You may have the money to support your gastronomical habit but being a foodie isn’t just about being a snob and eating out at fancy restaurants. Real foodies come at all financial levels — college students, middle class families, and those with a budget that’s as gourmet as their tastes. Books about cooking, food and the whole eating experience offer a more wallet-friendly option for exploring food and food culture. These 40 coffee table books not only beautify your home but will inspire you and your guests to experiment more while cooking, eating out, or traveling abroad.
Food, Travel and Ethnic Cuisine
Learn about the foods and dining culture of different countries, from France to China to Mexico.
- Barefoot in Paris: Easy French Food You Can Make At Home: Ina Garten’s French cookbook also includes special sections about French dining culture, hosting a dinner party French style, and more. You could live in Nevada and still taste the wonders of French cuisine.
- Street Food of India: The 50 Greatest Indian Snacks: In just 50 simple recipes, you and your guests will learn a lot about Indian culture around the country.
- Oaxaca al Gusto: An Infinite Gastronomy: Called The Julia Child of Mexican cuisine, Diana Kennedy has published this book celebrating the diverse Oaxaca state in Mexico.
- Mediterranean Street Food: Stories, Soups, Snacks, Sandwiches, Barbecues, Sweets, and More from Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East: Get a taste of the Mediterranean region’s diverse influences as you look at this extraordinarily photographed book from Anissa Helou.
- Recipes from an Italian Summer: Learn more about how people eat during summer, when al fresco is the way to go, especially in places like Italy.
- Spain: A Culinary Road Trip: California native Gwyneth Paltrow first fell in love with Spain as an exchange student, and this book with Mario Batali is a companion to the public TV show Spain…On The Road Again.
- A Revolution in Taste: The Rise of French Cuisine: A new hardcover version is due to be released, making it easier to casually read up on what made French cuisine so appealing so long ago.
- Food Journeys of a Lifetime: 500 Extraordinary Places to Eat Around the Globe: This book from National Geographic contains illustrated guides and recaps of some of the most delectable places on Earth, from Argentina to Tokyo to New Orleans.
- Flatbreads and Flavors: A Baker’s Atlas: Even though it’s a paperback, this book makes a great coffee table choice because of its diverse exploration of a food we often take for granted.
- Beyond the Great Wall: Recipes and Travels in the Other China: Get an authentic look at Chinese food and travel here.
- Good Day for a Picnic: Simple Food That Travels Well: This brilliant idea for a book comes from Jeremy Jackson and features recipes for drinks, soups and other perfect picnic ideas.
For Cooks and Chefs
These coffee table books are full of recipes, but they also make great conversation pieces, include gorgeous photos, and incorporate personal stories about loving to cook.
- Good Eats 2: The Middle Years: Fans of Alton Brown (who attended the University of Georgia) can flip through funny photographs and clever hacks for cooking. His famous kitchen chemistry tips are found throughout the book, too.
- The Flavor Bible: This is a great reference guide that you can leisurely flip through as you learn about ingredients, flavors, herbs and more.
- The Melting Pot: From The Melting Pot Restaurants, Inc, this is a fun collection of party-friendly recipes that also serves as an entertaining coffee table book for guests.
- Ten: All the Foods We Love and 10 Perfect Recipes for Each: Beyond inspiring meal ideas, this cookbook comments on 10 of America’s favorite foods, including chocolate, pasta and ice cream.
- Medium Raw: A Bloody Valentine to the World of Food and the People Who Cook: Famous chef and travel guru Anthony Bourdain shares his acerbic but often funny take on the world of food in this collection of essays.
- Miss Dahl’s Voluptuous Delights: Recipes for Every Season, Mood and Appetite: Former British model Sophie Dahl does eat, and she shares some of her favorite childhood recipes in this book, as well as introductory essays about her relationship with food, travel, modeling, and friends.
- The Flavor Thesaurus: A Compendium of Pairings, Recipes and Ideas for the Creative Cook: Niki Segnit’s reference for cooks makes a smart coffee table book, too.
- The Brewmaster’s Table: Discovering the Pleasures of Real Beer with Real Food: Everyone wants to learn more about beer, and this foodie book offers tours of microbreweries and teaches about the brewmaking process.
