Great Food-ish Nonfiction 2020

By Helen Rosner

By Helen Rosner

Franchise: The Golden Arches in Black America

Marcia Chatelain

$28.95 $26.63

An elegantly written, richly researched history that illustrates how deeply entwined the narratives of food, capital, and entrepreneurship are to the Black American experience.

Diners, Dudes, and Diets: How Gender and Power Collide in Food Media and Culture

Emily J. H. Contois


A sharp-as-hell dissection of how cultural notions of masculinity and femininity are weaponized in the kitchen, the grocery store, the dinner table, and everywhere else. Fascinating, mordant, enraging, illuminating.

Feasting Wild: In Search of the Last Untamed Food

Gina Rae La Cerva

$26.95 $24.79

A wide-ranging, globe-spanning travelogue of foraging, deftly reported and beautifully written, which doubles as a powerful thesis on climate, geography, colonialism, and what it means to be (or to be called) indigenous.

Fermentation as Metaphor: Follow Up to the Bestselling "the Art of Fermentation"

Sandor Ellix Katz

$25.00 $23.00

A strange, wondrous book that does exactly what the title promises. Katz, a high priest of fermentation, poetically draws together threads that link the world of the microbiome to the macro: art, religion, sex, emotion, memory, activism, growth, death, family, and one's own sense of self.

Take Back the Tray: Revolutionizing Food in Hospitals, Schools, and Other Institutions

Joshna Maharaj

$18.95 $17.43

A passionate, rigorous, first-person argument for restoring dignity to the maligned, overlooked, under-funded, culturally dismissed world of "institutional food," as well as restoring dignity to the people in circumstances of eating it.

Fรคviken: 4015 Days, Beginning to End

Magnus Nilsson

$59.95 $55.15

Fรคviken, by all accounts a wondrous Swedish restaurant (that I'm sad I never visited), closed forever this year. This book is a Cubist portrait of a place and an endeavor, all faces and times at once: essays and disquisitions, recipes, profiles, portraits, and a catalog of every dish ever prepared.

Be My Guest: Reflections on Food, Community, and the Meaning of Generosity

Priya Basil

$19.95 $18.35

Philosophical, meditative, and meandering; intimately personal but also tremendous in its universality. An exploration, through food, of the idea of care, how we live with it and within it, and how it's shaped and inflected by community, religion, race, nation, friendship, family, love, and obligation.

Dirt: Adventures in Lyon as a Chef in Training, Father, and Sleuth Looking for the Secret of French Cooking

Bill Buford

$28.95 $26.63

A sweeping, glamorous, bloody, awfully funny fairy tale of nearly five years spent in thrall to the magnetic hauteur of grand French cuisine, trying to extract the great (and often not-so-great) secrets of the city's culinary titans as an ever-modernizing world threatens their (astonishingly) still old-school ways.

Our Lady of Perpetual Hunger: A Memoir

Lisa Donovan

$28.00 $25.76

A poetic chainsaw of a memoir โ€” a story of cooking, restaurants, family, pastry, and astonishing resilience, fueled by rage and love in equal parts, ending in a place of astonishing emotional generosity. (And goddamn can Donovan turn a sentence.)

Eat a Peach: A Memoir

David Chang and Gabe Ulla

$28.00 $25.76

You get the sense, reading this, of sitting in on a therapy session: Chang chews through family dysfunction, self-loathing, mental illness, and the trauma of success with a degree of rawness and candor that verges on surreal. (Shoutout to chapter 15, one of the most astonishing things I've read all year.)

The Man Who Ate Too Much: The Life of James Beard

John Birdsall

$35.00 $32.20

Birdsall's biography is both elegant and unvarnished, a beautifully unconventional life-audit that locates Beard in contexts where he isn't often placed: his queerness, his strangeness, his difficulties and triumphs.

The Secret Life of Groceries: The Dark Miracle of the American Supermarket

Benjamin Lorr

$27.00 $24.84

A marvelous addition to the "let's talk to everybody in the world" canon of book-length reporting: we spend time with truckers, buyers, brand geniuses, industrialists, workers, and activists, pulling back the curtain on the vast tentacular reach of the extremely weird, amazingly intense world of grocery stores.