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a photo collage of book covers, all summer 2024 releases. from left to right, it features tj alexander’s triple sec, shauna robinson’s the townsend family recipe for disaster, glynnis macnicol’s i’m mostly here to enjoy myself, and casey mcquiston’s the pairing Photo illustration by Lille Allen

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10 Food-Filled Beach Reads for Your Summer Vacation

Casey McQuiston’s newest romance, a polyamorous romp through the mixology world, a pastry-filled Parisian memoir, and more have us excited for summer reading

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We look forward to reading near a body of water all year, and this season’s food-themed releases don’t disappoint. Many of them are transportive, so whether you bring them on vacation or read them at home imagining a vacation, they’ll hopefully offer that needed bit of summer escapism.

This season’s food-themed books mirror real-life trends. It seems like everyone’s ready once again for their “Euro summer,” and that extends to our new slate of main characters. Italy, and especially Sicily, continue to have a moment. And we’re still clearly thirsty for chefs — amid all these releases comes season four of The Bear on June 27. So whether you’re into historical fiction, family drama, memoir that feels like a romp, or fluffy and flirty romance, these are the food-related books you might want to toss into your beach bag this summer.

The Sicilian Inheritance by Jo Piazza

Dutton, out now

Jo Piazza’s newest book has gotten plenty of buzz, and for good reason. It’s an appealing mix of romantic escapism, whodunit intrigue, and feminist introspection. Sara is a burned-out butcher-turned-chef who’s reeling from her failed marriage and closing her Philly restaurant. When her great-aunt dies and leaves behind a plot of land in Sicily, Sarah travels to Italy hoping to find an easy solution to her financial problems. It’s not so simple: She learns that her great-grandmother, Serafina, might have been murdered — a plotline inspired by Piazza’s own family history. Of course, this all happens in Sicily, so there’s good food, flirtation, and mafia drama, too. With elements of historical fiction (Sara and Serafina’s stories are told in alternating timelines), romance, and mystery, The Sicilian Inheritance has something for everyone. — Bettina Makalintal

The House of Broken Bricks by Fiona Williams

Henry Holt & Company, out now

Fiona Williams’s debut is for readers looking for something more serious. An approachable work of literary fiction, The House of Broken Bricks is an atmospheric, character-driven story of a family that’s falling apart. Tess, a Jamaican immigrant, lives in the English countryside with her husband Richard and her twin sons Max and Sonny. Race and the tensions it causes are a throughline: Tess is Black, Richard is white, and Max and Sonny, despite being twins, present as different races. As the family grapples with grief and tragedy, food features frequently, usually as an effort toward comfort and belonging, and Williams’s descriptions of food (in addition to nature and setting) are vivid and easy to imagine. The chapters, which alternate between family members, are short and self-contained. This is one you can pick up and put down to enjoy in small bites, lest seagulls or small children interrupt your reading. — BM

Effie Olsen’s Summer Special by Rochelle Bilow

Berkley Books, out now

Homecomings are always a compelling premise, and Effie Olsen’s Summer Special is no exception. It follows Effie, a chef, as she returns to her picturesque Maine hometown for what she’s convinced will be her last summer there. She gets a job at the local, highly sought-out Michelin-starred restaurant, Brown Butter, where, it turns out, her high school best friend Ernie also works. After a fight, she hasn’t talked to or seen him in years. Naturally, Effie’s summer offers her some surprises. With fizzy writing, a dreamy seaside setting, and hunger-inducing descriptions of food, Bilow captures that sentimental yearning of summer and ticks all the boxes of a satisfying, read-in-a-weekend beach book. — BM

The Secrets of the Little Greek Taverna by Erin Palmisano

Grand Central Publishing, out now

Los Angeles waitress Jory St. James is a wanderer — the type of person who never wants to be pinned down in one place for too long. When she happens upon a brochure advertising a yacht trip to Greece, she can’t resist emptying her savings for a Mediterranean trip to satisfy her wanderlust.

When she gets there, without her phone or a single reservation, fate lands Jory in the village of Potamia, where she stays at a guesthouse surrounded by an olive grove. Jory quickly falls in love with Potamia’s quirky charms, some of which are tinged with magic. And her arrival sparks big change in the tiny village, especially for Cressida Thermopolis, the guesthouse’s formidable owner. Cressida is a distinctly gifted baker who’s mourning the loss of her husband, and Jory shows up just in time to change Cressida’s — and Potamia’s — trajectory forever as the duo plans to open the guesthouse’s next-door taverna.

