Mary Bilyeu: Summer reading recommendations

May 30—It's almost June, so it's time for my very favorite column of the year: the one in which I make recommendations for summer reading.

In no particular order, here are some suggestions for food-themed books you might enjoy.

Eat This Book: Knowledge to Feed Your Appetite and Inspire Your Next Meal, by Stacy Michelson. Learn about 99 different foods through whimsical illustrations, graphics, and tantalizing tidbits of information. It covers everything from the familiar (chocolate chip cookies, tomatoes, cinnamon) to the obscure (ube, hoja santa, lotus root).

There's No Ham in Hamburgers: Facts and Folklore About Our Favorite Foods, by Kim Zachman. Learn the histories of an array of foods through chapters like "Eatsa Some Pizza," "Chickens Don't Have Fingers," and "Cuckoo for Cookies." Who first put a beef patty on a bun? Did you know there's evidence that mustard was used as far back as 4,000 years ago? All the trivia you could possibly want, plus a few recipes.

The Kitchen Front, by Jennifer Ryan. If you're a fan of such heartwarming fare as Hallmark movies and Call the Midwife, this book about four women participating in a World War II-era cooking competition is for you. A spot as a BBC radio presenter is the prize, but the contestants have to overcome limitations from rationing, familial entanglements, and other complications to persevere.

Then there are these very sweet and beautifully illustrated books for young children:

Finding Grandma's Memories, by Jiyeon Pak. Afternoon tea is a grand treat for one little girl, especially when chocolate cupcakes are served. But slowly, Grandma is losing her memory and getting confused — even misplacing some lovely tea cups from her collection. How can a granddaughter help her beloved grandmother to make things easier?

What Can You Do with a Paleta?/¿Qué Puedes Hacer con una Paleta?, by Carmen Tafolla. Celebrate summer and Mexico's icy fresh fruit treats in this bilingual book. You can cool off, color your tongue, and learn to make tough choices (which flavor to choose?), and have some fun with your food.

Salma the Syrian Chef, by Danny Ramadan. Salma and her mother have left their homeland and settled in Vancouver, Canada. To bring some joy to her mom, the young girl tries to recreate the dish foul shami with chickpeas, lemons, garlic, and onions. She undertakes quite an adventure to recreate this favorite taste of home.

And finally, here are two books that I've not yet had a chance to read but am looking very forward to:

Travel Mania: Stories of Wanderlust, by Karen Gershowitz. Ms. Gershowitz has traveled to 99 countries over the course of 50 years. The press teaser indicates this travelogue will contain some intriguing culinary adventures, such as "yak butter tea, yak cheese, yak lung and yak blood in Tibet."

The Book of Difficult Fruit: Arguments for the Tart, Tender, and Unruly (with recipes), by Kate Lebo. The first line of this collection of essays featuring mostly exotic and unfamiliar fruits (aronia, medlar, osage orange, thimbleberry) is this: "Recipes are rituals that promise transformation." How can I possibly resist?