I have been a life-long bibliophile. One of my greatest pleasures has been to read cookbooks. I started actually reading cookbooks when I was a teenager. About 20 years ago I found that what I really enjoyed reading was Culinary Literature. The subject heading for this genre of literature differs from bookstore to bookstore. Amazon has this type of book under the subject heading Gastronomy. Borders has this type of book listed under Food Reference and Literature. The Library of Congress subject heading for this type of literature is Class-T, Subclass, TX for Home Economics(Ewww). Unless you are in the library profession this means bupkus to you, but if you go to your public library and they are using the Library of Congress classification system the book would have a call number starting with TX.
I remember the first book in this genre that totally captivated me was Home Cooking by Laurie Colwin. This book was a compilation of some of her columns that appeared in Gourmet magazine. I went on to read some of her other writings and fell in love with this wonderful author. Sadly she passed away in 1992 at the age of 48. I purchased her wonderful books and treasure having them in my collection. Since then I have found other culinary authors who I have also enjoyed such as John Thorne and Matt Lewis Thorne, Amanda Hesser and Mimi Sheraton.
A new book that looks promising is Cookoff-Recipe Fever in America by Amy Sutherland. The author travels around the country attending cooking competitions. From chili contests that are more like frat parties to the National Chicken and National Beef competitions, Sutherland crisscrosses the country and along the way conveys her growing enthusiasm for and fascination with why one recipe or dish wins and another loses. The author also intersperses recipes throughout the book.
Another book that looks fun is Better Than Homemade: Amazing Foods That Changed The Way We Eat by Carolyn Wyman. This book was published by the wonderfully irreverent Quirk Books. Wyman has also penned books on Spam and Jello-O. In this book Wyman takes 46 very familiar products and gives a history as well as fun tidbits of information. Some of the products that she covers are Velveeta, Wonder Bread and Minute Rice.
One book that I just thought was wonderful was American Pie: Slices of Life (and Pie) from America's Back Roadsby Pascale Le Draoulec. This travelogue, cookbook, and wonderful treatise on pie is delightful. The author and her friend traverse the country looking for pies. As someone who likes to bake and is fairly decent at it, I have never been great at pie crusts. I stil don't know what I do-do I work the dough to much, not enough, ice cold water or room temperature water, what, what. This book taught me that there are so many different ways to make pie crust. The best thing to do is fine the way that works for you and stick with that. I was sorry when this book ended. I hope Ms. Le Draoulec writes more culinary travelogues. What a treat.