Full of food, humor, and a big pinch of romance, The Secrets of the Little Greek Taverna will instantly transport you to the tiny island of Naxos, even if a flight to the isles isn’t in the budget this summer. And don’t skip author Erin Palmisano’s decadent moussaka recipe, included at the end of the novel. — Amy McCarthy

Triple Sec by TJ Alexander

Atria Books, June 4

If you have throuples on the brain after watching Challengers (or reading all that polyamory discourse), might I recommend TJ Alexander’s Triple Sec? With their first two books, Chef’s Kiss and Chef’s Choice, Alexander proved themselves talented in food-themed romance. With Triple Sec, they shift their focus to cocktail bars as they follow Mel, a bartender in New York City, as she makes her first foray into polyamory after meeting a married couple named Bebe and Kade. It’s not just new romance keeping Mel busy: She also enters a citywide cocktail competition in hopes of winning money to open her own bar. As with Alexander’s previous books, Triple Sec is a fun, flirtatious story that’ll pair well with a cold drink enjoyed poolside. Like a good cocktail, it goes down easy. — BM

I’m Mostly Here to Enjoy Myself: One Woman’s Pursuit of Pleasure in Paris by Glynnis MacNicol

Penguin Life, June 11

In 2021, after a year of being stuck indoors due to the pandemic, writer Glynnis MacNicol headed to Paris. She’d spent many summers in the city, and following a year of deprivation, she’s fully prepared to indulge in its specific pleasures — good wine, French men, and of course, incredible food — with abandon. In this vulnerable essay collection, plates of pain perdu and mugs of chocolat chaud punctuate meditations on writing, dating, and economic uncertainty — you know, all the essential existential crises of our era. Paris, with its stunning scenery and refined charm, is the perfect setting for MacNicol to soothe what ails her. — AM

Pearce Oysters by Joselyn Takacs

Zibby Books, June 25

Pearce Oysters is a family drama centered around a Louisiana oyster-farming family in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Even before the oil spill happens, the Pearces have been having a rough time. Jordan has taken over the family business, which is struggling, after the unexpected death of his father; his brother Benny is adrift, living in New Orleans until circumstances call him back home; and their mother May feels lost without her husband. Takacs’s debut novel is a thoughtful story of family and community that also considers important themes of corporate greed and environmental crisis. With so many fictional food books focused on chefs, it’s refreshing to see the focus shifted to farmers. Pearce Oysters is a reminder of the fragile ecosystem we all live in. — BM

The Townsend Family Recipe for Disaster by Shauna Robinson

Sourcebooks Landmark, July 2

Mae Townsend is getting married. That would normally be cause for celebration, but the thought of dealing with her complicated family has her on edge. Mae’s parents split when she was young, and she yearns for connection with her late father’s side of the family, who didn’t approve of his relationship with her mother. And now she’s trying to put all that aside so she can marry her fiance Connor, who hails from a wealthy family of white wedding planners.

As they plan the big day — complete with a deeply millennial doughnut wall — Mae recognizes that her wedding might be her only opportunity to heal her family’s decades-long estrangement, and get to the bottom of some lingering family secrets. A family tragedy spurs Mae to head to North Carolina in search of answers, and when she arrives, she tries to build connection the best way she knows how: by cooking for her estranged relatives.

It’s of course much more complicated than that, as Mae soon learns. As she hones in on perfecting her grandmother’s famed mac and cheese, Mae gets a crash course in her family’s distinct dynamic. Like a good meal, don’t be surprised if you finish The Townsend Family Recipe for Disaster all in one sitting. — AM

Just One Taste by Lizzy Dent

G.P. Putnam’s Sons, July 16

Lizzy Dent’s The Summer Job — which featured a woman who found love while impersonating her sommelier friend at a Michelin-starred restaurant in the Scottish countryside — was one of my favorite light reads of 2021. Dent’s newest, similarly food-related book, Just One Taste, didn’t disappoint either. It follows restaurant critic Olive, whose estranged chef father has just died and, to her chagrin, left her his restaurant. Not only that, but she must also travel to Sicily to finish the cookbook he was writing. And because Olive is a restaurant critic, not a recipe developer, she must work on it with Leo, her father’s former sous chef and her nemesis — you can probably tell where this is going. Just One Taste had all the things I liked so much in The Summer Job: bubbly writing, a sense of humor, a dreamy setting, and page-turning chemistry. — BM

The Pairing by Casey McQuiston

St. Martin’s Griffin, August 6

The newest from author Casey McQuiston follows sommelier Theo and immensely flirtatious pastry chef Kit, two exes who inadvertently end up on a food tour together across Europe after years of no contact. As you might expect, The Pairing offers plenty of vacation inspiration as they travel through Bordeaux, Monaco, Florence, Naples, and more. Sexy and queer, this is certainly a book for hedonists: Rounding out Theo and Kit’s pleasure cruise of food and drink is the hookup competition that they’ve challenged each other to as they cross the continent. The Pairing has all the sass and seduction that made McQuiston’s Red, White & Royal Blue such a hit, but with more spice. It’s slightly too bad that it comes out so late in the season, but save it for those final beach days and let it guide your plans for next summer. — BM


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