- Midnight Feasts: Midnight snacking is a guilty pleasure most of us indulge in from time to time, and this book from contributors like Anya Hindmarch, Gwyneth Paltrow and Daisy De Villeneuve shares some of the best.
- Molto Gusto: Easy Italian Cooking: Mario Batali’s cookbook comes with perfect photographs of his simple but flavorful recipes that make it a work of art as well as a cooking guide.
- Sylvia’s Family Soul Food Cookbook: From Hemingway, South Carolina to Harlem: Learn about all the little nuances of American soul food from this book by Wylvia Woods.
- Everything You Pretend to Know about Food and Are Afraid Someone Will Ask: This is a fun book that’s also a conversation starter, and you’ll learn the difference between fried and pan-fried, the definition of dim-sum, and more.
Holiday and Entertaining
Besides giving tips on entertaining and cooking for the holidays, these books give your guests something to look at while they snack and catch up.
- What to Drink with What You Eat: The Definitive Guide to Pairing Food with Wine, Beer, Spirits, Coffee, Tea – Even Water – Based on Expert Advice from America’s Best Sommeliers: Andrew Dornenburg, Karen Page and Michael Sofronski’s book explain everything about food and wine pairings, including the time of day you’re supposed to drink different wines, ethnic cuisine pairings, and more.
- The Oxford Companion to Wine, 3rd Edition: This well-reviewed guide from editor Jancis Robinson explains more than 3,000 wines, wine terms, vine types and wine regions.
- New York Parties: Private Views: Look at photographs of dinner parties, brunches, birthdays and holiday celebrations from New York’s high society, and get ideas for your own parties.
- Perfect Recipes for Having People Over: Just make sure your recipes look just like the ones in the pictures if you’re brave enough to lay out this book before dinner.
- Nigella Christmas: Food, Family, Friends, Festivities: The brilliant and fun-loving Nigella Lawson shares beautifully, tantalizingly photographed recipes that inspire nostalgia and hunger pangs, like Pumpkin Pancakes with Sticky Maple Pecans and her Poinsettia cocktail.
- Being Dead Is No Excuse: The Official Southern Ladies Guide To Hosting the Perfect Funeral: This perversely funny book from Gayden Metcalfe and Charlotte Hays is practical, and a fun read for guests.
Food and Society
Learn about American dining culture, our eating habits, and our country’s food history from these books.
- Harvest to Heat: Cooking with America’s Best Chefs, Farmers and Artisans: Whether you’re a cook or just like learning about food and food culture, this book celebrates where food comes from and encourages readers to practice more sustainable cooking and dining.
- The American Diner Cookbook: Accompanied by black and white photography, this recipe book shares some beloved recipes found at diners all over the country.
- The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals: Michael Pollan considers our relationship to the natural world via our eating habits, and goes behind the scenes at places like McDonald’s to find the true origins of our meals.
- Bless This Food: Ancient and Contemporary Graces from Around the World: Besides learning new prayers and rituals, you’ll learn about different culture’s relationships with food.
- A Thousand Years Over a Hot Stove: A History of American Women Told through Food, Recipes, and Remembrances: It’s a paperback, but still flip-through-friendly, and Laura Schenone’s book also includes some historical recipes.
Style and Photography
Look at some of the best food photography and food presentation when you read these books.
- What’s New, Cupcake?: Karen Tack and Alan Richardson’s book features deliciously creative cupcake recipes and accompanying photographs of desserts that don’t look like they’re made of food.
- Food Presentation Secrets: Besides learning how to plate your dishes, this book is good entertainment, inviting you to browse all the pretty pictures.
- Food Styling: The Art of Preparing Food for the Camera: Delores Custer’s book is great for photographers wanting to learn how to take pictures of food, and also just a fun book for your guests to flip through.
- Working the Plate: The Art of Food Presentation: Here’s another book that’s educational but also pretty to look at.
- Alberto Pinto: Table Settings: The famous French interior designer shares elaborate and intimate table setting ideas.
- The Food of a Younger Land: A Portrait of American Food–Before the National Highway System, Before Chain Restaurants, and Before Frozen Food, When the Nation’s Food Was Seasonal: Young readers and older ones who can remember this kind of American food culture will be amazed at how far we’ve come from such sustainable eating habits.