Feed Your Soul and Mind: 8 Books on Eating for Smart People

Photo by Brooke Lark on Unsplash

Cookbooks and books about food can all tend to look and feel the same, which means we all wind up with dozens we never end up using or reading. But approaching cooking literature does not have to be this way; If you’re looking for a more intellectual way in, here are some great cookbooks and reads that will surely leave you inspired, and feed both your soul and your mind.

The cover of the book The Devil in the Kitchen: Sex, Pain, Madness and the Making of a Great ChefThe Devil in the Kitchen: Sex, Pain, Madness and the Making of a Great Chef

Marco Pierre White

If I have learned nothing else from watching every season of “Top Chef” multiple times, it’s that chefs are rock stars. And if you’ve ever wondered who was the original badass of the culinary world, here is your answer. White, and his infamous temperament, pack every page of this book with a punch; in no other food book will you so closely link passion, cuisine, and insane genius. If you’re game to go back for more, grab his classic cookbook, White Heat, which features incredible recipes, photographs and stories.


The cover of the book Generation ChefGeneration Chef

Karen Stabiner

People always say the first year of marriage is the hardest. But most of them probably haven’t tried opening a restaurant. Now that is a hard first year. Food journalist Karen Stabiner follows up-and-coming chef Jonah Miller during the opening year of his restaurant. It’s a story full of turmoil, luck, ambition and suspense, and it will make you appreciate every successful restaurant you walk into.


The cover of the book The Case Against SugarThe Case Against Sugar

Gary Taubes

It can be hard to keep track of what is bad for you and why, especially foods and ingredients we’ve accepted as part of American diets for so long. Taubes’ book about the dangers of sugar is both understandable and scientific. It’s very helpful in presenting not just the scary list of “do not eats” but the history, information, and yes, misconceptions about our relationship to sugar. With a product so present in the diets of both adults and children, this is both an engaging and important read.


The cover of the book Coming to My SensesComing to My Senses

Alice Waters

This gorgeous memoir is the personal account of how Waters (the first woman to win the James Beard Outstanding Chef Award) became the creator of one of the most significant restaurants in America – all at the age of 27. This book has everything, from politics to bohemian culture, photography to, of course, recipes. If you aren’t familiar with Waters’ story, it’s probably time to introduce yourself: you may not realize just how much your taste buds owe her.


The cover of the book The Art of FlavorThe Art of Flavor

Daniel Patterson and Mandy Aftel

Besides the fact that the experience of both food and perfume often begin with your nose, what else do these two things have in common? The artistry of blending ingredients. The Art of Flavor brings together a chef (Patterson) and a perfumer (Aftel) to help home cooks understand not just how to make a great meal, but how to get the most from their flavors working together. Rather than just present you with a step-by-step recipe, Patterson and Aftel’s book is an intellectual look at why things work the way they do: allowing you, the cook, to not just create, but also tell a story with your food. Think of it like the best chemistry class you’ve ever taken – you get to eat the results.


The cover of the book I Hear She's a Real BitchI Hear She’s a Real Bitch

Jen Agg

Being a woman in a career that has been declared a “man’s world” is a specific type of challenge, and that shouldn’t be news to anyone, but Agg’s humorous, genuine insights into the culinary industry supply a fresh voice to the narrative. The memoir details Aggs own journey making her way through an already tough business, all the while calling-out the small insights she’s gleaned from playing in what is still, in many respects, thought of as a boy’s game.


The cover of the book Out of Line: A Life Playing With FireOut of Line: A Life Playing With Fire

Barbara Lynch

“Feisty” is a word that has been used to describe Chef Barbara Lynch and her memoir about growing up in South Boston. A wild child in many ways, Lynch offers a story free from any restraints: her voice comes sailing off the pages as she details personal hardships and showcases the self-determination needed to become the award-winning chef she is today. Lynch’s book is arguably less refined than some of the others you’ll find on this list, but it makes reading it an all the more authentic experience.


The cover of the book Feed the Resistance: Recipes + Ideas for Getting InvolvedFeed the Resistance: Recipes + Ideas for Getting Involved

Julia Turshen

Food can communicate so many things. In it lives history, emotions, and even politics. Understanding that more people than ever are looking for ways to show their activism, Turshen has created an instructive book full of recipes, resources, and ideas for how you can use food to engage with your community and express yourself.


What Is the Perfect Beach Read Anyway?

A beach read is, on the surface, a fairly easy thing to understand. It’s a book you read at the beach…right? Or perhaps it’s a book you’d like to read at the beach. Maybe it’s just a book that takes place near an ocean?

There is no definitive answer. Like beauty, a beach read is in the eye of the beholder. We asked you on Facebook and Twitter to tell us what you think the term means. We’ve got your top responses below, along with some recommendations we think you’ll love!

Books That Draw You In

“I think of a beach read as anything that deeply engrosses me—I can’t put it down. I read Gone Girl while enjoying the beach…and I am thrilled to say I did not know the big twist. I remember when I finished that part of the novel, I put it down and just stared at the ocean for several minutes because I was so stunned,” says Mary.

Gone Girl The Killing Floor Final Girls One of Us Is Lying

Books with Short Chapters

“Something with very short chapters. Nice places to stop and easily restart when distracted,” says Rebecca.

Cat's Cradle The Art of Racing in the Rain Never Let Me Go The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating

Books That Make Your Heart Race

“My favorite beach reads are paperback gothic romances, the ones with the frightened young woman running away from the scary house on a cliff. I don’t know why, but I have been addicted to these books since I was a kid,” says Beverly.

