Fan of The Bear? These 9 Books Will Make Your Mouth Water

Literary aperitifs—or digestifs—for your season three viewing.

by Liz Doupnik

A man and a woman in a kitchen setting, surrounded by various colorful cookbook covers on the backgr...
Collage by Ashley Peña
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Sitting down to read a novel and feasting on a delicious meal might not be as different as you think. For one, there’s the anticipation—there’s nothing like being greeted by an intoxicating aroma through the crack of a kitchen door, or the bewitching first line of a novel. For another, a good meal, just like a good book, can whisk you away to destinations that might otherwise remain unvisited.

Chefs and authors serve as sensory tour guides, catering experiences that can evoke memory and emotion well after the meal or book is finished. It should be no surprise, then, that food and writing have long been dining partners. Just as there have been plenty of TV shows dedicated to exploring cuisines and cooking, there too have been a hefty serving of chefs moonlighting as authors (take, for example, Anthony Bourdain’s iconic “Kitchen Confidential”) and authors rehashing their many dining and eating escapades.

But only a stealthy few have lifted the lid for us to peer over their shoulders and witness the failed recipes, rejection letters, or unpalatable first drafts. Until, perhaps, The Bear resharpened the focus on the fizzing creativity—and subsequent mishaps—that froth behind a kitchen’s doors. These books accomplish that same whipped-up energy. Consider these titles the reading pairing to your viewing of the FX series on Hulu, now in its third season. From iconic tell-alls to juicy exposés, these food, restaurant, and cooking-related books will have you asking for seconds. Below, check out the nine books to read now if you can’t get enough of The Bear.

When Dwight Garner isn’t jotting off a review on the latest tome, the New York Times Book Review critic is eating—or, as the title of this addictive book suggests—thinking about eating. Fortunately, reading and eating aren’t mutually exclusive activities, and Garner delights readers with as much gusto for the literary arts as he does for the culinary ones. Regaling readers with personal and literary anecdotes all about food, the book bottles the satisfied glow often experienced after a satisfying meal. If a juicy dinner party were ever to take form in a book, this would be it.

Ideal for any foodie, “High on the Hog” retraces the storied journey of African cuisine to North America. Harris, a cookbook author and culinary historian, wields her storytelling skill as one might a paring knife: with precise elegance. Featuring in-depth research and study of African cuisine, Harris depicts the portrait of the customs, cultures, and histories responsible for delivering this food to North American shores. In the hands of a less deft writer, this topic could be as dense as under-seasoned fruitcake. Fortunately for us, Harris is an expert who leaves you longing for one more morsel of knowledge.

It’s hard to imagine a more grueling setting to come into one’s own than a restaurant kitchen. With pacing to rival The Bear’s takeout ticket bonanza (you remember *that* scene), Danler thrusts her protagonist into New York City’s gritty food and bev industry. While the emphasis of the novel is certainly on self-discovery, there are plenty of delectable details that pose the question: How can you nourish yourself when learning how to feed others?

Whether it’s a moment for reflection, connection, or fuel to fight for justice, food and its influence gets fried up in this essay collection. Here, Wilkinson, a film critic and food writer, delves into the culinary lives of revolutionary women. Sit down and stay awhile with essays about the appetite, cooking, and gastronomic pleasures of everyone from Octavia Butler and Maya Angelou to Elizabeth David.

For some, family recipes are one of the last remaining tethers to their homeland. In this moving memoir, Nguon recounts her history as a refugee, forced to flee from Cambodia during the Pol Pot genocide. With a relentless drive to survive, Nguon retraces her harrowing story as she leaves Cambodia first for Vietnam, then for a refugee camp in Thailand. Hungering for her lost family members, Nguon cooks in a brothel, bartends, and runs a street food stand to honor her heritage, while rebelling against the cruelties occurring in Cambodia, too.

Imagine: It’s Sunday night at your favorite bar, and a stranger sidles up to you, eager to spill the beans on the latest meltdown at one of Manhattan’s most notorious restaurants. Between useful anecdotes about working in a restaurant—“If it’s fish,” Cecchi-Azzolina advises of family meal, “never, ever eat it”—and delicious nuggets about l’enfant terrible celebrities, the former fine dining maître d’ divulges all the lip-smacking gossip one could ever wish for. This book is best enjoyed with a frigid martini in hand and an evening free of any engagements—you’ll find plenty of action within the pages.

Whether you’re a fan of his Bourdain-esque show, Searching for Italy, or still carry a flame for his role in The Devil Wears Prada, Tucci stans (pun intended), will savor all the yummy stories in his memoir. From memorable childhood plates to iconic roles centered on food, this memoir proves that life is best experienced between delicious bites of pasta.

For some, a good cup of coffee can be an out-of-body experience. And so begins this moving novella. According to rumor, this Tokyo café offers more than well-brewed caffeine; it can also transport folks back in time—but only for as long as it takes for coffee to cool. Over the course of a summer, four patrons wish to make that journey, hoping to shift moments in the past to perhaps influence the present. What they encounter, however, might change them more than past events.

One of the most lauded food writers, Colwin hosts readers to an unforgettable feast of storytelling, courtesy of this essay collection-meets-cookbook. Half-memoir, half-recipe trove, “Home Cooking” provides a glimpse into the writer’s cooking life. Follow her as she perfects homemade bread, jimmies up plenty of lentil soup, and divulges the secret trick to the ultimate fried chicken. Published over 40 years ago, this collection still feels nearly as relevant today as it did in the ’80s.