As graduation processions pass and Saturday-night wedding dates begin to loom, we've decided it safe to declare this season summer. Sultry long nights, lethargic cabin trips, and charcoal-scented sizzling meats are upon us. Because leisure pairs so beautifully with the written word, we scoured our bookshelves and came up with our top five page-turners to tuck into your beach bag.
5. Life, on the Line: A Chef's Story of Chasing Greatness, Facing Death, and Redefining the Way We Eat by Grant Achatz and Nick Kokonas
The first and most important rule in the kitchen is to taste everything. What would a cook do if he could no longer rely on his sense of taste? How could he continue to create? What if that chef ran one of the preeminent dining destinations in the country, Alinea in Chicago? This memoir is the tale of Grant Achatz, who was educated at the Culinary Institute of America and trained under Thomas Keller and Charlie Trotter before opening the famed restaurant, where he experimented with molecular gastronomy to the delight of diners everywhere, only to be diagnosed with stage IV tongue cancer. The book alternates between his narrative voice and his business partner Nick Kokonas. Together they fly in the face of logic to create something new and extraordinary.
4. Blood, Bones & Butter by Gabrielle Hamilton
A beautifully descriptive narrative of an occasionally harsh life. Hamilton spins tales of larceny in New York City, giant family cookouts featuring whole lambs roasted on the spit, and other turns in a life less ordinary. A chef-owner of Prune in New York and a trained writer (an MFA from the University of Michigan), she is able to build a fascinating narrative out of an occasionally bleak outlook on life. Seemingly averse to taking the easy road (knowing she was gay, but marrying a man anyway), she studs each chapter in her life with such marrow-sucking juiciness that time with this book passes sweetly by.
3. Minnesota Lunch: From Pasties to Bahn Mi, by James Norton
Allow former City Pages writer, Heavy Table editor, and sandwich enthusiast Norton take you on a road trip without ever leaving the comfort of your beach towel. It tells the tale of our state through one humble midday meal. Entertaining lore accompanies ethnic food traditions and elegant creations. Just be sure to pack a picnic basket or be prepared to ditch the beach for an impromptu food adventure.
2. Medium Raw, by Anthony Bourdain
Everyone's favorite food world curmudgeon is back. If you missed this tale in hardcover, it just came out in May in paperback--much more appropriate for poolside reading. Wandering through his own career and occasionally cringing at what he finds there, Bourdain continues to entertain and to offer his eviscerating opinions on everything from "foodies" to a scathing indictment of Alan Richman.
1. Lucky Peach, edited by David Chang, Peter Meehan, and Chris Ying
Available as a periodical or an iPad app, because, really, who wants to commit to an entire book right now? If a full narrative is just too much, subscribe to this hotly anticipated periodical. Print versions are set to ship soon and to arrive in your mailbox like a mid-schvitz Christmas present. Edited by David Chang of Momofuku fame and Zero Point Zero production company, known widely for the No Reservations, Anthony Bourdain show, the first issue is devoted to street-food-wunderkind-of-the-moment ramen and includes recipes from the likes of Wylie Dufresne and Mario Carbone. It contains a promissory kind of sizzle that a summer read for the food-obsessed requires.