Columns > Published on May 13th, 2020

Go Out to Dinner with These 7 Delicious Books

Original Images by Ry Young & Valentina Degiorgis

I didn’t do much before quarantine. I wasn’t the kind of person who went to cool, underground shows at dive music venues. I didn’t spend whole Saturdays shopping at boutiques. Not really a fan of festivals. Some of this has to do with the low rate of pay that comes with the territory of being a writer and working in the book business. Most of it is because I just don’t care about going out. 

But I do care about going out to eat. I care about going out to eat a lot. 

My friends, I knew quarantine was getting to me the night I sat in front of the TV, put on Ugly Delicious by David Chang, and sat around and laughed and talked at the TV like I was there with them. Wasn’t I, in a way? Couldn’t I pretend to be out amongst the foodie folk, enjoying a delicious dinner, and having interesting conversations with interesting people, most of whom I would likely never see again? 

God, I miss going out to eat. 

While TV helps, books are always better. Where else can you get those sensuous descriptions of taste and comfort that leave you feeling oh-so-present? So here are my top 7 books to devour like a heaping plate of fresh pasta and some goddamn good wine.

"Kitchen Confidential" by Anthony Bourdain

Every book list about food and cooking and restaurants must begin with this one. It’s law. (Trust me, I looked it up. I’m a librarian.) Man, I miss Anthony Bourdain and his show, No Reservations (which is also a book.) But Kitchen Confidential is the original; it will bring back his voice, just for a moment, and remind you of how rock-and-roll it is to be in the restaurant industry (for better or worse.) 

Buy Kitchen Confidential at Bookshop


"My Life in France" by Julia Child

It’s one of the most beautiful countries with some of the most delicious food as described by the most delightful lady of all time. Get with it. Also, if you’re going through that phase again where you’re not sure what you do matters or you can ever be good enough or you’re an imposter, etc., etc., let Julia Child assuage your weary mind. 

Buy My Life in France at Bookshop


"Under the Tuscan Sun" by Frances Mayes

Okay, so this one is less about eating Italian food and more about renovating an Italian house, and I hear from some (looking at you, Martha) that it can be tedious if you’re not into house renovating. But come on, you know you love house renovation stories. We all do. Just admit it—this quarantine has been one HGTV binge after another, hasn’t it? Don’t be ashamed. But do pick up this book. 

Buy Under the Tuscan Sun at Bookshop


"Sweetbitter" by Stephanie Danler

Okay, full disclosure, I met this author when she did an event for us in Nashville, where she was in conversation with Lisa Taddeo, author of Three Women (another fantastic book you should read), but the event was so wonderful, and god I just miss being around people and swiping a drink from a passing tray, and this book reminds me of that so I’m including it. Plus, it’s good and drama-filled and there’s even a TV show adaptation that you can binge after reading. What’s not to love? 

Buy Sweetbitter at Bookshop


"Down and Out in Paris and London" by George Orwell

I don’t know about y’all, but I sure am sick of hearing about 1984. So why not try this other great George Orwell work? It’s a memoir (!) written in 1933 that’s split in half between experiences in Paris and London. Part one gives insight into what it was like to work in Paris kitchens in the post-Great War, pre-Hitler 30s. Part two rides you around the rails in London, showing you what it was like to live on the margins from hostel to hostel. Yes, it’s voyeuristic. What else do you expect? We’ve been stuck at home for two months. 

Buy Down and Out in Paris and London at Bookshop


"Chocolat" by Joanne Harris

This book has everything: magical chocolate, a scandalized priest, three generations of good witches, and a freaking Grand Festival of Chocolate pulled off by strength of spite. You, like me, are likely very tired of all these rules. Don’t go outside! Wear your mask! Don’t touch anyone! Definitely don’t lick anyone! The hell. Flout the rules with this book. 

Buy Chocolat at Bookshop


"Like Water for Chocolate" by Laura Esquivel

You can’t mention Chocolat without also mentioning this one. This book ALSO has everything: magical cooking, a wedding cake baked with tears that makes everyone throw up, ghosts, and a cookbook/spellbook even fire can’t burn. The story is broken up by each month of a year and has a recipe for each month that you can make. Which you should, because I know you’ve just been making the same roasted potatoes and sautéed meats for weeks and you’re sick of it, just SICK of it. This book is here to help—and to entertain. How sweet.

Buy Like Water For Chocolate at Bookshop

Here are two more from our friend, Joelle Herr at The Bookshop in East Nashville. Cause you can’t have a book recommendation list without a shoutout to your local beloved bookseller. Joelle recommends:

What She Ate by Laura Sapiro  

Kitchens of the Great Midwest by J. Ryan Stradel  

There you go. Recommendations from a librarian AND a bookseller. Now you can finally stop talking to the TV and pretend to have friends that live in these books instead. What a time to be alive! 

What are your favorite restaurant reads? 

About the author

Lisa Bubert is a writer and editor for hire with All Things Words. Her work has appeared in The Rumpus, Puerto del Sol, Washington Square Review, Carolina Quarterly, and more. Her story, “Kitten,” which appeared in Pidgeonholes, was nominated for Best Small Fictions 2020. Her story, “The Coma,” which appeared in the final issue of Natural Bridge journal, was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Learn more at

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