Wuthering Heights Nine Coaches Waiting Rebecca House of Shadows

Books with Sunny Settings

“A plot associated with sunny weather: beach, water sports, sun, eating,” says Marren.

Barefoot Barbarian Days Along for the Ride The Food Explorer

Books That Make You Laugh

“Something easy and funny so that you can lift your eyes here and there to look at the beauty in front of you,” says Beatrix.

Good Omens The Rosie Project My Man Jeeves Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?

Books That Transport You

“A light-hearted book full of awesome adventure,” says Romi.

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Crocodile on the Sandbank The Princess Bride Treasure Island


By Hayley, June 28, 2018, first appearing on Goodreads Blog

11 Books About Syria to Make Sense of the Civil War

A civil war has been raging within Syria since 2011, gradually taking on a more international scope as it has overlapped with other regional conflicts and drawn attention from global powers. Reading about it can be a wrenching experience, with numerous stories of death and displacement, along with atrocities, extremism, and the legacy of authoritarianism all present.

What follows is a look at a number of books that explore aspects of the war in Syria from a host of perspectives. Some come from people who witnessed harrowing events firsthand; others provide a more distanced look at the conflict and its implications. If you’re looking to better understand what’s happening in Syria, from the war itself to its causes to its regional and global effects, these books can help.

The cover of the book Brothers of the GunBrothers of the Gun

Marwan Hisham and Molly Crabapple

Marwan Hisham has plenty of firsthand experience of the conflict in Syria, beginning with his participation in protests against the regime of Bashar al-Assad and continuing through his work as a journalist. For this richly detailed account of a nation at war, Hisham’s prose is accentuated by the striking, visceral artwork of Molly Crabapple.


The cover of the book The Way of the StrangersThe Way of the Strangers

Graeme Wood

Graeme Wood has written extensively about the Middle East and global politics for The Atlantic, among other publications. In his book The Way of the Strangers, he focuses on a narrative that dovetails painfully with the story of the ongoing war in Syria, exploring what has caused people across the region to become associated with the Islamic State’s oppressive regime. Wood’s narrative provides insights into the region’s politics and conflicts.


The cover of the book No Turning BackNo Turning Back

Rania Abouzeid

Rania Abouzeid has written extensively about Syria for a host of publications over the years; in her book No Turning Back, she focuses on the human cost of the conflict. In his review of the book for the New York Times, Christopher Dickey noted that the book contained “a tremendous sense of intimacy with the victims and the violence that surrounds them.”


The cover of the book Syria BurningSyria Burning

Charles Glass

Few conflicts, global or regional, arise completely spontaneously, and the Syrian War is no exception. In his book Syria Burning, Charles Glass–who’s been writing about the Middle East for decades — delves into the causes of the current war and explores the implications that it might have on the region in the years to come.


The cover of the book The Home That Was Our CountryThe Home That Was Our Country

Alia Malek

In her book The Home That Was Our Country, Alia Malek writes about an apartment belonging to her grandmother, which she traveled to Damascus to reclaim when the Arab Spring began. She offers a portrait of the diverse communities in the city around this space, tracing the societal changes in Syria over the years and decades.


The cover of the book SyriaSyria

John McHugo

For readers looking at the larger canvas of Syrian history, John McHugo’s comprehensive look at Syria over the course of the last hundred years will be tremendously helpful. In exploring this history, McHugo delves into how colonialism shaped the nation, Syria’s involvement in global wars, and a series of other events leading up to its present conflict.


The cover of the book Death Is Hard WorkDeath Is Hard Work

Khaled Khalifa

Not all explorations of a war’s effect on a nation come through memoirs of sprawling histories. In Death Is Hard Work, Khaled Khalifa uses fiction to show how war has affected Syria, blending absurdism and tragedy along the way. In the tale of estranged siblings attempting to bury their father’s body as a war rages around them, Khalifa offers a different window on the war, but one no less memorable.


The cover of the book Syrian NotebooksSyrian Notebooks

Jonathan Littell

Jonathan Littell’s Syrian Notebooks provides a firsthand account of the Homs Uprising in 2012, one of the key events in Syria’s civil war. The book that resulted is one that traces the escalation of a conflict, demonstrating how it evolved from a civil conflict to something much more expansive.


The cover of the book The Battle for HomeThe Battle for Home

Marwa al-Sabouni

Syrian architect Marwa al-Sabouni offers a unique perspective on both the recent history of Syria and of the implications of the war taking place there. Her exploration of the architecture of Syria ventures into the numerous cultures that have thrived there, while also looking at how architecture might play a part in healing some of the wounds within Syrian society.


The cover of the book The Rise of Islamic StateThe Rise of Islamic State

Patrick Cockburn

Patrick Cockburn writes regularly about the Middle East for the Independent, and has written extensively about the region’s geopolitics. In The Rise of Islamic State, Cockburn explores the origins and implications of the extremist group that has played a significant role in the conflict. For readers looking to learn more about how this organization has affected Syria and its neighbors, Cockburn’s book offers a harrowing look.


The cover of the book Among the RuinsAmong the Ruins

Christian Sahner

Christian Sahner’s book offers a historical glimpse at Syria, written just as the nation’s civil war was beginning. Sahner offers a historian’s perspective on events, and brings in a sweeping view of the events in the nation’s past that have had a significant influence on the conflict going on there now.

Dittos are back!

For the new and the forgetful, Dittos are the Moline Library Adult Services Department’s version of a read-alike.

For more information… see the Ditto below, you’ll get the idea.

Little Fires Everywhere Shelf End Ditto NU

Want more? There are plenty at the library!