italian and from New Jersey? While those qualifiers may be niche, the principle of the story is universal. Basically, you don't have to be Italian or from New Jersey to enjoy this book.

Ultimately, "Varina Palladino's Jersey Italian Love Story" by Terri-Lynne DeFino is a triumph in exploring complicated family relationships, generational disconnects, and what it takes to run a small family business. The food element in this one? The Palladino family runs an Italian grocery store, which, if you've never been in one, is quite the undertaking. With lots of nods to Italian culture, cooking, and crises, this book will keep you on your toes and make you hungry at the same time.

6. A Phở Love Story

Have you ever walked down a street and seen two similar restaurants right across the street from each other? How do people decide which one to eat at? Questions like those were the premise for "A Phở Love Story" by author Loan Le, and the answers led to quite a fun coming-of-age novel. This book is about (you guessed it) two rival Vietnamese restaurants located directly across the street from each other. The family's rivalry dates back a while, and the two main characters, Bao and Linh, had been taught to despise the other's family in the rivalry.

What makes this book fun is not the Romeo and Juliet-esque vibes of the story, but rather the exploration of how food and family are connected. Yes, the banter is amazing and the side characters have plots that are just as interesting, but what we enjoyed about this read was the authenticity of it. The characters felt real, as did the food. So curl up with a warm bowl of phở or a plate of bánh cam and devour this Young Adult novel.

5. Chef's Kiss

By this point, you have to know that we really appreciate a punchy title. "Chef's Kiss" hits all of our marks in what we like in a good book. It's well-written, smart, funny, keeps you on your toes, and lures you in with the fascination of how on earth the main character will get through the disaster of a situation they've found themself in. This book is, pun entirely intended, a chef's kiss.

If you're wondering what this book is about, let us enlighten you. A pastry chef, named Simone, has a dream job working as a pastry expert at a cookbook publishing company. What a fun premise. But the story begins when her world gets turned upside down and the company wants her to start making video-format content of her recipes. And that struggle is only exacerbated by the headstrong nonbinary kitchen manager named Ray that Simone has to work with. It's a fun read that will get you wondering what you yourself would do in Simone's shoes, and with fun nods to culinary genres like a homebrewing hobby and sourdough starters, "Chef's Kiss" is a treat for the home bakers and cooks.

4. Legends & Lattes

Though fiction food and drink books are a burgeoning genre, we'd like to submit a new sub-genre to be created based on our love for this book alone: Fantasy books about food and drinks. When you typically think of fantasy books, we're sure you picture something like "The Lord of the Rings" where everyone is fighting battles and going on epic journeys with names of characters you can barely pronounce. In "Legends & Lattes" by Travis Baldree, all that action has already happened. The main character is done with her battles and hangs up her sword (no, literally, she hangs it up).

This book is about a character opening a coffee shop in a town where no one has heard of coffee — which, off the bat, is absolutely a fantastical element. But what makes this "high fantasy, low stakes" cozy fantasy sing is watching the lead, Viv, through her journey to open up her coffee shop. It's all she wants, and therefore it's all that you as a reader want. "Legends & Lattes" is ideal for when you want to feel like you know the characters, and if you don't read this in a coffee shop, that's genuinely a crime. If you love coffee, or if you just want a comforting (but still engaging) read, this is the book for you. The only reason it isn't ranked higher is because we know not everyone wants to read a fantasy.

3. Rosaline Palmer Takes The Cake

Fans of "The Great British Baking Show" (or Bake-Off, if you're British), this is the book you've been waiting for — you just didn't know it. In "Rosaline Palmer Takes The Cake" by Alexis Hall, contestants in "The Great British Baking Show" — ahem, "Bake Expectations," as it's called in the novel — compete in the week-to-week baking elimination show that we all know and love. Except, on Netflix, when the contestants leave the tent, we don't really know what their lives look like. This book gives you the ultimate insider peek into the show you've always wanted.

Rosaline Palmer, a single mother and exceptional home baker, enters this competition, and throughout the novel (broken into sections based on the classic weeks like "Patisserie Week" and "Bread Week"), you see the journey of her baking and personal life. Fans of the baking show in real life will also delight at the nods to elements of the show, like how one certain judge (ahem, Prue Leith), is always fond of alcohol in a bake, or how there's always at least one or two people per season that are there because they can bake, and because they look good in a pinafore. "Rosaline Palmer Takes The Cake" is easily one of the best books about food we've ever read, and it's as fun a ride as "The Great British Baking Show" itself. And if you enjoy this one, check out the sequel, titled "Paris Dalliencourt Is About To Crumble."

2. Love & Other Disasters

We've always been suckers for a book centered around a reality show, and "Love & Other Disasters" hits all the marks we're looking for in the trope. It's hilarious, heartfelt, and incredibly witty, and the fact that the reality show is about a cooking competition just brings all those elements together like a perfectly-cooked fish taco (that's a joke about the book if you've read it before).

Not only is this a delightful look behind-the-scenes of what it means to be in a cooking competition television series, but it's a book that celebrates what cooking is all about — bringing people together. The two main characters switch perspectives throughout the book, so you get to see two points of view. Is there also a delightful love story in here? Yes. But even if you're not on the look for a romance book, we think the universal themes in "Love & Other Disasters" will capture your heart and make you hungry for what they're cooking up on the show called "Chef's Special."

1. The Bartender's Cure

If you've ever been to a trendy, hipster, (cough, cough gentrified) bar in Brooklyn, you can probably picture the bartenders there. They're highly skilled, and deal with customers asking for drinks like a non-alcoholic French 75 (we don't even know how you would achieve that — is that just lemon juice and sugar?) or a kombucha-based beverage. While expecting that "The Bartender's Cure" by Wesley Straton might have some hipster energy, it only pokes fun at it while capturing the essence of what Brooklyn really is.

Most of the books on this list have been about food in some capacity, and a select few have been about beverages. "The Bartender's Cure" doesn't snag first place because it's unique in that it's a story about a bartender, but because out of all the fiction novels on this list, it has food and drinks at the very core of the novel. This book simply wouldn't exist without the bartending element. And boy, oh boy is it a treat to read if you know anything about cocktail-making. With actual recipes in the book, Straton takes you on a journey of what it means to be a bartender, and it's so fun that you might just want to re-read it sometime.