Reading lists are all the rage over the summer months, when we all convince ourselves that we’ll spend our holidays relaxing with a good book, preferably on a beach and sipping on something cool!  It’s also a great time to read and be inspired rather than slaving over a hot stove, especially as travel can really open up new flavours and food combinations.

Well here’s a list of my own recommendations as well as a personal wish list for the coming months.  Any other suggestions would be most welcome!

wild garlic gooseberries and meBooks I’ve read and recommend:

Wild Garlic, Gooseberries and Me: A chef’s stories and recipes from the land by Denis Cotter – coming out in paperback in August 2010
One of my favourite chefs (from Cafe Paradiso in Cork, Ireland), writes lovingly and inspiringly about vegetables. This is mostly a recipe book, but each chapter opens with Denis describing his relationship with the various ingredients. An ingenious and gorgeous book.

Under the Tuscan Sun by Frances Mayes
A travel memoir and love letter to Tuscany, that also happens to contain some great recipes: Risotto with Red Chard, Red Peppers melted with Balsamic Vinegar, Cherries Steeped in Red Wine.

Swindled: From Poison Sweets to Counterfeit Coffee – The Dark History of the Food Cheats by Bee Wilson
A wonderful, entertaining and eye-opening run through the history of food adulteration, and the responses to it. It also acts as a great contribution to the debate about whether we need government intervention in food production, or whether we live with an over-protective nanny state.

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: Our Year of Seasonal Eating by Barbara Kingsolver
This is not the most vegetarian of books, but the family’s attempts to eat only locally produced food are certainly thought provoking. There are great recipes along the way, especially to help you eat and preserve seasonal gluts.

Sweet Honey, Bitter Lemons: Travels in Sicily on a Vespa by Matthew Fort
Again, not a terribly vegetarian book, but I took it with me on a trip to Sicily and it seemed to capture something of the nature of the island and is wonderful when describing how a culture so at home with food and cooking produces so much variety, especially how each family or restaurant has their own recipe for any particular dish. This book encourages you to experiment and enjoy the results rather than trying to recreate a definitive version of something.

Books on my wish list:

Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer
This book is much praised, although I’m not sure it will make for very comfortable holiday reading!
Publisher’s note: “Eating Animals is a riveting exposé which presents the gut-wrenching truth about the price paid by the environment, the government, the Third World and the animals themselves in order to put meat on our tables more quickly and conveniently than ever before. Interweaving a variety of monologues and balancing humour and suspense with informed rationalism, Eating Animals is as much a novelistic account of an intellectual journey as it is a fresh and open look at the ethical debate around meat-eating. Unlike most other books on the subject, Eating Animals also explores the possibilites for those who do eat meat to doso more responsibly, making this an important book not just for vegetarians, but for anyone who is concerned about the ramifications and significance of their chosen lifestyle.”

The Joy of Eating: The Virago Book of Food by Jill Foulston
This collection of authors writing about food sounds heartwarming and inspiring – hopefully it will spark a few foodie ideas!

The Dolce Vita Diaries by Cathy Rogers and Jason Gibb
A tale of giving up the city life in order to run an olive farm in Italy. I do love these kind of books and spending a few hours dwelling in running-away fantasies, and this book promises a few twists in the tale and a dose of welcome humour.

The Fruit Hunters: A Story of Nature, Adventure, Commerce and Obsession by Adam Leith Gollner

The author recounts how he was first inspired by a fruit stand in Rio de Janeiro, and… began tracking down both rare fruits and the individuals who have made fruit their personal obsession… Along the way, the book showers the readers with facts about fruit and its history. –Financial Times

He also digs into the darker side of the story, reporting on the banana growers funding Colombian terrorism, the struggle to conserve biodiversity… Gollner s passion for the subject bursts through in every line. The zingy facts just keep coming. –Daily Telegraph

This is a book to inspire you to travel the world and have succulent delights straight off the tree… A great book. –BBC Radio 5’s ‘Up All Night’

Climbing the Mango Trees: A Memoir of a Childhood in India by Madhur Jaffrey

Actress and cookery writer Madhur Jaffrey is bound to stir up some spicy inspirition with her intriguing sounding memoir!