I can’t resist an engaging book with strong food themes! There are a lot of quality options in this subgenre and I am sharing many of my favorites here! This list is specifically for middle grade novels (geared towards age 8-12) and young adult novels (geared towards ages 13-18 although there can be a lot of variance in content).
For books in other age categories check out these lists:
The second annual #FedbyBooks February is coming up! I host this month long celebration on Instagram along with @thebookishcookier to feature the intersection of books and food. Everyone is invited to join by sharing food you’ve paired with a book, food you were inspired to make because of a book, or books you’ve enjoyed that include food themes. To help you find fun books with food themes I’m typed up the above lists.
–Midsummer’s Mayhem: My favorite middle grade novel of 2019, this is a beautiful story of a girl who loves combining flavors in new ways and is striving to follow her dreams. Check out my review and recipes I made from the book. A companion novel Much Ado About Baseball released in 2021 and was a really fun look at the savory side of food in their town!
–A Place at the Table: This story combines so many themes I love to see in books: food, cross cultural relations, family, friendship, and learning to overcome prejudice and find connection. Check out my review and related dish.
–Ways to Make Sunshine: This is a lower Middle Grade book, geared toward ages 7 or 8 and above. Food is not a huge part of the story but the main character does have a passion for trying new recipes. See my review and inspired treat.
–Aven Green Baking Machine by Dusti Bowling: A lower middle grade/early chapter book this short and engaging story includes many illustrations, a baking contest, and multiple recipes!
–Measuring Up : This graphic novel follows a girl adjusting to life in a new country and her exciting participation in a junior cooking competition. You can read my review and see the inspired dish I made.
–Taking Up Space by Alyson Garber: This one has important and thoughtful representation of disorder eating as well as delicious sounding food created for a cooking contest.
–Little House on the Prairie series: I know I am not alone in saying this series always makes me hungry! Especially Farmer Boy! When food is so scare and/or requires so much work there is an extra sense of enjoyment. I am planning start this series with my kids soon and we will be still moving through it in February and will probably be sharing some dishes we are making!
YOUNG ADULT NOVELS:
–Woven in Moonlight: This Bolivian inspired fantasy is full of adventure and intrigue–and a lot of delicious food description! There is even a food glossary in the back! You can see my thoughts and inspired dish.
–A Cuban Girl’s Guide to Tea and Tomorrow: Cozy and heartwarming story of a Cuban American girl who is forced to leave her Miami bakery for a summer and finds unexpected joy in England the things she cooks up there. Check out my full review and dish inspired by the book.
–With the Fire on High: I loved reading about how cooking provided so much joy, meaning, and fulfillment in the main character’s life in this story. The food descriptions and combinations were mouth watering and all the scenes in the classroom, restaurants, and abroad were really enjoyable. This one is also excellent on audio narrated by the author. Be aware that the content is on the mature end of YA. There is some swearing throughout including a handful of f-words. And although not explicit there are multiple frank discussions and descriptions of teen sex.
–My Fine Fellow by Jennieke Cohen: This book has such a fun concept: a gender swapped retelling of My Fair Lady with the focus on food rather than speech as a young man is trained in high class cooking by two young women. There are tons of detailed food descriptions and food prep! You can find my full review and inspired dish.
–Love and Olives by Jenna Evans Welch: This is the third book in the series that starts with Love and Gelato but the order is not important and I have only read the third book and understood everything. There is not a ton of food in this one, but it transports you to Greece with a light, engaging story that also packs an emotional punch.