OWH Column: OPL staff recommend foodie fiction and non-fiction

This column, featuring Omaha Public Library's staff recommended reads for food lovers, appeared in the June 23, 2024 edition of the Omaha World-Herald (NE), page 8E of the Living Section. It is also available at Omaha.com, opens a new window

Omaha Public Library wants to help readers find new books - or at least books new to them. Our employees recommend reading based on different writing genres, themes or styles. This week, staff have suggested some of their favorite foodie fiction and non-fiction. Find these books and more at your local branch or omahalibrary.org.

"Bite by Bite: Nourishments & Jamborees" by Aimee Nezhukumatathil. In this collection of short essays, Nezhukumatathil writes about nourishing foods by braiding together different cultural, historical and personal connotations. They are joyful remembrances and realizations grounded in what we use to feed ourselves. Fans of Ross Gay will enjoy her personal, confessional writing style and her undeniable zest for life. - Holly Pelesky, assistant branch manager at the Elkhorn Branch

Bite by Bite

"Blood, Bones & Butter" by Gabrielle Hamilton. From Hamilton's quirky upbringing in rural Pennsylvania, she takes the reader on a beautifully written and witty journey through how she became one of the most famed reluctant chefs. - Amy Mather, partnerships manager

Blood, Bones & Butter

"Breadsong: How Baking Changed Our Lives" by Kitty and Al Tait. Part memoir and part recipe book, "Breadsong" opens with a father trying to help his adolescent daughter find a way through anxiety and depression. It is a tough journey, but the love between these two is beautiful. The key that they accidentally stumbled upon was baking bread. The second half of the book is bread and baking recipes. When I say these recipes - especially the Miracle Overnight Bread and focaccia recipes - fueled my bread baking, I mean they lit it on fire. These recipes are great for people just starting to bake bread as well as those who have been doing it for a while. - Beth Dankert Babb, borrower services specialist


"Chinese Menu: the History, Myths, and Legends Behind Your Favorite Foods" by Grace Lin. I love author Grace Lin's ability to make stories come to life. It was interesting to learn the history and legends behind dishes commonly seen on the menu at Chinese restaurants. The audiobook is an immersive storytelling experience and the print book has beautiful illustrations throughout. My stomach was growling by the end of the book! - Bethany Grabow, library specialist at the Millard Branch

Chinese Menu

"The Cooking Gene" by Michael Twitty. A beautiful and lyrical journey, Twitty explores the deep connections between food, family and culture, uncovering the stories and traditions that have shaped Southern cuisine. - Mather

The Cooking Gene

"Delicious in the Dungeon Vol. 1" By Ryoko Kui. I recommend this quirky adventure graphic novel because it puts a unique twist on cooking based on the environment. This environment just happens to be a dungeon full of monsters, man-eating plants and infamous red dragons. As the group of adventurers race to find their friend within the dungeon, they make everyday Japanese cuisine from monsters ranging from walking mushrooms to red dragons. - Ladasia Wilson, library specialist at the Downtown Branch

Delicious in Dungeon

"Drop Acid" by David Perlmutter. "Drop Acid" has great information about a non-inflammatory diet that can help acid reflux, blood sugar and weight loss. It was an easy read with a moderate pace and many helpful tips regarding health and diet. I would recommend it to everyone, but especially those with concerns of reflux or other inflammatory symptoms. - Elena Yanez, library specialist at the Milton R. Abrahams Branch

Drop Acid

"An Everlasting Meal" by Tamar Adler. Adler pairs cooking lessons with culinary musings, guiding readers to transform everyday ingredients into delicious meals. - Mather

An Everlasting Meal

"Fatty Fatty Boom Boom: A Memoir of Food, Fat and Family" by Rabia Chaudry. This fascinating memoir explores the American immigrant experience, the author's futile weight loss journey, family in all its complications, and the food at the heart of Pakistani culture. Written in a compulsively readable style, one can identify with Rabia's life, especially the well-intentioned but often harmful interventions by family and others about her weight. As a bonus, Chaudry shares her favorite family recipes. - Theresa Jehlik, strategy & business intelligence manager

Fatty Fatty Boom Boom

"The Funeral Ladies of Ellerie County" by Claire Swinarski. When Esther Larson is scammed out of $30,000 by Hazel, an online "friend," her family suggests creating a community cookbook to raise money. This is the underlying premise for a Midwestern food novel featuring small-town relationships. - Jehlik

