I just finished reading The Last Chinese Chef by Nicole Mones. I highly recommend it if you are interested in China or food or both. It was a good story and gave me a new appreciation for Chinese food and the role that food plays in Chinese society. I enjoy reading about other countries and I enjoy reading a good food writer, and this fit both categories nicely.
It makes me remember other good books I've read about food and about China, so because that it what is in my mind, that is what I'm going to talk about. This is hardly a definitive list and probably not all that I've read, just the ones I've remembered as I'm writing this.
So, books about China that I think anyone interested in the country should read. (This is mainly because I really enjoyed them.) Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China by Jung Chang. I read this for a book club that I was a member of for a while. You would think that i would be all over being in a book club, wouldn't you? Yeah, not so much. First, I have a personality quirk that is so reactionary that the moment someone tells me I have to read something, even if it is a voluntary activity, it is exactly what I do not want to read. Plus, so many of the book club selections that were chosen were not books I would have voluntarily read in the first place and really didn't enjoy. This was one of the exceptions. I loved it. At that point in my life, I knew very little about China and this was eye opening. It's funny to think that when I read it, I had no inkling I would ever travel there... twice.
Another book about China that I really enjoyed, I think because it was both about life in China and the language (language books can be even better than food books to my mind) was Dreaming in Chinese: Mandarin Lessons in Life, Love, and Language by Deborah Fallows. I've already written about it in Vacation Reading List.
As far as food books, top of the list is The Art of Eating by M.F.K. Fisher. This book is another clue as to why book clubs and I seem to be a bad fit. You see, this isn't just one book, but five separate books. It's nearly 800 pages long, yet this was my selection when it was my turn to pick the book for that book club. No, it wasn't popular and yes, I was the only who read it. But, I still think it's a great book... all five of them... and well worth checking out.
And then, a little lighter (and shorter) is A Year in Provence by Peter Mayle. If you have never read this book, you should find a copy. It is light and fun and filled with great food descriptions. It might actually make you want to pick up and move to Provence, except that the description of what remodeling house is so painfully accurate that it will make you think twice.
Finally, no reading list is quite complete without a mystery. If you haven't read the Vish Puri mystery series set in India you really need to. I love them. A word to the wise, though. They will make you crave Indian food, so be sure you have a way to acquire some when you begin the book. The first in the series is The Case of the Missing Servant by Tarquin Hall.