Entertaining

The 7 Best Books All About Julia Child

Dive deep into the life of the beloved chef
Julia Child
Photo: Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute, Harvard University

You may think you know Julia Child. You know how she changed boeuf bourguignon from tongue twister to dinner staple for generations of home cooks, and how she paved the way for Food Network's modern popularity. But with these seven books—including a 600+-page biography and a new book with never-before-seen photos—you're sure to discover even more surprising tidbits about her work, life and love of food.

① Julia Child: A Life, by Laura Shapiro ($16)

This historical dive into Child’s trajectory from SoCal girl to U.S. spy to beloved chef unearths a trove of fun facts. You'll learn how long she spent prepping for each episode of The French Chef (19 hours) and even how she went about treating a cold ("Climb into bed with a bourbon on ice"). It also parallels Child's rise to stardom with the evolution of American food.

② In Julia's Kitchen, by Pamela Heyne and Jim Scherer ($25)

Heyne is also an architect, so beyond just opening the doors to Child's various famous kitchens, you'll also learn about how they influenced modern eating and design trends throughout the country. This recent release is heavy on the photos without disintegrating into the realm of coffee-table books and also offers tips on how to recreate your own version of a Child kitchen.

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③ The French Chef in America, by Alex Prud'homme ($28)

Consider this the unofficial part two of My Life in France. Whereas Child’s book chronicled the beginning of her love affair with French cuisine, this one digs into her time back stateside. Family photos of the personality-driven star add an intimate quality to this book, which was written by her grandnephew. Some of the most delightful moments explore the friendship of Child and James Beard, or "the Bearded Child."

④ Baking with Julia, by Dorie Greenspan ($40)

For those who must have recipes, this book is the one to get. Greenspan's delightful writing provides the backbone of Child’s techniques and keeps it from feeling strictly like a cookbook. While surely you’re familiar with Child’s beef stew, her Irish soda bread and Danish braid are equally deserving of your attention.

⑤ Dearie: The Remarkable Life of Julia Child, by Bob Spitz ($16)

If there was one book most akin to the Julie & Julia screenplay, Dearie would be it. Despite the grand scale of details included, one of the most interesting parts of the book lies just within its covers. An annotated facsimile of the script from The French Chef's first episode (the famed boeuf bourguignon one) lines the front cover, with the omelet episode covering the back. And for anyone who still doubts Child's status as a lasting celebrity, consider that Spitz has also authored a Beatles biography, and once managed Bruce Springsteen and Elton John—she's in good company.

⑥ As Always, Julia, by Joan Reardon ($26)

Exploring Child through her friendship with Avis DeVoto, her book editor and mentor, lets you see a different side. Theirs wasn't all butter and book talk—you'll read plenty about the women's reactions to political events, especially in regards to McCarthyism. Their letters were sealed away for 30 years before being opened in 2006 like literary time bombs, and along with a wealth of photos, they act as a lens into the lives of two strong, smart women.  

⑦ Appetite for Life, by Noel Riley Fitch ($19)

Fitch calls Child "the prism and icon of the American culinary revolution" in the introduction, and his deft writing skills prove the claim. Get ready to fall in love with Child and her husband, Paul, all over again and expect to find yourself dreaming of Parisian kitchens. Clocking in at more than 600 pages, this may prove a good option for the audiobook crowd, unless you feel like building up your butter-churning muscles.

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