The Funeral Ladies of Ellerie County

"My Kitchen Year: 136 Recipes That Saved My Life" by Ruth Reichl. Part memoir and part recipe book, this is the author's journey during the year after she lost her job as editor-in-chief of Gourmet magazine due to the magazine ceasing publication. She describes her pain and frustration around losing her job, which many may be able to identify with due to the pandemic. (This is not a pandemic-related book.) She describes how being able to cook for a whole different reason and in a whole different way from testing recipes for a magazine fueled her creativity, helped her heal from the loss, and brought her more joy than she could have imagined. The recipes in the book definitely fall in the comfort food category. Many of them are more guidance (as in she doesn't always give exact measurements) than strict instruction, but they are interesting and tasty. And, as always, her writing is very enjoyable. - Dankert Babb

My Kitchen Year

"Notes From a Young Black Chef" by Kwame Onwuachi. Onwuachi presents an inspiring memoir that chronicles his journey of stops and starts on the road to culinary accolades. - Mather

Notes From A Young Black Chef

"Our Dining Table" by Mita Ori. Salaryman Yutaka is talented at cooking, but finds himself unable to eat around other people due to deep-set anxiety. While out on errands, he meets brothers Minoru and Tane - Minoru is around Yutaka's own age, while Tane is much younger. Tane is immediately taken by the food Yutaka has made and to his own surprise, Yutaka finds himself promising to cook for the pair. This one-off incident becomes a ritual of Yutaka cooking for them, while also becoming more comfortable with eating around others. Through the exchanging of stories, food and personal experiences, Yutaka finds himself falling for Minoru. - Bayley Kimball, library specialist at the A.V. Sorensen Branch

Our Dining Table

"The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake" by Aimee Bender. This is a story of magical realism following Rose Edelstein throughout her life. Just a few days before her ninth birthday, Rose realizes she can "taste people's feelings" through the food they make - making the horrifying realization through her birthday cake that her mother is deeply unhappy. Over time, Rose is able to begin to understand her family members through the food they make - whether she wants to or not. - Kimball

The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake

"A Pho Love Story" by Loan Le. This is a classic rival family, Romeo and Juliet without the death, love story that centers around two restaurants that are both famous for their pho. It allows insight into a culture that is either familiar or unexplored to readers as well as engaging/relatable family dynamics. Le's writing is also captivating, making you really digest her words instead of counting down the page numbers. - Jasmine Forbes, library specialist at the Millard Branch

A Pho Love Story

"Praisesong for the Kitchen Ghosts" by Crystal Wilkinson. Wilkinson takes readers on a captivating journey through the rich and often overlooked influence of Black Appalachian foodways and traditions. - Mather

Praisesong for the Kitchen Ghosts

"Tender is the Flesh" by Agustina Bazterrica. This is one of the most disturbing, heartbreaking and thought-provoking books I have ever read. It tells the story of a society that has turned to industrialized cannibalism rather than giving up meat, and in the process, takes a look at how people dehumanize others and can look the other way during atrocities for the sake of normalcy. - David Dick, library specialist at the Benson Branch

Tender Is the Flesh

"The Upstairs Delicatessen: On Eating, Reading, Reading About Eating, and Eating While Reading" by Dwight Garner. Garner, a New York Times book critic, shares his love of food and reading in this compendium. Starting with his growing up years in West Virginia and Florida, Garner shares how reading and eating became intertwined loves for him. This slim volume is as much a guided tour of food writers as it is his own personal journey. - Jehlik

The Upstairs Delicatessen

"A Wizard's Guide to Defensive Baking" by T. Kingfisher. Thoroughly enjoyable inventive fantasy about a 14-year-old baker forced into unwanted heroism. The baking aspects of the plot were so much fun that when I finished the book I had to go make a blueberry cobbler. And in a large cast of interesting characters, Bob the sourdough starter and the animated gingerbread man are uniquely memorable. - Martha Grenzeback, genealogy & local history librarian

A Wizard's Guide to Defensive Baking

"Your Table Is Ready" by Michael Cecchi-Azzolina. Through this autobiography, maître d', Michael Cecchi-Azzolina takes readers on a journey through his years and experiences running dining rooms and restaurants across New York. Through his work, he's spent time with explosive staff, glamorous celebrities and those on the brink of financial ruin. Cecchi-Azzolina also shares tales of his Italian upbringing in Brooklyn, where the infamous New York mob makes its presence known, influencing his life and career. - Kimball

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